East of Empire - Into the Elephant

I was given a nine track EP of some local ragamuffins playing that music the hippie kids listen to these days. The man whose nephew or cousin or something plays in the band wanted to know what I thought of it. I feel like I'm allowed to slag it if I want to, because neither of us are doing the blind-cheerleader kerfuffle shuffle.

My first impression was, oh, another Arcade Fire wannabe, with an admittedly good band name - but as you might expect, I came to see value and originality as I went on. Not that the sliver-margin of originality allowed at this stage of the information age is wide enough to fairly use as a benchmark for artistic merit.

Arcade Fire bells are certainly ringing for me during the first track - in fact, they ring throughout the album, complete with relentless straight-eighth banging from all accompanying instruments. I could sound less ignorant if I criticized a band for being a wannabe of a sub genre or a sub-sub genre, rather than a whole genre that isn't even really a genre, the kids would say, fuck genres. But I don't care to investigate the wide world of maudlin-indie-folk (or whatever term would be more precise than my out-of-touch catch-all). I'd rather chalk it up or boil it down to the mostly-arbitrary categories I've come to rely on. I can't challenge my preconceived notions for the rest of my life! I obey the laws of thermodynamics, sad to say. I'm so very very tired.

As I listen on, I hear Wilco in the male lead voice, and then, holy shit, Sigor Ros! Is this the band I almost joined two years ago, that didn't have a name at the time, that responded to my "keyboard player available" ad in The Scope, that went on without me after I failed to show up to the second practice, who described themselves as Arcade Fire and Wilco-esque with a hint of Sigor Ros? Or are there just even more bands trying to sound like that than I'd thought?

Now let's look at the songs. Can't You Notice is all about the refrain. Can you guess what the refrain is? You'll hear it a lot. I like the arrangement. I like how the meter changes abruptly from four to three and back again. And I like how the bass drops down to a poignant-sounding pedal point.

Track 02 is where the goofy vox kick in. They sound drowned in reverb for some reason other than actually being drowned in reverb. There are annoying pop melodies with always quavering vocals. Is this trying to be "art-rock"? Okay, that was obnoxious, me putting art-rock in quotes, because I want to accuse them of trying to sound like something, but don't want to take ownership of that term, because it's stupid, but not entirely stupid. Maybe art-stupid. Maybe these songs are just a case of people who sound like that, sounding like that. Sometimes it strikes me as unique and homespun, the way the voices blend together, and then it starts to sound like Penny-Arcade Fire again. Halfway through, the drums break suddenly into a no-frills solo and the bass gallops into the backwards Four Tet stock jitter-samples to bring us out.

Piano Song begins with hollow Vegas chapel organ and kitchen drums. The insistently simple guitar riff gets in your head like a cultist's chant. Even without the organ, it sounds like a church camp sing-along Manson family acid jamboree - or a Moldy Peaches version of Neon Bible. They clearly haven't wasted a lot of time on making it sound good. It's better than it sounds though. It's gotta be setting the exact right mood for something, but I probably had to be there. Okay, what the hell are the words? What language is it? Is it made up? Maybe that's why I heard Sigor Ros.

I have affection for the guitar tone in Hunter, it's all mid-range, like it's been phoned in, which in this case is good. Reminds me of Bright Eyes B-sides and dissociative anesthesia. There's been no deviation in mood by so much as a micron, thank god the songs are short, I'd have trouble with over half an hour of this. Oh the consonance. There's a guitar that sounds like a plunky saloon piano. Or is it a piano that sounds like a guitar? Whatever it is, it fits.

Okay, a welcome bit of change in feel for track 5, Tired Game. Ironically, it's the most energetic song on the album. Not that it's energetic. But a little more rock and less shoegazing. Sounds like Velvet Underground. Oh, a shoegazey anthem for the chorus though, so now it's really velvet. So velvet I can't feel my legs. I hear a scratchy violin, so far away and yet so close. I like the way instruments stumble into each other with pleasing results, in a way that evokes organic chemistry rather than contrivance.

In Come Calling, a half-sentence, "forward to the brink", can be heard several times, and the rest is... uh. What? Wha language? Yes. Ol' Man Thunder on sad pills. Sounds important though. Really heavy and all emotional.

