Friday, September 28, 2007

Fall Preview of Sorts

A couple small points, stepping back from the brink of politics and religion, to talk about films and film writing in the upcoming months...

First - this should be a busy weekend pour moi, though I am always nervous about declaring Wher I Will Be in the coming hours and days (especially when I have not yet bought tickets). But odds are, a good part of the weekend you will find me at the Harvard Film Archive, watching the works of Pedro Costa, with Mr. Costa in attendance.

Second - a nice month for Rivette fans: big writeups in not one but two serious film magazines! Film comment - CinemaScope. Bless them all! And hope the film comes out.

Third - I've again shamelessly swiped Edward Copeland's list of upcoming blogathons for my own sidebar item. It's a good crop: there's a good variety to it - thematic blogathons (Film and Faith), technical/aesthetic issues (The close Up), critical blogathons (the double bill-a-thon, say: a very interesting idea), plus films - actors, directors, etc, from high and low (a bit more high than low in this group, with Kurosawa and It's a Wonderful Life getting their dues.) It looks like there will be quite a bit to read in the next few months.

December 16: in honor of its 24-7 presence on the airwaves, a day for It's A Wonderful Life, at Cinemathetics.

November 15-22: work up a Thanksgiving appetite with a week of Kurosawa movies at Film Squish!

November 10: A Bob Fosse fest at Forward to Yesterday.

November 7-9, 2007: Film and Faith blogathon at Strange Culture.

October 22-26: The Broken Projector's Double Bill-a-thon - write about 2 films for the price of one!

October 17: Honor Montgomery Clift, at Film Experience.

October 12-21: Close-Up Blogathon, at The House Next Door.

Thursday, September 27, 2007

A Bit of a Rant

Could it be time for a political post? (Preferably random and incoherent!) I see a certain amount of shock and horror being expressed over a Da Vinci parody - not directly, I mean I see a few blogs reacting to the shock and horror over a Da Vinci parody... I mean - I'm not going to read Rod Dreher for love or money.... and with things like this, you can never be sure if there's anyone who's not basically earning a living by Taking Offense who cares a whit. (Or why they'd care, if it wasn't in their job description.) But it reminds me of some things I've been thinking about, so I'll use it as an excuse to gas a bit about religion and art and politics and such...

A first point worth noting is that the inciting poster (Leonardo's last supper enacted by folks in bondage gear) is not, really, parodying or insulting religion - it's parodying The Last Supper: a famous painting, already (as Dan Savage documents) much parodied in the culture. A second point might be that the picture itself is hardly offensive: a bunch of guys and a couple women in leather, maybe a mask or two - whatever. Sure sure, if you want to examine it closely, I'm sure you can find something to be offended at - and I suppose the mere thought of S&M is going to offend some people - again: whatever. Their problem. None of that in the picture. Now I know - the outrage is fake; it's ginned up to justify oppression of homosexuals, and oppression in general - the plain authoritarianism of the right has long since been proven... It's all about establishing the right as the voice of "morality" that it can use to justify its authoritarian politics... It's still worth repeating the point. Noting, again, that the "outrage" is not aimed at anything concrete - not what's in the poster, but the idea behind it: that there might be people who like a good spanking in the world. And probably - the idea that people who like a good spanking now and then might be quite happy and good natured people - since everyone in the picture looks quite satisfied with their lot....

But that's old hat. This is a good excuse to note again that this is Bunuel week - an artist who had great fun mocking religion (as well as the great artworks of our past), including his own Last Supper parody, in Viridiana... as well as more offensive tricks - the ending of L'Age D'Or, with Jesus and disciples in the roles of the libertines of 120 Days of Sodom, is particularly amusing. Which suggests one angle on this latest "controversy" - the fact is, religious imagery is pervasive in western culture: a very high percentage of visual art is religious, is drawn from religious material. Stories, symbols, sayings, language itself, is drawn from or heavily influenced by religious sources. So - anything you do, that addresses the culture - the shared pool of images and ideas and types and so on - is going to refer to religion, somewhere. It can be hard to specify where the lines are drawn: this is a clear example, where a bible story has been adapted into a painting - which has become every bit as pervasive in the culture as the story. But is the painting religion? Is parodying the painting an insult to religion? does it have a thing to do with religion?

There's a broader question here - of what religion is. One thing that sometimes bugs me about radical atheists (like PZ Myers, say - who in fact I quite admire) is their tendency to speak of religion as a single, unitary thing. As if religion was the same as religious belief. It isn't. "Religion" covers a world of things - institutions; beliefs; moral and social rules and precepts; rituals and practices; symbols and images; cultural identities. And it is not religion so much as religionS: they are all different, putting different weight on the various pieces of religion. And many of these aspects of religion are taken over whole by ideologies that get rid of the idea of God: Stalinism, Maoism (so often cited as proof that atheists are Just As Bad as Christians at being murderous bigots), were religions in pretty much everything but the name. Even the central, organizing, imagery - the images of Stalin and Mao - the cult of personality.... (This is of course also the case with perfectly harmless movements.) I am inclined, myself, to think that the unifying principal of religions is their reliance on symbols: religious thought itself is based on taking symbols literally. Religion becomes about the enactment of symbolism - all the rest (the institutions and cultural identities and texts and moral systems) are all extensions of the founding symbols. (That is a reason why things like this story, starting from the idea of a group of atheists trying to come up with a symbol for themselves, seem so profoundly wrong to me. Once you get a symbol for your particular set of views about the world - that sounds like religion to me. In the worst sense, too - of forming gangs, and identifying who is in and who is out. It gives me hives.) If there is a defining religious principal, I would think it is aesthetic: it's taking aesthetics literally.

Okay... I've lost the plot. What does that have to do with an S&M parody of the Last Supper? or the "outrage" it causes? Ah! found it! It's the outrage... The manipulation of the complexity of religion by the profession Takers of Offense. Because: religion is many things - one thing it is is a set of beliefs. As a set of beliefs, there should be no question of the right to ridicule it. Beliefs - religious, philosophical, political, you name it - should be fair game: to argue with, pick apart, mock - there may be better and worse ways of doing it - but arguing with beliefs is as fundamental a right as holding beliefs and expressing them.

