Division of Planes

Thursday, 31 May 2007

I first heard Division of Planes on MetaFilter Music. I told them to come to Cleveland because I thought they’d go down well. One of the band members contacted me for more info. Well, they’re coming to Cleveland, and they got the gig on their own gumption. If you check out their website they’re described as post-punk math-rock; but all I know is that I want to take off my head and scream at it when I listen to the two tracks they have available on their site. [Seriously worth downloading]

Now That’s Class
June, 8 2007
11213 Detroit Ave @ W112th
Cleveland, Ohio 44102

Also playing:
The Vapids
Hollywood Blondes
Chrome Kickers

Unfortunately, I’m going to be out of town on the night of their show, which has me royally pissed. Someone needs to volunteer to pick up a copy of their EP for me.

I Only Come Out At Night

Wednesday, 30 May 2007

I’ve had this rash that has recently become a full body thing; it itches like a cayenne porcupine. Miracle of miracles, I managed to get not one, but two doctor’s appointments today; one with my primary care physician and one with a dermatologist. I was pleased to discover that every lifestyle question they asked about was answered in the healthy direction, but what I wasn’t so pleased about was the diagnosis. I’m allergic to sunlight. Polymorphus Light Eruption, to be exact. I ended up getting a cortisone shot over the weekend to reduce my scratch-madness, and today I got dumped on with 4 prescriptions, two steroids and two allergy pills. I’m supposed to wear 30 SPF sunscreen all the time now, too. Boy in the motherfucking bubble. Thankfully my County health care kicked in at the beginning of the month, otherwise I’d be up itch creek without a backscratcher. The days are much too bright.

Beastie Boys Video Anthology

Saturday, 26 May 2007

A part of this viewing list: Criterion Collection Spine #100: Beastie Boys Video Anthology.

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I have a distinct memory of dancing Intergalactic stop-motion style at some dance or other with my high school buddies senior year. I was never a huge Beastie Boys fan, though I certainly got down to their music. For a person my age, it is pretty much impossible to quantify the many ways their impressive career has affected the popular culture I was exposed to in my teen years. That’s pretty much Criterion’s reason for putting this collection together. The main selling point for the Criterion edition is the wealth of extras that come with it, multiple angles, remixes, spinoffs and other accumulations of music video loose ends are all gathered here for a Beastie feast.

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The videos themselves sort of run the gamut, from pure stock footage to height of their power productions to handheld basement hijinks. The trademark low-angle fisheye fronting is present in just about every video, and it is this, coupled with the frequent home-movie aspect of many of the videos, that defines the technical side of their video conceits. This is a good thing, since the rough-cut feel makes the Beastie’s seem like your friendly neighborhood MCs. Even their videos with higher production values have an air of deliberate whimsicality to them. I’d never actually seen the video to Body Movin’ so it was with great delight that I pegged it as a spoof of the ultra-campy 60s spy flick Diabolik! which is probably one of my favorite Mystery Science Theater 3000 episodes as well. The hand-painted animation of Shadrach was also a surprise, and reminded me of Gondry’s Lego-animated White Stripes video.

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My favorite video of the collection was Three MCs and One DJ, mainly because of its effective simplicity, it is a bit goofy, of course, but also probably their most intimate as well, and you really get to see Mix Master Mike go nuts. I don’t really have a lot more to say about their videos, but the two-disc anthology is a choose-your-own-adventure romp through Beastie culture that is worth any audiophile’s time and money. Check out the links below, especially the Paul’s Boutique one and their annotated lyrics. And don’t sleep ’til B-lyn.

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• Paul’s Boutique Samples and References List.
Official Site.
Beastie Museum.
Beastie Mania.
Mic to Mic weblog.
Annotated Beastie Boys lyrics.
• Beastie Boys YouTube Group.

Solaris

A part of this viewing list: Criterion Collection Spine #164: Andrei Tarkovsky’s Solaris.

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My Dostoevsky professor once said that Russians are more Oriental than Occidental in temperament, and the contemplative pacing and constant importance of the unimportant throughout Tarkovsky’s Solaris seems to support this assertion fairly well. For those used to Stanislaw Lem’s whimsical cybernetic science fiction, Solaris is more reminiscent of Philip K. Dick, especially with its psychological bent and hallucinogenic atmosphere. These particular aspects give the work and the film both significant staying power; the fiction is phenomenological instead of technological. Eastern Europeans and Asiatics always seem to pull off pensive madness with much more believability than less thoughtful cultures. So Kris, Kelvin can stagger around Solaris Station in naught but his boxers, eyes inward, but when he begins to talk about conscience and consciousness and communication, his outward disorder is merely the sign of a complete internal focus on more important problems.

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Kelvin becomes a reflection of Solaris Station, an utter ruin itself; both ignorant to the means and effects of the Solaris Ocean which they are studying. Communication seems to be the theme of this film. Communication with the self as manifested by the appearance of Hari, Kelvin’s long-deceased wife, the planet’s attempt at communication by proxy through the manifestation of Hari, tête-a-tête communication between the scientists and the scientists attempts to communicate with the planet via radiation. On a meta-level we also have Tarkovsky’s attempt to communicate the difficulties of these processes to his viewers. In the end it becomes easier to toss the dice and hope that explanation through evocation and imagery will suffice.

