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, 34.

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.