Posts filed under ‘music’

Impressions: Django Unchained

Westerns are usually known more for their dramatic back drops than their in depth conversation. Character can often be conveyed in a glance or something as simple as a gun fight. The problem Tarantino faces is that Inglorious Basterds and even Reservoir Dogs proved, he very strongly loves character and conversation, but the problem is film is a love of space and spectacle two things the Western usually excels at. While he is to “high brow” to give into spectacle, he has at least given us space in Jackie Brown and Pulp Fiction. Basterds was a particularly bad film on this front, it genuinely felt like theater while it was supposed to be a war picture. If Tarantino is consciously deceiving our preconceptions in his films is another question. I am not overly familiar with Westerns, but Django seems to do a good job of avoiding their tropes via homage and irony as much as Basterds did the war film. The problem becomes is this consistent subversion actually doing anything? In Basterds I would argue not a lot, in Django it does help to show the mythic bones behind the Western genre, but at times his consistent need to pull on Greek source material, comes at odds with the Western. Django is not the German myth of Broomhilda is it much more Orpheus in the under world. Taratino’s somewhat understated pairing of the underworld and the voyage into the Candy land plantation does a rather amazing job of equating slavery with depictions of flogging in hell (the slave eaten by dogs next to the tree is reminiscent of Bosch and the scene in general reminds of Buddhist depictions of the 9 hells). However the fact that Django allows what happens there serves as an indicator of both his fidelity to his wife and Tarantino signally this is more a myth from here on out. Slavery in other words becomes a means of bringing the underworld to our hero and less another lesson in the evils of American history. I stopped around there and have yet to resume. Before I go any further, Tarantino is a much bigger fan of film than I will ever be, in all probability the dentist is pulled from another picture as much as Candy is. Pulp Fiction took two characters from Straight to Hell a long with their briefcase and made art out of it, where Unchained pulls from is less known to me, but is quite affective.


July 4, 2013 at 2:23 am 1 comment

Bob Dylan

I think it was blonde on blonde on cassette tape, I have no idea where I got the tape, but the songs took me away, I understood them with a ferocity I’d never seen, the poet trampled closed to the knit innards of my heart, visions of johhana I found in London and get immersed in, apparently Richard Gere also likes this track. But what was touching about Dylan was his expansion of my malaise, the way a lonely teenager newly ensconed in a memphis attic first year in a new school could hear and experience a sense of mission so consoling. It was nice to know someone else out there had learned to believe.

May 24, 2011 at 10:36 am Leave a comment


A couple of guys in a lab invent a cyborg. The cyborg is cool, people love the cyborg. The cyborg has a thick steel voice as if the robot is competing with the human to speak. The robot is competing with the human to speak.

The cyborg is sent on missions. It is sent to stop a drug cartel. The drug dealers all shoot the cyborg. Pieces of flesh drop off the cyborg. The cyborg rips off its flesh and walks around all chrome and steel. The drug dealers die.

The cyborg is a hero. They hold a big press conference for him. The journalists ask questions, the scientests reply. A woman comes up to the Cyborg, “Richard?” She says, The cyborg doesn’t reply. “Richard, do you remember me?” She stops and motions to a small boy next to her, “this is your son.” The cyborg is annoyed. His carbon fiber biceps push past her in the crowd. The woman yells, “richard! We don’t even get a pension anymore!”

The newspapers report cyborg is dead beat Dad. The cyborg doesn’t reply. He is sent on another mission. This time he has to hunt down a white robot. The white robot lives in a hi-tech research facility. The cyborg sneaks in. The white robot helps people, it has a huge smile painted on its oval body. The cyborg approaches the white robot. The white robot pops open a hatch in its head, a variety of saws pop out. The white robot takes a scientest hostage. The cyborg can not kill the scientest, the white robot goes behind a glass wall. The cyborg can not go beyond the wall. The glass is cyborg proof. “Meep, meep,” says the white robot as it escapes.

The cyborg is forced to rejoin his family. He eats dinner with his wife and two children. Someone blogs the event CYBORG SITS QUIETLY THROUGH FIRST DINNER WITH WIFE. The government corrects the problem, the cyborg is given a little voice box. “I love you,” says the box to the cyborg’s kids. “You’re not my real father,” says the son.

