Friday, September 30, 2005

It's September 30th, and if you're in Cleveland, you've got something to be excited about.

The Indians find themselves in a recently uncommon position: poised for the playoffs.
The Indians haven't done much of anything since their hey-day in the late-ninties. Gone are the days of Omar Visquel. We are left to the young and the inexperienced.
And yet some how, this club has managed to pull together enough wins to be tied with (of all people) the Yankees for the Wildcard going into the post-season.

Coming from Minnesota, I'm no stranger to losing. Or rather, I'm no stranger to losing big. When it counts. When I really really need it, that's when I'm disappointed. As Garrison Keillor would say, the Minnesotans have a certain capacity for suffering the rest of the world doesn't understand. It's a priviledge; we embrace it.
So it should be no surprise then when our sports teams fail and fall on their faces, we fans are still there for them to pick them up out of the dirt and dust them off. We love them. They're our friends. We invite them into our homes every Sunday afternoon, and three nights a week. We can't even say that about alot of our family.

But it would seem there is a trend in most other parts of the country that when your team does well, you're on the bandwagon. When they lose, you're in line to egg their house.
What is with this lack of loyalty? Why is it we're only a fan when things go well? I'll never understand this. Mistakes are made and blood will be spilled, but at the end of the day, those are still your Cleveland Indians or your Minnesota Vikings. Irregardless of if they succeed or fail, you must stand by them!

Fanaticism is well exercised in the likes of Boston and New York, where it's dangerous to one's well-being to wear a competing ball club's merchandise on their turf. And yet I've seen the most die-hard of fans turn into a horrible vehement of a human being, accusing everything including their own mothers for the loss that evening. How can there be no allowance for human error?

Two reasons:
1. Coming from a profession that does not allow for errors, I can sympathize with the contingent that demands perfection all of the time. There should be no room for silly mistakes, because that is their job.

2. They get paid too many butt-loads of money to be losing games. This reason I agree with even more. I say a player should be paid by the home-run, rbi, catch, stolen base, etc. . . we'd probably have to work on this idea some more. . .

At the end of the day, win or lose, these are your teams. They are part of your city's life, part of their identity and their existence. The friendly competition of sports is something that motivates us and helps make us want to continue on and acheive. It gives us something to rally around.
And after you've poured this much energy and effort into something, you can't betray it as soon as it doesn't turn out the way you hope. Hold on to it! Hide it away and wait for the next time!

Hope springs eternal, especially for the loyal sports fan.


Thursday, September 29, 2005

I feel my posts have been depraved recently. Fear not, I shall make a vaild post soon. . .as soon as something valid happens in my life.


I found this rat crawling around in my bathroom this morning.

Just after I took this photograph of it, (which caught it by surprise,) I beat it down into the drain with a shoe. I don't think we'll be seeing the likes of him again. . .
Cleaning Da Bathroom

Before. . .

After. . .

Before. . .

After. . .

Before. . .

After. . .

Isn't housework fun?

The Late, Great Led Zeppelin

It occured to me that I've been writing here for a couple of weeks now, talking about movies, and alot of music, and I've not yet mentioned one of my other all-time favorite bands: Led Zeppelin.

I came to know of Led Zeppelin because of my former teacher, Mark Jackobs. He himself has a bit of rock star pulsing through his veins, and when riding in his car one day I noticed he had a Led Zeppelin CD floating around his back seat.
As a young undergraduate student eager to impress and relate, I decided to become familiar with some of their music, so I could converse with my teacher on the works and artistry of Led Zeppelin.

My first purchase was a "best of" album of most of their later albums. My companion on this particular shopping excursion bought their Remasters two disc set which was a far better sampling of their entire work. So soon later I bought my own copy of Remasters and devoured it, and really truly began to fall in love with their music.

The first full album I bought was IV of course. I'm afraid I wasn't that creative, but since it had some of their most famous songs, it seemed a safe place to start. (Upon further reflection, I must confess I'm not that big of a fan of "Stairway to Heaven" anyway. Try other songs from the album like "Black Dog" or "When the Levee Breaks." Much more indicitive of the band's real power and strength.

From that point on it's been a slow slide into an unhealthy obsession. A collection of their first six albums, both on CD and on vinyl (I don't even own a turntable!) the live DVD set, a window decal and a couple of t-shirts to declare my loyalty.

Am I a junkie? Perhaps. Just hook me up with a fix of "In My Time of Dying" and I'll be fine.


