by Wallace Stevens
I placed a jar in Tennessee,
And round it was, upon a hill.
It made the slovenly wilderness
Surround that hill.
The wilderness rose up to it,
And sprawled around, no longer wild.
The jar was round upon the ground
And tall and of a port in air.
I took dominion everywhere.
The jar was gray and bare.
It did not give of bird or bush,
Like nothing else in Tennessee.
Wednesday, April 25, 2007
by Wallace Stevens
Tuesday, April 17, 2007
by Leile One
In case you haven’t heard, Boston is a baseball town. It’s the biggest baseball town in America, partly because there isn’t much else going on around here. The Red Sox victory in the 2004 World Series has merely accelerated an already-existent penchant for America’s Pastime that has been around here since Babe Ruth signed that traitorous contract and donned the pinstripes of the New York Yankees, hundreds of years ago. Local loyalty to The Sox reaches comical proportions daily; often one is unsure whether to laugh or whether to puke about it. Well, that’s how it is for an import, at least, like me. I find myself in New England rather accidentally, after about ten years in the San Francisco Bay Area. I guess the whole phenomenon isn’t so crazy for someone who grew up around here.
Upon arrival, the Japanese media is in full effect. Vans equipped with satellites and television cameras line the block, broadcasting who-knows-what to lord knows what time zone. The local white people are also in full effect, same as it ever was. They are on their way inside, for the most part. The rest of us will play the outsiders, relegated to the outskirts of the ballpark, thousands of miles from, say, the Oakland Coliseum, where a major league baseball game can be watched in person easily for ten bucks. You must plan in advance for tickets to Fenway, way far in advance, or else you must be a business client of some sort of season ticket holder. No matter how hard the Red Sox try and pose as a “blue collar everyman’s team”, the facts remain. Tickets to Fenway are reserved for the elite, while even Yankees Stadium seats can be obtained by us proles for a reasonable price by comparison.
It’s almost game time. Sausage salesmen on the Avenue are beefing up their sales pitches. The smell of the cart-meat is dizzying, relentless in its deliciousness. Expensive, savory scents assault us, the stuff that little boys dream of. Speaking of which, the kids are in abundance this evening. They grip the palms of their fathers, their important fathers with crisp collars and good tickets, on their way to a baseball game that will live in their memories forever. This is a New England rite of passage, the passing on of the Red Sox Virus which guarantees the sickness will live on in the tradition of a whole new generation. Enjoy your ice cream cone, young Whitey…
I step inside the Cask n’ Flagon, the traditional townie bar of the Red Sox Nation. I want to see the initial Ichiro vs. Dice-K match up as much as the next guy. A beer is procured from the bald-head guy at the counter, and I settle in to absorb the first at bat. Whoomp, there it is. Ichiro dribbles a nothing little ball bouncer into the glove of Matsuzaka, who throws him out at first base, no problem. Highly anti-climactic, but that’s okay. We’ve got another 8 and two-thirds innings of baseball ahead of us.
When it comes time for the Red Sox bats to come to the plate, all of a sudden, I become aware of something else. Felix Hernandez is pitching for the Seattle Mariners: he’s perhaps the best pitcher throwing in the game right now whose name isn’t Johan Santana. Why hasn’t more hype been generated around Felix’s involvement in this whole charade? Felix Hernandez, the phenomenal pitcher for the Seattle Mariners who just turned 21 three days ago. He’s a clear-cut candidate for the Cy Young award this year. And his annual salary rings in at a mere $420,000, pennies compared to what the bigass bankroll BoSox paid for Dice-K’s presence in 2007 (around $9 million, not including local business endorsements). And nobody from Boston has even heard of this kid. Their one-track minds revolve strictly within the orbits of Yankees and Red Sox solar systems.
An hour later, Hernandez has pitched six innings of no-hit baseball. He has made obsolete all of the nationwide and local press about the Matsuzaka-versus-Ichiro showdown this evening. And he’s done so humbly, at a salary exponentially smaller than his huge-hype counterparts. He’s a kid from Venezuela, a People’s Republic devoid of the ridiculousness of the American and Japanese media worlds. The Red Sox Hype Machine: unsightly, merciless, a slobbering behemoth whose hunger knows no rational limits of satiation. It stumbles along and makes meaningless any sort of national or worldwide news on the cover of the local daily papers, with oversized portraits of grey-clad pitchers on the mound or batters in the box. The big news always centers upon what the Red Sox did yesterday.
David Ortiz to the plate, with predictable cheers from every Bud Light swallower in the room. “Big Papi gonna hit the ball haahd,” I am assured by the gentleman occupying the bar stool next to mine. Likely he would punch the face of anyone who told him otherwise. Big Papi, spokesperson for the Lobster Sandwich at D’Angelo’s, the local chain equivalent of a Subway or Quizno’s (yes, we also have both of those. But any true-blooded Bostonian goes for the ‘lo’s, brudduh). Papi swings gallantly, with every ounce of strength he could be expected to muster, thwacking a fistful of dead air. He is sent back to the dugout with the bat between his legs. Lobster Sandwich sales remain unaffected at the time of this publication.
