Thursday, February 28, 2013

Donald Richie Appreciation

I am sorry to say that a month into my resolution to write Favorite Director post every month, I am already off track. I don't have any good reasons - at least I can come up with a decent substitute though. Donald Richie's death is important to note. He was a giant, obviously, in the process of bringing Japanese films to the United States - opening for this country what I have to consider one of the three truly consistently great film cultures (along with the US and France.) He championed Japanese films, he wrote about them, providing excellent introductions to a number of the most important filmmakers - in the age of DVDs, providing the voice for many commentaries on Japanese films. I am fairly certain that he would have been the first writer I read on Japanese films, and always there as a guide. He was not, I have to admit, the most important critic of Japanese films I read - I was much more influenced by reading Audie Bock and Noel Burch - but he was still very important to me, as well as crucial to the world of film.

My favorite of Richie's books was, in fact, The Japanese Film - I found a used copy of the 1959 edition, and read it with delight. It's a great book, well researched, well written, comprehensive, covering film as art as well as the history of the industry, which was very useful information. It reminded me of Andrew Sarris - sharing Sarris' auteurism, and willing to do the work, seeing the films, tracking down the industrial information (something Sarris did less of, but is a big part of this one.) A very useful reference. And a fascinating document, especially that 1959 edition - that puts it right on the cusp of something. It's right on the edge of the new wave revolution, well into the critical part of the change - by then, the French had established a lot of the premises of the new wave: championing directors, genre films, pictorialism, realism, trash (all at the same time) - elements that seem to be just outside Richie and Anderson's book. You can see too that the critical divisions that would form over Japanese films were appearing. The French had formed opinions by then, based, I fear, on a very scant exposure to Japanese films - they had already taken sides for Mizoguchi and against Kurosawa. Not so Richie and Anderson. They did not share the French passion for taking sides - they praised Mizoguchi and Kurosawa - and of course they had seen more than just the festival films, and knew, for example, that Ozu was in their class as well. But they were also pretty clearly in awe of Kurosawa.

Though what is even stranger to read now, after the fact, is the way they characterize the Japanese film industry in 1959. They lament that no new talents have emerged since Kurosawa and Kinoshita (and their treatment in Kinoshita is interesting itself; he has been somewhat forgotten, surpassed in reputation - certainly availability in the states - by the old guard (even Naruse), by Kobayashi and Ichikawa, by their successors - Oshima and Imamura, even Shinoda, Tesugahara, and Suzuki, are all far more available.) They lament that the system does not seem likely to produce any new talent soon - that it is stagnating - that there have been no more movements lately. All this is in 1959 - and 1960 saw 3 revolutionary Oshima films, a couple Yoshida films, Pigs and Battleships came out in 61, etc. The 60s were a burst of energy - the Ofuna new wave - Imamura, the revitalization of some of the older directors in response to this - an increased sense of command by some of the directors they mention (Ichikawa and Kobayashi especially) - they said things in 1959 that by 1961 would sound insane.

But thinking about this - another superb book on Japanese film, Mitsuhiro Yoshimoto's Kurosawa book, suggests that the discovery of Japanese film in Europe and America begat film studies as a discipline. It showed a mature industry/art that existed outside western culture - that could not be studied along with Welles or Godard without positing a different way of studying film than through culture. This was, you could say, the time when film had to be taken seriously as an art - treated, in fact, as an independent art, the way music or literature or theater were. Japanese film was a surprise - it showed a different way of doing things, though not unrecognizable - it certainly fit the theories of people at the time - Mizoguchi was tailor made for auteurists. So was Ozu, when they found him. But maybe even more than this - the attention given to Japanese films in the west was reciprocated by attention to western films (and theorists) in Japan. These things indicated an exchange of information between Japan and the rest of the world - an exchange going both ways. So while in 1959 the Japanese filmmaking system seemed increasingly static - bureaucratic, commercial, slow to change, with no way out of the cycle it was in - the mere presence of Americans writing about Japan indicates contact with the rest of the world - and Japanese were reading Americans. And while it is true that Ofuna new wave came out of itself, without a lot of push from the west (Oshima and Imamura and others were independent and tough and had their own ideas) - but they were able to piggy back what they did on the French new wave (they stole the word!); they did what the French did - they started theorizing their work. They connected what they were doing to the rest of the world.

