Monday, January 31, 2005

6 Hudred Million Dollar Baby

Cathy and I went to see Eastwood’s Million Dollar Baby yesterday. We got there 20 minutes before the movie (I need to be at most films 20 minutes before or I get cranky and unmanageable and downright peevish) and sat through the awful onslaught of pre-movie commercial music videos, one of which included Shania Twain walking through some generic urban landscape handing out party invitations to 20-something white people who upon receiving them gaze back with muse like adoration. There are numerous shots of Shania shaking her head to denote, I think, unrestrained Shania merrymaking. Her music seemed to be made out of that cardboard eggs come in.

Million Dollar Baby is, in my mind, a far better film then the much heralded Mystic River, which despite its fantastic across the board acting and perfectly inflected Boston accents, only became exceptional during its final 10 minutes, when it took on a spooky mythic resonance. Million Dollar Baby, however, was stunning from beginning to end, a minor masterpiece flawed only by a couple unnecessary white trash interludes that veered too close to trailer-park cliché.

The story itself is a kind of archetype, well worn and familiar but Eastwood makes no attempt to hide the stories cogs. What he does, and what so few mainstream Hollywood films seem unable to accomplish these days, is to tell the story with a graceful nonchalance, free of firework displays and a refreshing modicum of the unnecessary. The film focuses on just three characters and it tells their story so well (and Eastwood, Hillary Swank and Morgan Freeman are all outstanding) and with such requisite economy that it’s an elegant, oftentimes exquisite character study of the time worn story arc of protagonists haunted by their pasts and offered redemption.

The tragedy that arrives midway through the film could have unhinged things, and my initial response to it was that Eastwood had lost the reigns and dipped his ladle into that big easy pool of Hollywood pathos. (Those bargain-basement pools of cheap sentiment lie like pitfalls all around the film and it’s to Eastwood’s great credit that he avoids them all.) It’s here, after the tragedy, that the trailer park clichés rear their ugly heads again and sucker punch us. It’s Eastwood’s biggest misstep and while its presence is glaring (and reminds us of just how perfect the rest of the film’s classical narrative has been progressing) it’s one of those stumbles that I was quick to forgive, to subtract and cast aside. The central story (surrogate father/daughter) comes roaring back at us and the tragedy and its ensuing complications and actions carry the themes of loss and regret, of what Amy Taubin called “a grief that can never be assuaged,” to a scene of such heartrending poignancy and power that it’s shattering.

Friday, January 28, 2005

When I Listen To The World It’s An Act of Aestheticism Or Else

We tentatively reach for new works by David Toop, what with his penchant for descriptions more evasive then illuminating and eschewment of fully flushed linear writing in favor of a kind of episodic assembly of ideas, personal ruminations, and tangents that are oftentimes frustratingly fleeting when they’re most intriguing and long-winded when at their dullest. Still, his books are good for generating inspiration and offering interesting ideas or anecdotes in need of further exploration. In his latest, Haunted Weather: Music, Silence and Memory (a title way too alluring to pass up, right?) he talks about the Canadian composer/teacher R. Murray Schafer, one of the founders of the acoustic ecology movement and coiner of such terms as soundscape and sound mark. In the late 60’s and early 70’s Schafer taught college classes that explored “Cageian concepts of creative hearing,” published the influential book, The Tuning of the World and founded The Vancouver Soundscape in order to document and protect sonic environments from a historical perspective (i.e., acoustic ecology) which Toop describes as such:

He devised the term ‘soundmark,’ a derivation from landmark, to describe ‘a community sound which is unique or possesses qualities which make it specially regarded or noticed by the people in that community.’ This established the conservationist agenda in Schafer’s work, as well as seeding poetic and socially constructive links between soundscape and memory. In the late 1960’s, Schafer founded the World Soundscape Project at Simon Fraser University, Vancouver, and in the early 1970’s, members of the Project created a highly influential publication (a book and two LP records) entitled The Vancouver Soundscape. Here was the historical perspective otherwise missing from audio recordings. Statistics on the introduction of telephones mix with documentation of police signals, bellringing and muzak, photographs of sound generators such as steam trains, and written accounts of the noise of the Hastings Saw Mill Company or the spooky sound of the Point Atkinson foghorn, echoing under a sewing machine. The book concludes with a suggested soundwalk through a historic part of Vancouver, a guided tour past the whirr-click of Fleck Brothers’ clock, the Western Electric neon light and the varying road surfaces by Young Iron Works.

Toop goes on to offer critiques of Schafer’s acoustic ecology/conervationist postition, calling it ‘aversive to urbanism,’ confusing ‘issues of health and environment with aesthetic judgment (Schafer is quick, supposedly, to let us know what sounds he thinks are “rich”) and even his belief that future soundscapers have an activist role rather then a sensual, purely aesthetic one.

