Saturday, January 24, 2009

LAB Mixtapes: Episode 1

Since I traced my route to the Bon Iver album "For Emma, Forever Ago" (Letterman appearance > New Yorker review > NPR's All Songs Considered) I've been thinking more and more about this kind of personal connections. Not really a "Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon" but more like a cognitive associative network map. It's just the associative jump your mind makes that is different from everyone else's but in an odd way, may be very similar to the associations your friends make. Or at the very least there's enough of an overlap suggesting similar tastes and sensibilities.

Sometimes this holds true, but sometimes not. Let me try to lead you through one of these rabbit warrens:

I read the New Yorker regularly and enjoyed a David Sedaris piece. Liking that, I listened to David Sedaris read a story on NPR's This American Life with Ira Glass. After listening to This American Life you see an animated episode designed by the artist Chris Ware from the televised version of the program. I've read several Chris Ware comic books and attended a round table discussion with Chris Ware, Charles Burns, Seth and Chip Kidd. All of whom have contributed to The New Yorker magazine, where I read the David Sedaris piece originally and which was included in his new book which has a cover designed by Chip Kidd. Coincidentally, Charles Burns is the artist in residence and designer of every cover of the Believer Magazine, which contains a regular column called "Sedaritives" by Amy Sedaris, the sister of David Sedaris. Oh and Charles Burns did the cover illustration for Chip Kidd's new novel, "The Learners".

I could go on but you see what I mean.

In this spirit I'm going to put together a series of mix tapes of "Connectedness". On the Indigo Web site they call their recommendations - CWBAB - or Customers Who Bought (this) Also Bought but I think I prefer the iTunes version "Listeners Also Bought" (mostly because the acronym is LAB).

Let me now introduce the LAB mixtapes:

Episode One: 10:00 minutes
Episode 1

I won't say too much about these mixes other than the artist and track names because the whole idea is for the listener to form the association/synaptic connection.

N.B. links below will open the iTunes Store.
1. Neil Young: My My Hey Hey
2. Bon Iver: Flume
3. Chad VanGaalen: Mini T.V.'s

Other Neil Young related links:

Embarrassingly bad Neil Young

Thom Yorke talks about Neil Young

Flea on Neil Young

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Sunday, January 18, 2009

Electric City

How fortuitous! While Thursday night technology let us down when the power went leaving us in the cold for 24 hours. Today there was redemption. Here's how techology won me back.

I leave White Squirrel Coffee Shop on Queen Street W; enter Chippy's and order the Haddock and chips; I'm told the order takes 4 or 5 minutes. I pay and proceed next door to peruse the selection at Type Books; I set my iPhone timer to 4 minutes and check the Red Rocket app to see when the next 501 Westbound on Queen; the answer: less than 6 minutes. My phone alarm goes off, I pick up supper just as the street car arrives. I get home while my fish 'n' chips are still warm. Consume fried fast food while watching the ball game.

Of course, all of this could've happened without the phone but not without beautiful flowing electricity.

Thank you, Mr. Tesla.

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Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Bon Iver. Bon Idée

It is curious. That whole thing of stuff coming in threes. Recently I was watching a Letterman rerun and was surprised to see a mountain-man figure in a plaid shirt and heavy boots singing a plaintive tune in a near falsetto voice. Once the song was finished, Letterman sauntered forth as he usually does and said, "Nice job. Well done. Bon Iver everybody. What is that? Good Winter?" Typically, I had thought the name of the band to be Bon Hiver (band? Is a guy in winter boots accompanied by 3 drummers - one of which has only a single stick, a band?). Apparently the creative force behind the act dropped the "h" because "hiver" reminded him too much of "liver".

Shortly after seeing the Letterman appearance, my iPod rolled through an "All Songs Considered" podcast from NPR that showcased a Bon Iver track. Then, number 3 if you're keeping track, I flipped to the back of a New Yorker magazine (reading back to front being my habit) to see a profile of the wordsmith of Bon Iver, Justin Vernon. I seemed to be the only person who wasn't on the Bon Iver express flight to indie fame and fortune.