But things get complicated with religion. Ridiculing someone for their race is not acceptable, or shouldn't be. Race, ethnicity, culture - you see where this is going? Religion is not just beliefs - it is culture. And charlatans like William Donahue exploit this - they take things that ridicule (or parody or generally question) religious belief, or religious institutions (as political and social forces in the world), or religious symbolism or practices - and treat them as though they were attacks on religion as a cultural identity. But they are not: this is a conflation. That leathermen parody of the Last Supper is not, in any meaningful sense, attacking christian culture - it's not like a blackface version of the last supper would be. It's not. It's not like Ann Coulter calling John Edwards a faggot (as Dreher claims) - it's not. Saying it is is cheating. It's an important point to remember because there are plenty of instances of attacks on religious cultures - much of the anti-Islamic rhetoric in this country is plain bigotry. And certainly when religious beliefs are grounds for discrimination - whether against atheists as in the symbol story linked above, or the not always all that subtle attempts to go after Mitt Romney's Mormonism (from both sides) - that is unacceptable. But those kinds of genuine offenses have to be distinguished from criticism of religious policies, or even mockery of the specifics of religious belief. The Outrage industry turns it all to mush, turns everything into posturing. Bastards.

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Music and Technology etc.

First - in case I don't get around to a more substantial movie post, announcements: a new round of blogathons is upon us: this weekend, GoatDog is hosting a William Wyler blogathon, even as we speak. Starting tomorrow, a week-long Bunuel extravaganza at Flickhead. And coming up, November 7-9, RC at Strange Culture is hosting a Film & Faith blogathon. Head on over!

Now then - I'm sure you've all been waiting breathlessly for news on my iPod woes: it's good news! I still blame microsoft (or apple or someone) for abandoning firewire for USB 2, but that's a secondary complaint. The real problem turns out to have been a defective iPod. I took it to the store they gave me a different one to try - and 16-18 hours later, whatever it was, I'm in business again! and since the old one has been working, more or less, we have a Friday random ten to post, only 2 days later!

Though I have to find a better way to write about music. That's the point of this - that and forcing myself to make at least one post a week... But it's a way to write about music. Not always the best, though - I feel as if it were growing stale. But one of the reasons I write about movies is that I go to the movies - 2 new films a week, and whatever other screenings look good, and a stream of DVDs, which sometimes flows like a torrential river (it's easy to watch 4-5 WC Fields films a week), sometimes not. But music - I tend not to listen to CDs whole: I listen to the iPod. And so - the easiest way to write about music is to write about the way I listen to music:iPod shuffle. And - there is this. One of the reasons not having a high capacity iPod handy is so hard to take is that I have all those CDs in there: and this is the way to hear them once i a while. One of the things the iPod does is remind me of what I have. Left to my own devices, I listen to whatever half dozen records I'm currently into - and sometimes go back to the old standards. Right now that means listening to Boris with Kurihara more or less constantly [with this tour - Boris and Damon & Naomi, both with Kurihara, like heave itself...], with MIA and the Liars mixed in for variety.... But the iPod, when it can draw from everything I've put in there - keeps me listening to a much greater variety of music. For demonstration thereof -

1. Pere Ubu - Voice of the Sand
2. Sugar Minott - Hang On Natty
3. Burnt Sugar - No direction Home part VI) - this is what I mean. I like this music - Greg Tate's jazz/rock/improv project - but how often do I put the CD in? and if I did put in a CD would I put this in ahead of Sun Ra or Miles Davis or Sonny Sharrock? not likely. But the iPod, sooner or later, offers it up.... granted - in chunks, which is probably not the best way to listen to it, but a good reminder.
4. Chicago - Introduction (live - from a crappy import of some sort) - hey... they're kind of cheesy, even early in the game, but they were not bad in those days. Had some punch.
5. Elvis Costello - Little Triggers
6. Public Enemy - Hard Truth Soldiers - this new record of theirs doesn't quite do it - there's still some talent here - but it's awful dry stuff. This song is 4:19! I could have sworn, listening to it, it was like 12 minutes... this isn't as depressing a "comeback" as the Who's misbegotten effort, but it's pretty bad. Though I'm happy to have put a few cents in Chuck D's bank account...
7. The Killers - Change Your Mind - play "guess the Strokes knockoff!" - I'd have lost; I'd have guessed the strokes themselves...
8. Bob Marley - Get Up Stand Up (live) *** - rated! but I'm not complaining about the rest. Anyway, Bob Marley is usually a nice lift...
9. Flaming Lips - Waiting for Superman
10. Arcade Fire - Keep the Car Running - I haven't gotten around to rating the songs on this record; this one deserves *** I think. I tend to be somewhat less impressed by them than some of the other - whatever this is called - new folk, whatever it is. Waterboys tribute bands, I call em! If I have to choose, I'll take the Decembrists; or go back to Neutral Milk Hotel, something like that. (Which is another way of saying, they're on the emergency playlists I burn to CD...) But thanks to the iPod, I don't have to choose! hooray!

Video? Let's go with Chicago, live in Japan 1972, per YouTube, trying desperately to rock out and almost managing it...

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Non-English Films Ballot

Following up on this monumental project, the Ray Memorial 100, here are my votes and comments. The process - voting twice (nominations and final tally), plus writing a couple notes, plus parsing through the lists a few times - has given me plenty of time to think about films, lists, what I mean by having favorite movies - so I still have stuff to say about it. So here goes, organized around my final ballot and comments. With actual place on the list and some comments on the comments, since I am an incorrigible geek. (Only a couple of them are all that substantive...)

1. M - 1931 - Lang, Fritz - Germany: this film has been on my top 10 list more or less from the day I saw it. More like top 2-3. As everything else changes around it, it stays there.
#3 - I don't have anything much to add to this. I was pleased that the top 3 films in the poll were my 2, 1, 4 films, and my number 5 made the top ten - after that, the final list diverges from mine. Position may not matter all that much - but it's still nice to know you're not alone. Also nice to sometimes be a bit weird - so when my choices don't match the poll, that works too! Everything works! yay!

2 Rules of the Game - 1939 - Renoir, Jean - France - when I first rented it, as soon as it ended, I rewound and watched it again. You could put it on a loop and never get tired of it, I think. It’s hard to say much more and ever stop talking about it.
#1 - That's not surprising. M might be (and pleasing) - this and Seven Samurai would have been my guesses for the top 2-3.... they should be.