Friday, January 21, 2005

There’s Rhetoric, Then There’s Reality

Another instance of the liberal media daring to remind us of the pain found in the obvious.

President Bush's soaring rhetoric yesterday that the United States will promote the growth of democratic movements and institutions worldwide is at odds with the administration's increasingly close relations with repressive governments in every corner of the world.

Some of the administration's allies in the war against terrorism -- including Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Pakistan and Uzbekistan -- are ranked by the State Department as among the worst human rights abusers. The president has proudly proclaimed his friendship with Russian President Vladimir Putin while remaining largely silent about Putin's dismantling of democratic institutions in the past four years. The administration, eager to enlist China as an ally in the effort to restrain North Korea's nuclear ambitions, has played down human rights concerns there, as well.

As They Become Available, Please Put These In Your Queue And Smoke Them

Read enough end of the year Best Of lists and the critical consensus that begins to congeal around you makes offering up your own feel like an exercise in banality. But as one friend to another, each of the films listed below comes enthusiastically recommended.

I’ve been more consistently excited about watching older movies (so many to catch up on) this past year then checking out newer releases. I’ve had a Film Center membership since May of this year but feel like I’ve only just now begun to take full advantage of the films coming through there. For example, there’s currently a retrospective running through March devoted to the films of the great Japanese director, Yasujiro Ozu. Not only is it a thrill to see these films on the big screen (and, so far, with an appreciative audience, which is really nice) but it’s also a chance to see 25 of the 34 existing Ozu films (not that I’m complaining, but where are those missing 9?), only a smattering of which are currently available on DVD here in the United States.

Which isn’t to say there weren’t some great films released in 2004.

There are a number of films showing up on a lot of Best Of lists that I’ve regrettably yet to see. I hope to see Million Dollar Baby before it leaves the theater but it looks like I’ll have to wait and catch Bad Education and Vera Drake on DVD. Others, like Godard’s Notre musique, Wong Kar-wai’s 4 years in the making 2046, Hou Hsiao-hsien’s Café Lumiere and Eric Rohmer’s Triple Agent, have yet to even open in Chicago though I hope that’ll change soon.

In no order of preference,

Springtime In A Small Town: Zhuangzhuang Tian

Before Sunset: Richard Linklater

Moolaade: Ousmane Sembene

Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind: Michel Gondry

Sideways: Alexander Payne

Time of the Wolf: Michael Haneke

Goodbye Dragon Inn: Tsai Ming-liang

Tropical Malady: Apichatpong Weerasethakul

Crimson Gold: Jafar Panahi

Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban: Alfonso Cuarón

Bright Leaves: Ross McElwee

Sunday, January 16, 2005

Further Adventures In Liquid Decadence

In a slaphappy fit of (over)indulgence you may have found yourself asking your partner, “Well, why don’t we just open this other bottle of wine?” and she may have replied, “Yeah, lets!” and so you went ahead and did. Nothing really wrong with that, you meathead- you’re responsible drinkers and the last time you went for the second bottle of wine was on your honeymoon in Italy, where the spirit of Bacchus is eternally ripe, so why the hell not? You unbelievable blockhead! And so, when you went to sleep and noticed that the room was doing queasy pirouettes (we were told back in our college days that placing your feet on the floor can mitigate this, though we fell asleep before such measures were necessary) you may have thought, “Oh, I’m going to pay for this,” but you didn’t, you boob, not that there was anything you could have done by then anyway. And then there’s morning. Your body might have felt terribly unfortunate- brackish, in fact. You may have felt drywalled. You might have just stayed in bed until noon, the consequence of your ample sousing.

Thursday, January 13, 2005

Nitrogenous Organic Molecules On The Brain

Be aware, that if you’re gonna go and drink 20 completely unnecessary ounces of Diet Coca-Cola w/ Lime at, like, 9:00 pm, the caffeine found therein is gonna go and stimulate your nervous system way, way past bed time! And then, quite possible, your wife may wake you up the next morning at 7:30, after you’ve been asleep for, say, ‘bout 3 hours, to let you know that some dudes may be coming around at 8:00 to do some touch-up painting downstairs. Or they might cancel, thank god, and promise to come on Saturday, which means you could probably go and finish the book you’re reading and zero back in on sleep while big, wet chunks of snow fell outside your bedroom window and the mercury inched back down from weird April like highs to pissed off arctic negatives.
Best Albums of 2004

In no particular order, mind you. Except for the first, that is, which was the bestest of them all.

