Friday, February 27, 2015

Stil Winter Friday 10

So February is running down. Still cold, though we haven't had a blizzard in a couple weeks. You can see spring coming, though - literally - see it: sun rising earlier every day, setting later, getting close to where you have full days... Light, I think, has more to do with your spirit than the cold - cold is a nuisance; darkness starts to gnaw at your brain.

That's enough wisdom literature for the day. Lessee - the Oscars? I have no complaints, I suppose - Birdman is a worthy winner. I wish Boyhood had won instead, or maybe even better, that Birdman, Boyhood and Grand Budapest Hotel had split up the major awards - picture, director, writer - so all had a win or two there, but it's not a travesty. Nice to se three films of that caliber, and type, nominated, and taken seriously. I doubt it portends anything though.

All right - on to music. Nothing fancy today, it's not likely to be a fancy day:

1. Dinosaur Jr. - Water
2. Black Rebel Motorcycle Club - Red Eyes and Tears
3. Bootsy Collins - Psychoticbumpschool
4. Dangerdoom - Crosshairs
5. Preston School of Industry - A Treasure @ Silver Bank
6. Motorhead - (We are) The Road Crew
7. Olivia Tremor Control - California Demise
8. Johnny Cash - Folsom Prison Blues (wasn't yesterday his birthday?)
9. The Kills - Hook and Line
10. Husker Du - Games

The options are very good today. Mr. Cash starts us off:

Mr. Collins keeps things going:

And the Kills send us off:

Sunday, February 22, 2015

Annual Not-About-Academy-Awards Best in Category Post

Well - Oscar inspired, but that's about all. Not even really against the OPscars - every year, there seems to be another Awards-Are-Bad-for-Art thumbsucker - this is not that. I don't care much about the Academy Awards, but the industry does, so who am I to complain about their enjoyment? No - it's just that the Oscars provide an excellent excuse to run through the various categories, and make my own lists. I like making lists. So here we go. With some comments on the Oscars as we go, but that is secondary.

Best Picture:

I managed to see 5 of the nominees. I should see American Sniper, and probably will eventually; I should never have seen Imitation Game, as it annoyed me. That's life. I don't know for sure what will win - there might have been a time when Selma would have won (a big, serious historical epic) - or American Sniper (which for good or ill seems to allow everyone to see what they want in it) - but neither seem right for this year. So I don't know. Boyhood might do it - of the nominees, it should win. Now - as for snubs - thinking just about films that are on the radar of the academy (I doubt Jim Jarmusch counts) - well: I'm not sure. There were lots of films that seem as good as the ones that got nominated, even in theory - and in fact, certainly, Mr. Turner or Love is Strange or The Immigrant seem like better films than some of what got nominated. Though 4 of the films I saw this year were obvious and proper choices - Boyhood, Birdland, Selma and Grand Budapest Hotel - even in a 5 film field, those would have been strong contenders. American Sniper might be there too. The rest seem to be throwbacks to the old days of nominating Oscar Bait films instead fo real films (the other 5 are real films, whatever you think of them - all of them would exist without any reference to the Oscars; I can't say that of the Imitation Game, say.) I don;t have any single disappointments here - I have some opinions on some of the other nominations though.

So - my choices - this is basically a top 5 for the year, though I tried to stick to films that were eligible. 2 of them did get nominated, which is nice:

1. Norte, The End of History [seeing it a second time moved it up from the #2 spot I had at the end of last year - this is a very fine movie.]
2. Boyhood
3. Only Lovers Left Alive
4. Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby Her/Him
5. Grand Budapest Hotel


Last year this time, there was argument about how the expanded best picture nominations cut the number of total films nominated - with all the best director nominees coming from the same films. This year, they broke that once - Foxcatcher - which I didn't see... The others are good choices - 3 of mine got on their list. As for what will and should win - I half suspect that Boyhood and Birdman will split these.

My choices:

1. Linklater - Boyhood
2. Inarritu - Birdman
3. Anderson _ Grand Budapest Hotel
4. Diaz - Norte, the End of History
5. Anderson - Inherent Vice

Lead Actor:

I only saw two of these - the others might be worthy, but I barely care. Cumberbatch was very good, but the film was not, so I have to root for Mr. Keaton. Who was outstanding in a very good film... This is a category I think the academy could have improved - lots of performances that should have been here, somewhere - Joaquin Phoenix in Inherent Vice, Spall in Mr Turner - Coltrane in Boyhood - Oyelowo in Selma! Inherent Vice should not have been shut out like this - there are a lot of places where it should have gotten something. This was a deep pool, and I'm not sure how 2 impersonations of famous Englishmen got there in place of anything else.

My choices:

1. Ralph Fiennes - Grand Budapest Hotel
2. Joaquin Phoenix - Inherent Vice
3. Timothy Spall - Mr. Turner
4. Guy Pearce - The Rover
5. Benecio De Toro - Jimmy P

Lead Actress:

I only saw two of these, too. I imagine this is Julianne Moore's to lose, and that's probably justified - she is always superb. I wish they'd put in some of the performances I liked - Cotillard in The Immigrant, or real long shots like Tilda Swinton in Only Lovers Left Alive or Jessica Chastain in The Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby (a film in general I wish had gotten more attention - I know it's 4 hours long; and maybe it wasn't actually eligible this year - but it was still something to see. Chastain was wonderful, as she usually is.) Overall, this is category with some very good work, that didn't get much acknowledgement. (And if the performances that were nominated that I didn't see are worthy, that just shows the depth.)


1. Swinton - Only Lovers Left Alive
2. Chastain - Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby (even just for Her!)
3. Scarlett Johanson - Under the Skin
4. Hilary Swank - The Homesman
5. Cotillard - The Immigrant [being perverse - nothing wrong with her performance for the Dardennes; that's worthy]

Supporting Actor:

Everyone seems to think this will be JK Simmons - who is so good in everything he does that he probably will, and probably should. (I haven't seen it, but I'll take the academy's word for it.) Though I'd go with Norton, out of this bunch. Missing? yeah - lots of stuff missing, though the ones that are there might be fine.

1. Edward Norton Jr. - Birdman
2. Josh Brolin - Inherent Vice
3. Chris O'Dowd - Calvary
4. Ethan Hawke - Boyhood
5. Benecio Del Toro - Inherent Vice

Supporting Actress:

I would assume, and hope, this goes to Patricia Arquette - the rest? who knows.