3 Late Spring - 1949 - Ozu Yasujiro - Japan - It was watching Late Spring, during the scene at the Noh performance where Chishu Ryu nods to the woman he claims he will marry and Hara starts squirming beside him, that I knew Ozu was the greatest filmmaker ever. The film has everything - far more comedy than it gets credit for; the cultural details and critiques, from all angles - celebrating Japanese culture, making fun of it, working in all those baseball and movie jokes, putting that big coke sign in the middle of a happy interlude; the brilliant performances, the way Hara and Ryu move, she being brought to bay, he holding everything in, acting the old man; everything. Almost endlessly rewarding, and ultimately heart-breaking. For my money, Early Summer is even better, but this will do. I tend to lump films from my favorite directors together anyway - choosing among them is an arbitrary science.

#48 - This breaks the pattern of me matching the poll - though I did some calculations and discovered that this had the third highest points per vote on the poll (after M and Rules) - which makes sense. I can't imagine you could watch this, like it, and not think it was one of the 10 or so best films ever made. It might be less seen - and people may not warm to it - but if they do, they will worship it. The process of voting has made me wonder if this isn't my favorite film of all time, period - better than Early Summer; better than M and Rules - better than It's a Wonderful Life, McCabe and Mrs. Miller, better than Duck Soup. Or maybe it's the film, at least on this list, that most makes me want to grab people by the lapel and scream at them - you have to see this film! You have to love this film! - Rules of the Game, M, Seven Samurai, It's A Wonderful Life, etc. people already know about - Late Spring is still something of a mystery. Whatever it is - it floors me.... I am also most happy to have been quoted about this film: part and parcel of what I'm saying I guess - whatever it means, this is the film on the list that ended up meaning the most to me.

4 Seven Samurai - 1955 - Kurosawa, Akira - Japan - What epics should be - thrilling, moving, technically breath-taking, and historically serious. Like - one example - the historical point of the way guns are transforming the world - all four dead samurai fall to gunfire.
#2 - about right. One thing I wonder, though - my comment: is that remark about guns on the commentary track of the film? I keep thinking I got it from somewhere, but I don't remember where, if I did. It might also be something most comments on Kurosawa mention....

5 Aguirre Wrath of God - 1973 - Herzog, Werner - Germany - a film featuring one of the half-dozen great opening shots in films: and maybe one of the half dozen greatest closing shots as well, Kinski holding up a shitting monkey and monologuing about marrying his daughter to found a pure line - then throwing the monkey away like an empty beer can.
# 8 - nice to see it up there.

6 Pierrot Le Fou - 1965 - Godard, Jean-Luc - France - Back in the theaters! It used to be my favorite Godard, but I went a long time without seeing it, and saw Vivre sa Vie a bunch of times in the interim, and it took over the spot. I imagine, if anyone else had nominated Vivre sa Vie, it still would be the top Godard film on this ballot, but Pierrot will do. It’s great. The eye popping colors and compositions (though there’s barely a frame anywhere in Godard’s work that isn’t magnificent looking); the song and dance routines; the many many tricks - addressing the camera, quoting himself, and piecing a story out of what he finds - books, movies, ads, comics, real life, the newspapers. And how much fun it is, how physical it is (especially Belmondo, running and jumping around, being tortured on camera and so on), and how well Godard manages to always keep it funny, serious, even moving, all at once.
# 87 - 87? weird. Anyway - I think I might be underrating it.

7 Gospel According to Matthew - 1964 - Pasolini, Pier Paolo - Italy - stands to reason that a gay communist atheist would make the best religious movie ever. By sticking to the text, mostly - and the land and faces of southern Italy - though he does use the style, the handheld cameras, zooming, telephoto lenses, to great effect as well.
# 98 (tied with Day of Wrath) - just made the 100, but I can't say I'm too surprised or exercised. These are all good films, after all....

8 Ugetsu Monogatari - 1953 - Mizoguchi Kenji - Japan - once you start talking about most of these films, you realize there’s just too much to say. Nothing is enough. Since people usually focus on Mizoguchi’s style, I’ll note the thematic richness: Mizoguchi's usual subject, how women suffer to make men worth their suffering, here augmented by anti-militarism (the samurai are all scum, cowards, fools - the foot soldiers are bullies, rapists, murderers, thieves), a tract on the evils of greed, and the redeeming qualities of work and art. And the layers - the multiple ghost stories (there are ghosts inside the ghost stories!), the parallels between Lady Wasaka and Miyagi (the ghost is as sympathetic as the wife), the references to other arts - beautiful.
#22 - surprisingly low, I suppose, but still...

9 Playtime - 1967 - Tati, Jacques - France - It’s been a couple years since I saw it last: I would probably like it more now than I did then. I wish Alphaville had made the list - they are like a day and night view of the new (60s) Paris.

10 High and Low - 1963 - Kurosawa, Akira - Japan - Plenty to like here too. One of my all time favorite moments in a film - when Mifune throws a bunch of greedy executives out of his house and behind him you can see Tatsuya Nakadai and his partner judging them. The way Nakadai looks at the executives as they leave might be the best put down ever put on film.
#51 - I wish I had the DVD - I wish I had a screen shot of Nakadai for this....

11 Breathless - 1959 - Godard, Jean-Luc - France - it’s odd: films made today that transparently copy Breathless end up looking conservative next to it. Like Julie Delpy’s 2 Days in Paris - a fine film, obviously structured like Breathless, but everything about it is more conventional, softened. I usually don’t go for judging art as “progress” but Godard still looks newer, more radical, than most of what is made now (even in art films), and was way beyond even most of the great films of the 60s
# 21

12 Tokyo Story - 1953 - Ozu Yasujiro - Japan - though even Godard has trouble coming up to Ozu, as a master of formally adventurous, challenging work. In a completely commercial context!
# 12 - good lord! I got it dead on!

13 Mystery of Kaspar Hauser - 1975 - Herzog, Warner - Germany - “are you a tree frog?”
- I didn't notice this before - this is the one film I voted for that missed the cut.

14 Celine and Julie Go Boating - 1973 - Rivette, Jacques - France - one of only two films on my ballot I have only seen once: and, like the other one, I saw it this year. Along with the merits of the film, its immediate ascent is probably attributable to auteurism - I saw it as part of a long Rivette series, 12-13 of his films over a month or so. Celine and Julie is his best film, but it also seems more familiar because I saw all those other films at the same time. In a way, then, it stands in for his films in the mass. I suspect if I could see some of them again - Out 1 (either version), Amour Fou, Paris Belongs to Us, Jeanne la Poucelle - they might get on this list as well.
# 66 - kind of surprised this rated so high - this seems very hard to see. I don't remember any showings of it before the Rivette series I saw this year - I'm sure it plays somewhere now and then, but it's rare indeed. But a huge delight....