Last Exit- Junior Boys: Effortlessly drawing from and weaving the past influences of New Romanticism, David Sylvian, early OMD, Derrick May, Timabaland andThe Blue Nile and forging them with an irresistibly spacious delicacy, silky melodies and a keen sense of newfangled production finesse, the Junior Boys album was my favorite album of the year. Electro-pop hasn’t sounded this buoyantly longing since New Order’s heady days in the mid 80’s.

The Blue Notebooks- Max Richter: Actress Tilda Swinton’s voice appears from time to time, reading excerpts from the writings of Kafka and Czelaw Milosz, her voice mingling with the highly affecting ambience of a ticking clock, a train passing and a typewriter. Surprisingly, it’s not pretentious really, though it does smell of libraries and sounds like something we’ve heard before with all those violins, cellos, and pianos churning melancholy motifs. Winter music, for sure- cold white light through windows and gorgeously meditative, that too. "If someone walks fast and one pricks up one’s ears and listens, say at night, when everything round about is quiet, one hears, for instance, the rattling of a mirror not quite firmly fastened to the wall.”

Black Mahogani- Moodymann: Kenny Dixon, Jr’s past few albums have been harassed by annoyingly indulgent sound collages, his otherwise sublime disco-house grooves given too little room to stretch out before being submerged in murky party chatter (endless replications of the first few seconds of Marvin Gaye’s What’s Goin’ On?- which he’s also sampled and looped) along with Dixon’s own stoned ramblings and found sound experiments. On Black Mahogani, however, he seems to have reached the perfect balance, the party chatter sound collages actually working in accord with the music (he’s cutting them up more, giving them more polyrhythmic stress) to create a suite of murky funk house that effortlessly takes detours into swanky lounge, blaxploitation samples, and some of his most joyous and successful 4/4 grooves and riffs.

Thé Au Harem D'Archimède- Ricardo Villalobos: Rhythm as texture, often subaqueous. Swamp gas harnessed and transformed into polyrhythm. Micro sonic incidentals accumulate baggage and take on meaning- little sputters and splashes, hisses and crackles- continuously clustered and diffused atop ever morphing 4/4’s and fluky bass lines. Markedly organic, too, with acoustic percussion intimately miked and crisply springing upward and out from spongy crevices.

Margerine Eclipse- Stereolab: Their first album after the tragic death of band member, Mary Hanson and their best since Dots and Loops. There’s been a lot of pooh-poohing concerning the bands lack of “progress” over the last few albums, and admittedly, when buying a Stereolab album you acknowledge and appreciate that you’ll probably be getting more of the same- and, sheesh, given the sonic gold they’ve successfully mined from this territory over the years, even those albums that weren’t exactly consistent had more then enough about them that was fantastic and rewarding. So this one- not earth shattering, no, but solid and charming and lush enough to offer numerous rewards of wow and flutter. The Man With One Hundred Cells, for example, offers one of the loveliest examples of all that is right with a Farfisa organ played properly.

SMiLE- Brian Wilson: It took me a long time to break free of my Beach Boys prejudices. For a good while they acted as the contemptible totems of the Golden Oldies circuit, with its heavy syrup of canned nostalgia and (we’ll have) fun fun fun summer tours attended by balding boomers and their bored spawn. Of course, fronted as these tours are by the contemptible Mike Love, who was notoriously and forcefully opposed to the ingenious direction Wilson was taking the Beach Boys back in the days of Pet Sounds and the famously abandoned original SMiLE, it’s not so difficult to understand my disesteem, no matter how rehabilitated he may be. Now, of course, all Beach Boys disregard has been put aside by the fact that, without a doubt, Brian Wilson was and continues to be, as this album attests, a fucking genius. It really could have gone so horribly horribly wrong. You held your breath when you put it on. But damn if he didn’t get it about as right as you could some 30 years later.

Avalon Sutra- Harold Budd: Like Stereolab, Harold Budd has been successfully mining his own distinctive niche for a while now. Roughly 30 years , in fact, of which I’ve been tagging along for over 15 of- ever since I heard and fell in love with his track, The Gunfighter in the autumn of 1989. Avalon Sutra, recorded for David Sylvian’s new label, Samadi Sound is supposedly his last album, though given how prolific he’s been over the last decade and his age (68), I can’t imagine this is anything more then a marketing conceit or Mr. Budd talking nonsense. Like most of his work over the last 30 years it’s decidedly minimalist and vapidly pretty, his piano meanderings adrift in soft pedal reverb and sometimes accompanied, to great effect, by violins, flutes and a saxophone. I would build a house here, where the sky goes on forever.

Venice- Fennesz: Christian Fennesz is a master of processing the shit out of sound. Venice is teeming with laptop manipulations of granulated guitars and sonorous static lapping up to the edge of the speakers and spilling over. Discharges of distortion are rounded off and tamed, layered and stripped back, sunk and extinguished. Glacial drones gurgle, sputter, peal back, bristle and becalm. Austere, gentle, finely sculpted- at times like My Bloody Valentine’s Loveless slowed down to a fraction of its proper speed.