Wednesday, September 28, 2005

Recommended Movie: Sideways
Directed by Alex Payne Starring Paul Giamatti, Thomas Haden-Church, Virginia Madsen

A buddy film about two middle-agers who head to wine country for a final week of freedom before Jack (Haden-Church) gets married. Jack spends the week trying his hand at various sorts of infidelity, much to the chagrin of his friend, Miles (Giamatti.)
Between the moments of lunacy and desperation are moments of hilarity and pure beauty. This is a movie that I enjoy more each time I watch it. It deserves all of the acolades it collects.
Five out of Five


Breaking News:

History Made in Unprece- dented Sponsor Agreement Between Lump of Clay and Cannibalistic Enterprise

Santa Barbara, CA - On Tuesday morning a press conference was called at Sun-Maid Co. with the promise of an exciting announcement that would "change America's perception of dried fruit." It was announced that the legendary R&B performing group the California Raisins had inked a five-year contract with Sun-Maid for an undisclosed amount of money.

"This is really a fruitful time for us here at Sun-Maid," said press agent Chuck Fulonuts. Upon later reflection, we believe that yes, he did indeed intend the pun. ". . .we are so happy that the Raisins have agreed to act as our spokespersons to the world in delivering Sun-Maid's message of healthy living and good, fiber-full fruits.

Long-time Raisins bandmembers Beebop and Red were on hand for the press conference.
"We are very happy to lend our notoriety and hipness to the Sun-Maid name; encouraging healthy eating has been something the Raisins have always stood behind. We believe it is as important to support that behavior in America's upcoming generation as it was for the last."

Yet vocal critics have loudly challenged the Raisins decision, since the very nature of Sun-Maid's business could be misconstrued as a conflict of interest for the California Raisins It wasn't even fifty years ago during the great Raisin Boom of the 1950's that raisins were in such short supply that the Raisin's present-day existence was in question. Many critics fear that a Raisin endorsement deal could lead to another shortage, and the rich and famous fruits would watch the demise of their species.

Richard Goesalot, activist for the PCETFV (People's Coalition for the Ethical Treatment of Fruits and Vegetables) fears that the Raisin's sponsorship will do precisely this.
"We've lived too long under the fear that one day there would not be enough dried grapes to go around, and I think we've finally turned the corner to a place from which we cannot return."
Mr. Goesalot said that the PCETFV was petitioning the Raisins to abandon their contract with Sun-Maid

Still others worry of the more philosophical challenges faced by this news. Sandra Nopeerightly represents the UUPAFMTLT-DP (Universal Union of Persons Alliance for the Fair Mental Treatment of Living Things - Division of Plantlife) and argues the fundamental paradox in seeing a raisin encouraging others to devour its own kind.
"This represents a real shift in thinking." Ms. Nopeerightly explains "Never in the past has it been so socially acceptable that we would see a raisin encouraging the consumption and death of his fellow grape-kind. This is pure cannibalism; I thought we had moved beyond this type of behavior in American society, but I guess I was wrong. We clearly have alot of work to do."

The Sun-Maid corporation made no formal statement to these charges, except that they would like to point out that they manufacture all different types of dried fruits. "What makes the raisin so special?" asked press agent Chuck Fulonuts.

The Raisins could not be reached for comment after the press conference.

Check out Photo-a-Day

I just ran across this guy's blog; he's a wedding photographer in California, but these are his own photographs which he's sharing online. Check out his blog here Definitely worth the visit.

That's M. Ward to you, buddy.

Matt Ward, of Portland, Oregan (Stage name M. Ward) recently opened for the White Stripes, and his music so intrigued me that I had to write about him. I had to! I must!

Matt Ward is the illegitimate love child of Johnny Cash and Les Claypool. An under-the-radar combination of Duane Eddy and the Presidents of the United States of America.
M. Ward's songs would commonly start with a rolling guitar riff (which he showed considerable proficiency in getting through) and would hit an uncommon stride of old-school trucker rock mixed with unexpected and blaring chord changes which keeps the ears on edge.
When M. Ward would lean into the microphone to sing, what came out was a low mumbling which reminds one of Brad Roberts whispering not-so-sweet nothings into the ear of a dump truck.

M. Ward's back-up band for the evening kept pace, but was definitely just observing the show alongside the audience. I am curious as to whether or not this was Ward's usual ensemble he performed with, because his music is never talked about in a group sense. Matt Ward shares the spotlight with no one. At least right now. And for right now, he should be happy to tour on a leg of the White Stripe's national tour, because I think he'll find a lot of similarly atuned fans in the audience that are ready to hear his music.


Make Way for the world's only Hasidic Jewish Raggae Rapper!...that I know of.

But I'd say the chances are pretty good, huh?

Meet Matisyahu - a hip-hop artist straight from the streets of Israel. Not what you would normally expect.
Matisyahu is one of several new groups that I have been exposed to that I hope to talk about in the next couple of days. While I haven't yet seen Matisyahu, he is performing in Cleveland in November, and it should be a great show.