No longer. I've carefully stowed my luggage in the overhead compartment, I've fastened my seatbelt, adjusted my seat back and returned my tray to the upright position.

Hushed as a snowfall but as big as a hymn the music really does sound like it was written and recorded in a hunting shack in Wisconsin.
Click to hear in iTunes.

Hear Bon Iver on NPR
Read about Justin Vernon at the New Yorker


Sunday, January 11, 2009

It's new school vampire vs old school vampyre in a smack down that will make your blood curdle, your eyes catch on fire and turn your ear wax to liquid! This flick "FROST/NIXON" is going to be an awesome, epic, smash-up-suck-your-blood-sexy-actionapoolooza! Right?

I stand corrected: I believe Michael Sheen is actually portraying a werewolf not a a vampire.


Wednesday, January 07, 2009

Birds of Spalding Gray


Birds are strange beings. They have feathers, which is strange. They have legs and claws like reptiles, which is strange. Strangest of all, they can fly. Thus it is that birds hold a certain place in our pysche and mythologies. They represent freedom, life and death.

I present this clip about Spalding Gray from the program This American Life with some apologies. I'm sorry that it's a little sad though it is surprisingly joyful. I'm sorry if it might illicit unwanted emotional responses. I'm sorry that it's about a man's suicide. I'm sorry if you can't handle that.

Clip length: 08:46 mins
Hear it here.


Sunday, January 04, 2009

The Resolution Will be Revised 

I've been avoiding the pool for the last couple of days. In the early, dark, cold days of January, places like gyms, community centres and swimming pools are clogged with the bodies of well-meaning "Resolutionists". Plus, I sorta need some new swimming knickerbockers - where in this city does one buy their swimming knickers? Instead, I've been riding the bike (luckily, my jodhpurs are fine and so are my riding shorts - hiii-yooo!). The urge to get in shape and fast isn't new, check out this clip from 1957 from CBCs "Assignment":
The following program contains disturbing scenes and vulgar language. Viewer discretion is advised.*

Click here to listen

*Has anyone else noticed the over use of the "Viewer Advisory" - I mean if you're watching TV at 1AM the only advisory you really need is "Staying up late makes it hard to get up. Viewer discretion is advised." or "Why aren't you in bed? This is going to totally screw up your circadian rhythm. Viewer discretion is advised." or "If you're offended by this cartoon you should probably move to a cave on Mars because you'll see and hear a whole lot worse on the bus tomorrow. Viewer discretion is advised." or "This advisory is a way for us to cover our butt so we can show whatever the Hell we want so suck on it. Viewer discretion is advised."

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Thursday, January 01, 2009

Recently Seen

Here's a long list of the movies I've seen in the last few months (listed from most recent).

Man on Wire
Extraordinary documentary of Phillippe Petit's 1974 high-wire crossing between the the World Trade Center towers. Incroyable!

The Rocket. The Maurice Richard Story
A great piece of French-Canadianna Melodrama (very "melodrama").

OSS 117
A bubbly Champagne parody of a French version of James Bond. Throughly fun.

Andrei Rublev
Grueling 3 hour Russian epic. Filmed in high contrast black and white this film is timeless but difficult (read: boring). For serious cinephiles and masochists only.

Pineapple Express
A bit of stupid fun - for the first 60 minutes, then it pretty much loses its buzz. Downer, dude.

Our Man in Havana
Like "Burn After Reading" 30 years ago. A spy parody based on the Graham Greene novel (really seems like it's making fun of "The Third Man" - also by Greene - making fun of himself? Isn't that kind of Post Modern?) Set in Havana. Discovery: Alec Guiness is a great comedic actor.

It Happened One Night
Carole Lombard is funny lookin' but Clark Gable is great as a saavy reporter after a swell story - and they talk fast so don't blink or you'll miss a joke. This Depression-era road movie/romantic comedy is everything you'd expect in a Depression-era romantic comedy. Worth seeing for the "auto-gyro".

His Girl Friday
Carey Grant is a world wise editor who'll do anything to get a story - wait... isn't that "It Happened One Night"?

Quantum of Solace
Not as good as "Casino Royale" but still kicks ass compared to anything Pierce Brosnan did in a tux.