15 Yi Yi: A One and a Two directed by Edward Yang - the most recent film on the list. I have only seen two Edward Yang films - which is incredibly frustrating.
# 56

16 The Blue Angel directed by Josef von Sternberg - this is the oldest film on the nominations, isn’t it. Sternberg sometimes resists analysis - anything I can think to say feels too obvious. Just look at Dietrich. Which I do every day, since I have a poster from Blue Angel on the wall.
# 93

17 Sansho the Bailiff directed by Kenji Mizoguchi - I’ve seen this recently in the theater, a profound experience. I do think it’s odd that 3 Mizoguchi films got nominated and only 2 Ozus: in the last 10 years Ozu seems to have definitively passed Mizoguchi in the critical estimation. As imperfectly represented by DVD releases - there have been half a dozen Ozu films available for a couple years now (plus 5 more just released this summer) - Mizoguchi just has the two. Both are underrepresented - as is Naruse. Though I noticed that my vote for Late Chrysanthemums has disappeared - did it get rolled up into the votes for Mizoguchi’s Story of the Last Chrysanthemum? If so - it probably did more good there than in its proper place. Still - I’d be perfectly satisfied with a list of 25 films by just those three, Ozu, Mizoguchi and Naruse.
# 46 - I should have written an actual comment about the film. I did originally, but it was starting to turn into a mini-essay so I cut it and went for the metacomments.... the original comment was:
Takes a while, I think, to get past the sheer beauty of Mizoguchi’s films, to get to the themes - like, oh - the ways men can move and women can’t (whatever else may happen to them) - the way women sacrifice themselves in these films because that is the best they can hope for, the most they have available for them to do - men can be stars or heroes or artists; women are lucky not to be intentionally crippled.

18 The Decalogue directed by Krzysztof Kieslowski - I wish some of his earlier films were nominated - Camera Buff or Blind Chance. Though the Decalogue as a whole is better. It's hard to think of it as a single film, though. There are a couple episodes (1, 5, 10 anyway) I'd consider voting for on their own.
# 43 - still seems odd to consider this as one film; though it's only 3 hours longer than Satantango...

19 Pickpocket directed by Robert Bresson - like a lot of directors on this list, Bresson’s films often seem stronger taken as part of the series than separately. Any one of them can represent all of them.
# 45 - I wish Mouchette had made the cut, though.

20 Satantango directed by Béla Tarr - the other film I have only seen once, this year even. Sat through the whole thing more or less straight (there were intermissions) - if I hadn’t had other obligations I would have done it again the next day.
# 97 - not too surprising: another hard one to get to see, and I can imagine even movie fans thinking, what the hell am I doing here? But if you're into it, you're into it for real.

21 Cleo From 5 to 7 directed by Agnes Varda - I can’t think of anything to say about it. It’s all in the film, I guess.
# 89 - kind of wish this were higher.

22. Day of Wrath directed by Carl Theodor Dreyer - all about mothers loving sons...
# 98

23. Open City directed by Roberto Rossellini - Rosselini is like Bresson - sometimes hard to get a handle on the individual films. They seem better in the aggregate than individually,though all of them gain from their collective power. Since this is nominated, it is the one I’ll vote for.
# 78 - that's a mealy mouthed comment - more ambivalent than I feel. Open City is a great, marvelous film.

24 L'Eclisse directed by Michelangelo Antonioni - the only film on the ballot I haven’t seen in a theater. I made up for it the usual way, watching the DVD through two or three times, with and without the commentary. Still, DVD is no substitute for seeing films as films, especially when they look like this. This is a vote mostly for the potential: if it is this powerful seen in mediocre conditions, think how good it must be for real. That and the ending - which is still pretty breathtaking.
# 57 - that's lower than I would have expected - if just because Antonioni's death put him in people's minds.

25 Chungking Express directed by Wong Kar-Wai - this is an almost completely political pick. Chinese films and the 90s are both very badly represented on the nomination list. Satantango and maybe White are the only 90s films worth consideration; Chungking Express and Yi Yi the only Chinese films worth considering. Should I vote for it as a kind of proxy for the film I really want to be there, Fallen Angels? I guess so - I’m voting, unapologetically, for Open City because Germany Year Zero and the Flowers of St. Francis aren’t available; why not Chungking Express, as a stand in for Fallen Angels, Happy Together and 2046, and Wong Kar-wei as a stand in for any number of Hong Kong films, for Hou Hsiao Hsien, Tsai Ming-liang, Jia Jiang-ke, even the Zhang Yimou films that came in the '00s and deserved to be considered? Nothing can make me vote for Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon, or Raise the Red Lantern, or even Farewell My Concubine, but I can live with Chunking Express. Though it would probably be more honest to vote for one of the Truffauts or another Kurosawa or Godard.
# 63 - that's a really whiny comment. But I went through it all before. I do really like this film...

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Yo Ho Ho!

Arrgh, me hearties, tis Talk Like a Pirate day again! And this year,what a bountiful treasure we've found! Edward Copeland has finished compiling the poll of non-English language films - the Ray Memorial 100! Not forgetting the castaways...

Long John and the boys will have plenty to celebrate tonight! Extra ration of grog for all!

(Image from Mervyn Peake's magnificent illustrations for Treasure Island.)

Monday, September 17, 2007

Windows Sucks!

I know that headline will not come as a surprise to anyone, but I have been reminded, yet again, of this inarguable fault. My new iPod - conked out the first time I tried synching it; so I tried it again, left it running overnight - and of course, it's conked out again in the morning. Now this is very annoying: I'm wondering what's to blame (and how to fix it) - I poked around the documentation and online without much luck. And then I notice, the documentation all says to plug the machine into the USB port. That can't be right, I think - I try to remember what the cable looked like, and start to get a sinking feeling - I take a good look, and yes indeed: USB!

That's annoying. So I try again with the firewire cable the 60gig iPod used, but nothing. So I go online, thinking, Apple has cleverly managed to lure me into spending an extra $50 on a firewire cable for this thing. Typical, I think... Until I realize - there IS no firewire cable! the new iPods ONLY synch through USB! It's NOT apple greed - it's pandering to the poor suckers who bought Windows machines! It'll take me a week to get this thing working and a month to get all my music onto it! Damn it all to hell!

Thanks again, Microsoft, for making the world a worse place.

