1. This is incredibly cool.
2. In the US, there is always a moment when someone says, "can we mail this?" Creatives in the Ukraine are evidently less fettered.
In this tumultuous world, there was one verity: new suburban movie theaters sucked. The very word “multiplex’ conjured instant images of grease euphemized as buttered topping, the triumph of cost-benefit analysis, philistinism in a box, theaters with the charm of cattle chutes and the wholesale destruction of everything that made movies magical. So E and I very reluctantly drove up to Roseville to the new AMC theaters because we wanted to see Ghost Town and it was the closest place it was showing. But here’s the deal: the new theaters in Rosedale are awesome. The seats are comfortable; they ascend at a steep enough angle so you can see; and the pictures are big and beautiful. And after seeing the images of Central Park, and the Met, and the Upper East Side, we now totally want to go to New York again .
Apple tends to toss the word "Genius" around kind of casually––evidently in Cupertino it means well-intentioned but fallible customer service delivered by twenty-year olds. Now the latest version of itunes has a feature called "Genius" which pulls together suggested playlists from your library if you feed it a song. (It will also, of course, suggest things you can buy.) That said, the lists are pretty good. Below, are mine for "The Painted Desert" by 10,000 Maniacs and "Why" by the Byrds
The Painted Desert 10,000 Maniacs
Green Grow The Rushes R.E.M.
Coming Up Close 'Til Tuesday
Show Me The Pretenders
Torn & Frayed The Rolling Stones
Best Friend The English Beat
(I'm Always Touched By Your) Presence Dear Blondie
Solitary Man Chris Isaak
Hero Takes a Fall The Bangles
Sweetest Decline Beth Orton
Halah Mazzy Star
Gold Rush Brides 10,000 Maniacs
Behind The Wall Of Sleep The Smithereens
Absolutely Sweet Marie Bob Dylan
Radio Song R.E.M. Feat. KRS-One
Razor Face Elton John
Dandelion The Rolling Stones
Take the L The Motels
Maps And Legends R.E.M.
The New World X
Flying Cowboys Rickie Lee Jones
Blue Moon Revisited (Song For Elvis) Cowboy Junkies
Shine Like It Does INXS
Skyway The Replacements
Why The Byrds
Think The Rolling Stones
We've Got a Groovy Thing Goin' Simon & Garfunkel
The Loner Neil Young
Discovering Japan Graham Parker
She'll Drive The Big Car David Bowie
20th Century Man The Kinks
Once Around The Weekend Paul Westerberg
Baltimore Randy Newman
I Knew I'd Want You The Byrds
Lonely Planet Boy The New York Dolls
Same Situation Joni Mitchell
She Said Yeah The Rolling Stones
Across The Great Divide The Band
See Emily Play Pink Floyd
Somewhere They Can't Find Me Simon & Garfunkel
Much Too Much The Who
Him or Me - What's It Gonna Be? Paul Revere & The Raiders
Lonely (Amy's Theme) The Lovin' Spoonful
If You Can't Rock Me The Rolling Stones
Sadly Beautiful The Replacements
Absolutely Sweet Marie Bob Dylan
Look Through Any Window The Hollies
The Saga of Pepote Rouge The Band
Here Without You The Byrds
I normally hate the criticism that something “tries too hard.’
I hate “tries too hard” because it’s the world’s laziest criticism (tries too hard to do what, old chap?), because it seems to value timid, safe art, and because it veils all sorts of, let’s say, biases: it is what WASPs say to Jews and what preppies say to Midwesterners.
I also hate criticizing Woody Allen because his writing and his movies have given me so much joy.
But Woody Allen’s Mere Anarchy tries too damn hard.
1. About the vocabulary: “ . . . that night despite a welter of imprecations from the distaff side” Take the damn SATs already.
2. About the references: Within maybe a hundred words, “Cezanne,” “Renoir,” “the Available List at the William Morris Agency,” and an “actress whose co-op won’t let dogs in.” Artistic growth appears to mean being insecure in more than one milieu.
3. About the movies: Maybe it’s that because in a movie, the world naturally floods into whatever you’re doing, collaborators correct your defects, and story becomes more important. Maybe it’s because movies allow me pretend I live in these stylish worlds too. I said of the wonderful Match Point, “And the Oscar for best apartment in a supporting role goes to . . .” But I find mysekf cutting the movies more slack.
Sometimes you can only really see things when you hold them up next to something else. I read Mere Anarchy when I was also reading the McSweeney’s collection Created In Darkness By Troubled Americans, with bits such as “Circumstances Under Which I Would Have Sex With Some of My Fellow Jurors” and “Fire: The Next Sharp Stick.”
It isn’t that the McSweeney’s writers don’t drop names. Ezra Pound appears in the titles of not one, but two, pieces.