1. Patricia Arquette - Boyhood
2. Carmen Ajogo - Selma
3. Emma Stone - Birdman
4. Tilda Swinton - Snowpiercer
5. Viola Davis - Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby

Original Screenplay:

This was a strong category, I think - I saw three of the nominations, and they were all deserving; the others maybe. I hope Wes Anderson wins - but no complaints for Birdman or Boyhood.

1. Grand Budapest Hotel
2. Boyhood
3. Only Lovers Left Alive
4. Listen Up, Philip
5. Force Majeure

Adapted Screenplay:

This one is harder - I didn't see most of them; not sure which scripts I did like were adapted. I am grateful that Inherent Vice got at least one nomination. No idea what will win, though.

1. Inherent Vice
2. Norte (if you consider it an adaptation of Dostoevsky, which might be a stretch)
3. Jimmy P
4. A Most Wanted Man
5. Love is Strange (probably cheating again - it might be a remake, but I don't know if it's adapted.)


Another category where I approve of the nominations - not always the case in cinematography, where sometimes dull beauty wins over innovation and service to the story. Birdman will probably win, but all are good choices.

1. Birdman
2. Ida
3. Grand Budapest Hotel
4. Under the Skin
5. Mr. Turner


How Birdman didn't get a nomination here is beyond me; editing is about deciding when and how to cut - not cutting is as much an editing decision as cutting, and pretending not to cut is even more so. Still - the way Boyhood was made makes me think it had to be created on the editing table, and what came out is a masterpiece, so - I hope it wins.

1. Boyhoood
2. Birdman
3. Babadook
4. Selma
5. Grand Budapest Hotel


Saw three of the nominated films - they make my top 5 too...

1. CitizenFour
2. Actress
3. 20,000 Years on Earth
4. Last Days in Vietnam
5. Finding Vivian Maier


This is Ida's to lose,right? A local theater had both Timbuktu and Leviathan playing this week, but were closed today, so they could clean off the roof - great.. Anyway. The nomination process for these is too strange for me to say much about...

1. Norte
2. Jealousy
3. The Dance of Reality
4. Ida
5. Like Father, Like Son

And I guess that will do it!

Friday, February 20, 2015

Friday Music - Still Winter!

Another Friday, running late again, so this will be quick. Hope this weekend I'l manage to get up a post about the Oscars - not really about the Oscars, of course, more like my own private awards. We shall try!

Meanwhile, I must soon go out into the cold again - and I mean COLD. Winter has staked its claim this year, oh, it has. Looks like it might warm up a bit over the weekend - just enough to rain a bit, create a whole mess of slush and water to promptly freeze solid Monday. You wouldn't think it could get much worse around here, but that's one way: turn half that snow into ice and watch the fun!

Enough. let's hope music can serve as a comfort. Yep.

1. Blondie - Heart of Glass
2. Husker Du - Standing by the Sea
3. Cranberries - Dreams
4. Of Montreal - October is Eternal
5. fIREHOSE - Number Seven
6. Brave New World - Train Kept A-rollin'
7. Linda Ronstadt - Long, Long Time
8. Little Feat - Forty Four Blues/How many more years
9. Gentle Giant - Dog's Life
10. Ryan Adams - Sweet Black Magic

Not a bad bunch of songs there... Now some video? Blondie is a good place to start (complete with a political rap interlude!):

Cranberries video:

Which seems to require Faye Wong's version,with some help from Wong ar-wei and Christopher Doyle:

And we'll end with Linda Ronstadt, because we can, and how can you not?:

Friday, February 13, 2015

Rock the Little Babies with 1 2 3 4

We are into the 90s now, in my Band of the Month cavalcade - this month, partly because they have a new record out, it's Sleater-Kinney.

I was listening to rock again in the late 90s, quite a bit - catching up on older bands, looking for new bands - and picked up The Hot Rock for some reason. Probably something in the Phoenix, that made them sound very interesting - whatever the reason, I found that I liked it. They didn't quite sound like they were described - I was led to expect something noisier - then I got Dig Me Out, and realized that was what people were talking about. And so for a couple years in there, they were one of the contemporary bands that defined the age. Which isn't that far off.

For a while, at the end of the 90s, they were so good. I liked The Hot Rock - it was fascinating, full of good songs, maybe a little out of character from their earlier records, less frenetic, prettier. It also featured their most sustained sustained and systematic use of the double lead vocals, Brownstein and Tucker singing different lyrics in harmony. It's really lovely, and it set me up to expect more of the same. That isn't quite what you get - the earlier records are a good deal rawer, spikier, punkier, angular, noisy and tuneful - and just about as good as anything in the last 20 years. Call the Doctor is harsh and smart and very abrasive - Dig Me Out smooths things a bit, brings it under control, but doers it without losing the energy - really, the better focus makes the energy even more effective. That record is about as good as it gets: Carrie Brownstein, particularly, came into her own, finding that perfect, jagged, surf guitar sound she mastered - she's sharp and precise across the whole record, with a fantastic sound. Their signature tangle was there on the first two records, but really clarifies on Dig Me Out. Then The Hot Rock - which does take a lot of the edge off, but replaces it with a more intricate sound - the intertwined guitars and vocals, and not just vocals, lyrics - those three records together are as good a run as anyone has had in the era. Inventive, surprising, with a unique and powerful sound, that evolves from record to record, without losing what they do right. They wer on top of the world.

You could extend it to All Hands on the Bad One - but somehow, to me anyway, that didn't quite make it. Great songs still - neat guitar work, harmonies, everything you could ask. But it was less overwhelming, somehow, less exciting - less urgent, maybe. I don't know - I certainly listened to it enough when it came out, with great pleasure. Still do - some of the songs anyway - but I don't find that it surprises me anymore, and no matter how many times I've listened to the other three, they keep surprising me. It was not a big drop, or change - All Hands on ther Bad One didn't trigger a crisis of faith the way, oh, The Joshua Tree did - but it made me wonder.... And then, I started to change - so that by the time One Beat came out I was eye deep in prog rock, krautrock, Japanese noise - Sleater Kinney is a long way away from Can or The Boredoms or Acid Mother's Temple or The Soft Machine or Guru Guru - or Mars Volta for that matter. When One Beat came out, it didn't overwhelm me, and I sort of let it pass - didn't listen to it all that much, and didn't go back to it. (And I discovered when I started writing this, that I hadn't even loaded it into the computer - strange indeed! Looking back now - listening to it now - I think I made a serious mistake there. I don't know if it's as good as their best, but it sounds better than I remember it - interesting ideas, different tones and styles, some rhythmic variety that they usually didn't bother with. I think I missed the boat on that one.) By the time the Woods came out, though, I was back where I could appreciate them - deep in the throes of Post-punk (real and neo-post pounk: Gang of Four and the Pop Group; Liars and Bloc Party). Add the fact that The Woods was produced by Dave Fridman (whose band will get their month on this blog soon enough) - I expected to love it - I didn't. Again - it's okay - but they really don't translate well to the bigger guitar sounds on that record, the attempts at jamming - as if they were trying to appeal to that 2002 version of me by pretending to be the Mars Volta. It bugged me - Brownstein, in particular, had reached a point (I thought) where she was a genuinely outstanding guitarist, though in a particular style; trying to play solos and feedback like that just didn't work - I go back to U2 - it's like the Edge trying to be Hendrix on Bullet the Blue Sky - he can't do it; and you end up with something that's not as good as Hendrix and not as good as the Edge. Same here - she's not Omar Rodriguez, or even Ben Chasny - and now, she's not Carrie Brownstein either.