And that brings us back to where we started - because Donald Richie was as important as one man could possibly be in making that connection.

And now? in his honor - and since this is, in fact, meant as a kind of series of lists - here is a list - the 10 Best Japanese films... sort of. I limited myself to one per director, to get past Ozu, which is always a challenge....

1. Early Summer - Ozu
2. Seven Samurai - Kurosawa Akira
3. The Pornographers - Imamura
4. Ugetsu Monagatari - Mizoguchi
5. Late Chrysanthemums - Naruse
6. Fires on the Plain - Ichikawa
7. Ceremony - Oshima
8. The Emperor's Naked Army Marches on - Hara
9. Charisma - Kurosawa Kiyoshi
10. Fighting Elegy - Suzuki

Saturday, February 23, 2013

Oscar Talk and My Category Favorites

I guess the Oscars are here, but since I don't intend to watch them, and barely even think about them, I suppose it best to do as I did last year, and use this as en excuse to offer up my favorites of 2012, in various categories. Though I suppose I could speculate on nominations...

Best Picture - somehow they managed, despite nominating 9 films, not to nominate the two best films of the year, The Master and Moonrise Kingdom. We are off to a bad start. Of the films nominated - Amour is very much the best; Lincoln is the most logical and appropriate pick (since it is the Oscars) - but I rather fear Argo will win. Harmless, but rather inane pick. I've somewhat moved away from my old idea that the worst film nominated will always win - I didn't see Life of Pi or Les Miserables - but the latter sounds like it's the worst film on the slate. Though Silver Linings Playbook annoyed me no end... I don't think it can win though, thank god. Not even sure how it got nominated, even in this context... The other nominations are pretty decent, though missing the two Andersons' pictures is unforgivable. I listed these back at the beginning of the year, though lots of films have come out since, so....

My top 5:
1. Moonrise Kingdom
2. The Master
3. Amour
4. Barbara
5. Oslo: August 31

Director: again, they're missing the Andersons, so who cares what they say? oddly - they are also missing Bigelow and Tarantino, who make very strange absences. Behind Russell and Zeitlin? how? Anyway - I rather assume Spielberg will win, and wouldn't complain if he did. Haneke, obviously, is in another world from this bunch, but what can you do?

My choices:

1. PT Anderson - reversing the usual order of the Andersons...
2. Wes Anderson - not that anyone else is getting between them.
3. the Dardennes, Kid With the Bike
4. Christian Petzold, Barbara
5. Haneke

Actor: I would think Daniel Day-Lewsi will win again; I would rather hope so. Though I will say, here at least, they nominated by favorite of the year - Joaquin Phoenix should win, and while I doubt he will, it is not completely impossible.

My choices:
1. Joaquin Phoenix
2. Denis Lavant
3. Daniel Day-Lewis
4. Anders Danielson Lee (Oslo: August 31)
5. John Hawkes [how did he get forgotten?]

Actress: not a bad set of nominations, though acknowledging the existence of The Impossible causes me pain... of the nominations - I guess I hope Jessica Chastain wins - she is genuinely extraordinary.

My Choices:
1. Greta Gerwig, Damsels in Distress - been a while, but really, she's the best performance in the best role of the year.
2. Isabella Huppert, In Another Country
3. Jessica Chastain
4. Emanuelle Riva
5. Nina Hoss, Barbara

Supporting Actor: this is odd - it is probably possible to make the case that Christophe Waltz is in a supporting role - but Philip Seymour Hoffman? it's a co-lead; how do you get around that? Anyway - it does make a tough choice.... the Academy is probably going to give it to Waltz, and that makes sense, I guess. I do like all the nominees, though, except maybe DeNiro - though he's good, the role is kind of stupid.

1. Philip Seymour Hoffman - though I think this should be a lead...
2. Christophe Waltz
3. Leonardo DiCaprio - hell, Samuel L. Jackson should be on here too maybe...
4. Bruce Willis, in Moonrise Kingdom
5. Edward Norton - or him...

Supporting Actress: I am blessed not to have seen Les Miserables, so I don't know what Anne Hathaway did - she seems to be the favorite though, and who am I to gainsay it? of the nominees - I would probably vote for Jacki Weaver, who's about the only thing I really liked about Silver Linings Playbook...