The cyborg is sent on assignment again. This time he goes to a lush rainforest. An army of bio-engineered super mutants assail him there. The white robot has amassed a team of bioengineers. The bioegineers love the white robot. They inject themselves with mutagens and attack the cyborg. The white robot escapes on a teradctyl.

The cyborg makes progress at home. He recharges in bed with his wife, “you’ll catch that white robot,” she kisses his cheek good bye. His children get to send him messages. The cyborg’s voice box does a good job parenting them, ” I love you,” the voice box intones, “I love you too Dad,” his daughter says.

The cyborg helps his children at school. He helps his kids with math homework. He scares off bullies. He teaches his son to shoot.

The cyborg is sent to the moon. The white robot has a moon base. The cyborg needs to pee. Cyborgs can’t pee. He tries to hold it. He does a crabwalk and is captures by martians. The martians like the cyborg. “We have children too,” the martians say. The white robot comes by with five little white robots. The martians like the white robot. The martians try to kill the cyborg. The cyborg’s daughter calls. “Dad, Akim won’t give me my barbies back.” The cyborg is fighting martians, the voice box says, “beverly daddy is busy at the moment.” The martians have 8 hands, the cyborg is overwhelmed.

The cyborg dwells in space. The cyborg sees a white robot. The white robot rips the human out of him. The cyborg falls to earth, where his wife waits.

April 22, 2011 at 3:28 pm Leave a comment

On Beatles Fans

Something about Beatles fans has always really annoyed me. It’s like they know some secret of life that eludes me. Even worse, the secret is supposed to be so obvious, that when I obviously don’t enjoy their music, they all just look at me like dude what the fuck is wrong with you.

Growing up the Beatles were aggravating, all their happy lyrics and the way they turned complicated issues into simple pictorial statements really rubbed me the wrong. There were like a ray of light trying to pierce an abyss, except imagine the sun has a submarine and is submerging itself in order to chase away the blues. Such is the way Beatles fans feel to me, ya know like you have to be happy or something is wrong with you. Which, granted, something is wrong with me, but The Beatles simplicity, their lack of emotional depth or complications, that they could just ya know write songs that simple really annoyed me and brings me no satisfaction. Everytime they came on the jukebox I always felt that slight dread, the day Revoltion 9’s grating radio feedback would become part of my everyday listening habits, when the stupid refrain from The Taxman would cease to annoy and the simple energy of the song would take over. I dreaded the moment that The Beatles became good to me when the icy waters of my soul would have to give in to their chimes and I would float away like a bird on pyschdelic jetsome.

Now we could argue that all great bands are built on such reputations. A lot of people don’t like Bob Dylan… I love him, but his last few albums have totally sucked. But unfortunately somewhere in the repetitive nature of broadcast, in the groups dynamics that keep us all in one uniform culture, we are repeatably exposed to other’s taste, but where Dylan might actually elicit a thought, The Stones might capture the alienation of racial or sexual minorities, The Beatles are always upholding a (yes I really am going to use this term) a status qou. They are the music of a generation that interpreted the sixities counter-culture as a break before suburbia, now mind you their values are better than many, they are after all anti-war and all that and when Paul McCartney goes out on a limb supporting the Dali Lama or whatever he seems quite sincere as much that Yoko and John had something to day, but I just really don’t like their music. So I’ve devised the following game for everyone to play.

Think of a moment before you liked band X. Now hold that feeling in your memory and repeat it. Now repeat after me, “I hate ____________.” Just say it, right now in front of the monitor. Do this everyday till you really build up a resistance to band X. Now look in the mirror everyday and remember that you have just defeated a part of the capitalist machine. Good luck Warrior =)

On a similar note, it would be interesting to get people who intrinisically dislike a certian music together in a room. i.e. a photo of people who hate The Beatles, a photo of people who hate The Rolling Stones, etc.

June 10, 2009 at 11:32 am Leave a comment

Mach-20 by Laurie Anderson Fragment

This has been sitting in my drafts file for awhile. Made some minor revisions and decided to publish it because it’s 4 a.m. and I have nothing else to do. WordPress doesn’t let me embed you so you can watch Mach-2o here.

