Friday, September 28, 2007

good reads, ringing ears

Wendy just turned me on to, which is half book review site and half social network. Actually, I don't know if people are really contacting strangers with lines like, "Wow, I find Virginia Woolf highly overrated as well! Let's hook up!" but I hope they are.

It's kind of fun to see what your friends thought of the books you've read and vice versa, and it gives yet another opportunity for the opinionated to spout off online. (See Yelp, listservs, and, um, blogs.) I imagine that, like most of these things, it'll seem really entertaining for a couple weeks and then I'll forget about it.

I wish someone would make a site like this for movies. I'd been on that for hours.

Last night, I went with Ruxz to see the Finnish band Circle at the Bottom of the Hill, which I hadn't been to in at least six months. Still the same, only older, like everything. But wow, that was quite a lot of rock. Assembled Head In Sunburst Sound were heavy, brother, and Triclops!, well, they're fronted by John Fleshies, so you know they're going to be fun. He jumped into the audience right away, with a mic chord so long that he could wiggle on his back (while still singing) all the way into the club's kitchen. Ruxz called them "rock" but I thought up "sprock" for "speed rock" (instead of speed metal), but Zac suggest it could mean "spazz rock," which probably fit better. (Yes, it was a 347 Divis reunion. Colonize them, I dare ya.)

But Circle, well, they were hilarious and heavy. The main guy is a huge bear of a bassist, who he gets this seriously frightening look on his face when he sings, scarier than any metal poseur. The other singer looks like a skinny leather daddy, with studded leather belts and a ridiculous penchant for running in place or giving fist salutes, when not engaging the bassist in wrestling matches. (He got lifted upside down in the middle of a song.) The shredding guitarist looks exactly like Beck, and the drummer, who I swear also plays w/ Aavikko, was a skinny, non-expressive robot with a silly Lone Ranger mask on. This picture doesn't do them -- or the music, which was an unholy mix of prog, metal, jazz, and um a capella folkiness -- justice.

Friday, September 21, 2007

The Glow

I don't usually believe in auras and all that crap. But back in college, my film class watched this experimental movie that featured a woman before and after she was pregnant, and the difference was striking. She positively glowed when she was "with child." The word "radiant" doesn't begin to describe how frigging beautiful she looked. Talk about your MILFs.

Anyhoo, last Saturday Wendy and Matt got married, and it happened again. Wendy was emitting some kind of moon beams and sun showers and other weird astrological stuff. I've never seen her happier -- for a while I thought someone had slipped ecstasy into the Racer 5. They were both super happy, the kind of happy that you're not supposed to feel on your wedding day because you're stressed or little things go wrong or your second uncle-once-removed gives a questionable toast which includes references to his toejam. But they were super relaxed and glowy, and it was great to see. So, congrats, guys. I'm just sorry I don't have any photos.

Last week I met a headhunter at the bar. And she described her job as great because she was making people happy with new jobs. I had to point out that she was making other people -- their former employers -- less happy.

And then I got headhunted, probably for the first and last time, at the wedding. By my ex! You don't have that happen every day. But, for some reason, the idea of the two of us working together in a tiny office seems like maybe a bad idea. I'm just saying…

In other news, the coffee experiment has taken a turn for the worse. A couple weeks back, I said, "Screw the ulcer; I want some caffeine!" So I started drinking coffee on a regular basis, with the hope that the Kambucha would keep my stomach lining from dissolving. It was a hell of a ride. Coffee is the best work mood-enhancer since Bobby went "rolling" on New Year's Eve.

But then I started getting the headaches and the sore throats -- every day at around 6 or 7 p.m. And last night, after having coffee during the day and two cups of Chai at Naan 'N Curry on Haight, I started having intense stomach pains (and it wasn't from watching the Silver Apples guy twiddle his knobs). Eventually, they went away, but I was worried that there'd be a repeat of the Summer Camping Vomit Out a Lung Incident. So, I guess it's back to being sleepy and grumpy at work.