And so we get to the new record - plenty of anticipation there but - comeback records can be scary things. And this? Okay - but nothing more. Except for A New Wave - that measures up to their best - driving, great sound, their cool, lovely harmonies, smart words - it's totally addictive. It's like those songs on All Hands on the Bad On - tuneful, more rock than punk, infinitely hummable, and great sounding. Unfortunately, it's the only song on the record that really gets my attention. The rest - I dunno; what can you do? They seem flattened out - trying to fit their style to something more, I don't know, conventional or something. It puts me in mind of one of those late 80s Pere Ubu records - Cloudland or Story of My Life - though without the tunes, or the musicianship, or David Thomas. Which still - I mean - my opinion of Pere Ubu is no secret - saying they remind me of second rate Ubu is still pretty good. But at their best - they were first rate Sleater-Kinney.

Well, this hasn't gone quite the way it should. We are here to praise and all that. They aren't the only band I've loved that have slipped over the years - U2 and REM and The Replacements and Husker Du are all in that boat... if they stay at it, they are quite capable of returning to the heights, or finding a new height. And if not - well - they were, for a while, just about the best band in the world. And that is worth something. It's worth a hell of a lot, really.


1. The Drama You've Been Craving
2. You're No Rock and Roll Fun - and not just for stealing a Smokey Robinson riff...
3. Little Babies
4. Stay Where You Are
5. Hot Rock
6. Call the Doctor
7. A New Wave
8. I Wanna Be Your Joey Ramone
9. Jenny
10. Little Mouth

1996 live set, black and white, songs from Call the Doctor:

Good things and Little Mouth, in 1998:

And the Drama You've Been Craving, live in 1997:

Jenny, live - Carrie sounding perfectly majestic on this:

Hot Rock - though it could use better sound. The songs on that record, I imagine need better sound - you have to pick out the two voice and the two guitars... I wish they had done more of what they did there, having Carrie and Corinne sing separate lyrics, in harmony - their voices blend very well anyway, and using them this way, running separate sets of lyrics playing off each other, gave them so much room to expand on what a song could be... It's like someone trying to work out what a real, crafted, pop version of the Murder Mystery would sound like, and absolutely nailing it. I wish they did this more often.

Light Rail Coyote - I never quite gave One Beat the attention it deserved; I think that was a mistake. This is a very good song- it's better than the next two records, anyway.

A New Wave on Letterman - a nifty performance of a really good song - though I admit I'm distracted by the look. Corinne Tucker has turned into Belinda Carlisle, and Carrie Brownstein appears to be a mash up of Pete Townsend and PJ Harvey. Mixing Pete Townsend and PJ Harvey may indeed be the coolest thing on this or any other planet (Polly Jean and Pete themselves excepted), and Carrie makes a pretty fair bid to be just that:

Friday, February 06, 2015

February Friday Random Ten

Another Friday, nothing special - pretty awful week of work, and worse week to get around town in. Snow! Ancient infrastructure! some kind of disturbance in the streets midweek - here I am, trying to get to Starbucks, and all these people are out taking pictures of something in the street. Maybe this was a line to get on the Green Line shuttle busses, I don't know.

Anyway - just music - here goes:

1. Husker Du - Dead Set on Destruction [Like Boston's Olympic aspirations!]
2. Jimmy Dawkins - Triple Trebles
3. Jane's Addiction - Ocean Sized
4. Deerhoof - Running Thoughts
5. Staples Singers - Uncloudy Day
6. Motorhead - Ace of Spades
7. Minutemen - Tour Spiel
8. My Bloody Valentine - To Here Knows When
9. Rolling Stones - Stray Cat Blues
10. Pere Ubu - Texas Overtures

All right - iTunes is being very, very generous today. That's a nice bunch of songs. So video? Jane's Addiction - no talkin' man, all action:

And smething truly nostalgic - Pere Ubu performing live in a Borders bookstore - do they evenhave books anymore?

And finally - not that we've seen many of these - Uncloudy Day, Staples Singers:

Monday, February 02, 2015

January Film Report

I have to get back into this habit - and with another big snowstorm and the city (and my office) shut down, this looks like an excellent time to try it!

A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night - 11/15

Extremely stylish, black and white vampire film, in Farsi. The vampire is a girl, who dances alone to 80s records in her room, then wanders the empty night city in a chador, seeking whom she may devour. The plot, as such, revolves around a cool looking young man with a junkie father and evil dealer - when the vampire kills the dealer, the boy takes him money and drugs, dresses up like dracula and goes to a party - on the way home he meets the vampire girl, and ends up at her place in love. In the end, they hit the road, with his cat, like an origin story for the vampires in Only Lovers Get Out Alive. It is all very handsome, and rather witty, though a bit thin.

Princess Kaguya - 10/15

Film by Isao Takahata, adapting an old legend - a bamboo cutter finds a baby in a bamboo stalk, takes her home and raises her - she grows supernaturally fast, and when money appears in the bamboo, he concludes they are meant to move to Kyoto and make her a princess. They do, and everyone is miserable about it. In the end, she remembers she comes from the moon, and must go back, though she doesn't want to. This leads to a fair amount of hopeless nostalgia and regret, until Buddha and his court come down from the moon to take her away. It is all a very beautiful film, funny in places, and moving, and sad, and probably a bit too long.