There's three more tracks, which is three too many for me, cause they're so similar to what's gone before, but the band sounds like it's having fun and playing with soul. Yes, playing with soul, like Mephistopheles on a monday. But I wish the rest had more of that track 5 flavour. Piece of My Mind has a female lead with a strong vocal timbre. The chorus pokes its head out of the mud and sounds poppy for a minute, then dives back into the swamp. Then there's a cool bridge where she sings: "my nerves jangle".

Last track, Waves, is their version of No Cars Go, or so I wanted to say, but the anthemic drums never kicked in, so I can't, which pisses me off. "When does it come in waves?" they ask. It suggests that deep thematic, maybe literary thinking went into this album, that I can't or won't penetrate. I don't know their stories, I'm not gonna cobble them together from four or five half-sentences in english and a background moan of made-up words. But I do suspect there's something to it. The sound is minimalist, yet crowded. I'm in the room with all those people on the back cover: a hobbit-sized third story jam livingroom above Lemarchant Street on a bleak January, taking refuge in body-heat. The music feels disturbed and biological, with enough technological detritus to keep things interestingly horrific in a post-apocalyptic sort of way. Hmmm... maybe it's "post-rock", whatever the hell that is. Maybe that's it.

this record

erin and deon

  so i put it on as background and the first minute or so is dreaming then erin  skips & scratches into    a public announciation,  this record is black and unfinished,  the heavy bass, the sweet delicate jazzy piano needle straw drums buzz and fuzz in foreground. the fixing, the recording, the hymnal touch , negation as confirmation wording black healing unbroken, unfinished not the same thing. break it down with a metal funk skeletal step. prog metal flying on metabophiled wings.

always the bridesmaid..

when you're still chuckling with your date a couple of hours after a movie's end, you have to say it was woth the ten bucks.  when you're recalling lines & scenes the next day, you feel like you got a bargain. when the movie of note has been in SUMMERtime theaters for six weeks, amid   ubiquitous kidflicks, actionflicks and comicbook heroes come to life flicks, you might could claim this one's gonna be a classic in the realm of "holy grail" and "animal house". you could-- if you were, say kristen wiig, judd apatow  or annie mumolo, the triad of film genius that produced said movie.

now maybe film has become so weak or my own tastes have become so jaded, that i'm like a starving woman with a bowl of stone soup. but i think not. this movie has a distinct apatow tone to it, like wiig and mumolo cut their teeth on his prior movies. there's a scene with a gynecologist lifted directly from "knocked up" , but you know, sincere flattery is always appreciated, especially by the money man. but in contrast to an apatow movie, the women's characters are developed while the men's stay one dimensional. as a woman, i kinda like that turn. i also like the tone used by wiig and mumolo who bring "chick flick" squarely into the current century with their character explorations. 

ok, yes, there's a lot typecasting happening but somehow the jokes surrounding the stereotypes make them more human. instead of a typically "female" undertone, there's a bending of previously gender specific typing. the one most memorable to me is  how wiig's  character annie acts "like a man" after a one night stand with the guy the audience is sure she should permanently  hook up  with. also the fact that annie seems to be at loose ends due more to the failure of her business than the fact that she's the fuck buddy of her former boyfriend. she knows he's last year's news but she has her needs.

the bride/marriage dream is deconstructed in various ways, through five bridesmaids'& a bride's  current situations. that's also refreshing to me, rooted as i am in the first generation where a woman's dreams could realistically be other than "wife and mother". maya rudolph's  bride is foil in this comedy.the cause for a hilarious rivalry  between annie, her friend since childhood and helen, her best friend come lately.  the comedian melissa mccarthy (damn, does comedy run in families? imbd says she's jenny's cousin) is hilarious in her role as the gender bending sister of the groom. wendi mclendon of reno 911 is the stereotypical unhappy housewife & mother of 3 boys who just wants to be able to take the tags off her new top during the bachelorette party she insists must be in vegas. on the way there, we see her digging at the  crack in the new marriage of  the office's ellie kemper's girl next door character. innocence in this day and age? how? let's not forget marrying for money, admirably stereotyped by the perfect rose byrne as the perfect helen.