Maybe the difference is this: the need of the writer to be impressive doesn’t elbow aside the need of the writing to be funny.
I've been spending a whole bunch of time at my desk lately. To take a break, I will poke around on the web. This isn't real leisure; just procrasti-leisure. But I've found some wonderful things, such as this Get London Reading campaign. A lot of people talk about guerilla marketing. Somebody actually made one of those brainstorm darlings happen.
“I think maybe he wasn’t quite narcissistic enough to be a rock star.” That’s what E said, as we watched Control, the bio pic about Ian Curtis, the lead singer of Joy Division. The “maybe” is what makes the slowly accreting film worth watching. Unlike a lot of the things I’ve been interested in lately–novels about the Rolling Stones, I’m Not There, Bob Dylan’s own Chronicle—Control doesn’t presume any access to the private creative process that leads to art or, in this case, the private destructive process that leads to suicide. Maybe it’s the business of art to always make such leaps and to fail to do so is to not pick up the only gauntlet that matters. Yet, to me, the film felt properly humble. E’s comment was sparked by one of the possibilities the film suggests: that Curtis was just aware enough of what an asshole he was being. Curtis's epilepsy certainly had something to do with his despair. But the movie also allows for the possibility that forces that can’t be known at a quarter century remove–or ever filmed, under any circumstances– congealed in Curtis's death. Its humility here feels like a virtue, because that tentativeness allows for its apparent accuracy and mystery.
Damages–the cable series about a law suit against a CEO who bankrupted his company while enriching himself–shows just how much of a pleasure plot can be. The action unfolds in steps that are both satisfying and surprising.
That said, the series doesn’t bear a second viewing the way Weeds or Twin Peaks does. The characters just aren’t sympathetic enough, whatever that means. Character development is almost an afterthought. First, Ted Danson emerges as a nuanced monster who steals every scene he’s in. Later, Glenn Close and her adversary Zeljko Ivanek take on their own complexities. The younger cast members, quite possibly remarkable actors in other productions, appear to have been cast by Pottery Barn. A part of the problem is the show’s perspective, which relies too much on these glossier characters.
And yet “lacks character development” is one of those reviewer phrases–useful as a judgement, but not quite satisfactory as diagnosis. What really makes an engaging character? I don’t know, for sure. This is an essay, an assay, in the original sense: an attempt. But I do have two data points: Agent Cooper in Twin Peaks, Nancy in Weeds. Some sense of flawed struggle and vulnerability seem to be at the core of their appeal. Cheri Johnson once wrote on a story of mine that I had created a character she loved; now I just had to make him do something she hated—or something that put him into danger. That suggests something more essential than nuance, complexity, contradiction, blemishes. Maybe the answer I am looking for, the thing that explains the lack I feel in Damages is this: a character is a quest. Despite some of our best actors doing some of their best work, Damages remains a case.
My most common thought about the Sixties is, "Oh shut up about the damn sixties." If you're my age, the decade is often a club with which one is beaten and an exercise in bullshit nostalgia. But recently there have been three attempts to get at some of the decades' real artistic accomplishments and, what's really interesting, to get at the microscopic headwaters and polluted tributaries of art: Bob Dylan's memoir Chronicles, Zachary Lazar's novel Sway, and Todd Haynes' film I'm Not There. To treat them properly would require one of those lengthy New York Review of Books style essay-reviews. I'll treat them improperly, with these few notes:
All three of these attempts push their chosen form around. Function bullies form, as is proper.
Chronicles I ignores the expected timeline and the biographical greatest hits and explores three seemingly much smaller artistic incidents. Sway fictionalizes the 1960s Rolling Stones ( as well as a Manson family member and the film maker Kenneth Anger) because the book needs the freedom of fiction.
And now I'm Not There, which we just rented last week, uses multiple actors to portray Bob Dylan and multiple modes (bio, fiction, black and white, color) to tell its story. Scrambled and gliding, it feels like a Dylan song circa Highway 61 Revisited.
What are the elements of this version of the Sixties: the scrambling suggested by drugs; the cultural richness of traditional music; the energy of an electric, high-octane world; the smear of war and murder. It's art that shakes hands with evil or, at any rate, the thoughts we're less proud of.
It is flawed art: the puns and juxtapositions and musical cascades in mid-Sixties Dylan sometimes seem to hide hateful, two-dimensional songs. Like A Rolling Stone spits at a cartoon slumming rich girl; The Ballad of A Thin Man mocks a nameless philistine. The Stones circa Beggar's Banquet are often misogynistic and sometimes just lame.
But there is something in the handful of albums Dylan and the Stones created at their peaks that I keep coming back to and which I judge all other music by.