Sullivan's Travels
A Depression-era romantic comedy mixed with 1 part "Grapes of Wrath" - a little odd but has some great lines:
"What do they know in Pittsburgh?"
"They know what they like."
"If they knew what they liked they wouldn't be living in Pittsburgh!"

"The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford"
A slightly too meditative depiction of Robert Ford's killing of Jesse James. Ford is called a coward yet we only ever see James killing "friends" by shooting them in the back. Maybe it should be called, "The Assassination of the Coward Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford"

The Golden Compass
Visually stunning but that's not why we go to the "talkies". Skip it.

Fun for a few minutes. The Fresh Prince of Bel Air, Will Smith, is his usual charming self which isn't really enough to save this - the turning point in the story is your signal to stop watching.

Early Polanski is excellent. Ends a little odd but hey, that's what you get with Donald Pleasance in a Polanski film.

I'm Not There
People praised Kate Blanchett's performance because they couldn't figure out anything else about this dud. Too arty to be enjoyed, too stupid to be arty.

Tropic Thunder
Fun. Trite. Robert Downey Jr. as an Aussie in black face? I laughed. I yawned a little but mostly laughed.

Forgetting Sarah Marshall
Fun. Trite. Laughable. Enjoyable. Won't change your life, might waste an hour or so, not the worst way to spend a night.

American Gangster
Ridley Scott. Denzial Washington. Russell whatshisface. Great drama though the epilogue montage at the end spoiled what could have been a great film instead of being just a good movie.

Incredible hulk
Skip it. Worst editing I've seen in awhile (you know it's a bad film when the you notice the editing) and Ed Norton's hair colour is distractingly different in the same scenes. Whattup with that?

Great World of Sound
Simple drama, maybe a little depressing. The catch is the film includes two guys running a scam for a fake record company but many of the auditions are real folks filmed with hidden cameras.

Fassbinder's Lola is a wonderfully technicolor melodrama of a woman who knows what she wants and how to get it. Not for everyone. You must enjoy German irony. See what I mean? Not for everyone.

Son of Rambow
Funny, touching tale of blah blah blah. Two kids become unlikely friends as they remake Stallone's Rambo. It is funny. It is touching and if you don't like it, you should probably get a soul transplant.

Rio Bravo
Howard Hawkes' Western starring John Wayne, Angie Dickinson (very hot), Dean Martin, and Rickie Nelson - yup the singing Rickie Nelson. This movie wins for most surprising duet in a Western. Later remade as Assault on Precinct 13 with Ethan Hawke.

Kurosawa classic. I guess. Striking cinematography but... I dunno. I don't always get the Japanese.

In Bruges
This got mixed reviews but I don't know why. I really liked this story of two Irish hit men hiding out in an idyllic medieval Belgian city.

Burn After Reading
Not classic Coen Brothers but it's okay. Brad Pitt is surprisingly funny.

Hamlet 2
Ridiculous. Steve Coogan fans only, please. Otherwise, forget it and watch an episode of The Office or something.

Modern Times
Chaplin's mostly silent classic. You'll be surprised how many classic Lil' Tramp clips are from this movie. It really is worth seeing in one sitting. Plus, it's the only the film besides The Sound of Music you can watch with your parents.

Jacque Tati came after Chaplin but his Monsieur Hulot character came 30 years before Mr. Bean. If you don't like "Bean" don't bother.

The edge of heaven
Curious Turkish film about balance in the universe. Maybe? I don't know but it was still moving and completely engrossing.

The counterfeiters
About a master Jewish counterfeiter who is tasked by his Nazi captors to forge the British Pound and American Dollar. Not your average Nazi Concentration Camp movie.

David Mamet's version of a martial arts action drama. Not perfect. Has a surprising number of plot holes, but you know, it's got some great little fight scenes and makes "mixed martial arts" look as lame as professional wrestling. It might make you want to study Jujiitsu or get pay-per-view. It's a toss up.

Play Time
Another Tati film. Kind of a fun commentary on tourism and the sameness of modern cities. Having said that, this is more fun for architects and designers than most other folks (sort of runs a little too long).