Matisyahu's sound is that of the traditional reggae artists, so with your eyes shut, you would never tell the difference save for Matisyahu's subject matter - break downs about the Torah and Jehovah. A bit of a departure from the rastified bong-hitting community that usually inhabits reggae music.
But what will really get your attention about Matisyahu is his appearance. He performs entirely in traditional orthodox Jewish clothing, complete with full beard and curls. All of this allows Matisyahu to blend in perfectly with his surroundings.

(pause for laughter)

Matisyahu has one studio album released, and also a brand new live album Live at Stubb's which as really helped spring-board Matisyahu's popularity, since much of his appeal (obviously) lies in his live shows.

My hope with Matisyahu and his work is that people will come to his work not only for the artistic validity of his work, but that they will pay attention to the words of his songs, which is what really sets him a part from other reggae acts. Certainly he will bring alot of people through the door to gawk at the spectacle, but let's hope they stay for something more.

The Constant Evolution of the White Stripes' Image

See from beginning. . .

To today. . .

Quite a change, eh?


Tuesday, September 27, 2005

Caring for the Common Cold

Think there's nothing to do about the sniffles? Think you have to live with it until it passes? Think you have to give up sleeping for two weeks while your nasal passages take a vacation? Not anymore!
I have found a secret remedy to the cold which surpasses any other treatment available. The government doesn't want you to know about it! The WHO doesn't want you to know! The CDC doesn't want you to know! But I'm going to tell you! So get a pad of paper and a pencil and get ready. . .

Alot of people discover their medical findings by lengthy research and costly experimentation. Not me! I found this scribbled on a piece of kleenex in an alley. After I pain-stakingly re-built the contents of the kleenex by wiping away the dirt, oil, and snot with my tounge, I realized there was probably a better way to do this. But, because of my hasty approach, I stumbled onto the marvelous truth about caring for a cold! Had I not been chewing on a used kleenex, I never would have discovered this truth which I am about to reveal to you now!

And here it is: The best way of caring for a cold: Contract something worse! I know what you're thinking. That sounds too easy! Anyone could do that. Well sure, but who does? Most people are content to go along dealing with the maladies of a head cold, but what I'm offering is the chance for so much more!

From swishing the residue of used kleenex around in my mouth I found out that I could easily expose myself to an entire range of infectious diseases including, but not limited to: pink eye, syphilis, influenza, hepatitis, lyme disease and herpes.
Seconds after my encounter with the now legendary kleenex encounter did I realize that a cold was now the least of my worries.

The excitment of this discovery was seconded only by my later attempt to "cleanse" myself by bathing in ammonia. Including the inside of my mouth. The doctor is hopeful that my taste buds will come out of their coma sometime in my lifetime.

So, to review: I have a depraved mind. If any of you are still reading this, then you are brave souls. And lastly, get some sleep and eat chicken noodle soup.

That is all.


Thursday, September 22, 2005

Recommended Movie:

Frank Miller's Sin City is as visceral and depraved as the title suggests. All of the darkest parts of film noir and pulp fiction combined into one grotesque entity. Directed by Robert Rodriguez and based on Frank Miller's graphic novel of the same name, this movie explores the misdeeds and sins of three main "heroes" as they fight fire with fire in Sin City. My personal favorite: Marv. Beautifully made and grossly intriguing, this is made up of the best of the worst. Reports suggest a Sin City 2 in the works already.
Recommended Movie:

Crash weaves a tale of numerous characters from every walk of life. Different socio-economic backgrounds, different jobs, different ethnicities, all colliding and interacting because of the events on one evening. Highly recommended for its fair approach to issues like racism. I had to see it twice in the theatre, so it had to be good!
Contains one of my new favorite scenes in a movie. (Watch for the scene where the girl is shot in front of her father. Breathtaking.)
4 1/2 of 5

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

Recommended Movie:

The Life Aquatic is Wes Anderson's fourth film and the third involving Bill Murray is a Jaque Costeau-esque ocean escapade following an oceanographic explorer and his team of documentarians as they search the sea for the rare Jaguar Shark that ate Esteban - just so they can kill it.
Four Stars

Thoughts on film soundtracks

It would seem that corner-cutting is everywhere. Sitting here watching television, I see a film released within the last five years, prominently featuring the iconic of another, far better film released not more that two years earlier. And featuring the same main actor. Now explain the logic of this to me...

The importance of a great film score is so easily overlooked until you suffer from a lackluster score or uninspired soundtrack. Fifty years ago, there was a small economy built on studio musicians' work, supplying original music for countless films during the golden-age of hollywood. And like the iconic actors and actresses of those films, the music leant a specific identity and feel to those films.

Perhaps I can only mention this problem because while there are some cheap routes being taken with certain films, other films have done a fantastic job in selecting great musical numbers, which only points out the deficiencies of the rest all the more clearly.