Laurie was able to take an idea like information and turn it into a sperm whale race by adopting the conventions of the research paper and folding it into a storybook. Her pieces like Mach-20 aren’t brilliant for their literal conceptual meaning, but the way they shift the topography of our ideas. By simply folding metaphors, changing the track of her thought, and wandering inspiridely through her thinking, she reintroduces wonder into a stale intellectual environment. But it brings me back to Greil Marcus’ Mystery Train, one of Randy Newman’s greater charms according to Marcus is that Newman’s inventive and self-conscious, Laurie Anderson on the other hand is inventive with consciousness. Mach-20 employs a kinda metaphorical thinking similar to the lyrical output of Bob Dylan and Stephen Malkmus, but she is able to move these totemic ideas into constellations that collapse in wonder.  Anyway, she caught a little euraka moment, but even better she manages to share the process of coming to that thought with us.

May 10, 2009 at 9:05 pm Leave a comment

Planned obsolescence in music?

Does anyone else find that if you listen to Maroon 5’s won’t go home with out you, the lead singer’s semi-Peter Gabriel warble begins to feel like a chemical fire headache burning in the back of your head? Anyone else think this might be intentional because they want you to buy more tracks? As mush as that the carbonation and salt in soft drinks make us slurp all the more, building over tired pop songs with a slightly twist brings the familar before we’re reminded of the exhaustation that lead us to give up on those dead ends long ago (no offense to Mr. Gabriel who made some fine pop albums in his time).

Anyway, I’ve been teaching my students songs lately and they’ve voted in a bevy of crunk-hop (Low by Flo-rida), Linkin Park, and of course Maroon 5. It’s amazing how hardcore these market research teams are these days, I mean Linkin Park’s Numb about nails the rebellious teenager thing as much as that Britney’s Oops.. I did it again was all about ya know, turning guys on accidentally, unintentionally, etc. I have a friend in L.A. whose roommate apparently sits around writing these things all day.

Park’s Numb at the very least seems to be a kinda paeon to Lacan’s idea of moving from the Imaginary to the Symbolic where ya know we decide our parents suck and move on to grossly over simply and reference an idea I’m not really the familar with. It’s promoting an agenda of psychological development that previous generations declared in form, but putting the ideas down lyrically. While ya know, glam rock separated itself from the hippies giving kids new identities to run around in, Linkin Park sticks with the tired and true hardcore-alterna sound while merely singing about the type of difference that used to be inherent.

I’m glad to see that the major labels have at least valued generational difference enough to conduct some market research into the average angry teenager and then proceed to co-opt them with rehashed teenage existentialism. It is perhaps telling that while a few plays of Police like Maroon 5 pop tire me, I have never really cut that bond of identification with my parents and hence Numb continues to have that subtle thrill and the glory of ya knowing breaking off from the mothership. Regardless, I am impressed as always with how well these people know their customers, as they track my every pirated mp3 play of these songs video windows media player, profiling my students’ basic personality types, and then making eerily accurate predictions of what next year’s generation will enjoy, although I get feeling they’ll be strangely like the last one, after all new bands cost money and copyright extension created classic radio so why not jerk off another generation for another year or so?

July 14, 2008 at 9:36 am 1 comment

Review: Mystery Train by Greil Marcus

One of the bigger problems of criticism, is that it’s quite easy to decipher the symptoms of a music that will cause its decimation, but it’s harder to write a piece of criticism that can actually make the listener listen anew. Marcus, and for that matter myself, fall into the first category. Mr. Marcus is adept at finding the limits of various American music genres nailing them down to specific mind sets he situates with the experience of American culture, but he’s unable to elaborate where music should go and by extension Americans. Some asides are made to Randy Newman, who breaks with the confessional style of the sixties and seventies, and Sly Stone, but for the most part Marcus sets out to explore a body of music he’s a master at murdering. However, regardless of how Marcus kills his subjects, he does so humanely and with a fondness that merely shows that thinking often leads to music falling flat. Mystery Train is still an essential piece of criticism, because it’s heart lies in a mind-set that bands today don’t just situate themselves around, but actively worship with nostalgia.