Inherent Vice - 12/15

Now we hit some of the highly anticipated releases of the new year - holdovers from last year - Oscar Bait! Though this one seems to have been left out. PT Anderson directs Joaquin Phoenix in a Pynchon adaptation - a shaggy dog detective story, drawn from the tradition of the long goodbye, the rockford files, philip k dick, the big lebowski, chinatown, and miscellaneous other things that might occur to you. We have Doc Sportello, a stoner PI whose former old lady somes by with a story about a kidnapping scheme against her current sugar daddy a real estate mogul who has become an acid head; the next day Doc gets a case from a black ex con looking for an ayryan brother ex con who works for Wolfmann (the sugar daddy); Doc visits and gets whacked on the head and accused of a murder, and Wolfmann's kidnapping. After this he gets a case from a woman looking for her husband who was supposed to be dead but someone deposited a lot of money in her bank account. He visits Wolfmann's wife; he visits his DA girlfriend; he is questioned by the FBI. That sets it up - from there on, the film is a series of absurdist situations that seem like classic detective story set ups but don't quite come off. There's something called the golden fang, that might be a boat, might be a drug smuggling cartel, might be a group of dentists doing coke and fucking their receptionists and dodging taxes. People come and go, die, disappear and reappear and in the end, he engages in some not-quite-unbelievable heroics, and then does something selfless, and Shasta Fay comes back. There might be a complicated scheme in there involving the FBI and Las Vegas, but Anderson whips past that in a hurry. The whole is confusing as heck but consistently amusing and clever - it ends up feeling like finding some channel showing a whole season of some detective show with a lose overall plot, that you keep clicking back to during commercials of the red sox game, so you ed up seeing it in unconnected 5 minute chunks. It's a really good show, though - sometime, you should sit down and watch it straight through! (Actually - it felt a lot like the episode of the Rockford Files that was playing at a laundromat I was at a couple days before Christmas. Playing commercial free, but I was coming and going, and doing laundry, and couldn't hear over the machines, and was reading a book while I waited anyway. Stray bikers and ex-cons and rich guys and land deals and cars screeching around corners and attempted murder and cops and lawyers, all blended together coming and going and cracking wise. Probably, on balance, more satisfying this way that actually watching the whole episode straight through.)

Mr Turner - 12/15

Mike Leigh's film about the artist JMW Turner from age about 50 to 75; works through his troubles and triumphs - hi relationship with his father, with his housekeeper, with his fellow artists and occasionally with collectors and royalty. (Ruskin loves his work - Queen Victoria is not amused.) Somewhere in there, about the time his father dies, he befriends a woman who runs a boarding house, and then beds her, and carries on a long affair with her, to his death - a time and place where he seems to be quite happy, most of the time. In the rest of his life, he is a bit of a pill. It is interesting, the art is fantastic (Turner was a bit of a 20th century abstractionist, before the time) - he is something of a son of a bitch at times, but not always, and indeed, part of the point is to undo all the easy conclusions - art requires suffering? artists are bastards? artists are exalted souls? artists - are anything other than people who work hard and create beautiful things that move other people. The film itself of course is extraordinarily beautiful, as Leigh and Dick Pope work to see the world like Turner saw it, at least out of doors.

Two Days, One Night - 12/15

Another fine film from the Dardennes brothers, this time about a woman (played by Marion Cotillard) who, when she is about to go back to work after being out with Depression, learns that she has been laid off. Or will be laid off - the workers were given a choice of letting her go, or losing their bonuses - they voted for the bonuses, but under pressure from the bosses, so there will be another vote. She gets a weekend to try to convince people to save her job at the expense of their 1000 Euros. That's the plot. It's a handsome film, with their usual sense of propulsive drive - though starts to feel a bit like treading water. And the plot is particularly melodramatic this time, with the poor woman on the verge of another breakdown te whole time, and - well, there's a fistfight, aa suicide and a marital breakdown before the weekend ends. Of course, most of the Dardennes brothers' films are melodramas, disguised in their over the shoulder through the streets of Liege filmmaking style - but this one feels a little more contrived than usual. But still handsome and smart, and Cotillard is more than worth it.

Selma - 11/15

Good old fashioned political fiction about the Selma marches - centered on Martin Luther King mostly, though surrounded by people, doing their own thing. It is all very well done - solidly filmed and constructed, put together like an old fascioned war film, The Longest Day or something like that. Might (like those films) be a bit too slick, a bit too much of the Big History story for its own good - but it is still very good. It has engendered some controversy - mostly about LBJ - which might have some merit, though I'm not convinced. It might underplay his role a bit - but it isn't really his story. It's King's story, and the voting rights movement's story - LBJ provides the political obstacle they have to overcome, you might say to get the VRA moved to the top of the legislative pile. I dont know enough about the actual history to know if this is more unfair than it seems - in general the film seems more than reasonable. If it has a flaw, it's that it poses economic justice against political justice - from what I know of King and Johnson, both seem to have understood the importance of both, economic and political rights. You can't have one without the other. I suppose, though, drama requires arguments about strategy, not about tactics (and the choice of how to get to two necessities, is one more of tactics, maybe), so this has to seem like a starker choice.

Duke of Burgundy - 9/15

This is a very hard film to evaluate - gorgeous looking, clever, but rather empty. It's a deliberate throwback to a kind of 70s art-porn horror film - somewhere between Jess Franco and Robert Altman's Images (both of which live somewhere on that continuum) - though mostly short of the porn and horror. Plenty of art, though. There is a story, more or less - two women, Cynthia and Evelyn - Evelyn seems to be a maid, Cynthia a professor who bosses her around - though this is quickly revealed to be a Game - Evelyn is writing the scripts, Cynthia playing her part... They are lovers, more or less happy enough, living this rather excessive S&M role playing life - though cracks appear. Does Cynthia get tired of the dress up and fake cruelty? Is Evelyn doing chores for other people? is she doing more than chores for them? Can Cynthia get revenge by wearing comfortable PJs and dirty socks and ignoring the safe word? We shall see. There are also butterflies and other bugs pinned in their cases, and lectures on entomology, and recordings of insects at play. If this were the Brothers Quay or Jan Svankmajer, these might come to life - they do turn into a Brakhage film at one point.... Anyway - a bit underwhelming, but a handsome film, that gets its 70s style down - especially the credit sequence, which might be the best part of the film, really nailing the feel.

Friday, January 30, 2015

Friday Random 10

Happy Friday. Lovely midweek snowstorm up here - lots of hype coming in, the result - well, we got the 2 feet they said... didn't feel like all that terrible a storm though. Light, powdery snow, no power outages, the city (state) shut down, so the streets were clean - not bad. The subway, on the other hand, has failed to function all week, even before the snow. So it's been interesting getting around town.