Some examples of the good and noteworthy:
Napoleon Dynamite features a thoughtful selection of numbers from varying artists as wide as the White Stripes to Jamiroquai to Alphaville. Not limited to mainstream pop music, however, the soundtrack also includes instrumental tracks from the Penguin Cafe Orchestra and the theme from the A-team.
Garden State's soundtrack was practically a handbook for a populace of America yearning for something beyond the Top 40 airplay. Including songs by bands like the Shins, Iron and Wine, Thievery Corporation and Zero 7. All of the songs are intentionally melancholic singer-songwriting fare, which complements and blends easily into the movie's story.
On the instrumental-only front, the Lord of the Rings trilogy featured great classic orchestral writing. It's melodies became extremely popular and recognizable, which is far more uncommon for orchestral scores, and it's themes are forever attached to the images and characters of the films.
Also the film score for The Road to Perdition is one of the most beautiful I have heard in recent years. (Also if we ever have a talk on cinematography, this film must be mentioned again.)
The Life Aquatic features some scenes that seemed to be built around certain pieces of music, such is the score's importance to the scene. Director Wes Anderson always does a remarkable job selecting music for his films, always unique, always provoking. His music in earlier film the Royal Tenenbaums is equally good. Case in point: who would think of having a David Bowie sung accoustically in French? Not very many people.
And on an ethnic front, in trying to conjure up images of other countries and nationalities in film, it is essential to try and capture the feel of a more indiginous music. Black Hawk Down does this really well, for while representing the American forces by such artists as Steppenwolf and Jimi Hendrix, the scenes played out in Somalian villages employ traditional african songs and chants. The other film that does this well (also a war film) is Three Kings, which criss-crosses early 90's popular music with Arabic-tinged instrumental numbers.

Examples of the less than exemplary:
The last film I saw, Lord of War featured a soundtrack that was so contrived and obvious it was painful. What better song to play during a scene when the main characters are snorting cocaine? Why, Eric Clapton's Cocaine, of course! The songs selected for the film played out like an exhausted jukebox of what-was. Either the drirector of the film was uninspired on his choices, or the choices were never his, leaving some third party to decide which tunes to slip into the film.
Equally bad to the film which samples prerecorded artists poorly, are the films that rip of instrumental and orchestral music from other films and superimpose them onto another film, hoping that no one will notice.
This is especially sad when a film comes along with a great musical identity (example, American Beauty) that featured a unique instrumental motif that recurrs during the film. Such a success was the film in all artistic senses that other films began to try and imitate this effect, to the point where the same track is used in the opening sequences of another Kevin Spacey film, Pay it Forward.
Another musical identity that has been duplicated numerously is the tribal-esque cantoring from The Insider which used the disturbing, haunting musical styles to heighten the stress upon both the characters and the audiences. Soon after this film was released, this effect was being mimicked in numerous other films.
Perhaps the most blatant example of stealing music is the note-for-note use of a song in numerous movies. The soundtrack for Gladiator features moments (that sound like they were ripped from Prokofiev's Alexander Nevsky cantata) of music that have been filed away in the "pretty good" shelf in some music library and is dusted off and put into any number of other films and movie trailers. Sad, but true.

I don't know if it's that people are any less observant today than yesteryear, or if the studios are betting that we won't notice, but thankfully with enough young film directors making careful selections for their films, it helps point out the lesser accomplishments. And from an orchestral perspective, at least for now, big-budget epic films still know the importance and selling point of a grand new orchestral score by the likes of Williams, Elfman, Zimmerman or Horner.

Until next time, just listen carefully,


Let's try one with a little color. . .

Movie Review: The Constant Gardner
Directed by Fernando Meirelles. Starring: Ralph Fiennes, Rachel Weisz

This movie was said to herald the return of "good movie" season for America. That being said, it's easier to begin to swallow the mammoth humanitarian burden this drags into the theatre with it. Apparently "good movie" means weighty topics, hard moral and ethical ambiguity, depressingly large-scale humanitarian struggles and of course, a good visceral murder.

In my mind, this film is ripped between two equally valid precepts: on one side, a humanitarian documentary on the economic and human tragedies of the poorest nations in Africa, and on the other, a decent thriller about a husband trying to track down the killers of his wife. Now granted, the two stories do entertwine and are inescapably related, however I felt that the thematic elements from one half of the movie kept imposing at the wrong times during a time when you were trying to enjoy something else. This should not come as a surprise from director Fernando Meirelles, whose last film City of God was actually a foreign release in America, so Mr. Meirelles' attentions are turned much more towards an international appeal that most American audiences would be used to.
The premise: Ralph Fiennes is a British diplomat working in Africa, and he is married in a whirl-wind romance to the spontaneous and socially pro-active Rachel Weisz, who rail-roads Ralph Fiennes' character into taking her with him. Once there, she begins a crusade to explose the unethical medical tests being done on the poverty stricken residents there as research for big British pharmaceutical companies. The film presupposes that these drug companies have only the interest of profit in mind and are willing to have a few unnamed Africans die to hide their drug's known defaults. So Rachel Weisz's character is hot on the trail of trying to find out why this is happening, while Ralph Fiennes spends a good part of the early film suspicious of certain marital infidelities. Rachel's character is killed, and suddenly Ralph is drug into the frey, torn between moving on with his life, or trying to figure out why his wife was murdered.