the eye candy alone should be enough to entice your male date to go see this chick flick. but if that  doesn't work, just mention apatow and "pineapple express". that should get him into the seat.   keep a tissue handy, to wipe away the tears he'll be shedding because he can't stop laughing. or go see it with your girlfriends, as a prelude to the summer wedding season. it'll put being always a bridesmaid into perspective.

pull this string

been wanting to see no strings attached for a couple of reasons. one, it has dreamy ashton k. in it and two i wanted to see if it reflected in any way my own exploration of the of the phenom.   so yeah, ashton's a hotty, all the way through. the almost nude scene shows as much of him as the genpop is ever gonna see (or at least until someone releases a post breakup sex tape  ), including a nice tight and mid shot of his ass. sorry guys, the most you get to see of natalie portman is bra and panties..i mean bra. i can't figure out why this movie was rated r,unless it was to warn  parents to avoid seeing it with their teens because, as my 17 yr old noted, "this is sorta uncomfortable territory". but uncomfortable makes good comedy.

  my partner in sex and i laughed a lot and not just because we recognised the situations. when she says i don't want anyone to know about this  , he turns up at her work with a congratulations balloon. when he says to a passerby 'we're just friends with benefits ya know?" the guy replies, without a skipping a beat, 'that never works out'.  it's so modern! txt messaging, facebook, ipad product placement, a movie star father, tv shows and doctors as jobs. she's an MIT grad, he went to michigan state. the settings are very contrived , sort of reality show meets reality show, but the acting is first rate. comedy. fun. download it. i gotta get to work.

it needs more than just a readjustment...

and let's face it, matt damon's kinda pudgy in this film, and emily has a horse face. not sarah jessica parker horseface, but close.

The Adjustment Bureau was actually based on a short story called The Adjustment Team by a man
named, no kidding, Phillip K. Dick. Let’s be honest here, The Adjustment Team? I figured I’d start this
review on a positive note: at least they changed the name.

No, the problems I have with usually desperate attempts to turn a short story into a full-length feature
film are just as relevant to the Adjustment Bureau as they are to any other movie. There’s a lot of
tell and not enough show, which usually leaves everything feeling pretty flat. Shallow story, shallow
characters and shallow plot: all trying to tell you how deep they are. Hence, the ending with a nice
glossed-over moralization to tie up the entire point of the movie.

Although I have to say congratulations, Universal, you finally got Matt Damon to play leading man in a
chick flick, because that’s what The Adjustment Bureau is. It’s a cute little love story that the production
companies stuck the tags of “action, thriller and suspense” to so that your average unsuspecting guy can
drag his wife, girlfriend, or even mother (though, watch out, Emily Blunt drops an F-bomb, and let’s face
it, your mother suggested you go see a movie to get you out of the basement and off the internet to
avoid girls like that in the first place) and out to see a Matt Damon flick with the end result of both guy
and girl leaving the theater disappointed.

I suppose I should offer you a premise of sorts? The ambitious, young, charismatic David Norris (Matt
Damon,) a man ready and waiting to win the race for a New York senate seat, meets Elise (Emily Blunt)
in the stall of what he’d assumed was an empty hotel men’s room as he’s practicing his concession
speech and she drops her keys. They start kissing when she says she wishes he’d worn a clip-on tie, and
confesses to being at the hotel, and hiding in the stall, for crashing a wedding. As she is chased off by
security, he realizes she must be a deep, intense, genuine person and decides to ad-lib his concession
speech which turns out to be a rousing success. Coincidentally, because of an… agent… who was asleep
at the proverbial wheel, David runs into Elise again, and apparently they aren’t supposed to be together;
hence all the running for the rest of the movie that you saw in the trailers.

If you go into this film expecting Jason Bourne meets Inception, you’ll be thoroughly disappointed. Now,
I confess I would pay money to watch Matt Damon sit and read legal filings for two hours, but most
dudes might not feel that way. Matt Damon’s character Linus, from the Ocean’s [insert numeral here]
movies, sees more wild and crazy action than this David Norris. The best we get in The Adjustment
Bureau is a few punches and a couple dudes thrown over tables. Stairs, doors, more stairs, more doors,
Men With Hats and a trite little “You are the maker of your own destiny” fortune at the end of this
disappointing cookie.

As for the love story? I’m sorry, but I miss Minnie Driver. Overall, I give The Adjustment Bureau… hang
on, let me check my pockets… two stale Smarties, half a stick of gum and $5.