Anyway - I am starting this year like last year - managing one post a week... Hopefully we can move on from that, but who knows. Right now - let's keep it simple - 10 random songs it is:

1. Theoretical Girls - computer Dating
2. Deerhoof - News From a Bird
3. Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds - Where do We Go Now but Nowhere?
4. Minutemen - what is It?
5. Public Image Limited - This is PIL
6. George Harrison - Apple Scruffs
7. Gomez - Revolutionary Kind
8. Byrds - King Apathy III
9. Destroyer - European Oils
10. Junior Kimbrough - I Gotta Try You Girl

Video? Let's put up Junior Kimbrough - just music, but, such music:

and - another sound only, featuring Clarence White with the Byrds:

And - Gomez, live:

Friday, January 23, 2015

Friday Music Stuff

Nothing too much to say today - running late - so here's a quick random dump. Almost forgot it was Friday, again - a sad state of affairs. But iTunes seems to have taken pity, cause it's a nice selection, huh?

1. Six Organs of Admittance - Saint Cloud
2. Camper Van Beethoven - Eye of Fatima
3. Nick Cave and Warren Ellis - The Journey
4. Bloc Party - Mercury
5. Scott Walker - Rhymes of Goodbye
6. Mission of Burma - Trem Two
7. Billie Holiday - Trav'lin' Light
8. Deerhoof - Apple Bomb
9. Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds - The Good Son
10. Johnny Cash - Daddy Sang Bass

And video? Johnny of course:

And - here's a band I might have to write about one of these months - Mission of Burma, live, back at the end of their beginning:

And here's some very nice 80s video nostalgia - Camper Van!

Saturday, January 17, 2015

Best Films of 2014

I have waited a couple weeks into the year to do this, for obvious reasons - Inherent Vice was released on the 9th - and I had to see it. It was a happy fact that Mr. Turner was also released last week, so I got to add 2 films fairly hight up the list.

What kind of year was 2014? for me as a filmgoer, my bad film watching habits continue. I am lazy in my dotage. I keep oping it will change, but it hasn't in the last few years, so probably not much hope of changing this year. As a blogger, it was terrible - I managed a couple posts for Wonders in the Dark's Romance countdown - a history post for Citizenfour - an Oscar post, of all things - and, I am relieved to discover, a post about the best film of 2013, Inside Llewyn Davis. (A strong contender for best of the decade, I think. Being one who counts decades alphabetically - the 10s start with the 1 in the 10s place - we are halfway through the decade already. That is a list I ought to contemplate as well. If I start now, I might get it posted before the 20s.) All in all - not much writing this year. I have to rectify that.

And for the films? Like a lot of years, there were stretches where there didn't seem to be anything around. (It would feel that way right now if I didn't have the option to keep seeing Inherent Vice every week, and go see Boyhood again.) I don't if that is justified - there are films put now that people seem to like... Looking back - it's not a bad year. Though maybe nothing quite overwhelming. I don't know. A very respectable year, rather than an exciting one.

All right - on with it: best 25 released (more or less) in Boston, in 2014:

1. Boyhood
2. Norte, the End of History
3. The Missing Picture
4. Only Lovers Left Alive
5. Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby Her/Him
6. Grand Budapest Hotel
7. The Babadook
8. Ida
9. Inherent Vice
10. The Rover
11. Love is Strange
12. Mr Turner
13. Dance of Reality
14. Like Father Like Son
15. The Immigrant
16. Citizenfour
17. Jimmy P
18. Force Majeure
19. Nymphomaniac (Vol 1)
20. Cavalry
21. 20,000 Days on Earth
22. A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night
23. Abuse of Weakness
24. Ernest & Clestine
25. Listen Up Philip

Not a bad collection, really. And the 10 best films made and debuted in 2014:

1. Boyhood
2. Grand Budapest Hotel
3. The Babadook
4. Inherent Vice
5. The Rover
6. Love is Strange
7. Mr. Turner
8. Citizenfour
9. Force Majeure
10. Cavalry

And now to look back at 2013 - starting with what I posted at the beginning of this year:

1. 12 Years a Slave
2. Blue is the Warmest Color
3. Inside Llewyn Davis
4. Computer Chess
5. Ain't them Bodies Saints
6. The Great Beauty
7. Upstream Color
8. Before Midnight
9. Enough Said
10. I Used to Be Darker

And now, what looks like the best of 2013, a year later:

1. Inside Llewyn Davis
2. Norte, the End of History
3. 12 Years a Slave
4. Blue is the Warmest Color
5. The Missing Picture
6. Only Lovers Left Alive
7. Disappearance fo Eleanor Rigby
8. A Touch of Sin
9. Jealousy
10. Ida
11. Dance of Reality
12. The Past
13. Computer Chess
14. Ain't them Bodies Saints
15. Like Father Like Son
16. The Immigrant
17. Jimmy P
18. Nymphomanac V 1
19. Abuse of Weakness
20. The Great Beauty
21. Her
22. American Hustle
23. Under the Skin
24. We're the Best
25. Upstream Color

Friday, January 16, 2015

Going Out to Frisco and Join a Psychedelic Band

Friday rolls around again. Music! Randomly selected, this week, for I am lazy!

I do hope things will start to perk up - Oscar Nominations are out - I don;t care too much about those, but the general end of the year film thing is always fun. I haven't posted a best of 2014 yet - I was waiting for Inherent Vice, to be plain - it will be up soon.

This will have to do for the moment though. Gonna have to go earn a dollar soon... sad. Makes me want to play my bongos in the dirt...

1. Tom Waits - Day after Tomorrow
2. X- We're Desperate
3. Times New Viking - No Time, No Hope
4. Pink Floyd - Flaming
5. Yo La Tengo - By Two's
6. Mission of Burma - Fame and Fortune
7. Frank Zappa and the Mothers of Invention - Flower punk
8. The Byrds - Mind Gardens
9. Neu! - Neuschnee
10. Six Organs of Admittance - OnReturning Home

Video? Here's Frank and the Mothers, and some old footage of hippies:

Here's The Pink Floyd, playing Flaming, live on TV, post Syd (just barely post-Syd.)

And some Vintage X - good for you on a Friday, no? get use to it!

Friday, January 09, 2015

What an Enormous and Encyclopedic Brain!