All of this intriguing plot is set against the stark images of Africa's bushland; vast expanses of arrid desert and huddled shanty villages where the small barefoot children run and play in the open sewers. (Basically all the key elements from Christian's Childrens Fund commercials.) The use of so much bleak cinematography left me feeling depressed and dissatisfied and slightly guilty for wanting to find out about this poor man's wife. In the face of so great a suffering, how could we be concerned with the problems of one man? And yet, if we try to help, the problem is indeed too great, and it overwhelms us.

Perhaps I have summed up the entire movie inadvertedly. The film definitely desires to impress upon us American audiences of the plight of countless human beings on a distant continent. Perhaps to petition for some sort of governmental response; aid sent to these impoverished nations. And yet I must ask: why are we so concerned with getting America's standard of living established on this continent? Could it perhaps be that America has got the wrong perspective in this whole thing? I felt guilty and shamed for seeing these people who have nothing, and yet their lives to go on. And yet, that's the point, isn't it? If you are guaranteed your health, food, and shelter, how much else do we need? I feel sad for these poor African children who are running and playing who seem quite happy, sadden by the thought that they won't climb into their cars and go home to their air conditioning at the end of the day. Who determined that America's leisurely lifestyle was such an enviable position to have. It may be the most comfortable in the world, yes, but is it really any more beneficial?

And yet perhaps I say this as defense for feeling a conviction for not helping other human beings in ways that the movie's characters do. Rachel Weisz's character is entirely selfless as she sacrificies her time, health and ultimately her own life to help people she doesn't even know.

Perhaps we'll never know the truth.

Despite this poor review, I'd rate this film three out of five


Tuesday, September 20, 2005

Wing Night at the Winking Lizard Tavern

Let me just say that chicken wings are quite an amazingly messy creation. Perhaps the wing part itself isn't so bad, but once you batter it up and then soak it in some tasty sauce, it is a food that leap-frogs to another dimension, whose sole purpose is to spread itself as far from one elbow to the other, to say nothing of your face. Not ideal for a first date. It'd probably be pretty good for a last, though. It'd make the break-up really easy.

Me: (slurp )Um, there's something. . . I've been meaning (gobble) to uh, talk to (nibble) -to you about.

Attractive Girl (ficticious): Oh yeah? What's that?

Myself:(munch munch) Um, I'm just not sure -

Supermodel (also ficticious): -you know you've got garlic sauce all over your face?

Irene: Huh? Oh, yeah (gobble) So, listen. . . I'm just not sure this is working out.

Babe: Uh, listen, you have barbecue sauce in your hair.

Me: Look, don't worry about that now, I'm trying to tell you-

Girl: No, I'm sorry, it's really bothering me. Can you please wipe yourself off a little bit? You look like a four-year old eating spaghetti. Gosh, you've got it in your ear. It's just a chicken wing, how hard can it be?!

Self:Look, will you pay attention, I'm trying to tell you something!

Increasingly unattractive female: No! Clean yourself off or we're not talking at all! You're disgusting!

The righteous man: (Stuffs another tasty Caribbean Spice wing into his mouth) Look, I think you'll want to hear what I'm saying! (Slobber)

Ugly Hag No! Forget it! I'm out of here! I can't be seen around you! You're so gross! I'm outta here!

Problem solved.


How does Happily Ever After last? Until now, apparently. Disney announces the suspension of all hand-drawn animated feature films for the "forseeable future."
In a New York Times article recently posted on their website, we learn that Disney has suspended their hand-drawn animation studios as they pursue the far more immediately lucrative and appealing CGI market, releasing computer-animated films to compete against other studios such as DreamWorks and Pixar whom have cornered the market until now.
I understand the business-driven necessity to adapt to the marketplace, but I also am disappointed in Disney, who has no problem making a profit from it's own nostalgia, apparently has no qualms about flipping the switch on a 70-year old industry-leading studio that has shaped America's culture.
Now I am the first to admit no lost love for Empire Disney. The animation studios has not released a great feature film since Aladdin (which I'm sure is an opinion that everyone agrees with.) The last 13 years or so for Disney has been tough. Not only has the quality of their films been depleted, but for the past decade now, they have been overshadowed by the immergence of the CGI animated film. Considering today's youth, how could an "old-fashioned" cartoon expect to compete with the shiny, new animation?