Ricky Gervais - Out of England 2

Well, I started this blog to review things, so a perfect target would be this new Ricky Gervais comedy special I'm... trying... to enjoy. But really, my heart's not in attacking it - it's just depressing. So instead of trying to review it, I'll embed the video, then blog about how it's screwing with me, and let the void be the judge.

I gave up halfway through clip 3 on youtube, maybe 10 minutes in, so maybe I should check out the rest before passing judgement, but something about parts 1 and 2 soured me for any more laughs tonight. The "conserve water: take a bath with a friend" gay paedo dirty jokes were funny and innocent enough really, but by then I already had this horrible doomy feeling that Ricky Gervais has ballooned into some Charlie Sheen-esque unhinged over-moneyed rantbag, which is exponentially more tragic given his preceeding acquiantance with actual artistry, unlike Sheen. Sheen is the better actor, I'll give him that. Ricky is less able to pretend. He used to pretend that he was an asshole, but was actually lovable and self-deprecating. He winked a lot.

I remember when Ricky's ego was a joke, a good one, a running one. I remember when he did a show with his given name as backdrop in luminescent four story letters. But his ego ballooned as his build slimmed. Yes, he does looks like a boxer, as Jon Stewart said in a recent interview. Throwing punches. He sounds like a boxer, too. He sounds American. He sounds like a rich guy with a personal trainer. Is this the same guy that wrote "Extras"? That show seemed to have soul. Now his ego is real, and less funny. I'm trying hard to find some wink but I can't.

This is the kind of thing you see when fat people slim down. I did it, why can't you? Because you're a lazy weak little worm, and I'm a little above most people. Or a lot above most people, like, elite. I mean, that's not a figure of speech, my income is in the top 0.00001%, that's imperical. Suck on that, old money! I'm storming the gates!

That's the thing, when you storm the gates, you find out what the people who owned the gates already knew - it's comfy behind those gates. And you belong there, don't you? Those gates are for your protection. That's the kind of attitude Gervais cops in this show, but there's no wink anymore, the guy means what he says. He thinks that "the fat people are eating the skinny people's food". That's not the guy I used to love, that's an over-moneyed noveau-thin blowhard.

Is it the "Atheist Easter Card" he badgered Jon to display on the view screen during the interview, is that what's screwing with my head? He's so proud to be an atheist. It's that smug attitude that makes it hard to find any humour in the jokes, that "of course all reasonable people know..." assumption, making a religion of no god, not a religion of no religion. The Buddhists did it better. Fundamentalist Christians take things literally, just like self-congratulating comics. You see this in Americans a lot, but also some Brits, particularly Richard Dawkins, and the type that want to be him, or simply covet his trademark sneer. They're the kind of people that brag about the score they got on this IQ test one time, except they say it like it's "my IQ" and they... lol... excuse me... think it's a number that quantifies their intelligence, or a "quotient", if you will. Cute. For the record, I'd love an atheist president, atheist prime-minister, atheist governor-general, and atheist united nations chancellor or whatever it's called, all at the same time. That would smell fresh as a daisy to me, religion's gone rancid around here.

If you check out the clips, you'll see that me being rubbed the wrong way by Ricky's latest iteration clearly has to do with my outlook on and experience of addiction. Obviously, my ox is being gored, indirectly. I was probably made too safe, snug in the shelter of 12 step meeting rooms, comparing notes with other addicts, about what makes people consume to the point of death, other than the obvious "because it feels great". Well duuuh. Maybe there's a little more to it though, given the complexity of human nervous systems.

Of course, it's just comedy. I originally wrote "just comedy" in italics, like I was saying it sarcastically, like I was pre-emptively dismissing the people who would say that, in reaction to this (sorta not-really) review, the people who would say "it's so irreverent, it's so politically incorrect... whaddaya want from a comedy show, sensitivity?" But I'd have to say, that would be a reasonable reaction to this pissy review, so I removed the italics. Cause it is just comedy. It's just not comedy that's very funny to me, from a comedian I used to adore. He's washed up it seems to me, and finding that out is a downer. And it's screwing with my head, which is why I'm writing about it, that's all.