The Milk-Eyed Wonder- Joanna Newsome: “That voice.” the critics meme proliferated, “you either love it or you hate it.” Oh, how I loved it- girlish, to be sure, but maturely assured and like a fictional protagonist from the weird coalmining hills of yore. In this month’s Wire Newsome says that when making the album she “was listening to a lot of old Appalachian folk recordings” and that what wowed her about them were the odd timbre of the voices, their unaffectedness (“they don’t adhere to conventional ideas of beauty”) and the fact that “there can be worth and strength in an unconventional voice.” Definitely. Couple that, then, with her expressive, versatile harp playing (usually the only accompanying instrument) and supple melodies and you get more inspired greatness coming down from the mountains.

Funeral- The Arcade Fire: After, Junior Boys, the years best debut. It’s brimming over with spine tingling teenage anxieties and idiot glees. It’s sometimes sloppy, overly lush and always, always (and I mean always) kicking me in the ass, pumping my fists in the air and making me feel Annie Lennox-like 17 all over again. There’s a touch of New Order in Neighborhood #3 (Power Out) circa Brotherhood and they channel it so well that their collective powers to endear are set repeatedly to stun. Oh, the grandeur. It’s not all nostalgia poses however. It’s now, man, totally now. Homebred and seemingly out of nowhere, it’s earnest all over its sleeve and their ballads incite just as much shiver as their fever dreams. I feel like I’m still discovering this one.

Riot On An Empty Street- Kings of Convenience: Norwegian fey, they harmonize like sweaters and corduroy. Though we’ve been spared, we’re aware that this could find its way to Starbuck sound systems, inoccously mingling with the hum of laptops and espresso machines. But fuck it. It made me love its neutered seductiveness late this summer when Cathy and I were lolling at a B&B in Galena-that day the rain fell all afternoon and we did the requisite curling up with books and ate coconut chicken with salsa for dinner.

Odds and Ends: Seven Swans-Sufjan Stevens, Underachievers Please Try Harder -Camera Obscura, Rejoicing In Hands- Devandra Banhart, Ta Det Lugnt- Dungen, Milk and Honey- Klimek, The Lovely- Mara Carlyle, We Shall All Be Released- The Mountain Goats, The Tigers Have Spoken- Neko Case, Kompakt 100, How To Dismantle An Atomic Bomb- U2.

Sunday, January 09, 2005

I Had So Many Admirations- Songs of 2004:

The song that meant the most to me this past year, Jon Brion’s Peer Pressure, from The Eternal Sunshine of The Spotless Mind Soundtrack, is just 1 minute 12 seconds long. It’s brief but incredibly potent. It begins with a slightly out of tune barrelhouse piano somberly chording before it gently settles into a riff and is accompanied by breaths of strings that gorgeously billow before crashing back to reality in a swath of feedback. It’s a fragment of ache, evanescent and forever linked in my mind to one of this year’s great movie moments at the end of Eternal Sunshine, when the films chief protagonists and lovers, Joel and Clementine (Kate Winslet, in one this year’s best performances) recognize they’re experiencing the memory of when they first met for the last time. Their acquiescence (“What do we do?” “Enjoy it."), the dizzy and giddy joy of their loves original potential eroding before their eyes, is suddenly framed in a shot that has quite simply destroyed me each of the 4 times I’ve seen the film. Joel and Clementine walking on the beach at dusk, the wind fiercely blowing as Clementine turns to the sea, digs her feet into the sand and stretches both arms out. With Brion’s Peer Pressure accompanying and no dialogue, it’s a breathtakingly moment both deliriously romantic and devastatingly bittersweet.

There were so many songs I admired this past year. What follows is a fairly comprehensive list of them, most of which were released in 2004 though a fair number of them weren’t. I operated under the understanding that if I had never heard it until 2004 and it moved me, it should be (by all means!) included in the roundup. So bumping up against Lambchop’s Sunrise, from their 2004 release, Noyoucomon, is Up With People (which helped me through April), a song I only first heard this year but was released on 2000’s Nixon. There’s Minnie Ripperton’s Seeing You This Way from 1973’s Stevie Wonder produced Perfect Angel and Faron Young’s take on the Willie Nelson penned country classic, Hello Walls from 1961. There’s That’s Us/Wild Combination, from Arthur Russell’s Calling Out of Context, a collection of the last songs the artist recorded between 1986 and 1990 before dying of Aids in 1992. You get the picture.