Let me say this: I am as big a fan of the CGI films that have been released to date as anyone could be. I find Pixar's work to be amongst the finest and cleverest film making being done today. DreamWorks' Shrek films have been not only commercially successful, but also creatively. (An aside: One must be careful to watch the new few years' of CGI filmmaking. The quality of computer-animations first decade I believe is largely because it was an industry with something to prove; they couldn't afford to make a bad film. Now that it has been established, watch and see if the filmmakers get sloppy - Robots or Valiant, anyone? Market saturation can only lead to a majority of clunky filmmaking, as opposed to the sleek, shining gems we've had the fortune to live with thus far.

Okay - that aside, let us discuss the tragedy of shutting down Disney's hand-drawn studios. With the exception of Lilo & Stitch there has not been a Disney animated film that has entertained me anywhere close to the way Pixar's films have done. This is mostly the fault of poor scripts and stories. I was watching a segment of The Emporer's New Groove on the Disney Channel the other day, and was struck by how good the animation was. Irregardless of what the characters were saying or doing, I was struck by how every nuance of the dialogue and the mood of the character was translated beautifully - and all of it done by hand. So let's say it now: These animators are fantastic! If there is any tragedy here, it is that these artist's work will not be created anymore. The animators at Disney studios deserve to have work for them for the rest of their lives. The fault here lies in other departments of the film production. Script-writing and storylines are all less about telling a mesmerizing story and more about inserting social agenda for us to observe played out between bears and lions. What if Peter Pan were to be re-made today? Do you think that the Lost Boys would go hunting Native Americans? Would the Pirates be carrying walkie-talkies instead of firearms? Somewhere along the line, the innocence was ripped out of Disney and replaced by a depressing humanism that felt it necessary to instruct children through the song and dance of animals that it's not enough to get along with other people. We must learn to understand and love them. What the #$%!??!! Obviously this sort of approach is working in their movies, because they've been doing so well. . .

So, the long and short of all of this is that while I feel it is shameful to pull the curtain close on such a cinematic tradition, perhaps it is the sort of re-thinking the Disney must do so that they are able to begin making films again as great as Beauty and the Beast. The only sadness I have in this is that the artists whose work was known through these films will not be able to share their talents with us. I share their apprehension about joining the digital revolution. I see no reason why these two Disney studios could not co-exist, as long as Disney is willing to invest in something beyond the quick-buck fix of a digital animation studio. People will return to these traditional hand-drawn films, and if Disney's not careful, the next generation of hand animation films may not have the name "Disney" on them.


P.S. The silver lining: Toy Story 3

Movie Review: Lord of War
Directed by Andrew Niccol, Starring Nicolas Cage, Jared Leto and Ethan Hawke
So, the first thing that I must say about this film is that I feel it was an ambitious project, producing a film that flies in the face of America's infatuation with a utopian paradise. This movie has no qualm about dramatizing the vicious nature of many third-world countries' civil struggle. Not only does the movie deal with the corrupt and evil leaders buying weapons, but it also shows you the young children being lined up before a firing squad, or being attacked by machetes. Images of Cage's character's (Orlov) slick existence in Manhattan are coupled with images of extreme poverty in Africa.
So the movie attempts for something that few accomplish: A tounge-in-cheek attitude towards one of the most morbid of stories told in recent cinema. A nonchalante humor as we watch horible things happen to human beings. Opportunities to laugh, as if humor is the only way we would be able to deal with the story we were hearing. This has been accomplished in films before, but this film missed the mark for a good part of the film. Only in the last twenty minutes did I feel that the film finally hit its stride.

The first hour of the film feels horribly clunky, with an almost unbelievably cliched script as we watch Nicolas Cage and Jared Leto akwardly stumble around, trying to convince their audience that they are, indeed, brothers. Oh, and Russian Jews, by the way. Cage only chews on about 25% of his lines, allowing us to comprehed what he's saying most of the time. The story progresses, despite the contrived scenarios and even more deliberate voice-overs by Orlov. If you had tried to film a complete set-up for this film in only two days of shooting, it would probably had the feel of the first hour of film. I felt that the first two-thirds of this movie were prelude, letting me never feel like we got to the first act.
(Incidentally, the most entertaining part of this movie for me was the very beginning as credits are rolling, we take a bullet's perspective on his trip from the factory all the way to Africa, where we are jarringly shot into someone's head. What a great way to start the film!)