You see, I would chalk it up to just comedy, and not let it get to me, if he weren't so preachy about it. He's not doing a shtick, he's moralizing. Which is why I guess I feel entitled to calling him on his shit. Okay, whatever. Headache brewing, not much more to say. I still have Out of England 1 to watch, maybe his transformation to asshole was in a larval stage back then, and it'll be watchable. By the way, I got nothing against assholes, at least if they're comics. It works for David Cross. But when they stop being funny? Well, then we got problems.


Well, Christ, he's still a funny motherfucker. I must have been in a humourless mood that evening. That's the thing with reviews - once I decide on an opinion, all perception thereafter must conform. Having watched the rest of the show, I must say in all fairness, he's still got it. Just not as much of it as he used to have. And he fucking killed hosting the Golden Globes, hahaha! Almost as good as Colbert's roasting of the president.

BTW, Canadians talk about their IQ scores a lot too, but you know I know that - I'm no nation basher.

BTW... uh, so here, check this out before it gets removed - it's funny


the best part of the internet today?
comments on news stories. letters the editor

but i don't wanna join in because i would scream at them....


So this tea partier fowards a photoshopped Obama "family" portrait: mother-ape, father-ape, baby-obama. "No wonder he doesn't have a birth certificate". Cries of racism and bigotry ensue. Big political hullaballoo. The comments that i read, admittedly not all 4004 and counting, were about the stupidity and cupidity of the woman's claim that she only fowarded it to people who wouldn't be offended and how she'd love to find the coward that leaked it to the press.

What I loved to find was a reason to repost this gem:

If we on the left can do it to King George, why the racism outcry this time? I think the very fact of crying racism to one and not the other reeks of racism. It outlines in venetian blind shadows  the underlying assumption still embedded in the american psyche that blacks are closer to apes than any other race. And that ass umption is played out sublimely by yahoo commentors, apparently in all ignorance of the smell. 


like, duh? i mean isn't that what they paid for? again, the comments seem to miss the point. these people toe the GOP line, decrying lower middle class tax breaks and   earned income credit given to the WORKING poor who do not earn enough to qualify for POVERTY level taxes. Meanwhile, General Electric makes in exess of 6 billion in profit and not only pays 0 $ tax, but gets rebates and refunds of 3.2 billion --a profit of 60% MORE, with taxpayer dollars.  and yahooligans? no comment.


frustration and resignation, all in the same
physical itch that is a strain that is a sting
that is sore in everything that bends, every joint
burning a little bit, maybe brain cells burning, maybe
neurons itching, a low electrical wattage that shifted
via some electromagnetic re-calibration to
frustration and resignation all in the same
physical itch that is a strain that is a sting

tender malfunction, easy malfeasance
artifact of consciousness, product of biology
shrink-wrapped for the dumpster

why do i want to believe in fate?
one day i'll regret that decision, when it's made for me
because i wanted it, when i'm clawing at an oak coffin ceiling to no avail
the netherworld is a bureaucratic nightmare
but at least there's something out there
flog a dead horse for what seems to be eternity
and one day you'll see it get up off the ground
and gallop over some horizon that is like
a spoon in your brain that got turned around
and nothing will be the same again, cause there's a twisted spoon in your brain
but you can't remember what it thinks like to be in any different derangement

still itching, still burning
no alternative to pleasure, take the baton
it's a relay race

the US smells the scent of jasmine

there's a heady wind blowing in from the cradle of civilization. the people there are fed up with dictators and kings. they want to have their voices not only heard but obeyed. protests in the streets of cairo have engendered a boquet of similar blooms across northern africa and the sudan pennisula. what's interesting to me is hearing the US responses.

officially: surprisingly restrained."we support the people's right to choose".   but i'm sure there are  plans brewing to install the correct candidates when elections role around.

unofficially, from the mouthpiece of the right- fox news-the postulate is "some people aren't ready for democracy. people like muslims-they don't like freedom like we do".  i find myself almost falling victim to this thinking for one reason-shiriah law.   that reason is honeycombed with cells of honor murdered, burqa clothed women, infidels, forced conversions and oh, all the delectible meals associated with vengance, crusade & jihad.