The bulk, however, are from 2004 and include numerous artists new to me. In the realm of pop/rock I loved the blatant My Bloody Valentine homage in the introductory coos of Snow Patrol’s Spitting Games. I loved singing along to the hilariously catchy non sequitur lyrics of McLusky’s She Will Bring You Happiness (“Our old singer is… a sex criminal!”) Additionally, the sublime folk-pop of the Innocence Mission’s Tomorrow on the Runway (the song that most helped me to say goodbye to Berkeley back in February) and When Mack Was Swimming from their album Befriended were a couple of the most popular tracks when played for friends and family. Camera Obscura’s Lunar Sea brought late 80’s Sire Records pop back to my doorstep (like an outtake from The Wild Swan’s Bringing Home the Ashes) and Devandra Banhart released a couple albums that drew heavily from the weirder elements of the 60’s folk revival (had Banhart been recording in the 60’s, Joe Boyd would have been his producer and he would have, no doubt, toured with Incredible String Band) and I was especially fond of The Body Breaks from Rejoicing In Hands. Banhart’s weird folk peer, Johanna Newsome’s The Book Of Right On from her perfectly titled debut, The Milk-Eyed Wonder sways under the wintry spell of her luminous harp playing and the spooky charm of her childlike voice. The Arcade Fire’s album, Funeral, contained some of the most ecstatically joyful slices of pop released all year and I’ve included two of my favorites, Neighborhood #2 (Laika) and Une Annee Sans Lumiere, one of this years most swooning final minute of song.

There’s more. Bellona, from Junior Boys masterful debut, Last Exit (my favorite album of last year) is a clever merging of New Romantics early 80’s synthpop and spaciously cool sensuality, while Casual Friday’s Black Leotard Front funks one of last year’s tightest drum and bass lines- and I can attest that I’ve danced to it on the treadmill more then a few times. Mouse on Mars’s Send Me Shivers, like its name, rides an ice etched groove with processed vocals suspended in halcyon atmosphere. Hireklon, the first track on Ricardo Villalobos’s Thé Au Harem D'Archimèd has all of his characteristic percussion acuteness and texture along with a restless guitar that tinges the song with something vaguely ominous. Moodymann’s Black Mahogani, from the album of the same name, is one of his best no-nonsense moments of ecstatic disco-house, funky as papa’s brand new bag and, for once, descending into a collage of party chatter (think the beginning of Marvin Gaye’s What’s Goin’ On, certainly a touchstone for Moodymann’s Kenny Dixon, Jr.) that doesn’t feel like a stoned indulgence. Justus Köhncke’s remix of Frieland's Frei was the highlight from the stellar Kompakt 100 remix compilation, with its rolling shuffle beats, gauzy strings, hijacked lyrics from Marc Bolan’s Hot Love and unabashed embrace of the absolutely fabulous- it sounded like something from an off Broadway musical about drag queens in space.

Quality albums of ambient music continued to be released as well. When you think about it, those great and explicitly ambient late 70’s and early 80’s albums released by folks like Eno, Budd, Sylvian and Astley that so many of us first got into when we were in our late teens, are now over 20 years old- and while there were certainly a healthy number of great ambient albums released throughout the 90s by newer artists like Aphex Twin, Global Communications, The Orb, Steve Roach, Marc Van Hoen, Biosphere and Manna, there’s been a much welcome and noticeable surge in the number of worthy ambient albums over the last few years, with most being released via labels like Kompakt, Touch, Kranky, Leaf and Rune Grammofon. It’s a tremendously good thing for those of us fond of drift music- of music “where, in terms of space, you’re not aware of the edges.” This year alone saw a great number of new ambient releases by Tim Hecker, Fennesz, Murcof, Klimek, Harold Budd, Pan American, Deathprod, Nils Okland, Max Richter (classical ambient?) and Jóhann Jóhannsson among others.

This was also the year I fell hard for classic country music. My port of entry into country music came, like many of my peers,via the alternative country scene- falling a few years back for the many charms of Wilco’s Summerteeth before branching out and “stumbling” upon Sweetheart of the Rodeo at the Berkeley Main Library, the album where Gram Parsons joined The Byrds and they went all country without an ounce of irony. Suddenly I was smitten and a couple decades of saying “I like just about any kind of music except country” suddenly felt terribly close-minded and cruel. Good music is good music.

A fateful February day pursuing I Love Music and LimeWire turned up golden country oldies by the likes of Faron Young (Hello Walls), George Hamilton (Abeline), Roger Miller( Dang Me), Claude King (Wolverton Mountain), Marty Robbins (The Story of My Life) that have been some of the most listened to tracks of the year. In the Spring I began purchasing some great compilations by Jim Reeves, Hank Williams, George Jones and Jimmie Rodgers- though I must take a moment to decry the horrible state of the country music sections in the cities Virgin Megastore and Tower Records- which are horribly overwhelmed with crap. You get the sense that the country music buyers at these stores lack powers of discrimination when it comes to what they fill their bins with. I say this as somebody who has been to Down Home Music Store in El Cerrito, California and knows better.

