Thursday, September 25, 2008

Come check me out

at the WeHo Book Fair on Sunday. I'm at the Robertson stage at 4:30. For about 5 minutes, but still....

This week at Fierce and Nerdy

I tried to persuade Ernessa to pick Cold War Kids this week, but I couldn't make her cave. Here's my take on her pick, the Choke soundtrack.
A soundtrack, Ernessa? Really? Hold on a second while I pick my head up off the desk and splash some cold water on my face.

Okay, it seems to me that soundtracks are most successful when they’re either trendsetting or unexpected. We love it when Tarantino pulls some obscure but perfect song out of someone’s back catalog and slaps it up onscreen. Or when Cameron Crowe reminds us of “Tiny Dancer,” or….

Sorry, I can’t stop yawning. What was I saying again?

Oh right…anyway, for all I know, the soundtrack to Choke works beautifully in the context of the film. I haven’t seen the movie yet, although I may go just to support its director, Clark Gregg, who happens to be my favorite TV dad in his role on The New Adventures of Old Christine. One listen to his soundtrack doesn’t have me making plans for opening night, though, as it mostly comes off like a perfunctory smattering of buzz bands from the last three to five years. Shout Out Louds, Clap Your Hands Say Yeah, (my beloved) Fiery Furnaces, My Morning Jacket, Death Cab for Cutie…they’re all on here. I have no beef with any of these songs necessarily; I’m just not inspired by the collection.

Luckily there are a few highlights. Its always fun to hear Greg Dulli, even if his Twilight Singers (”There’s Been an Accident”) only makes me nostalgic for The Afghan Whigs, and a Britpunk noisefest like “Orgasm Addict” by The Buzzcocks can’t help but stand out in the midst of all this up-to-date indie cool. But the big find of the whole album is a 1971 single from a low-budget Detroit studio called Big Mack; the song is “If You Feel It,” by Ms. Tyree “Sugar” Jones, and it’s a sultry, downright dirty track that deserves all the audience this movie can give it.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to go look for my Pump Up the Volume soundtrack. After a nap.
For her response, and to hear some of the songs, click here.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

JW and I saw

Ralph Fiennes and Keira Knightley go at it for two hours in The Duchess. And when I say "go at it," I don't mean in any kind of way that you'd actually care to watch. While they do make an attractive couple, the movie feels less like a movie and more like watching Keira bash an exquisite 18th-century wig against the wall of a stately Georgian mansion over and over and over again for two hours. Even that brief detour into lavender territory proves unsatisfying. And JW was pissed because there was only one single exterior for Chatsworth House; that was really the only reason he wanted to go. It's always fun going to these period things with him, because every time some big family home is featured with a title at the bottom of the frame naming it, he usually giggles, which is a clue they're trying to pull a fast one. Then he gives the rundown after the show of what all these places actually were. ("Well, what they were calling Althorp was actually Somerset House, at least the exterior shot, but then they walk inside and the interior is Kedleston Hall.) He was most scandalized by the "19th-century monstrosity" that was passing for a bed in the Duchess' chambers, not to mention the grand stateroom they had the duke's illegitimate daughter laid up in. He's quite a demanding audience member for these things, you realize.

Friday, September 19, 2008

This week on Fierce and Nerdy

I'm late on adding this, but in case you haven't checked out this week's post on ETC's new blog, Fierce and Nerdy, I end up back in Ernessa's good graces for turning her on to a new group called Passion Pit:
I was fully prepared to continue the fight Ernessa tried to pick with me because I liked one TVOTR song slightly more than the one she liked. And then she goes and thanks me for turning her on to a band I discovered all of two days ago in preparation for this blog post. Well you’re welcome. Go ahead, undermine a potentially winning gimmick on the second week. Truce. Whatever.

But on to Passion Pit. It’s all charming enough, I suppose. I see great potential here, and since this band’s story sounds like it started out with a smart college kid noodling (their MySpace page notes the EP began with Michael Angelakos recording the whole thing by himself as a Valentine to his girlfriend), I’m sure that he knows what he’s got now and there will be no stopping him.