one by one, the kingdoms , fiefdoms & puppet governments of the middle east are going to tumble to real democracy and then who will supply the us with cheap oil? canadians? venezuelans? socialist countries, both! let them sell to china. we like our resource suppliers  to be ruled by  god appointed business men, able to sign contracts and  subjugate their people without pesky things like due process and habeus corpus {a state of affairs the us is working hard to achieve, witness the recent congressional  extension of the patriot act's warrantless surveillence in direct violation of the fourth ammendment}. it hasn't mattered to our rulers whose god did the appointing. similar to rome's use of religious tolerance, road & aqueduct construction and the military to keep its tributes coming, the modern US hegeonomy uses tv and the internet as its   main weaponry .  if you  win the hearts and minds of the people, control of the ballot box isn't far behind. but we have our military in the middle east, just to make sure...
     what worries the foxheads is the power of radical islam in the voting booth. frankly, it worries me too. but not being a foxhead i  think that elections are the only  correct thing to do. the frightening thing about democracy is rule by the rabble. well, you can't have it both ways. if majority wins, then it's up to the minority to make its case. if one studies the results of the revolution in iran, mercifully absent of any direct military intervention by the powers of the west, one can see the seeds of discontent are blooming even there. once   a concept like "power to the people" is promulgated, trying to tamp it down or short circuit it leads only to more and more unruliness & unrest.  what worries foxheads and the powers that be (is that a redundant statement?) is that soon the flower's scent will overpower their own control. sweet, no?

psychotic memories

heard it about it on new years eve  2010 or rather , maybe, it finally came into my consciousness . i'd seen the ads and promo shots but didn't understand its influences,  or recognise  implanted inferences, on  our 21st century western zietgeist.

a deeply gatsbyan lesson, american psycho lets  irony stage  its grand ballet on the fronts of business cards while absurdity stays tightly bound in theatrical makeup.  i found my attention constantly commenting  on the detail to the mask throughout most of the movie.  the protaganist, philip bateman( a nod to hitchcock) is scrubbed with organic compounds to better preserve frail skin, then draped in the finest tailored silk suits. silk, because linen wrinkles. his morning ritual to vessel is as detached as the voice-overs describing  his state of mind-- sampled in the film's first five minutes when bateman says to a barmaid "You're a fucking ugly bitch. I want to stab you to death, and then play around with your blood."  her silent mask of service is so entirely devoid of any reaction, i turned to my companion and  asked "did he just say that outloud?" a question which must become the character's by the movie's third act.

i'm using theatrics as analog because staging is a central theme.  from the scocietally-matchmade psuedo fiance to the random victim/ homeless man  each role is a perfectly coifed  caricature. five- star staged food is the screen shot as the  dialog opens.  the   film-making was nominated for an award but not the makeup. too bad.  the makeup of every character-even bit parts and walk ons- is perfect but heavy.   faces used as canvas reinforces the puppetesque.  a nostalgiac look at the most recent excesses of the last is a fitting way to open the century, especially with such a gorgeous stage.

the 1980s, in which this movie is set, was a period of excess for the rich. when isn't it a period of excess for the rich, you may ask. ok, fair enough.  it's always a period of excess for the rich. so, i suppose by using the 80s, the film was claiming a fair amount of distance from the events. yet the feel was only distant within a technological standpoint: bateman's repeated excuse of  "i have to return some movies" ; the huge walkie talkie mobile phones of the best connected;  the location and  use of a pay phone (definitely an endangered if not extinct species) by a wall street executive all serve to give period to what is, in essence, a timeless malaise. what makes this version different from, say, walter mitty's or gatsby's is ...well....the trappings. the stage. perhaps a sense of irony in that each of the characters seems to understand that they are playing a role, and most embrace that role with the fervor of the faithful. bateman's is the sole character to whom we have intimate access and he has , as he   states to his victims and in the voice overs, ""no empathy with you".  this theme is echoed again and again , in all the characters.   they seem to have no empathy with even themselves.

the movie   won the international horror guild's best of  2001. its horror exsists not in  cheesy fake- blood splattered scenes  but  in the tableaus in the men's club over  discussions of  dinner reservations and in the making of  amateur porn movies   with a threesome for hire.  its horror lies in,  as the title states, the nature of pyschosis--american style. 

well this is supposed to be a review, not a thesis. i give it five stars. definitely worth the watch. watch it again  if you've seen it before. it's timeless.