We eventually find ourselves at the point of moral dilmena for Cage's character. One must operate under the premise that Orlov has very little moral fortitude to begin with, as he spends his days providing assault rifles to the as-of-yet 93% of the population still unarmed. Despite the pleadings from his wife and his brother's death, Orlov finally concedes that he "can not fight his biology" and is doomed to be gun trafficking for the rest of his days. Ethan Hawke plays an American agent on Orlov's trail, who finally gets his man, only to lose him once again.

Overall, this story does have a very good premise, examining the amorality behind the people who do business in this way (as the movie does say at the close, it is based on "actual events")providing to countless, faceless people with the means to destroy themselves. Those in the movie who have moral feelings about the nature of Orlov's business are eliminated at one point or another during the movie, mostly by virtue of their own beliefs. Orlov's brother meets his demise as he tries to destroy weapons that will inevitably kill defensless Liberians. While it doesn't have a nice punch-line to the end of the film, the movie seems content to just leave us with an acurate taste in our mouth. Sadly, between watching Nicolas Cage's hit-or-miss acting and the politics of the film, the validity of this film gets a little washed out.
Grade: Three out of Five


More Digital Art
Here are two pictures I worked on this afternoon. These are actually both from the same photograph - a shot of the back of my viola, which is made of tiger maple wood. Hence all of the stripes. I think the second photo turned out a little better.

Monday, September 19, 2005

Gosh! There are alot of pictures of me on this site.
Okay, no more pictures of myself for a while. I don't want people to think there some sort of narcicistic fascination going on. Because I can talk about other things and people besides myself. Really, truly, I can. If I try real hard, I'm sure I can talk about something else. . .I can talk about my blog! Wait, I don't suppose that counts.
In any event, I've posted a picture that has absolutely nothing to do with myself or anyone that I know. You like? That poor kitten. He's going to be eaten in a few seconds. Hee hee.

Kitties taste good. They're like God's furry mcnuggets on legs. All you gotta do is pull out the claws. And don't eat their eyes. The eyes have poisonous jelly inside of them. It's where we get anthrax from. Not that I'd know anything about that, of course. . . Anyway, kitties are nice. Kitties are very nice. The monster on the right is me.


Sunday, September 18, 2005

And now, for more of the same.

This is a picture of three of my younger brothers sitting in the tree house that I helped build for them this summer. I say three of my younger, because I do have five younger brothers. These are the youngest of the five, and they have had quite a lot of fun springing through the tree branches this summer. How cool is our tree house, though? Not one, not two, but three platforms! All (hopefully) securely fastened to the tree with numerous wood screws. Perfect for a game of tag racing up and down the ladder to the platforms, down the side and a quick drop to the ground. . .it's a good workout. It was a nice exercise for me to figure out how to connect all of this stuff to the tree. Just watch it all fall off this winter now. I suppose this poor tree house will be sitting under a few feet of snow once our winter sets in.


Someone kindly left a comment to my Black Keys post earlier, inviting me to check out a band called Iron & Wine. Their website unfortunately didn't have any sound clips that I could find, but thankfully they turned up on itunes. Very beautiful, melancholic songwriting. Actually I had known of them, and didn't even know it, as one of their songs turned up on the Garden State soundtrack. Thanks gmontag for the heads-up. If they're ever playing up here in Cleveland's neck of the woods, I'll be sure to check them out.


P.S. The above photo is the remains of Katrina from gmontag's blog. Check it out here Yay for Marquette!

Let's talk about my home for a few seconds...
As was mentioned elsewhere, I hail from Minnesota (obviously the more rural portions) The picture to the left is of a few of the many out-buildings that we have on our six-acres of land. My father is a chemist, not a farmer. The fields surrounding us are cultivated by our neighbors, and alternate crops of corn and soybean. We are left to our own devices on the acreage, which is soon to include two cows, numerous chickens, 3.6 billion cat, and a hyperactive laborador. Oh, and the thirteen of us in my family. As is also mentioned elsewhere in this blog, I am the second oldest of eleven children. I have an older brother who just turned 26, (happy birthday!) and siblings running all the way down to a sister who just turned three and a half. Yes, life is crazy, yes, it is as loud as you might think, and no, I wouldn't have changed it for anything. I consider myself fortunate. I've learned many things about family that alot of other people are going to have to spend a lot more time on. Imagine having diaper-changing as a prerequisite for high-school graduation. The necessities, man. That's what you learn. And in this house, diaper-changing is a necessity.
And although this house might've grown beyond the age of diaper-clad children, it hopefully won't be too long before little grandchildren start popping up out of nowhere. (Hopefully we'll know who they belong to.) Imagine what family holidays will look like in another twenty years. Nauseating, isn't it?


Saturday, September 17, 2005

Ladies and Gentlemen: Introducing the Black Keys

If you do not know the Black Keys now, I hope you will soon. They certain deserve every piece of recognition that they get.