Hey, something else: Am I the only person in the world who didn't like Drop City? I'm reading I Am Charlotte Simmons, the newish Tom Wolfe book about a naïve mountain girl trying to navigate frat boys and lacrosse players at an elite college, and I think as satires go, it's way better than T.C. Boyle's book. But apparently I am the only one. I feel Boyle has a real distaste for his characters and that he savages them accordingly, but everyone else I've talked to thinks he likes them. Charlotte Simmons isn't the best book ever, but at least I feel sympathy towards some of the dunderheads within. Thoughts?

Friday, September 14, 2007

You've got cranky pants

You know what's a really bad movie? You've Got Mail. I know you're thinking, "My god, of course it is!" But I didn't know just how bad it was until this week.

Netfluxxx has this new deal in which you can watch certain movies for free, right there on your pooter. They offer lots of cool documentaries and a bunch of rom-coms that most people have seen already, except me. I'm trying to write a R-C, so I figured I should check out some of the "classics." Also, when I was in New York, I went to the desert place, Café Lalo, where the main characters meet -- they have 28 different kinds of cheesecake. How did I not know about this place?

Oh yeah, back to the film. Let me count the ways that this movie stinks.

First, there's the super-annoying AOL tie-in right there in the title. And you've got to listen to that nails-on-chalkboard dial-up log-on buzzing sound over and over throughout, and listen to them wax rhapsodic about it. Then there's Meg Ryan, who by this point in her career is one walking caricature of her rom-com self, with more (facial) tics than a retriever in the deep woods. And Tom Hanks is at his least likeable -- I mean, are you really supposed to root for her to fall for a guy whose big bookstore chain ran her tiny shop out of business after 47 years? Oh, he brings her flowers and allowed her the time to write a crappy children's novel. Wow, what a turn around. And another thing: Both Tom and Meg find true love by kinda cheating on their spouses. Okay, so emailing isn't cheating, but it sure ain't being too honest. And the film tries to make their transgressions not a big deal by having the least animositied break-up ever between Meg and the always-awful Greg Kinnear (will someone please put this guy out of my misery?). "Hey, I'm not in love with you either! Ha ha, man, that's a relief." If only real life were like that. One more thing: what other movie can you say wastes the talents of Dave Chappelle, Steve Zahn, AND Parker Posey? That's a lot of wasting. Bleh.

Friday, September 7, 2007


Another thing I really liked about New York was the huge amount of rep and indie theaters they had. At the IFC theater, they were hosting a Mumblecore festival. Mumblecore is the new spate of lo-fi, 20- or 30-something slacker films in which young folks act confused about relationships, jobs, bands, and the future. Andrew Bujalski is kind of the king right now, after the success of Mutual Appreciation, in which Justin Rice (from the band Bishop Allen) struggles with his ennui and his attraction to his friend's girlfriend. (Most of the movies play better than the description of their plots.)

Other examples of Mumblecore include The Puffy Chair (a great melding of the break-up and the road movie genres), Dance Party USA, and Kissing on the Mouth (by Joe Swanberg, who seems dead set on bringing naturalistic sex to the mainstream, in film and on his TV series Young American Bodies). The fest was showing all of these films, plus two new ones: Quiet City and Swanberg's Hannah Takes the Stairs.

The thing about these films is that they're not for everyone. They're probably not for a lot of people. But they're definitely for me. They're full of real, awkward moments -- some comic, some just awful -- and real people who fuck up or don't know what they're doing. Lots of parties and flirtations that go horribly wrong. Or quietly wrong. Or quietly right. They're kind like an episode of Curb Your Enthusiasm written by Richard Linklater and directed by John Cassavettes.

But some people would find them insufferable -- slow and meandering, plotless and unlikable. So when I was going to go to Hannah Takes the Stairs, I dissuaded Victoria and Alida from going with me. Which is kind of too bad, since I really loved the film, but at the same time I might not have loved it as much if I was worried that they weren't loving it. It's hard being neurotic.

Well, if Hannah comes to town, you should think about seeing it. It's funny, adorable, sad, and confounding, kind of like a puppy that barks the meaning of life.

Sunday, September 2, 2007

the old philly

I hadn't been to New York for seven years, since Russ, Vanessa, and I went to CMJ in 2000. A very different New York. Back then, Guiliani was on the ropes, there were a couple tall buildings still standing, and homeless crack addicts ruled the parks. Now, not so much.