What would I do without the music, man? Here's the list.

001. Peer Pressure: Jon Brion
002. Spitting Games: Snow Patrol
003. Float On: Modest Mouse
004. She Will Only Bring You Happiness: McLusky
005. Everybody Come Down: The Delgados
006. Neighborhood #2 (Laika): The Arcade Fire
007. Pipe Dreams: Jimmy Beck & His Orchestra
008. Kings And Queens: Apostle Of Hustle Folk
009. These Are The Ghosts: The Bees
010. City Of Blinding Lights: U2
011. Teenage Kicks: Nouvelle Vague
012. Rated X: Neko Case
013. High On A Mountain Top: Loretta Lynn
014. Summer Kids Go: Moonbabies
015. I'm Just A Prisoner (Of Your Good Lovin'): Candi Staton
016. Festival: Dungen
017. Need To Be: Stereolab
018. You're The Storm: The Cardigans
019. Kicking The Heart Out: Rogue Wave
020. Up With People: Lambchop
021. Tomorrow On The Runway: The Innocence Mission
022. You Can’t Hurry Love: The Concretes
023. Seeing You This Way: Minnie Riperton
024. Hello Walls: Faron Young
025. Your Cover's Blown: Belle and Sebastian
026. Got My Boogaloo: Jackie Mittoo And The Soul Brothers
027. The Power Is On! The Go! Team
028. Frontin' On Debra (Pharrell and Beck): DJ Reset
029. Move Your Body Girl: Nina Sky
030. Sunshowers: M.I.A
031. My Heartbeat: Annie
032. Because: Ulf Lohmann
033. Gravity Rides Everything: Modest Mouse
034. Your Silent Face (In Session): New Order
035. Beautiful Close Double: Damon & Naomi
036. Make A Mistake: Brad Paisley
037. Sunrise: Lambchop
038. Lake Arthur Stomp: David Doucet
039. Handshake Drugs: Wilco
040. Drink To Me, Babe, Then: A.C. Newman
041. Music When The Lights Go Out : The Libertines
042. Lunar Sea: Camera Obscura
043. Train In The Distance: Paul Simon
044. Mr. Grieves: TV on the Radio
045. Set Me Free: John Cale
046. Tudo Que Você Podia Ser: Quarteto Em Cy
047. Shake Sugaree: Elizabeth Cotten
048. Iambic 9 Poetry: Squarepusher
049. Portland Grove Am: Corker Conboy
050. Whispering Dub: The Skatalites
051. I Dig It - You Dig It: Albert Mangelsdorff
052. Friends And Gardens (For Don Cherry): Hu Vibrational
053. I'm Gonna Change Everything: Jim Reeves
054. Dang Me : Roger Miller
055. Wolverton Mountain: Claude King
056. Moa Lei'ã'I: Jon Rauhouse
057. ¿Qué Ella Vino? Savath & Savalas
058. Everything You Need: Adem
059. Cool Water: Hank Williams
060. At The Hop: Devendra Banhart
061. Stambul Naturil: Usman Achmad & Diswansoni
062. The Lithium Stiffs: Tortoise
063. Run: AIR
064. Une Annee Sans Lumiere: The Arcade Fire
065. Narc: Interpol
066. Bellona: Junior Boys
067. Story About William Riley Shelton: Doug And Jack Wallin
068. Casual Friday: Black Leotard Front
069. Dinosaur L - Go Bang (Francois Kevorkian Mix): Arthur Russell
070. Ping Pong: Art Blakey
071. Clean Living: RJD2
072. Bedbugs: Brooks
073. Triumph Of A Heart: Bjork
074. Send Me Shivers: Mouse On Mars
075. I Think About You (Original Mix): Heiko Voss
076. No Under On The Ground: The Visitors
077. Sunplus: J.O.Y.
078, Run Into Flowers (Jackson Mix) : M83
079. Ding Dong: Nellie McKay
080. Extraordinary Machine: Fiona Apple
081. Bedda At Home: Jill Scott
082. Magpie (Morgan Geist Remix): Morgan Geist & Darshan Jesrani