1. Annaleigh Tipton, Damsels in Distress
2. Jacki Weaver
3. Frances McDormand
4. Amy Adams
5. Tilda Swinton

Original Screenplay: Well, Wes Anderson got a nod here. I don't know who's going to win this - Amour is in French; Django Unchained would be an odd choice - it's amusing, but very weak for Tarantino; Flight - doesn't seem to be getting much attention (I didn't see it); Moonrise Kingdom, though the best film, seems a very long shot - leaving Zero Dark Thirty - which would be a deserving winner (I'd settle for it, that is) - but the backlash against that film is very strange... I don't know.

1. Moonrise Kingdom
2. Damsels in Distress
3. The Master
4. Amour
5. Zero Dark Thirty

Adapted Screenplay: I hope Lincoln wins; it should, though you never can tell...

1. Killing them Softly
2. Oslo: August 31
3. The Deep Blue Sea
4. Lincoln
5. Cosmopolis

Cinematography: I can never figure out what the academy is thinking in this category, so who cares what they think? I think:

1. The Master - this was something of a show stopper - it was a bit mindblowing in 35, and then I saw the 70 mm version...
2. Zero Dark Thirty
3. Moonrise Kingdom
4. This is Not a Film - cinematography should serve the work of art; what you make of it, what you use it for, is as important as the raw beauty or the technical elements of the photography. This is an extraordinary film...
5. Django Unchained

Music or Score: I'm not worried about the academy, partly because I don't want to care about eligibility. So just the votes - though this is hard: I have a harder time holding the music of a film in my head than most other elements... until I have seen it a few times, so - the ones I saw 3 times (plus) each tend to end up on top...

1. The Master (Jonny Greenwood)
2. Moonrise Kingdom
3. Damsels in Distress

And a couple more - I sort of assume Amour will win Foreign Language film - it should. It's rather startling to see a really good and important film nominated here... Documentary Feature - How to Survive a Plague would be a very deserving winner - that was a great film. 56 Up is better than any of them, but of course it's TV... Editing - Moonrise Kingdom, dammit. Animated feature - I even saw most of these. I would vote for Brave, I think - though they all seemed to be decent, but a bit underwhelming, films. Still... I have no idea what's going to win, though.

And now? I will finish up with 10 moments - because - I should... for the moment, I will generally limit myself to one moment per film...

1. The Master - the first processing between Freddy and the Master - though you could say the jail scene, Freddy's processing montage after he gets out of jail, Freddy and the master in England, especially the Master singing to him, Freddy and Doris' mother... there's so much...

2. Moonrise Kingdom - also full of shots and bits, that are maybe less show-stopping than in the Master, but that all connect and intertwine - picking one - might be a simple one - Edward Norton trying to do his audio journal, and too depressed to speak.... or Bill Murray snatching the tent away... or the policeman and Sam bonding over a burnt sausage and beer...

3. Amour - when Emmanuelle Riva refuses to drink, and Jean-Louis Trintingant slaps her - I would prefer to forget that moment.... there's also his shame and horror when his daughter visits, near the end - another moment of almost unbearable devastation.

4. Holy Motors - the accordions, of course

5. Damsels in Distress - another one full of joy - though I think the people jumping off the Ed building might be the peak...

6. The plot summary of the imaginary movie at the end of Argo - I guess it's completely made up, but damn, that's a cool moment...

7. How to Survive a Plague has a moment - a cut, from 1996, when all of the activists in the film thought they were going to die, very shortly - to the present, with all of them still alive. It's quite marvelous...

8. The crab eating scene in Beasts of the Southern Wild...

9. In Another Country - another film full of little moments - the lifeguard singing to Ann... or trying to read her note... the drunken seduction on a beach... though the winner, I think, would be the "something interesting" moment, that goes so hilariously wrong.

10. I'm going to end with two films I disliked quite intensely - but both have moments that almost made them worth seeing: first - the guy singing grand opera in the shower onstage in To Rome with Love - Woody Allen can still make a joke once in a while, a damned good one even.... and "You aren't being ironic?" in Dark Horse - Todd Solondz tries so hard to make you squirm - and once in a while, I admit it, he manages it...

Friday, February 22, 2013

Friday Music

One of these weeks, we might get some variation - there are a bunch of records in the pipeline that I will or have bought - new Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds, new My Bloody Valentine, new stuff from various Radioheads, a new Richard Thompson record (that one I have already) - there's hope! though looking at that list of artists - holy cats, I feel old... But none of that today - today, we're going right back to the old shuffle... enjoy!