UPDATE: Rather than add a new post or a comment, I'll add a word or two to this. First - I have to admit that the real problem is the computer: the iPods work with USB 2.0, and this old thing has only 1.1; that's the underlying problem. One I hope I can avoid addressing until next year, though I don't think it's worth trying to squeeze much more than that out of this thing. Second: the other real problem is not so much that the process is slow, but that it died in the middle - and now, I've managed to make it so it won't do a thing: connect the iPod, and iTunes hangs. Terrible! I can't get at any options to restore the iPod, to switch to manual updates or anything like that - nothing. That's a good deal worse than slowness. Third - though I realize now that these USB only machines have been around a while - it's worth noting that I have one, a shuffle - which is slow, but works fine with this computer - so it's not just the hardware.

But all this whining is beside the point - because the old warhorse, the old photo iPod from 2 plus years ago - suddenly started working again, after I charged it all the way. Hooray! It is just the battery! I might get to next year after all...

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Technology and a Film or Two

Well - as noted, my iPod died - and as promised, I replaced it, with a 160 Gig monstrosity. Which leaves me here tonight synching the machine with iTunes.... which looks like an all night project. With luck. It crapped out once already. I just hope it gets to the end. It's this initial synch - 45 gb of music, more or less - that causes problems. I fear the days are numbered for my old iMac - I've had it awhile. It occurs to me, I have been using it as my main machine longer than any machine I had before - rather impressive. It's still adaquate - it's just starting to get slow. And the hard drive is smallish - so all my music, for example, is on an external - that can't be helping the synch process. (I'm pretty sure that's what killed it the first time, the externa; deciding to take a nap.) Anything intensive - video, music - is sluggish. It's almost time. I'll gut it out as long as I can - but....

What this means to us today, though, is just that I have some time to kill. A bit too late to start a movie - I can watch the Red Sox and Yankees, but really - those are, I'm afraid, about the least interesting games out there. Histrionics and hand-wringing - it's boring. The rivalry crap overshadows the games. I notice these days, the Yankees seem as into it as the Red Sox - a few years of mediocrity will do that. (What, you say? the Yankees have won the division every year since 1645! how can they be mediocre? - I say, 200 million dollars is a lot of money. It can dress up a pig in the finest silks. And that can get you through the early rounds when no one is paying attention. But have the Yankees won anything in the post season? bluffing their way past the red sox in 03 and alkmost bluffing their way past them again in 04 is all they have to brag about. This year, assuming they get the Angels int he first round, they won't get a chance to face the red sox. All for the best. Yankees/Red Sox is boring. Bring on the Mets!)

Failing that, I will use the moment to do some writing. Movies! reviews! Yesterday, I saw Tsai Ming-liang's latest, I Don't Want to Sleep Alone - set in Malaysia, but otherwise pretty consistent with the rest of his work. Long takes (92 shots in 2 hours, I think it works out to); not much dialogue, none by the main characters, I think; floods, fires, bugs, injury and illness; sexual longing, usually unwisely directed; loneliness sliding toward lunacy; basic bodily functions - eating and drinking, cooking, sleeping, pissing, cycles of bodily fluids, plus work - cooking, cleaning, etc. It's fairly grim, full of physical suffering and deprivation - perhaps the grimmest Tsai film since The River; though it ends as happily as any of his films have. Finally - the main protagonist of the film seems to be a mattress that gets dragged from place to place by the characters - it might be the "I" of the title, not wanting to sleep alone.

That was one thing. On the other hand, there's Across the Universe. I've noticed (and noted) that Inland Empire is a genuinely divisive film - people really do love it or hate it. Well - at least at the showing I saw, that's true of Across the Universe too. Sitting up front were a man and a woman who after gutting out an hour of it, had enough - they went out the front exit, and as they passed out into the street, the man flung his backpack angrily at a wall in front of him. I ca only assume this was a reaction to the film. Meanwhile, when the movie ended, a group behind me broke out into applause! And lest you think they might have been simply glad it was over - they were still there at the end of the credits, one of them declaring, "what a fantastic movie!" My own reaction fall between those extremes - though perhaps the way the letter C falls between A and Z. In fact - my main emotion during the film was disappointment. It could have worked. There are hints and flashes, usually in the dance routines - and indeed, it comes to shining life 2-3 times over it's 2 1/2 hours, though it never lasts. All through the film, the song and dance business tends to pop up, overmotivated, but not really integrated into the story - and quickly abandoned for more dull storytelling. It's a shame. A couple times it's almost criminal - "Come Together" gets a fine treatment - a real singer in Joe Cocker (the mediocrity of the lead actors as singers is a constant nag), and some very cool choreography of salarimen in a subway, then dancing with their briefcases on the street. Bono's bit - doing "I am the Walrus" - is embarrassing nonsense of the best kind, almost worthy of Moulin Rouge or Ken Russell, with Bono mugging and oversinging quite effectively. But the high point - the only part of this thing I hope ever to see again - is Eddie Izzard doing "For the Benefit of Mr Kite" more or less as himself. The film takes off for a moment - then comes back to earth, more bland standing around from the cast....

It's too bad. It's hard to imagine how this could have been a really good film - especially with the awful Forest Gump quality History of the Age story line. But it might well have been a properly over the top piece of shit - Julie Taymor, I think, is, in fact, not far from the Ken Russell of the age - with her biopix and Classics and now this, which at its best, is Tommy or The Wall on valium. Take away the valium, and people could at least have gotten a good laugh out of it. Instead - she is not willing to follow through on the weirder ideas; the dance routines toy with surrealism and general oddness, but they back off. Things start to go over the top, but they don't make it. And, on the other end - she doesn't extend the stylization of the everyday that crops up a couple times - some football cheers at the beginning, those commuters during "Come Together", some of the street scenes in Liverpool, especially at the end - far enough; doesn't extend it all the way. Abandons it completely for long stretches of melodramatic nonsense - dumb looking riots... too bad.

[This post has been updated: the laptop induced typos removed (or reduced), and a Ken Russell link added. And yes, I know The Wall is Alan Parker...]

Saturday, September 15, 2007

More Foreign Film Voting Angst

Actually, more might not be the right word - I don't think my previous posts on the subject are all that anxious. This time, though, I promise angst! I haven't done any real bitching about it - now that I've voted (waiting for that big screen show of Pierrot le Fou - important for positioning purposes, as I haven't seen it in a while, and my favorite Godard film didn't make the cut), I am going to whine a bit.