083. One Day: RJD2
084. Stay Cool: The Roots
085. Dream: Dizzee Rascal
086. Accordian: Madvillain
087. Theo's Theory (To Theo Parrish): Akufen
088. Radeln (Saschu Funke Remix): Thomas Fehlmann
089. Doubledip Uuh..: Pantytec
090. The Spirit (Innervision-Mix) Pile
091. 1980: Estelle
092. You Don't Know My Name (Reggae Remix): Alicia Keys
093. I Can't Wait: Sleepy Brown Featuring Outkast
094. Say Goodbye Featuring Julee Cruise: (Losoul "She Homeless" Mix): Khan
095. Hireklon: Ricardo Villalobos
096. Timecode : Justus Köhncke
098. Black Mahogani: Moodymann
099. Privat: Michael Mayer
100. Saddic Gladdic: Wagon Christ
101. Hot Love (Justus Köhncke Featuring Meloboy Remix): Frei
102. Because (Michael Mayer Remix): Ulf Lohmann
103. Highlights: Van Hunt
104. If It's Not With You: Phoenix
105. Even Angels: Superpitcher
106. Black Cow: Steely Dan
107. Child Is The Father Of The Man : Brian Wilson
108. Because Of Toledo: The Blue Nile
109. Jamaican Rum Rhumba: The Clientele
110. I Don't Believe You: The Magnetic Fields
111. Dru me Negrita: Ry Cooder and Manuel Galban
112. Maybe You`re Gone: Sondre Lerche
113. Dry Your Eyes: The Streets
114. That's Us/Wild Combination: Arthur Russell
115. Grandmother's Teaching: Johnny Dyani
116. In The Meantime: Kenny Larkin
117. Wingbone: Califone
118. I Believe In You: Neil Young
119. Who Knows Where The Time Goes: Fairport Convention
120. Alive In 85: Broken Social Scene
121. Gulf Shores: Bonnie 'Prince' Billy
122. The Story Of My Life: Marty Robbins
123. Your Belgian Things: The Mountain Goats
124. I Just Don't Think I'll Ever Get Over You: Colin Hay
125. Know-How: Kings Of Convenience
126. When Mac Was Swimming: The Innocence Mission
127. O Caçador: Lô Borges
128. First Walk (Peel Session Version): Boom Bip
129. Look the Sky: Vinicius Cantuária
130. The Book of Right-On: Joanna Newsom
131: I Blame You Not: Mara Carlye
132. Carnival Town: Norah Jones
133. I Do It For Your Love: Paul Simon
134. Too Many Bridges To Cross Over: Merle Haggard
135. Not Going Anywhere: Keren Ann
136. One Of Us Is Dead: The Earlies
137. What A Difference A Day Made: Dinah Washington
138. Painting Box: Incredible String Band
139. Head Over Heels: Deadbeat
140. Maps: Ada
141. Lion Thief: The Beta Band
142. Feat: Thomas Fehlmann
143. Extra Ordinary: Dani Siciliano
144. Phone Call: Jon Brion
145. Alushe's Night Out: Terrestre
146. Ulysses: Murcof
147. Horizon Variations: Max Richter
148. The Point Of It All: Fennesz
149. L'enfant Perdu: Harold Budd
150. Milk (Edit): Klimek
151. Even If You're Never Awake (Version): Stars Of The Lid
152. Ulysses (Fax Mix): Murcof
153. Isfahan: Duke Ellington
154. One Jack Rose: Glenn Jones
155, Astral Traveling (Alternate): Lonnie Liston Smith
156. Sketch For Summer: The Durutti Column
157. Encuentro: Alberto Iglesias
158. The Body Breaks: Devendra Banhart
159. Achin' Breakin' Heart: George Jones
160. Size Too Small: Sufjan Stevens
161. The Warmth Inside You: Mark Van Hoen
162. Incurably Optimistic! Tim Hecker
163. With My Eyes Wide Open I'm Dreaming: Virginia Astley
164. Leuchtturm: Triola