But is it still a great place to visit? Hell yes! I stayed at the tip top of Manhattan with Alida, and we went out every night. First stop: Other Music, of course, where I bought a ridiculous amount of obscure CDs, from the likes of French 70s folkie Emmanuelle Parrenin, country-soul rebel Jim Ford, NYC proto-punks the Speedies, a French pop comp, and this weirdo percusso-Krautrock outfit Niagara. Good stuff!

We went to a ton of cool bars and restaurants, like Momofuku (tiny noodle place), 205 (the place Jefrodisiac said is for hipsters w/ beards who like disco), TK (super-tiny French place with copies of Les Rocktibles magazine in the micro-mini bathroom), and Motor City (biker hipster bar w/ great jukebox). Ryan took me to a fantastic recycle-friendly Cuban place in Brooklyn, as well as a fun bar crawling with Buppies talking about strip club etiquette and cackling into cell phones. We did not go to Coyote Ugly, but I did pass by it.

I was on the guest list for Von Iva and the Blacks at Piano's, a club in the LES (ugh) that I'd forgotten I'd been to seven years ago (saw Mirah and Calvin Johnson for free). Not so into the new, guitar-less Von Iva but Jillian did dance around and show us her pits.

Drinks are super expensive in NYC, or rather high end liquor is pricey. $12 for a shot of Patron! Damn. But the subway is cheap, even if it means you occasionally get chased by chubby cops (my weekly pass hadn't worked so I did what everyone else does and slipped thru the gate). Maybe you're wondering what the latest fashions are in NYC? Well, women seemed to be going braless a lot more. And those damn-ugly rubber Crock shoes are everywhere, and not just on the kids who don't know any better. Short hair seems to be back for the guys, but beards and 'staches are still around. Frankly, I felt like the hipsters in SF were more interesting looking, but maybe I didn't go to the right places. Hell, I hear Philly is the new Brooklyn, so maybe everyone's rocking it there. Oh yeah, all the ladies were sporting fancy rubber booties. This woman's are blurry because she was running in a dog park, possibly being chased by a crackhead but probably not (that's so 1989).

Rolf and Michelle came down from Providence and we hooked up with Victoria to go to Coney Island. You might recall how I lost my wallet on the Cyclone rollercoaster back in 1998, the night after Ryan had hers stolen at that go go club. Well, this time I was prepared, and shook my head sadly at the guy who wasn't, as he worked his way back through the line to ask about his wallet, muttering, "Worst day ever." If you look closely you can see Rolf in this pic.

We didn't play Freak the Geek or whatever it is (kids shoot paintballs at a guy in a mask, shield, and jockstrap, while a guy with a thick accent mutters "Shoot 'im in da pickle, he likes dat" into a microphone. We did smack the punching bag and arm wrestle the statue, but they were both "broken" so we couldn't tell if we were wimps or pimps.

I think the Ferris Wheel is much scarier than the Cyclone, as the cars swing, making you think you're going to slide right off the rails. Here's Victoria grimacing as we almost go over.

After, we partied at PS1, a high school renovated into a museum, where Ryan's sister's boyfriend's 15-person disco band was playing an outside show. Here's a pretty amazingly synced video they did using Muppets footage.

Anyhoo, I wish I'd taken photos, because we sat on these hammocks and watched the parade of Eurotrash and Brooklyn/Queens hipsters for hours. It was like Burning Man, without all the nudity and hippies and fratboys. Then we went to a beach bar and drank with fratboys. Here's Ryan, looking very mod.

I went to a ton of museums too. Saw some cool dinosaurs, like the precursor to the armadillo, and a really effect film shot in 1969 or so, which featured the pictures and names of every US soldier who died in one week in Vietnam. Made me think someone should do that for Iraq.

I spent the last couple days at Christian's place in the LES, where he had cockroaches the size of a VW bus. And they were living in the fridge. That was rather surprising. The last day, I hung out in Washington Square Park for hours, watching the freshman NYU students scurry around. I can't imagine going to NYC as an 18-year-old; I would've been too freaked. But NYC is a cleaner, safer place now -- hell, I only had five guys ask if I wanted to buy "smoke."

Anybody know anyone who would want to house swap next spring?