1. Harry McClintock - Big Rock Candy Mountain
2. The Germs - The Other Newest One
3. George Michael - I want your Sex
4. The Fall - The Man Whose Head Expanded
5. Meat Puppets - Look at the Rain
6. Jacques Brel - Ces Gens-La
7. Minutemen - Suburban Dialectic
8. Mats Gustafson - Where's the Air?
9. Jimi Hendrix - Love or Confusion
10. Yoko Ono & Yo La Tengo - Hedwig's Lament/Exquisite Corpse

And video? oh what the heck - I swear I won't tease you, won't tell you no lies... who doesn't want a live George Michael clip?

Speaking of the 80s... I probably post this every other month, but here's the Meat Puppets doing a nice version of Look at the Rain...

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Up Up Up

Coming late to the Up films is certainly intimidating - every 7 years, a new one comes out; every 7 years I tell myself I should see it, but should watch them all first - every 7 years I end up not watching the old ones and then skipping the film because I haven't seen them. In between - I see clips, I don't know if I have seen any of the films anywhere on TV, I don't remember ever sitting through any of them, but watching them, there were certainly lots of familiar moments. And, instead of taking advantage of the 7 year reprieve to catch up - I forget about them until the next one comes out.

Well - 56 Up is out - this year I swore, a bit in advance, that I would watch them all - but I managed to wait until a week before the thing opened without doing anything - and then we got 2 feet of snow. And that, my friends, is why they invented Netflix.... And so: 56 Up: it is fairly pointless to try to review these films in isolation (which is why I am not doing so) - this one in particular seems very - what's the word? - static? It's very much a continuation of the last one - most of them are roughly where they were 7 years ago, in their circumstances, in their location. This can be good or bad, obviously. It's not so good for Jackie - it's something of a miracle for Neil. (It's the first time since 14 that he's been in the same place he was 7 years ago...) Jackie has had a hard time of it, with bad health, and misfortune striking her not-quite-in-laws, and austerity doing what austerity does (making grandmothers suffer) - though he sons seem to be doing okay, so maybe things will be all right. Lynn also suffers from the recession, though maybe more from the longer term decline of good government - she had been a librarian for 30 odd years, and then got laid off, even before the crash, I think. I can't resist a bit of politics here - putting librarians out of work is a fine recipe for national decline. England is done and we ain't far behind...

Sorry. This one is most notable for getting 13 of the 14 who started the show back. (Though "started" isn't quite it - the conceit really starts with 7 Plus Seven - Apted took over, he started revisiting the same kids every 7 years - and he narrowed the number down to 14, at age 14, there...) John is still around - he skipped a couple of them, but seems to have settled in as a regular again. And Peter is back - the other Liverpudlian, last scene bitching Thatcher in 28 Up, and catching holy hell from the Murdockoids, and running for cover... He has a band to promote - one is tempted, I suppose, to rolls ones eyes - but I am not really bothered by it. The series demands a lot of its participants - why shouldn't they try to get something back? And maybe more to the point - back at 28, he named, along with the 1977 European cup final, being on stage with his band as the happiest moment of his life. It's like with John and his Bulgarian charity and ancestry - it's a part of their lives. It is what they do, who they are - it probably goes down easier when its Tony talking about his acting work, because Tony is always in the shows, an enthusiastic and charismatic figure - but if it brings them back, then it's more than a fair trade, I think.

All right. The hardest thing to do with these films is write about them in terms other than the people - and that involves, well - 13 different 56 year olds, documented across 8 movies - a cast rather expanded by spouses and kids and such - by now, Susan, Paul's wife, or Debbie, Tony's wife, are almost characters as much as their husbands - and others, Rupert and Jane say, are constant presences in most of them. There's a lot to keep track of, and a lot of stuff going on. Still - it's worth trying to pull out some of what the show is up to, how it works. It started with a political edge - out to show the continued pernicious influence of the English class system; it evolved - into a sociological study (though not systematic enough for scientist Nicholas, you may remember from 21 Up), and into a story about how these people live. Though it is also definitely about How We Live Today.