1) What made the list that had no business being there? First - there are quite a few recent films that, while good, seem well below the threshold for a list of the 123 or so best foreign language films ever: Amores Perros? nice film - not great; City of God? Y Tu Mama Tambien? I'm not convinced by any of them, though I don't exactly disapprove. Another, similar category, might be good films by important directors - that are nowhere near the best. I probably shouldn't complain about the Kieslowski films that were nominated - preferring his Polish films to his French ones is probably a minority opinion - but I think it's justified. Similarly - Almodovar made the list a couple times, but for the wrong films - why not Law of Desire? Women on the Verge of Nervous Breakdown? even Matador?

On the other hand - how does Run Lola Run keep turning up on these lists? It's okay, but really - especially when you look at some of the kinds of films that didn't make the list (specifically, Hong Kong, Japanese and Korean action films) - what is this rather dull retread doing here? Come on people! have you all forgotten The Killer? And then we get to the Embarrassments: Amalie? people still watch that? Even worse - Delicatessen probably has a case for being on the list - so not only is this a bad film, it's the wrong film! And finally, there's Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon - oh dear. That needs its own entry.

2) I am not happy with the quality of Chinese films nominated. Yi Yi is deserving, Wong Kar-wei is deserving (though I think he deserved it more for Fallen Angels or Happy Together than for In the Mood for Love or Chungking Express) - but filling out the rest with two of Zhang Yimou's silly soap operas and a fake Wuxia film - God, that annoys me. I know - I could have voted differently - I have been hating myself since I hit send on the first nominating ballot for not voting for, at least, A Touch of Zen - and since seeing some of the films that did get votes, I can hate myself for not voting for Come Drink With Me, as well, plus Jackie Chan (Project A II) or John Woo (either the Killer or Bullet in the Head) or Tsui Hark (Peking Opera Blues and/or Once Upon a Time in China). For that matter, I hate myself for not voting for Platform or The River - or for Beijing Bastards, if lost causes are worth anything. Though of course by now I'm up to a 10-15 or so films I'm hating myself for not voting for (including Fallen Angels and Happy Together and The One Armed Swordsman and Swordsman II if I were honest) - and I haven't even mentioned Hou Hsiao Hsien, since I did vote for him - but did I end up splitting votes there? If I'd voted for Flowers of Shanghai, would that have gotten it on the list? oh, the guilt.

Anyway - for all the complaining, there is a kind of point here: it is - that the world has moved on. I suspect that 10 years ago, you could have gotten a couple John Woo films on a list like this, if not Hou or Yang. Hong Kong action seems to have disappeared - oddly, not quite replaced by Korean and Japanese genre films, though they get more attention these days. I have noted in the past how strange it is that Park Chan-wook films, say, don't sell out; I noticed it a couple weeks ago, at a double feature of Election/Triad Election - there was a decent crowd, but 10 years ago, every showing would have been mobbed. It's odd, and kind of disappointing.

3) This is not a complaint so much as an observation about the changes in film culture. There was a lot of gnashing of teeth around the time Bergman and Antonioni died about the Death of Film (at least art films) - you could find some evidence in this survey. What does it say about film culture today that a poll like this could exclude films from the last five years? and get almost no complaints? I don't necessarily disagree with the decision - but try to imagine how something like that would have gone over in 1967 or 1962 - when films 2-3 years old were scoring high on these kinds of polls... I get the impression that in the 60s (and possibly in the 70s as well) even jaded cynics would have admitted the chance that the next film they saw could be the Greatest Film Ever Made. Reflected in the voting - L'Aventura landing on the 1962 Sight and Sound top 10, say.

Do people feel that way now? I don't think this exactly means that good to great films are no longer being made - but I think it means that the culture of film watching, if not film making, has changed - there is no sense of a collective effort to change the art form (or the world.) In a way, I think I can relate this to my own conviction that canons should be organized more around genres and types and categories like nationality, than around individual films. I think the perceived value and importance of an individual film is driven as much by the context - by the expectations about the art form as a whole - as by the film itself. Watching those Johnny To films a couple weeks ago, enjoyable as they were, did not give me the thrill seeing a new John Woo or Ringo Lam film would have in the 90s - or (speaking of Johnny To and associates) that Too Many Ways to Be Number 1 or Expect the Unexpected gave me. (If I'd known that was the last gasp...) Are the new films as good as the older ones? better? worse? I don't know - it isn't quite important. It's that being part of a movement, part of an expectation of seeing something new and exciting, gives films extra power.

Though - to end this post - I still walk away from films actively wondering if I just saw the best film ever. Syndromes and a Century felt a bit like that - probably the only time this year. Last year it happened twice - the Death of Mr. Lazarescu and Inland Empire - which might be... and so on. But even there - my curiosity about the growing interest in Rumanian and Thai films gives those films an extra kick. And even the Lynch film gets a little push from the existence of films like Zodiac, which are also reinventing the technology of filmmaking...

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Updates and Such

Okay - it's a Wednesday, with nothing going on. Friday, I hope, I can see Pierrot Le Fou, before submitting my foreign film ballot. The rest is pretty much set, but I want to know if Pierrot belongs back in the top 5-6 - it used to be there, but I haven't seen it in years - Vivre Sa Vie replaced it...

Meanwhile - I'm monkeying around with the blog design. I spent a bunch of time today trying to index some of the older posts: might as well get some metadata on everything here - no point in leaving things out there to dry... I can't say every word posted here is a gem, but I'd imagine a few things are interesting - the days of someone stumbling by accident into my Busby Berkeley posts are probably long gone, so maybe some tags could help. This is an ongoing project, I suppose.

It's also time to spiff up the design a bit. Or randomly change it, to confuse the unwary. I maybe growing tired of Johnny. We'll have to see. Maybe a David Hasselhoff tribute?

Though for now - I think I do have the ideal header image. Might take some tweaking to get the size and positioning right, but who can go wrong with a reincarnated husband?

UPDATE: Jealous husband, reincarnated as a carp, that is... And - more tweaks in the design. Bluer than ever, or a waterier blue. And a nod to the boys from whom this blog takes its name. I may not be satisfied for a day or two yet, though the general principal seems sound.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

September 11 Again

I suppose something should be said. The war party is still trying to play it for all they can. I see they are still calling it "Patriot Day" - not sure why. Patriots' Day - that's a holiday - and a holiday celebrating, well - patriotism - starting a war to run the bastards out! close enough! 9/11 is more like innocent victim day. Not sure what patriotism has to do with it.

