Thursday, April 13, 2017

Josh > Me

This is Swans with "Better Than You," the opening track from White Light From The Mouth Of Infinity (1991),

I'm so glad I'm better than you
I'm so glad I'm better than you are
I'm so glad I'm better than you
I'm so glad I'm better than you are

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Visitor to Archway

A bit of a demoralizing and depressing day today, for obvious reasons. I need some coffee and I don't have any brilliant erudite and pun-ripe observations to make.

There is music for every mood. But is there music at the bottom?

For these moments, I made a mix once of all the songs that mattered to me before I was ten years old. Before puberty, before adulthood, before relationships, kids, etc. Frozen in wide-eyed childhood, parked (perched?) somewhere between toddler and boy-into-comics-but-before-girls sophomoric-journal-writer

But that mix seems a bit tedious now, all British Top 30 from the early and mid 1970s.

But I like to imagine the happiest moment in my life (well one of them anyway) being on a drive on Route 155 in Texas, sometime in March 1989. Hung over, as the white brittle clouds passed over the blue Texas skies. My head leaning to the side, while the radio station played music that eventually turned to hiss as the station disappeared in a sea of static. That static, a kind of hiss, was really the sound of happiness. For miles and miles neither of us moved the dial to find a new station, because it just seemed right to hear that filled up static and noise, mixed with the wind as it jetted over the tops of our window panes, pulled down a little bit.

Something like this, but with the volume turned down low. How it feels today.

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Favorite Movies 2016

Well, here are my favorite English-language movies of last year, ranked. With some gibberishy comments.

1. Paterson (dir. Jim Jarmusch): The movie itself works as a poem, with scenes repeated as if in rhyme, the two main protagonists waking up each morning in bed, the camera looming over them. It's a beautiful movie about the rhythms of daily life, rendered in the context of a small New Jersey town made famous for, it turns out, poetry.
2. Moonlight (dir. Barry Jenkins): Lots written about this movie. I don't have much to add. It's about one person's crisis of masculinity seen through his graduation into adulthood, but it also works as a kind of generational narrative. Most important, I think the movie is about absences, particularly the sudden and painful absences of the people who we make connections with and how those absences define us.
3. Hell or High Water (dir. David Mackenzie): People say this is a modern day Western. Maybe it is, maybe it isn't. It's set in post-2008 housing bust Texas. It's like Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid on steroids and a fantastic movie about the fast crawl to self-destruction. The context of the mortgage crisis renders it a parable about class, as effective as Grapes of Wrath.
4. Captain America: Civil War (dir. Anthony and Joe Russo): Maybe the best superhero movie since the Nolan days? It's not dark or gritty or dealing some serious neoliberal capitalist critique bullshit. It has bright colors, has an emotional center which you can get into, and wonderful comicbook panel battle scenes worthy of Jack Kirby and Steve Ditko. Also, Spiderman.
5. 20th Century Women (dir. Mike Mills): A small movie about a family in Santa Barbara, California in the late 1970s. It's got a bit of the coming-of-age boy-becomes-man kid of thing but that's not really the story. It's more about a boy's relationship to his mother at a moment when second wave feminism was in its declining phase and we're heading into the 1980s. For me, of course, this was a soundtrack to my childhood, mostly post-punk. The movie kind of captured the true dichotomy of the schism between punk and post-punk in the slogan, Black Flag vs. "artfag." And really, how could it not be great when it ended with the greatest Buzzcocks song of all time, "Why Can't I Touch It?"
6. Sing Street (dir. John Carney): Another music movie, this one about a 15-year old kid in Ireland in the mid-1980s who wants to front a band, be cool, become famous, and also, yeah, get the girl. The stylistic choices of the "band" that he forms (the Cure, Duran Duran, etc.) telescope the excitement of watching MTV in the eighties, as image and style and substance and colors and English accents collided in neat verses and choruses and gated reverb. Like 20th Century Women, it's about a moment in music that frames a boy's transition from point A to B, but a bit more ebullient and deeply touching than the former.
7. Deadpool (dir. Tim Miller): This is so meta that it's metameta. The superhero genre turned inside out. It was bound to happen of course, but the unexpected joy of this movie is that its fowl-mouthed hard-R-rated humor and ultra-violence masks a lovely and romantic story about substance over image.
8. Manchester By the Sea (dir. Kenneth Lonergan): Again, lots written about this, not much to add. What does crushing personal tragedy do to a person? Can he form a bond with another person after? These are the big questions at hand here, but there's also a lot of quiet private moments done extraordinarily well. Like, Paterson, this is a movie about that the mundane acts that make a daily life. Unlike Paterson, it is a larger tragedy that is revealed slowly, that casts a pall over the movie.
9. Zootopia (dir. Bryan Howard and Rich More): I don't want to get too political about a movie about cartoon animals who live in a utopian society, but there is a kind of latent political commentary in this movie, about difference, and the stereotypes we attach reflexively to "the other." The most relevant comparison is to Muslims but the movie could be about anything really, about gays and lesbians, about immigrants, etc. And yes, also a feminist movie at heart. But even despite all that, it works as an engaging story about the friendship between two people, an earnest do-gooder and a huckster out to swindle his way through life.
10. Dr. Strange (dir. Scott Derrickson): Surprisingly (or are we really surprised anymore?) MCU pulls out a completely different genre in the latest addition to the Marvel canon. Dr. Strange was a hard character to pull off, given his particularly odd '60s counterculture beginnings (and his '70s post-LSD hangover stories). What MCU has done to smooth out some of the edges and locate it in the current milieu. There's a whiff of Orientalism of course, but the special effects are remarkable and the performances make you care about the story and characters despite the absurdity of the premise.
11. Hidden Figures (dir. Theodore Melfi)
12. Rogue One: A Star Wars Story (dir. Gareth Edwards)
13. Denial (dir. Mick Jackson)
14. Moana (dir. Ron Clements and John Musker)
15. The Nice Guys (dir. Shane Black)
16. Star Trek Beyond (dir. Justin Lin)
17. Silence (dir. Martin Scorcese)
18. The Jungle Book (dir. Jon Favreau)
19. Ghostbusters (dir. Paul Feig)
20. The Shallows (dir. Jaume Collet-Serra)

Sunday, March 26, 2017

Josh Is Indeed Better Than Me

Today (Monday) will be a hard day. But nothing of the kind that I haven't handled before.

Some people say that music salves the soul. Is this true? I can't remember experiencing anything of the like. For the most part, music has worked as a lever of distraction, elevation, effervescence, euphoria, ennui. But music as medication? No. Not for me.

That said, I like this song. It's by a band that no longer exists. Also: The Whitest Boy Alive. Yes indeed.