And it is also a work of art. Apted got lucky in his subjects - many of them turned out to make very interesting case studies; almost all of them have remained fairly appealing television subjects - and a few, I think, have emerged as absolutely compelling dramatic characters or performers. Neil, I guess, is the obvious case - he has had a rather astonishing life - decades of misery that then morphs into local politics, and what seems to be a fair degree of satisfaction. His dramatic arc is paired with his own willingness to talk about his life, to analyze himself and the world. He makes great television, no doubt about it. He's not the only one, though - Tony is a joy to watch - charismatic, funny, ambitious in his way, driven enough to get what he wants, and realistic enough to accept what he is. There is a lot of talk, on the show and about it, about the three rich kids laying out their lives at age 7 and 14 - but so did Tony: he wanted to be a jockey - he did; if he didn't succeed he'd be a cabby - he did; he wanted a pub - he had one; he wanted to act - he acts. Some things he's a major success at - some he's able to tick off the list - but he did them... I think Apted also lucked out with Nick - the farmer boy turned nuclear physicist. With John - who in his youth, at least, was willing to play the upper class twit for the amusement of the viewing public. (And whether he meant ti all or not, you could see him calculating - you could see him taking positions to be perverse, to shock, to play the part.) In his maturity, he's far less irritating or thrilling, but still a fairly interesting character - unlike his fellow twit Andrew, who grows up to be a bore... Finally - in terms of who comes off best in the series -= there is Bruce - a lonely little 7 year hoping he can teach the uncivilized to be "more or less, good." - and growing up to be an inner city teacher, then just a teacher - but always, from 14 on - a smart, thoughtful, fascinating interview subject, who is also, in a very understated way, far and away the funniest person on the show. "The village socialist..."

There is that. And there is Apted's shaping of the show. It is a masterpiece of editing, of course - you notice it more in the early ones, where he was probably still trying to score political points - there's an almost savage transition in 28 Up from Andrew's "I've been lucky" to Neil, at close to his lowest point. But it's not all political, and over time, you come to appreciate his transitions in an almost formal sense - they shape the material, and their occasional explicitness helps to keep that act of shaping visible. It's a very self-conscious show, as it must be - the participants talk about it, quite a bit in the last couple - and Apted's sometimes overt manipulation of imagery serves that purpose too. As does his manipulation of the introductions - watching all these films in a week makes it clearer - the use of familiar clips, their slight reordering or recutting, the occasional recombination of visual and sound, and so on. This is a show about change over time, and over time, it becomes a show about memory, about how we shape and reshape our lives - and Apted makes the point formally, in his shifting use of all that footage, and its connection with the current state of his characters.

And still: when it started, it was meant as a political show - especially by Apted. And though that focus has changed over the years - Apted's original point has been made pretty clearly, I think you'd have to say. His point is that the class system was alive and well, and your life was fairly determined by your station when you were born - and it's hard to argue with that. A couple people have gone far - Nick and Sue, you could say; and Neil, though he's a different case, having been pretty obviously derailed by his health... Some characters have moved up financially (Tony especially), some have moved physically - but for all that - it is most notable how little class mobility there is. A couple things come to mind. Here is one: of the kids on the show - all the rich kids except Suzy went to University (she just ended up marrying well.) None of the poor kids did. The middle class kids went, one passing, one dropping out. Okay. They are all older now, they have kids of their own, all of them - and of those kids - all the rich kids' kids of university age went to university (I think; the ones who talked about it.) One - 1 - of the poor kids' kids has gone.

Here is another thing that comes to mind. Bruce taught in the East End for a long time, in poor schools. Lynn, meanwhile, was working in the libraries of the schools in the East End. Both, that is, working in the same school systems of the same part of London. In 49 Up, Bruce had moved off, to teach at St. Albans; while Lynn was still in Bethnel Green, worrying about her job - which she lost by 56 UP. Now it seems to me that all along, Apted has been very enamored with Bruce - that he has shown him in a very good light. Through most of the series, I think he took Lynn's work for granted - but in 49 Up it felt different. He dwelt on her job, her place in the school system - showed her working with handicapped kids, talking about her work with them. It felt as though he had suddenly noticed - maybe because Bruce had left - that she was doing pretty much what he was doing all those years. But he had his Oxford degree and the chance to go wherever he wanted. When she lost her job - she was done. And there, I imagine, is where the politics lingers - and why the class rigidity the series set out to explore remains, as bad as ever - maybe worse. There is a lot of talk about opportunity in the series - and there you see it. Both in the way he is able to move on to something else - and in the way - well, you don't really have to worry about St. Albans school cutting their librarians.