On first listen, right about the time I start to find the electro bleeps precious on the opening track, “I’ve Got Your Number,” this refreshing half-sung, half-shouted double-tracked chorus comes in: “But have you seen me crying / tears like diamonds” and it helps me loosen up a bit. I get a little Postal Service vibe on “Smile Upon Me,” at which point I promptly skip to the third track. ”Cuddle Fuddle” starts out more promisingly. It continues that way too, as the vocals shift out of the semi-sung monotone into some welcome breathy/breathless falsetto. “Live to Tell the Tale” starts out super 80s but I kind of love the sound of it. Then there’s more of that Postal Service vibe when the monotone vocals return in the chorus. Again, it’s charming enough, but I’m still waiting to be grabbed. And then comes “Better Things,” which has me at the opening vocals and more of that sing-shouting, “You’re gonna drive me crazy!” They are clearly saving the best for last. “Sleepyhead” is just the bass-thumping icing on the proverbial cake.

So good work Angelakos. Congrats on the Boston accolades and internet sensation status. Just don’t skimp on the dance/thumpy, sing/shouty and rockstar falsetto and I’ll keep listening.

For Ernessa's take, and to hear the songs, click here.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

I'm sitting in my

new favorite coffee shop working on my third blog post of the evening instead of working on one of the three unfinished full-length scripts I have to occupy my time.

I don't necessarily recommend trying to pound away at three scripts at once. Having said that, I certainly think it can be done, and it's not as if I haven't made progress on anything. It just helps to be focused, to schedule your writing ahead of time, etc. I didn't do this before I sat down to work, and now I'm blogging. It's okay though, right? I've been neglecting this thing lately. I need to catch up.

Did I mention I saw Burn After Reading? It's good, not great, although I'd rather see merely good Coen Brothers than most Hollywood crap any day. Although one of the funniest things about the movie is watching John Malkovich try to come up with new ways to say "what the fuck?" If you haven't seen it yet, go and count the number of tiimes that phrase is uttered and put the total in the comments. We get it guys. Nobody in D.C. has a clue what's going on. Revelatory.

That last bit felt overly harsh. Sorry. It's been a long day. Tilda Swinton is extraordinary.

Somebody get me on task.

Okay thanks.

I wrote a comment

on Ernessa's new blog about David Foster Wallace, which made me want to add something here.

My friend Gia gave me a copy of A Supposedly Funny Thing I'll Never Do Again some 10 years ago now, when we were colleagues at Anderson Elementary in the HISD. Well, she either gave it to me or loaned it to me and I neglected to return it. I don't think I've ever done more than pick it up and either flip through a few pages or skim a bit. Every so often he'll come up in conversation or someone will mention something about him and I'll remember I have that book and think I should read it but I never do. When I heard of his death over the weekend I picked it up and read the David Lynch essay, which is right up my alley and of course delightful. However, the thing I love most about the book is how marked up it is. Lightly, with pencil, but still. I don't know if Gia did that or if she bought it used. I like to think it was her though. There is a list in pencil of vocabulary words, things like "otiose" and "solipsistic," and she marks all these interesting notes and passages. She even circles some typographical errors and things that must've grammatically; apparently she has or had a distaste for beginning a sentence with the word "But." It makes that tattered copy a special kind of artifact. Perhaps a double artifact. One of the many reasons to love our books.

I hope I'm as prepared for the rigor of DFW's thinking as Gia apparently was. I'm looking forward to finding out.

I ran into

Henry at the Hollywood Bowl last Thursday, and he mentioned looking forward to my thoughts about the concert JW and I saw. It was Mahler's Symphony No. 8 in E Flat, or the "Symphony of A Thousand."