Thursday, January 06, 2005

Did I Say Quaint?

Op-Ed by Mark Danner in today’s Times right on the money concerning Gonzales. Read it here.

But what we are unlikely to hear, given the balance of votes in the Senate, are many voices making the obvious argument that with this record, Mr. Gonzales is unfit to serve as attorney general. So let me make it: Mr. Gonzales is unfit because the slow river of litigation is certain to bring before the next attorney general a raft of torture cases that challenge the very policies that he personally helped devise and put into practice. He is unfit because, while the attorney general is charged with upholding the law, the documents show that as White House counsel, Mr. Gonzales, in the matter of torture, helped his client to concoct strategies to circumvent it. And he is unfit, finally, because he has rightly become the symbol of the United States' fateful departure from a body of settled international law and human rights practice for which the country claims to stand.

On the other hand, perhaps it is fitting that Mr. Gonzales be confirmed. The system of torture has, after all, survived its disclosure. We have entered a new era; the traditional story line in which scandal leads to investigation and investigation leads to punishment has been supplanted by something else. Wrongdoing is still exposed; we gaze at the photographs and read the documents, and then we listen to the president's spokesman "reiterate," as he did last week, "the president's determination that the United States never engage in torture." And there the story ends.

Did I Say Obsolete?

Alberto Gonzalez: He was against the Geneva Conventions before he was for them! I don’t know what more it would take to prove just how damaging it will be, nationally and internationally, to have Gonzalez acting as the representative of the American people and our commitment to the rule of law over the next 4 years. His track record over the previous 4 years has been all but disastrous. People For the American Way have a good primer that’s well worth checking out.

New Years Morning Kids

New Years Morning Kids
Originally uploaded by chrisbreitenbach.
Pele and Sam acting all cute 'n stuff while playing with pillows on New Years morning. The night before we celebrated a New York New Years at 11:00 for those Moms and Dads with sleepy kids, and then again at 12:00 for those with a bit more stamina. Just about the whole gang came back over again for New Years breakfast. All in all, not a bad way to ring in the New year at all.

Let it snow!

Monday, January 03, 2005

Infinitely Looped With Audrey

Well, after a couple weeks of fighting colds and ravaging holiday cookie trays and tins (and what a spectacular array of sugary madness it was- jellied, chocolate dipped, dyed holy greens and felt Santa-Hat reds) I made my triumphant return to the treadmill tonight. Of course, any health benefits gained may have since been usurped by the consumption of a couple Abita Ambers.

I got out of the house around noon. The rain had been trying its best to deter me and I had almost given in (and you gotta admit, January rain is a pretty good deterrent) but after pausing briefly on the outside steps that lead down to the sidewalk (the January rain then only feet away, the deep chill of its humidity glazing my face) I thought, “Oh, fuck it! Open up the damn umbrella and move!” And that’s thankfully just what I did.

Getting out of the house was important because I was feeling monotone. Even-keeled sorry for myself. Mopey and unsure. The holidays had acted as a buffer to the reality of being laid off and the fact that I was once again going to have to find a new job. My aptitude for such a task is daunted by a fierce dread of being judged. Having my character assessed, a prerequisite to any job offer, is a terrible strain. Interviews are like a kind of hyper-theater of the absurd and I forget that, more often then not (and contrary to my fear of them) I’m fairly good at them, giving nicely succinct answers to questions regarding a time when I rose to a challenge at work, or what qualities I’d bring to the job at hand (“Occasional episodes of levity, my iPod, homemade lunches”) and where I’d like to see myself in 5 years time. (“Can I be honest with you? In five years time I see myself organizing numerous Guinness Book of World Records events for the public. I desperately want to bring more awareness to the parade of physical oddities, deformities and astonishments so poignantly captured in each yearly edition. Are you aware of, for example, Radhakant Baipai- world record holder for the longest ear hair, measuring an astonishing 5.19 inches at its longest point?”)

Getting out of the house meant heading to the Landmark Cinema in Evanston to see Jean-Pierre Jeanet’s follow-up to Amélie, A Very Long Engagement. Going to see a film on the first Monday after the holidays means you’ve got just about the entire theater to yourself. Prior to the film’s start it was just me, a couple in their 50’s and a handful of other loners. During the opening credits a gaggle of young women entered ("Oh, no...please shut up...please shut up...") and quickly, thankfully, settled.

For whatever reason I wasn’t expecting much. Perhaps it was some of the early reviews cautioning thatA Very Long Engagement was Amélie Goes To World War I that had tainted my expectations and sent me in wary, fearful that Jeanut had bowed to commercial obligations and was going to coast on a proven, slowly dulling formula. And while it turns out that A Very Long Engagement does indeed draw heavily from romantic quirkiness of Amélie (which is initially disappointing, even distracting) I soon found myself unconcerned with Jeanet’s tendency to endow his characters with cloying idiosyncrasies (which worked with such great success in Amélie and takes a little longer to ingratiate here) and was completely won over. Amelie Goes To World War I it is not.

It’s a bunch of things that do it, too. The lush cinematography, for one- bursting with period detail and moving effortlessly between the harsh brutalities of trench warfare and the amber melancholy of a rural French village by the sea. The production design by Aline Bonetto, who has worked with Jeanet since 1991’s Delicatessen, is particularly stunning, too, giving the trench warfare sequences a nightmarish realism and practically saturating the French village scenes, where the films protagonist, Mathilde (the radiant Audrey Tautou) spends a good deal of her time alongside her Aunt Bénédicte and Uncle Sylvian (played by Jeanut mainstay, Dominique Pinon, especially charming in this avuncular role) with bucolic coziness. The whole film is restrained, too- surprisingly mellow and graceful. It’s not without its tensions (harrowing scenes of warfare) but its core is blanket soft.

The film saunters into its ending. It’s in no rush. There’s just the right mix of languorousness and amorous garden lushness. It’s almost austere. Like in Amélie, Jeanet knows that sometimes less is far, far more.