I could go on about this a while - I maybe should, but I suppose this is not the time. But - England does not seem to be getting better. They seem, in fact, to be getting more American - one of John's lines way back in 21 Up. But opportunity, social mobility, call it what you want is not getting better here - I believe it is declining, relative to mobility in the past; and relative to Europe. What is different in the US from the UK seems to be that here, the classes are not so defined - it might not be so obvious, from your accent or the type of school you went to, what your class is; but that's because class, here, is driven mainly by money. And that comes up in these films - that while the class distinctions they grew up with seem less obvious, the class system based on money is stronger than ever. And - I don't think you could dispute that. I can't dispute it here - most people in the US live roughly the way their parents did. And I think this is more true now than it was 40 or 50 years ago - my parents' generation, I think, had a lot more chance to change their status - to go to college, to increase their financial circumstances, to move, physically - than my generation had - and I think it is probably getting worse for the next generation. Maybe - they are just coming of age now. So - I guess their fates are up in the air. But judging from these films - they better get used to living with mom and dad, cause it's gonna take some doing to move out.

Friday, February 15, 2013

Friday Guitars

I believe it is Friday once more. Last week's snow has been steadily melting; there is some threat of more this weekend, but nothing too interesting. What is left is all crusted over; you could probably walk across it. I remember when I was a kid - that always seemed to happen after big storms - you'd get a day of rain and then it would get cold again, and you could walk all over the place on top of the snow... falling through just raised the stakes a bit. Great fun. Great sledding, too, especially when it got really hard and would support you on top....

Enough weather. A satisfactory movie weekend appears in the offing, with Tabu and 56-Up coming. Sooner or later there might be some interesting music too - I keep reading about new Nick Cave and My Bloody Valentine records, though I have yet to see them; I did get a new Richard Thompson record, not that I have opened it yet.... As for today - I think we will stay with our old standby, the Random Ten. iTunes?

1. Nina Simone - Jelly Roll
2. Wilco - Hummingbird
3. Lift to Experience - The Ground too Soft
4. Love - Can't Explain
5. Damon & Naomi - House of Glass
6. Replacements - Shooting Dirty Pool
7. Heroin - Undertaking
8. Meat Puppets - Automatic Mojo
9. Danielson - Hosanna in the Forest
10. PJ Harvey & John Parish - Leaving California

Video? First, let's go off list - here is some vintage live Feelies - noticed a lot more of these old shows on YouTube lately....

And - another band with a strangely truncated career, Lift to Experience - live in Paris...

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Snowy Snow

Yeah, it's been an adventurous weekend. The storm delivered all that it was promised to be, have to say that - couple feet of snow - piled up in quite impressive drifts - huge snowbanks - a mess. I went out into it yesterday, while the snow was still coming down, before much of it was cleared up - the roads were all plowed, but not sidewalks, there was snow everywhere. It was impressive. My front yard for instance - almost bare grass, and what must be a 7 or 8 foot drift...

One effect of all the wind was that there wasn't a lot of the kind of picturesque snow you associate with winter - evergreens laden down with slow. It all blew off - except in a couple neighborhoods with a bit more shelter.... Still:

It was odd. The city shut down early Friday - the streets were nearly empty by noon, though it really didn't start snowing hard until evening. I guess it makes sense to get everyone out of the way for when it did come down - I don't doubt that if they had left the rads and such open until 8, people would have been out driving to 8, probably out to midnight. That probably wouldn't have worked out so well. Things are still shut down (I'm off soon to find out how shut down they are), but in general, in the city at least, things are just - shut down. Nothing really bad seems to be happening. Not here anyway. The plows were out yesterday, and had the roads cleared before the snow stopped, even most of the side roads; by the time I got home, the sidewalks were cleared - you could see the crews out shoveling and snow-blowing around all the apartment buildings all morning. Days like yesterday, I feel a lot better about the rent and taxes I pay. I'd say I got my money's worth.

And so? I wasn't alone out there - people walking around, taking pictures, walking their dogs, skiing, snowshoeing, sledding - might as well enjoy it, right? it's here and it's gonna make the commute a living hell for a few days... might as well have some fun first.

Friday, February 08, 2013

A Blizzard of Music

"Nemo"? Please god... everybody's hoping it's "historic" - what's that, top 10 all time? With heavy winds, up to hurricane strength - brrr!