It has long since become hard to say anything about the day. The government used it as a pretext to fuck the country up good, and do a pretty good job on the rest of the world. Bin Laden is still on the loose! Iraq is still fucked up! we're still grinding away there, and no sign of stopping soon! Great. The only possible comfort is that the GOP has so disgraced itself in the last 6 years that they will, eventually, be put out to pasture for a good long time - at least until some few of them start acting like adults again. Hell, we might get universal health care out of it!

Enough. I got a couple more WC Fields films from Netflix, so I'm off.

Monday, September 10, 2007

Two Good Ones (and More on the Way)

I should have put up a link sooner, but better late than never - today is the last day of the Slapstick Blogathon at Film of the Year - a treasure trove of posts can be found... I should have come up with something myself - I've been working my way through WC Fields for the last month or so; I saw City Lights this week; watched a couple Buster Keaton films at home - and ended the week with one of the great slapstick performances of the 90s - Takeshi Kaneshiro in Wong Kar-wei's Fallen Angels. That is an almost infinitely wonderful movie, there are so many things to look at and talk about - but this time, thinking about slapstick, I kept waiting for Kaneshiro to come back on screen. He's wonderful - physical, expressive (without speaking), and Wong gives him first class business: wrestling with a pig, dragging his poor customer around by the hair, annoying his father, chasing Blondie with Charley Yeung (who's no slouch as a comedian). Even in repose he is superb - watch his act at Sato's restaurant - his gestures, expressions, the way he gives a thumbs up. Modern updates of silent clowns tend to focus on their stunts and physical prowess, but Kaneshiro here has the grace and physical expressiveness to go with it. He's glorious. As is the film - one of 2-3 best of the 90s.

It is a good season for films: with the Oscar bait starting to filter out, and some first rate revivals and specialty releases. Last week the Brattle had City Lights, Metropolis and Fallen Angels - next week, even better: Pierrot le Fou! Which gets the chance to take back it's place as my favorite Godard film (before the close of voting for the 25 best foreign films), lost because I have seen My Life to Live 2-3 times since the last time Pierrot played. They tend to leapfrog... Meanwhile, the MFA is countering with the "New Crowned Hope" series - featuring, among others, both Tsai Ming-liang's I Don't Want to Sleep Alone (next week, opposite the Godard) and Apichatpong Weerasethakul's Syndromes and a Century, which played this week. And a very fine film it is. Fans of Contemplative Cinema will find much to consider, in its near plotlessness, it's long takes and oblique style, it's meandering and indirect dialogue, when there is dialogue at all, it's white walls and bleached out backgrounds, it's long shots of clouds and skies and smoke and empty fields.... not to mention its deliberate artifice - the twinned stories, with the same cast and similar situations, working a series of oppositions - rural/urban, female/male, natural/artificial (note the way natural places and things in the first half are systematically replaced by man made things in the second half: the orchid farmer replaced by machines making artificial limbs, his farm by the basement of the hospital; Pa Jane's mud baths replaced by a platform shoe; a solar eclipse replaced by a nearly identical image of a vacuum tube sucking up smoke)... It is hard to avoid seeing parallels to other filmmakers: Hong Sang-soo's looping (rather miserable) love stories; Tsai Ming-liang's humor and patience; not to mention an ending that seems closely related to the repeated images of an Eclipse - leaving the characters behind to go to the streets, shooting people exercising in a park - a rather different effect than Antonioni's empty streets and buildings....

Which is probably important. Despite (and because of) all these formal designs, this is an utterly engrossing film - beautifully shot, funny, in a gentle, understated way, and often genuinely, almost surprisingly, moving. It's always human and humane. Weerasethakul has said it is about his parents before they fell in love - I believe him. There is, in fact, more plot than it seems, handled with almost perfect precision. In the first half, the woman seems to be falling in love, but it ends up going nowhere - though not really: Weerasethakul pulls Ozu's old trick of only showing you enough to get the story: her anecdote ends at the point where it should end - when we know there is no future there.... In the second half, the man is also in love - but we see the beginning of the end, as clearly, and subtly, as we do in the woman's story. He won't be asking for a transfer... It's that kind of film - slipping the big points of its plot into the tiniest of cracks, so you probably don't realize what you saw until you've been thinking about it for a couple hours. It's very good. It might be a masterpiece.

Friday, September 07, 2007

Hooray for Hollywood

In a departure from my usual movie going habits, this week I took in two honest to god Hollywood movies. Good ones, too! 3:10 to Yuma is a decent update of a classic western, with Christian Bale and Russell Crowe glowering and charming their way across the Arizona landscape (actually New Mexico, if I read the credits right), en route to the title train. Let's give Ben Foster his due, since he gets to play the Crazy Sidekick, with all the scene chomping that entails. But I can't say much more for it than that. It's okay: you can see the story in there, know that you're supposed to be moved by the psychological drama, then - since it is a pretty well crafted bit of story telling - feel those things, or a reasonable approximation of them, when the long foreseen moments arrive.... but that's all there is. It looks okay, but nothing special. The drama is okay, but nothing special, nothing we haven't seen before, nothing worked out in great detail back in the 50s by films like the original 3:10 to Yuma (which I haven't seen) or any number of Budd Boetticher or Anthony Mann films that did it all much more efficiently and honestly. It doesn't add anything to the western - compare its view of heroism and good and evil to that of Deadwood, which does add something... It isn't anything special to look at - a straightforward looking cowboy movie, cut to fit in with the times... seems rather like The Proposition, with some of the mythic elements redistributed and naturalized, though not exactly eliminated, and with the requisite poetic psychopath at the center, the tortured hero poised between law and disorder, a grizzled old bounty hunter/Pinkerton played by an Old Pro, and certain symbolism of home and hearth vs. the howling wilderness. Though what does it mean that here, the poetic crook is an Aussie playing an American, and there an American playing an Aussie? It gets confusing sometimes.