Henry, I'm not gonna lie to you; my mind wandered. A lot. The thing I liked the best was that they placed a soloist up in the lighting grid in a solo about ascension or looking up to the heavens or something like that. She wasn't lit, but you could see her shadowy figure moving in the darkness to get into place. She raised her arms slightly and waited for her cue and then was finally lit, where she hovered above the other performers and sang. Before long her light went out and she slowly exited; I knew I wasn't supposed to watch her anymore but the image was so simple and graceful I couldn't help myself. Other than that, the whole thing was pretty and, well, huge, frankly, but just that small bit of theater was the highlight. JW reminded me that it was Essa-Pekka's last stand at the Bowl as LAPhil conductor, so the crowd was even more enthusiastic than they usually are for him.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

There's a new coffee shop

within walking distance of my apartment. That's where I am right now. It's local and independent too, so I enjoy giving them my patronage. Plus free wi-fi and lots of outlets. They're helping me get back on my game, which is most appreciated. Between Labor Day and my trip to Boise for my friend Kayla's wedding and getting a cold after getting back from Boise, I've been a little out of my routines, such as they are. Feels like I'm finally getting back on track though. Spent a couple hours today working on something and I hope to get more done tomorrow.

Speaking of Boise, I've been meaning to post some pictures here, but keep running into glitches with Blogger. I'll try to get that finished soon.

I saw Itamar Moses' The Four of Us last weekend, which is growing on me the more I think about it. I was ambivalent about it as I was watching, as I related to the neurotic writers, of course, but they also made me a little crazy. The play's all about the structure, though; it elevates it beyond what it might've been as a more straightforward narrative. It's worth checking out.

Not much else to report here. I just felt like slapping something up on this page since I've been neglecting it so much lately! I'll be back at it tomorrow at my usual Sunday morning place. Hopefully I'll have something else to post about.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Me on Fierce and Nerdy

I'm loaning out my services to a new blog for a weekly column, starting today. My friend Ernessa's started a page called Fierce and Nerdy, and she dares to go toe-to-toe with me about pop music. This week it's TV on the Radio. Here's my take:

I’m over-the-moon in love with TV on the Radio’s new single from their forthcoming album, Dear Science. The song is “Golden Age,” and it’s absolute po-mo disco perfection. It’s a little bit smart-assed, like Midnite Vultures-era Beck, but without a hint of parody. It’s also somehow dreamy and ethereal, like beatific Zooropa-era Bono. It feels authentic too, like New York in the 70s, or even the 80s, which might be less apt but seems somehow cooler. Imagine a scene from Paris is Burning or Grace Jones dancing in Keith Haring-applied bodypaint as you listen. I used to find this band merely interesting; now I want them underscoring my next night on the town, complete with a hot new outfit, Delia Hauser-approved shoes and androgynously cool eye make-up.

I wasn’t asked to comment on “Golden Age.” Instead, I got the new album’s second single, “Dancing Choose.” If “Golden Age” is disco, this song is more pogo, like the way we used to jump up and down whenever the DJ would play “It’s the End of the World as We Know It” at school dances. Or when Ernessa and I were hopping around to The Go-Gos at that Monday night party during finals week in some grad director’s apartment in Pittsburgh. Remember that, Ernessa? And then the cops closed it down? I know…crazy, right? Now can you skip back to “Golden Age” again? Thanks.
Read what Ernessa has to say and listen to both songs here.

Saturday, September 06, 2008

I volunteered

this morning for Vote No on Proposition 8 in Silver Lake. I've been a little under the weather the last few days and almost talked myself out of it, but I'm glad I didn't; it felt good to do my part to protect California's marriage equality. I'll probably go back and help out again if anyone wants to join me.

I called 90 phone numbers, talked to some supporters, and even got a donation out of someone. There were even a couple of notable folks making calls in the room, including Chad Allen, who spoke to us all at the end of the event. He seemed nice. Christine Chavez was there too, and she educated us all on how her grandfather Cesar Chavez was just as concerned about LGBT issues as he was about the UFW, which was new to me.

If you're in California, you should check out the website and volunteer or donate. Although I suppose you could donate even if you weren't in California. By all means do!