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Kelvin seems admirably suited to his job as consultant for the continuation of the Solaris project. He is not so much objective as completely receptive and instead of sitting in indifference, he explores in acceptance. Because of this, he becomes, unwillingly, the first person to successfully communicate with the sentient ocean. After this occurs, the hallucinations cease, but the reappearance of Hari has exhumed his old skeletons, and his is disquieted. At this point, Tarkovsky’s subtle mastery finally reveals itself, the small peaceful natural clues we’ve received throughout the film, flowing water, swaying plants, swirling vistas and obscurant clouds become visual representations of Kelvin’s private thought processes, and the Solaris Ocean offers him full communion with them. A form of communication that we all only wish for.

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Criterion Essay by Philip Lopate.
Andrei Tarkovsky on Solaris.
• Senses of Cinema article by the Strictly Film School guy.
Movie Martyr review with stills.
Official site of Stanislaw Lem.
• Exhaustive site about the film and the book.
Roger Ebert Review.
• YouTube Clips: 1, 2, 3, 4.

Bicycle Thieves

Friday, 25 May 2007

A part of this viewing list: Criterion Collection Spine #374: Vittorio De Sica’s Bicycle Thieves.

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Bicycle Thieves is one of those films that ends up on every Film History syllabus. It shouldn’t be avoided, but I think that it appreciates to a viewer who has actually had to live and scrounge to make ends meet in the real world. It certainly has done so for me and will probably do so again when I have children of my own. In post-war Italy, times are tough and jobs are non-existent. Ricci, the main character, somehow manages to get a job posting bills. The only requirement is that he needs a bike for transportation. Currently his bike is sitting in a pawn shop. His wife decides to pawn their sheets so that they can get the bike back and Ricci can take the job. On his first day, his Fides gets stolen by a gang of thieves. Thankfully it is the weekend, so Ricci can spend the rest of the movie looking for one bike and one thief among thousands in all of Rome. If this brief sketch isn’t hardcore enough for you, the rest of the film, and its attendant details should do the trick. At every step of the way De Sica makes sure that Ricci gets the merda end of the stick.

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This Passion is made all the more powerful by the actors playing the parts. Lamberto Maggiorani [who plays Ricci] and Jim Caviezel bear an eerie resemblence to each other, both have long-suffering but stoic faces. Enzo Staiola [who plays Ricci’s son Bruno] is perhaps the cutest and most feisty little guy in any film ever. As they travel together throughout Rome, searching for the bicycle, Ricci must continually put on a brave face to maintain the hope in his son, even as his own desperation grows. They search the bike market to no avail, and Bruno attracts a child molester while Ricci accosts a bike mechanic. Nothing bad happens to Bruno, but it is obvious that Ricci is being driven to distraction by the loss of his Fides. Later, he even disrupts a prayer service [for a Roman Roman Catholic to disrupt a Catholic service in Rome…] as he tries to track down the boy who stole his bike. Even when he succeeds at this, the boy turns out to be epileptic and an entire neighborhood turns against Ricci. In the end, he attempts to steal a bike in front of his terrified son, and even fails at this. Only at the mercy of the victim is Ricci set free. Ricci and Bruno, both crying, walk into the crowd.

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It is definitely the small things that turn this film into a masterpiece of destruction. Ricci, the man of the family, has no job – although his wife and even Bruno are employed. He is completely emasculated through no fault of his own, and in the end, his young son is the only one who can offer him love and support. Bruno doesn’t understand why his father would have done something so horrible as steal a bike, but he realizes that papa is in serious pain and offers the only thing he has to give, his hand. When Ricci’s control finally breaks, the viewer is sitting right at the bottom of the barrel with him. It all sounds a bit mawkish in my description, but the film isn’t melodramatic at all. It is heartrending because of its realism; and the dedicated, exacting development of the plot. The small things add up to something that no man can face alone; a society with no use and no pity for him, in that order.

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Criterion Essay by Godfrey Cheshire.
Movie Diva review.
Strictly Film School synopsis.
Interview with Suso Cecchi d’Amico, screenwriter.
• Trailer on YouTube.

End Round GMMC Meeting

Monday, 21 May 2007

We had the end of Round 9 meeting tonight at the Cleveland Foundation. This was a good meeting, even though Joel is gone and there isn’t a new director in place yet, we discussed what was on our minds in terms of improvements that could be made to the process, additional and different assistances that can be given, and how to improve or expand our own duties on the committee. There is a lot of wisdom held by my fellow members, and I’m lucky to have the chance to listen to their precision.

Uncle Scratch’s Gospel Revival

Sunday, 20 May 2007

Blk Tygr was playing again at the Beachland last night, so I went and heard one of their new songs. It was an odd bill for them, since all the other acts were rockabilly associates. I particularly enjoyed Uncle Scratch’s Gospel Revival. Their act is just as cognitively dissonant as their band name. For instance, one of their songs is called “I Banged a Sinner;” and they would talk about Jerry Falwell being in hell, read one of his ridiculous quotes and then surprisedly say “Oh, but that’s true.” They reminded me a big of Fat Possum’s Bob Log III, what with their singing into CB mics and general duct-tape and gumption playing style. The drum kit was basically a portable junk yard. At one point a hefty chunk of the cymbal fell off.

You can listen to a few of their songs here, but for some reason only the last one will download for me.

I also had a deep-fried PBJ while I was there.