After a month of kind of cheating, it's back to our regularly scheduled Band of the Month. This one might look like it belongs with the last few - another 80s artist - but Nick Cave is very different from the bands I have been writing about. I heard the Bad Seeds back in the 80s, here and there - but I was not a fan. Not in the way I wasn't a fan of the Minutemen (from not really hearing them) - truth is, I actively disliked Nick Cave for a while. Not that I had heard much of him - a few songs on the radio maybe; saw the Bad Seeds in Wings of Desire (which went far toward turning me off, for some reason - they looked like such posers!); heard a record or two at a bookstore I was working at - probably Kicking Against the Pricks, since I seem to remember him making hash of Long Black Veil, though it might have been Tender Prey.... I didn't like it, though to be honest, I didn't think much about him. I put him down as one of those dull goth bores, and let it go. Years passed and I didn't think much about Nick Cave - saw his name here and there, was never moved to find out more about him, certainly not to listen to him.

And then I bought Murder Ballads. I don't know why I bought it; I don't really remember when (though I would guess around the fall of 2000; I think I bought it when I was living in Boston - I used to drop in the used record shops on Newbury street quite a lot, looking for bargains - that's certainly where I got it...) - but once I heard it, I loved it. The songs were great - Cave was funny and cool, and unlike when I heard him in the 80s, his stylization did not annoy me. Had he changed significantly since 89 or so? Had I? I don't know - I was certainly enough of a punk and post-punk fan in 1989 that I should have liked Cave; 10 years later I'd gone through a jazz period, then back to rock, mostly alternative (Sleater Kinney, Built to Spill, PJ Harvey - discovered and started worshipping the Minutemen - started listening to Captain Beefheart) - did that change how I heard Cave? PJ Harvey maybe - I suspect she is why I bought the record in the first place; I was becoming a serious fan of hers by the late 90s. But I don't know. Maybe I just listened more carefully - maybe I listened with my ears not with my eyes, paid attention to the noise, not the hairspray. Whatever it was, I liked it, and I started seeking out more of his work.

He grew on me. I don't know how fast - over the next few records (Nocturama, No More Shall We Part, up through Lyre of Orpheus and Abattoir Blues), maybe) there were always songs I liked (babe Im on fire, rock of Gibraltar, 15 feet of pure white snow, supernaturally), but I can't say I always loved the records. I listened to them - picked out the songs I liked - listened to them more.... And then Grinderman came out. It was what I wanted to hear just then - straightforward rock songs, with Cave's croony growl, and messy, noisy guitar - that was for me. It fell right in the middle of the weird folk and neo-psychedelia I liked then (Ben Chasney; Ghost/Boris - anything Kurihara; Times New Viking) - it was perfect. I was convinced, and I stayed convinced. Cave worked the style for a while - Dig, Lazarus, Dig sounds a lot like Grinderman; Grinderman 2 offered up more, and it solidified my more or less complete surrender to Cave. Push the Sky Away moves in another direction, but by now, I would go anywhere Cave took me.

That's basically been true for the last decade or so. I had a lot of catching up to do, but did it - picking up the old stuff when I had a chance and trying to listen to it - trying to finally hear it. Not as easy as it would have been in the 90s - iTunes has made listening to records seem like a quaint and old fashioned idea - though it is also true that Cave is one of the acts that has stayed in rotation on the CD player even after Steve Jobs ruined music. I have probably listened to Cave's CDs more in the last 10 years than anyone else. But I have caught up - figured out what I was missing. From the fairly straightforward post punk of the Birthday Party, through the goth cool of the early Bad Seeds, to the 90s croony stuff, up to the 00s rock - it is all good and all keeps getting better. I should have liked Cave in the 80s - it's only a step or two sideways from Pere Ubu (especially Mayo Thompson Pere Ubu) - listening to those songs now, From Her to Eternity or Avalanche - they sound so cool - pianos, the guitar scraping out of nowhere. There's still a lot of that in the new ones, more than you sometimes notice on first listen - Warren Ellis in particular is a very disruptive musical force - though the rhythms are more conventional, I suppose, more like rock (more like Tom Hermann Pere Ubu?) I liked the old stuff; and I went back to the crooning period - the mid 90s, the music that won me in the first time - picked up some of those records I was missing, and found I liked it more than ever. It helped that I listened to a lot of Van Der Graf Generator, Scott Walker, that sort of thing, in the early 00s - though Cave got me into them, as much as digging into them made me appreciate Cave.

And don't discount the Bad Seeds in this: Ellis in recent years has really put his stamp on the sound of the records - but they have always been tight and inventive and full of personality. The way the songs are put together - the mix of styles, the mix of simplicity and experimentation, the melodies and the noise, the prettiness and wig-outs - there's no end of what they can do, and they do it all brilliantly. Cave's records reward the attention, for their detail, their accumulation of sounds, everything - every song feels like an epic, every record feels like a collection of epics. Yep: he is in the pantheon now - maybe not with the Stones and Beatles, probably not really with Pere Ubu and Richard Thompson or The Velvets - but he probably doesn't fall far outside the top 5 or 6... And right now - 2014 - he continues to put out the most consistent, intelligent and impressive music of anyone. It is one of the things that drew me to him in the 00s - he was still putting out records that were as good as anything. He's been one of the 2-3 best acts of the 21st century, if not the very best.

And to gild the lily, he's become a very solid screenwriter, soundtrack writer and performer, and features in one of the best films of the year. It is all too much.

So here I am, with a huge pile of songs to choose among: the fact that I am still missing a couple records, and there are a couple I haven't listened to all the way through in order (more than once anyway) - doesn't really help. There is so much to choose from. The brilliant stories and words, the sounds, the pretty songs and the rock outs and the abrasive ones, all competing - we shall have to do the best we can.