The bigger problem with Marcus is that the albums he charts his America through had an entirely different impact when he was writing about them, then as they do now. The Band’s Big Pink coming after their electric period with Dylan was another amoebic growth of the post-sixties generation, a time when the children out numbered the adults and their new found trends didn’t just signal next seasons fashion, but a potential swurve in the hippie majority’s concerns. For someone born in the post-sixties generation the Band is just another way for AT&T’s creative staff to pitch next year’s cellphones with a catchy toon (and no I don’t think that degrades the song).

One of Mystery Train’s greater reasons for infamy is simply that Marcus was living through a time when music critics were important and publications like Rolling Stone really did break with literary conventions, but the groups he’s picked often line up with the shocks that radio gave at the time and the pressing mysteries of who invented rock and roll. Greil is great at finding flaws, but it’s really the critics who invert history, who destroy listening, who can re-imagine the music of their times that are most memorable, many of the sixties generation of critics were engaged in the game of second guessing the history of their music as it happened as if music criticism was a game of deciding who would ultimately become important. In the late nineties music criticism differed, and such questions of epic quality didn’t touch upon us, perhaps someone would argue the merits of the most experimental band at the moment or something, but few seemed to be convinced anyone today was making history. The creative process has been taken apart taught in design courses and dispersed on web-logs to the point that we have exhaustion at the means through which a band is attempting to achieve the new. Mystery Train at the very least caught a creativity of a different sort, one of place and alienation with the only connector being the am radio dial. It is, a testimony to the individual and a totem of them.

June 9, 2008 at 6:49 am Leave a comment

Qoutes from Mystery Train

As a former music critic, I know exactly how he feels:

“the white country music…there was a problem with that music. It so perfectly expressed the acceptance and fatalism of its audience… that the music brought all it had to say to the surface, told no secrets, and had no use for novelty. It was conservative in an almost tragic sense, because it carried no hope of change, only respite. By the early fifties this music was all limits.” Page 17

“Rock ‘n’ roll is suffering from the old progressive school fallacy that says if what you write is about your own feelings, no one can criticize it. Truth telling is beginning to settle into a slough where it is nothing more than a pedestrian autobiography set to placid music framed by a sad smile on the album cover… singers have dispensed with imagination and songs are just pages out of a diary with nothing in them that could give them a life of their own.”  Page 105 This perfectly describes Emo in everyway possible.

All qoutes from Greil Marcus

June 4, 2008 at 5:49 pm Leave a comment


if emo was the music of maudingly depression and nostalgia, folk as it’s coming, is a music of alienation. while Banhart and Newsom have full bands now, it was the singularity of their voice and the sense of difference that first made them memorable, that little bit of not pretension, but rather just being different. That truimph individualism, a kinda bravado lurks behind ‘m.

January 22, 2008 at 4:03 pm Leave a comment

A Toaster

I’m one of those weird guys who always rearrnages his room in some order
previously unknow to me. Ya know combining exoticism and some
strategy I probably couldn’t verablize. Such orders seem to be the
obession of Sarah Sze, who’s work drops down on categories and eschews
them. Above  (sorry wordpress’ embed code from youtube doesn’t seem to be working here) we find Lee Perry with interviewer walking around burning
things and then we come to a toaster. Perry has placed a toaster atop
his fence and then proceeds to possibly improvise it as a pun on
rastafaranism, like most surrealism it seeks to quiet thought, similar
to a koan, the absurdity of it, the way Perry doesn’t quite make it
certian that he intended this, or that it has a definite meaning
merely means we’re left pondering it, but with out anything to ponder
we have a brief momentary pause in thought. Obviously such a moment
would be relief for Perry, whose compulsions run through his brain in
creative tangles, moments of knowing and thinking, a mess of dialetics
more inspired than unkempt dreds, but his ordering has a very different meaning.
Perry is asking us to
consider the absurd, to simply give up on reason for a second and
accept a secondary ordering of the world, Sze on the other hand has
turned such structures into meaning, while Perry was working with an
ordering that doesn’t have words, working with strategies he didn’t
necessarily understand consciously, but merely meant to evoke, Sze has
taken this a step further, she has found in the accidental, the
intention, and made apparent that while the experience of such
momemts can interrupt our verbalizing they still contain an order,
just not one intended linguistically.

November 10, 2007 at 5:53 am Leave a comment

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