The Black Keys hail from Akron, Ohio. Just by their picture you can tell they would blend seamlessly into their surroundings in the Rubber City. (Thank goodness for a profession that does not require super-model good looks, eh?)
I got to see the Keys perform at the Beachland Ballroom outside of Cleveland last month. I later learned this is where they played their very first gig, which added an element of coolness-ness to the evening. They performed in the ballroom's adjacent barroom area, which only held approximately 150 people. It was a very intimate arrangement! And I ended up only an arms' length away from the guitarist, Dan Auerbach.

Now for those who know not, the Black Keys are a blues duo very much steeped in the traditions of classic styled blues. (Do I feel a complex coming on? Two-person blues-rockers? Why does that sound familiar?) Their songs are like a pair of well-worn jeans. Comfortable and familiar, and no matter how many times you hear the same song, it always looks good. Dan Auerbach's vocals sound like a mix between Howlin' Wolf and a rusty car door. Patrick Carney's funked-up drumming has the flailings of a man looking to fend off a porpiose with a tamborine. Both men expend considerable energy during concerts, with constant kinetic energy keeping the music (and the crowd) elevated. A great deal of body fluid seemed to escape both mens' bodys, but they seemed quick to remedy this problem after the concert ended by sucking back on numerous bottles of beer, complemented by a side of cigarettes. This was, not surprisingly, another effective way of blending into the crowd that had assembled this evening.

In encourage all to check out the Keys' music. Their website does have music clips that you can listen to, so enjoy! Find their website here


The White Stripes: Rulers of the Universe
Last Wednesday I had the priviledge of going and seeing the White Stripes in concert at the Palace Theatre in Cleveland. Much could be said of the significance of any band playing a show in Cleveland, considering rock 'n roll's strong roots in Cleveland. But, none of that shall be said here.

The White Stripes are mid-tour in support for their new album, "Get Behind Me Satan" which was released in June. Following a summer of tour dates in South and Central America, I hope the Stripes are finding a warm welcome back to the States.
At Cleveland's show, the Greenhornes from Cincinnati opened for the White Stripes, with a set of old-school boogie rock reminiscent of the peak of the British Invasion. I found their performance tight, however their energy on stage failed to bring me into their performance, so my final impression is one of neutrality. The benefit of their recordings would be the great ensemble, without having to watch them sleep-walk through a set.

The White Stripes took the stage around 8:40 (only an hour after the concert began) and true to form, wasted no time in blazing through their first several songs without so much as a moment's rest. Jack White seemed intent on hitting most of their star repertoire, so the audience was treated to renditions of "Fell in Love with a Girl," "Don't Know What to Do With Myself," "Blue Orchid," "Seven Nation Army," and "Hotel Yorba."
As I comment continually, (as my friends will atest) it's so refreshing in today's musical medocrity to find musicians who have no fear of suprises, in fact, it would seem that the White Stripes relish unforseen mechanical glitches, pulled cords and malfunctioning microphones. If something unexpected happened on stage Jack and Meg were quick to find another way of making it work.
Jack White's live guitar skills was alll that I expected it to be. Whether it was the growling, sputtering yet perfectly rhythmic playing, or the screaming solos which punctuate quite regularly in their songs, Jack blended recognizable riffs with new, improvisations, making the audience's ear perk up whenever he began squealing away. Needless to say, as an amateur guitar junkie, it was a slice of paradise.

The stage dressing for the Stripe's at the theatre was really stunning. The Palace Theatre is part of Cleveland's Playhouse Square, one of the oldest theatre districts in America. The hall only sat 1800 approximately, so it was a very intimate environment for the Stripes to play. A backdrop complete with side wings all in their signature red, white and black depicted a scene from the Garden of Eden, with a large illuminated piece of forbidden fruit hanging on the back wall. All of the White Stripe's equipment, instruments and costumes are exclusively red, white and black, and between their hardware were numerous white spray-painted potted plants, lending a very lush paradisic feel to the stage.

Having been a White Stripes fan now for three years or so, this has been my first opportunity to see them live. It was a great thrill, and it has left me wanting more! Perhaps a trip to see them in Detroit?

Prepare to have your expectations of websites liquified!
This blog will contain such truths of the universe that it is probably not wise to have small children or lap dogs near the computer when viewing this site. Any damage to body, mind, or the fabric of the universe is not intended, and is probably not long-term anyway. Proceed at your own risk!

Actually, this is just a place for me to post my ponderings on movies, music, and the world at large. I thought my own web page would be fun, but that turned out to be alot more work and effort that I thought. (I have to learn html and javascript just to make something look cool?! I don't have that type of patience. Sorry.) So you all must make due with this: a blog devoted to the movies and music that I have been paying absorbing, plus anything else that I want to talk about. And you all have to pay attention! The beauty of the internet. . .