Top 10 Songs:

1. When My Baby Comes - great as the song is, it's the instrumental second half, an unholy drone with a killer bass line, that puts it at the top.
2. Stagger Lee - earning that parental warning sticker.
3. Rock of Gibraltar - one of the pretty ones, with that killer turn at the end.
4. From her to Eternity - I think I can blame Win Wenders for turning me off from Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds. I just associated them with whatever he was doing - with the bad things about Wings of Desire. But listen to the song - where the piano goes, Blixa's guitar coming in when it does, all the space - damn.
5. Red Right Hand
6. Palaces of Montezuma
7. Weeping Song
8. We Call Upon the Author
9. Let the Bells Ring - especially the live version; those ringing guitars!
10. We No Who You Are

Painful choices, getting down to that. All right - have to let it go. Video? Start with Grinderman, Nick Cave, guitar hero; Warren Ellis, violin hero:

Back toward the start - Birthday Party - Junkyard:

From Her to Eternity, 1989, just hammering it:

Calling on the author:

Mr. Stagger Lee (Austin City Limits) (language, violence, sex and blasphemy):

Come on baby let's get out of the cold!... Palaces of Montezuma on Jools Holland:

And video for We No Who U R:

Friday, January 02, 2015

First Friday of A New Year

Welcome to 2015. Among my resolutions for this year will be to try to listen to music more than I write about it - I don't know if I can make it or not. I go in cycles, listening to music - and the last few years have been a down one. My recent fixation on favorite bands might be a consequence of that - a desperate attempt at least once a month to rekindle the old passion... Which it does: I remember all the good things about listening to music, these bands, any bands - but passion doesn't translate into action. If action means listening to music for extended periods of time. Fortunately, it has translated into writing about music - I'll take it if that's what I've got, but it would be nice to hear more. I will blame technology - iTunes has broken up CDs, made it more work to listen to a record than to songs, etc. - there is that... and my CD player busted a couple years ago. There's that too. I have a new one coming though! so - we shall see, right?

Now? I would like to put up a best of 2014 list, but I don't think I could even choose among the CDs I did get last year. Let alone the songs. The only records that have made the least impression on me are the new TV on the Radio, new Pere Ubu, new Earth and new Scott Walker & Sunn O))) records. So - maybe I will get around to listening to some of the others - I hope so. What can I say?

Still, this being the first music post of the year - it ought to be something different, a bit special - so - maybe previews of coming attractions on the blog? No promises as to the order these bands appear - but they ought to show up, in some order or other.

1. Nick Cave & Bad Seeds - A Weeping Song
2. PJ Harvey - Down by the Water
3. Yoko Ono & Plastic Ono Band - Why Not?
4. Smokey Robinson - The Love I saw in You Way Just a Mirage
5. Sleater Kenney - You're No Rock and Roll Fun
6. TV on the Radio - Quartz
7. David Bowie - Rebel Rebel
8. AC/DC - Big Balls
9. Pink Floyd - Time
10. Mercury Rev - Hercules

Video? Nick and Blixa:

Sleater Kinney, soon to be back in action:

And a bit of Bowie:

Happy new year!

Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Goodbye to 2014

I can see this year is ending like last year - the idiot cat is stretched out on the desk, making it very difficult to type. But I am not really here to write a whole lot - just a bit of a roundup, a farewell to 2014.

I can't say I'll miss it. Nothing particularly bad happened to me or anyone close to me - I can't complain about that. But it's just been an odd disappointment, across the board. This blog has suffered, especially in the second half of the year - Gran't Overland campaign and the World Cup provided some mid-year fodder, but otherwise, man, have I been lazy about posting. I can't offer much for excuses - work has been a bear; I took a rather demanding class in the fall - but mostly, I have just been lazy. I might as well take the opportunity to pretend to make a resolution about that - back up over 100 a year! I will do it! I can! I should also try to write some movie posts - though I've been shockingly lazy about seeing movies this year too. Never mind writing about them. I need to get that up over 200 again - a reasonable, makable goal, that I can't seem to manage these days...

That's me. Out in the world - it's been a strange year. The country is not in the worse shape ever - the economy is better than it has been; we are managing to creep our way out of out bad wars. The government continues to spy on us; the revelations about the horrors perpetrated by our government during the 00s - torture, war crimes - seem to make no difference. No one is locking Dick Cheney away - or even pardoning him, which at least would let us put on record, maybe, that he needs to be pardoned, because he is a war criminal. Not just Cheney, but start with him. It's a strange world. It is very strange - the old adage, "it's the economy, stupid" didn't quite work this year - the Republicans won big in the elections, even with gas prices low, the economy keeping up, even a greater sense that the country ought to move left to fix its problems - raise minimum wages, reduce debt... It's really a simple lesson of course - people need to vote. There were protesters out today, again, protesting the Eric Garner and Michael Brown non-indictments - I heard some young fools complaining about them, and about the Occupy movement, saying they were just a bunch of pot-heads who got nothing done. Which - might not be totally fair: pot is legal in four states now, all in the last year or two. Minimum wages have been raised in a number of states and cities in the last couple years - not enough, and not nationally - but there has been movement. Occupy didn't do anything directly, but it's hard to dismiss the fact that it made economic reform a subject for discussion.

Though that is probably my point here: that political change has to happen at the ballot box. Protests are fine, but they are not going to change anything themselves - they have to be transformed into votes, votes into laws - or regulations - though laws are better. Unfortunately, this is a point that the Republicans seem to grasp more than the Democrats - the right more than the left. The fact is - the right comes out to vote, all the time, every time - so you get 40% turnout and you get Republican controlled congresses. When we get 60% turnout, we get Democrats. If we got 70% turnouts, we might get Democratic supermajorities. The Republican party gets it, I have to say - they vote; they know that they have to keep other people from voting - so they pursue policies to limit voting, pretty consistently... They work to make people think voting is irrelevant - though not their own people, who seem to show up anyway. I could go on about that a while.

But it creates a situation that is kind of depressing and hopeful at the same time. The GOP won this year - but they won a lot of very close races - despite being very successful at voter suppression, despite during horrifying amounts of money into the election... They did win in the face of economic recovery - though it's hard to get too excited about the recovery. People still don't have enough money - the whole thing seems very fragile, and very vulnerable, as long as wages stay low, corporate taxes and the higher tax brackets stay low, debt keeps rising (especially student debt.) Those things require the federal government and the federal government isn't going to do anything controlled by Republicans... But still: the numbers are against them. there are more Democratic voters than Republicans - the GOP is more and more converting itself explicitly into the party of racist white people - which is to say, older white people - so - they might just fade away.

All right. Politics. I should stop - though - there is more. The Garner and Brown stories (and other similar stories) have galvanized the country - made people pay attention to the continuing racism in American society. It's pulled the cover off things - the NY Police Department has managed to squander more good will in the last two weeks than you would imagine they could have. I don't know where that will go - they are very powerful, capable of making great trouble - but they are also demonstrating rather clearly the need to get police under control. Police need to be controlled by the civil authority. we have been lucky in this country - or,put another way, blessed, in having a military that has, for the most part, taken seriously the fact that they are under civilian control. They answer to the government - and while they might whine now and then, they generally do their duty. That has not always been the case for police - it hasn't been in the last couple weeks in New York. That has to stop. I don't know where this is going, to be honest - maybe we have started to wear off the deference to armed law that we have held since 9/11 - one has to hope. But it is going to take some votes to do it...