I should add that that's a fun list to look at. I remember a few of them, some very well. I was in Maine in 1978, and don't remember much about The Blizzard (#2 on the list), except that it obliterated beaches, ruined more than one of the fishermen in our town, and sounded a lot more fun in Boston... I was in Maine in December 2010 (#10), as well, so didn't get the city experience, but that was a big, fun snowstorm - being on vacation made it all quite enjoyable. Hang out with kids, who know how to enjoy snow - all good... Of the ones here: the strangest thing - the February 2003 storm that is listed as the heaviest snowfall in the history of Boston - I have forgotten, almost completely. I found a note somewhere that mentioned it, noting only that, even with 2 feet of snow on the ground, I was expected to go to work. Must have been some blizzard.... now - January 2005 (#5) - I remember well: I spent the storm on the computer, doing work for a class - writing about Samuel L. Delany and editing a collage of video to the tune of "Natural is Not In It." (I see I also found time to make fun of David Brooks and little Bush.) That is to the good. The 90s storms - I don't remember the one in 1994 specifically (#9) - but there was a lot of snow that winter, and I remember that. I remember the other two very well - the other #10, in 1996, I remember because I took a long walk along the beach in the middle of it. Very nice. But the big one - the definitive storm, really, of my days in Boston - was the April fool's blizzard of 1997 (#4).

You remember storms that time of year, obviously, but this one hit all the markers. Lots of snow - and a hard, vigorous snowstorm at that. And the very nature of the beast - a major blizzard overnight and all through the morning, then it stopped - and by afternoon, was sunny and the temperature well into the 40s, maybe the 50s. 2 feet of snow, and spring! And - it was a storm full of anecdote, for me. I saw Rebel Without a Cause Monday night (see? I remember the day of the week!) - remember walking home from that, in howling winds and snow - but very happy to have gone. Tuesday morning, I got up and got dressed and despite all the snow in the ground, went in to work - which, somewhat surprisingly, was closed. (The office had a bad reputation for staying open in all kinds of conditions. Probably not deserved - they closed for the real storms, and there aren't as many of those as you think, but you know how it is...) So I walked home, in the blast of the storm, because - I grew up in Maine and I love snow. So there. I stopped to buy pancake mix on the way, since who doesn't want to eat flapjacks in a blizzard? Home - and then I went out again, after the snow started, and wandered around town in the surreal, and quite wonderful, balmy winter wonderland. It was - a very good couple days.

Not losing power puts you in that kind of mood. In this day and age, really, that's pretty much all there is - if the power stays on, weather isn't going to do me much harm. That is a luxury for which I am grateful. (And, of course, I continue to hope the trees stay up. But they've stayed up through 2 hurricanes and a couple blizzards while I've been here, so I guess I should be all right....

ALl right - music: which, though it is too easy - how often do you get a big snow storm on a Friday? So you're getting snowy music today!

1. Black Sabbath - Snowblind
2. Captain Beefheart - Steal Softly Through Snow
3. Dirty Three - Ashen Snow
4. Frank Zappa - Don't Eat the Yellow Snow
5. Mercury Rev - Snowflake in a Hot World
6. The Pop Group - The Snow Girl
7. Pere Ubu - Snowy Livonia
8. Mono - Ashes in the Snow
9. DAvid Sylvain - Snow White in Appalachia
10. Galaxie 500 - Listen! The Snow is Falling

Video? I will have to settle for Dean and Britta, rather than Galaxie 500 (or Yoko), but I want a live version:

And - I wouldn't be so quick to dismiss diabolical influence, but - I don;t have this on iTunes, but... who can resist a shitty Styx video? not me!

Friday, February 01, 2013

Friday Music Post (post post post...)

February - winter's back, after a brief absence - not as bad, I suppose, as last week... Anyway - off we go! Randomly...

1. Radiohead - Bones
2. Six Organs of Admittance - Spirits Abandoned
3. AC/DC - Get it Hot
4. Otis Redding - Mr. Pitiful
5. Xiu Xiu - Pox
6. Echo & The Bunnymen - The Cutter
7. Outkast - a Bad Note
8. Jeff Beck - The Morning Dew
9. Sonic Youth - Quest for the Cup
10. Echo & The Bunnymen - Lips Like Sugar

Video - I think iTunes has sent a clear message there, huh?

And -

And for that matter - Radiohead at the most Echoish, no?