Meanwhile, speaking of confusing: I also saw the Bourne Ultimatum this week. Here's a thought: what if Paul Greengrass had directed 3:10 to Yuma and James Mangold the Bourne movie? If someone wants to revive the western, that might have some hope. Bourne Ultimatum is utterly ridiculous stuff - the amnesiac superkiller, the sneering CIA villains, the supercomputer surveillance machines that always need another 30 seconds to tap into that phone, not to mention Bourne's apparent ability to teleport (the only plausible explanation for about half the plot.) This nonsense is completely redeemed by the infamous camera on a bungee cord shooting style. This has been much debated in the blogosphere - David Bordwell (twice), Jim Emerson, and others (Ebert's readers, say) weighing in - most at least somewhat against it. I cannot agree. I found the film quite legible, and fairly engaging. Bordwell notes that the style covers up a lot of problems - the idiocy of the plot, for example. Yes it does. It pushes the plot (and characters and all that jazz) into the background - and keeps the background in the background. It's all surface: but it's a pretty interesting surface. Even when I was laughing at the story, I was engrossed in the pictures.

I think there are two basic reasons for this. First: it just looks great. The camera movements, the cutting, the action are all combined to create a lot of pure rhythmic energy. All on the surface, yes - literally: one of Bordwell's points is how this film obscures space, fails to clarify what happens in space - that's right, I think. There’s very little done with staging or space, the action and fights don’t take place in the kinds of coherent spaces Hong Kong films use, the fights don't exploit the movements of the performers, real, or as perceived against some kind of effect - here, everything tends to be crammed onto the surface of the screen (wherever it is in relationship to other things on the shot) - it is all surface. Even things seen from a distance are treated as part of the surface of the screen. It is, I think, a relentlessly, and deliberately, two-dimensional film.

The second reason might be more important - and relates a bit to my disappointment with Mangold's western (maybe because I saw these two films the same week.) Bordwell talks about it's use of "intensified continuity" - especially the idea of putting one discreet piece of information into every (very brief) shot (a staple of the style). Ultimatum does this - but obscures the information - putting it out of focus sometimes, hiding it, decentering it (either physically or in time, slipping the information into only part of the shot. Bordwell also notes that a lot of the information in the film is on the soundtrack - things like the whoosh of a razor telling you what Bourne is using as a weapon. Now - I think this is part of the key to the film's ability to hold your attention. Every shot has one piece of information - sometimes hidden, obscured, sometimes implied, sometimes as much aural as visual. As you watch the film, you, first, realize that this is how it works - that every shot is going to show you something you will want to know to make sense of what is happening - and you know it may be hidden somehow - so you watch for it. I think, quite simply, the film functions like a game: it is presented, really, as a puzzle you have to figure out. And you CAN figure it out - it's not insoluble - you just have to commit to it - look at the pictures, pay attention to the soundtrack, and you will be able to follow it. Understand, at least in principal, what is happening - where people are and what they are doing - and so on. Bordwell also writes about genre conventions and expectations, and how they guide our ability to follow the film - this is certainly part of how it works. You know what should be coming - you have seen things like this before, so you look for the clues and hints and bits of detail that you know are part of the plot. The style and the conventions work together - the conventions, the expectations that there will be something important in every shot, etc. allow the filmmakers to hide this information - to make it harder to find, harder to see, or to divide the information between sound and vision. At the same time, this makes the puzzle solving harder and more engaging.

Now: the film's defenders seem to focus on certain claims about the style: its supposed "realism", it's "immersive" qualities, it's representation of Bourne's experience of the world, prominently.... Bordwell's posts deal with those claims pretty well. What I think makes it work is different - it's the mixture of the engagement the viewer has with film as a puzzle, as a problem to be solved... and the tendency toward both a pure surface and a kind of "telling" not "showing". Now I will say - some of this does relate to the defenders' claims, especially Bourne's POV. The viewing experience - the active requirement to figure things out as things happen on screen is analogous to how Bourne experiences the world. But this is distanced - the camera work does not work as a representation of his experience of the world, in anything close to a literal sense. But as a sign of the way everyone in the film is, essentially, playing a kind of live action video game against everyone else - well - yes, it is a pretty good analogy of that. A sign of it. Similarly - I don't think the film is particularly immersive, or realistic - or visceral: I had the opposite impression. Nothing in the film has weight, there's almost nothing tactile about it. It doesn't seem to exist in space: it exists on the surface of the screen. If it's "immersive" it is immersive intellectually - it engages the mind in figuring it out, but not in imagining a real world where the events could be taking place.

So then.... I liked it. It's not a great film - it gives up too much. Space, staging, depth, realism, acting, characters, stories, reference to the real world - all those things are good, and if you get rid of too many, you end up with nothing more than a diversion. A cross-word puzzle is distinctly less satisfying than a poem; a video game distinctly less satisfying than a movie. But it is a fascinating film. On the surface, and as a puzzle, it looks great and is very satisfying. And I think - though this is a bad time to get into it - that there could be something more to it. The way it "tells" things instead of "showing" them is itself interesting: it doesn't act things out, it indicates them, signifies them - it seems to me much closer in its methods of telling a story to a comic book - especially a fairly adventurous comic book - than a movie. It feels written more than shown. I don't know how typical this is of contemporary action films - I don't see a lot of them, though what I've seen don't do it very well if they do it - Bourne does. BUt it is interesting - and something I hope I can return to. There's a whole argument there (that I have to confess is related to some of Burch's ideas, that I've alluded to before). But it has to wait.

For now - I'll end by coming back to 3:10 to Yuma. It could have benefited from the kind of showy style Bourne Ultimatum featured. Bordwell says the latter used its style to obscure the weakness of the story - true enough, and so it should. Yuma could have used some style to obscure the plot holes and absurd situations (the ending gun fight namely) and creaky old genre conventions it trotted out. I think the Bourne movie used its genre conventions as a skeleton to hang its style on - like musicians improvising off a 12 bar blues. Its genre conventions allow it a lot more freedom in the actual surface of the film - they free it to show things moving and colors and shapes forming and disappearing on screen, until it approaches abstraction - without losing coherence. Yuma ends up being a story I've seen before, done not as well as it was done before, and not doing anything different... Which is a bit disappointing.

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

My Next Electronics Purchase

Just checking in, after a long long weekend. I have to report that my iPod gave up the ghost again, halfway through my train ride home. Third time in a month it's hung up or not started up. I can take a hint! I almost took a hint back on tax free day, but decided to try to milk a few more weeks out of it - I'm glad I did. Lookee here - 160GB iPods! - if I'd bought an 80 gb a month ago, I can imagine my mood now. The old machine held out just long enough!

In celebration - video? let's just say the machine went out on a high note - this was the last thing it managed to play. It doesn't come across on this blog very much, but this period of Coltrane's career, especially teamed up with Dolphy, is the best music ever made, as far as I care.