Votes. Comes down to votes.

All right: look at this - just like last year, this year end roundup degenerated into a political rant. Sad. I will leave you then with a film still - Walter and Hildy in His Girl Friday, getting ready to bring down the ward-heelers. My New Year's Eve movie marathon this year was The Front Page x2 - Milestone and Hawks. The 1931 film is an interesting one - more of the newspaper stuff, less of Walter/Hildy - and showing its age in odd ways. The sound (at least on the cheap DVD I have) is pretty bad; the camera work is quite remarkable. Milestone liked to move the camera around, and it spins and swoops around the room throughout the play - sometimes rather dizzyingly. It's also interesting for coming pretty close to the same rapid fire overlapping patter the Hawks films features - not quite so fast, but getting there. It's a neat film in itself. Though the Hawks is one of the great ones. The comedy of remarriage stuff picks the plot up another notch; the performers are as good as they come; and the improved production values make the whole thing crisp looking and sounding, which it needs. Great fun - a great way to ring out the old year.

And finally - the cat, claiming another kitchen appliance before I could even get it home. Horrible beast!

Monday, December 22, 2014

Sherman's March to the Sea

I have been neglecting my Civil War posts - but I can't ignore Sherman's March to the Sea. This week is the end - he reached Savannah, Georgia on December 21, 1864.


The story - after taking Atlanta, Sherman stayed there; Confederate General John B. Hood took his army west, after a while, hoping to cut Sherman's lines, renew the war in the west (the Confederacy was being sliced up by this time, but that still left big chunks of land under their control - geography was their friend), and generally - find something useful to do. Sherman chased him around for a while, but not long - he gave it up, figuring that the Union forces in the west were more than adequate for the task. Instead, Sherman would take his army and head for the Atlantic - cutting the Confederacy into smaller pieces; wrecking their means of supporting the war; and teaching them what it meant to lose a war. So off they went, and they made gruesome work of it.

Behind him, John Schofield and George Thomas handled Hood easily enough. At the end of November, Hood wrecked his army with direct attacks on Schofield's entrenchments at the Franklin. Hood didn’t have much left after that, but Thomas took a couple weeks to finish him off - but on December 15 and 16, at the Battle of Nashville, he attacked, and didn’t leave much doubt about it. Hood’s army was ruined, taken out of the war, and the Union got on with the job of finishing the Rebels off.

Sherman’s army was already well on their way by then, though no one knew it. When he headed east from Atlanta, he cut off all ties with the rest of the United States. No communications, only the supplies he could carry - but his armies lived off the land, while wrecking it for the Confederacy. They tore Georgia apart - destroying everything of use to the enemy - the food supplies (still producing in this part of the country), industry, transportation, everything. By this time in the war, the places that had seen fighting - Virginia (especially the north), big chunks of Tennessee, Mississippi and such - had been ravaged for years; they could not support what was left of the Confederate armies. But the deep south had been spared - it still could supply Lee and the other armies still in the field - but not when Sherman was done with them. He destroyed that resource base, destroyed the transportation need to get supplies to Virginia. And on top of that, a big part of his goal was to show them the war was over except for the formalities - that Union armies could come and go as they pleased and do as they pleased...

It's hard to argue with the results. Sherman certainly demonstrated that the confederacy was beaten, and had best give up. He wrecked Georgia, and even if Lee and Johnston hadn't been finally beaten in the field in early 1865, they would probably have had no means of carrying on much longer. They were running out of room anyway; and by the end of Sherman's march, he'd reached the southern border of Virginia. At the same time, though the march wrought havoc on the south, there wasn't a lot of direct violence - property was ruined; lives were generally spared.

Still. A thing that works in one context might not be right for another; a thing that seems just and effective in one place, might not be so in another. You can detect the ghost of Sherman and his marchers in many of the wars we've fought since. It was immediately applied to the plains Indians - Sherman and Sheridan (who did the same thing to the Shenandoah) were in charge of those campaigns, and adopted a similar scorched earth policy. You can see its legacy in World War II's strategic bombing campaigns - hoping to destroy the enemies' ability to make war; and to demonstrate to the civilians that they were losing, and should surrender now. But whatever you think of what Sherman did - those later campaigns were a different sort of affair. Starting with the fact that the campaigns against the Sioux and Cheyenne and such were aimed as much against people as resources - they were genocidal, or at least willing to be genocidal - and the talk was certainly genocidal. And in WWII, there was no pretense at sparing the lives of civilians - bombing campaigns were meant to kill people, as much as to destroy war resources. No one pretended otherwise.

They were terrorism. And so was Sherman,strictly speaking. He certainly thought so - whatever he might have called it, his goal was to teach he south that they had lost, and break their will to continue fighting. That is what terrorism is - attacking not military targets in an effort to break the will of the population to fight. And - it might have worked in 1864 - though the history of the south after the Civil War tends to undermine that theory. It certainly didn't work in WWI or WWII - Zeppelin bombings didn't break the English in the Great War; the Blitz didn't break them in the second war; neither Germany or Japan broke, on the home front, in WWII, for all the devastation raised on them from the sky. Hiroshima and Nagasaki might have convinced the Emperor to intervene to force his more suicidal officers to surrender - but that is all. Even on the plains - the US did destroy the power of the plains tribes, but they did it by sheer force of numbers, and by obliterating their food supply. Which is what really worked against Georgia and the Shenandoah in 1864 (and worked against the Japanese in 1945) - destroying resources made it impossible for the CSA or Imperial Japan to resist. (Germany was beaten by main force: they maintained their war production fairly well to the end. In WWI, they were beaten largely by the blockade, which also ruined their resources, and starved the people to the point where they did turn against their government. That, in fact, might come closer to a parallel with Sherman - the British blockade starved them, without killing people openly; as did Sherman. Maybe economic warfare does work, when not coupled with (too much) open violence - bombs made people fight harder; hunger convinces them that getting rid of the Tsar or the Kaiser can save them. A thought anyway.)

So in the end - you have an event that in itself was very effective - not all that excessive - and, well - the Confederacy deserved what they got, and a good deal more. But - but - the precedents were bad; and in the back of my mind, it's hard to avoid the thought that what really won the war (in this part of the South) was the combination of John Hood heading of for nowhere and Schofield and Thomas blasting his army to shreds. Once the southern armies were gone - the war was won. Sherman gets the press - but Thomas and Schofield (and Grant and Sheridan) did the work.