The famous Citgo sign watches over Fenway, sees it all. There is a local movement to boycott Citgo, since it is supposedly run by communist Venezuelans. Paradoxically, the Bostonians harbor a special fondness for the Citgo sign; it represents us, for better or for worse. We will never turn off that sign, it stays lit like the torch of liberty, despite a local politician’s suggestion that we unplug the fucker in a show of disapproval for international happenings. Hugo Chavez laughs at the whole spectacle, with glimmering eyes indicating the looming Latin uprising brewing down south, so far south that it might as well be another planet. But the fear remains. We shall boycott Citgo gasoline, but keep its sign illuminated as a Boston landmark. We shall represent Patriotism by all means, in the face of logic and rationality, while being safely blanketed under the guise of “We’re a fucking Blue State, hence liberal.” We are Boston, hear us roar.
I sit at the bar nursing a Sam Adams lager, considering these as well as other things. How am I going to write a story about this evening? I will attempt to avoid mentioning the other aspects of Boston which provide so much daily annoyance. I will intentionally omit details of the horrifically stagnant local music scene. I’ll be polite to neglect the discussion of how the city shuts down at 2am, without diner or coffee shop to wet the late night appetite of those of us who like to roam the wee hours from time to time. I won’t even bring up the weak ass clam chowder, the staple food of the legendary New England kingdom. Yeah, I said it – I for one prefer a sourdough breadbowl of thick wonderfulness from San Francisco’s Fisherman’s Wharf, when it comes to that. The stuff around here is watery, flavorless at best. But I’m not planning to bring that up in the piece. For this is a story of baseball…
Final score: 3 to zero, Seattle Mariners. But tomorrow is always another day in the Red Sox Nation, the sun growing warmer as summer approaches. The mania will rise as the thermometers redden, and the city grows more and more unbearable as the days go by. Loud working class town folk, quiet white collar yuppies…both increase their stranglehold on the city in subtle ways. The Birthplace of America stands as the representative of everything that sucks about it. And the game goes on, rest assured…
Monday, April 16, 2007
Erupting with an anti-audience escapade parade of heavy-metal candy-stand refreshments and continuing to an Egypt millions of years ago that happens to also be New York at 3 pm and filled with shake-drinking Sphinxes and modern airplanes roaring overhead the titular trio’s throw down with an oversized poodle with laser eyes, Aqua Teen Hunger Force Colon Movie Film For Theatres says it quite clear right up front: Trying to make sense of Aqua Teen Hunger Force Colon Movie Film For Theaters is tough—and mostly pointless. The joy of the film is that, in delirious out-of-left-field tangents, there is no real point. The movie wants your money and that’s it. Once you’re in the seat, they’ve got your money and that’s about all that matters, really, when it comes to, uh, the real world.
In the “Aqua Teen” world, however, forget about logic. There’s nothing coherent—even the exposition. Or, as much exposition as there is crammed into the 86 minutes, none of it holds any water: it’s all made up all the time. So, it’s at once a hilarious trip from a nowhere New York to a nowhere New Jersey shore castle and an exercise in “How much absurdity can we thrust on the audience and see if they’ll play along?”
I have my doubts whether or not the stoner set this film is obviously marketed towards will even like this thing. The “Aqua Teen” show is really hit-or-miss but when it hits it hits hard, in twelve minutes or less. Stretching that much freakish inanity to a feature-length film might sour the go-nowhere joy of the giddy late-night target audience. However, as the movie-film plays on its audience’s expectations, I may be plain wrong: it may be the surprise blunt-hit of the spring. Chances are, sober or not, previous fan or not, you’ll laugh—even if you don’t know why. But the why is hardly important. As a surreal experience, you should simply abandon yourself to it and see where you wind up. It’s kind of like submitting yourself to the best headache around: it hurts but you keep smiling, bewildered.
What then, you may ask, will we be submitting ourselves to? Well, since there’s no real plot to follow, I don’t know how to answer that other than there’s one event after another after another and each calls attention to itself, to its falsity and to its hilarity. Even if you don’t enjoy yourself watching this movie-film, you can’t deny these stoners know exactly what they’re doing. And what they’re doing it something both profoundly stupid and profoundly brilliant in its surreal, nonsensical approach. Since nothing connects, the dis-logic approaches Dada heights, employing that very anarchic and irrational attack on art one associates with Ernst and Duchamp. This movie is a toilet with the word toilet scrawled all over its jagged 2-D curves and flash-animation explosions. There’s a lot of explosions.
[The review is supposed to be available here but The Daily Californian's website is mostly unreliable.]
02007: 86 minutes: written and directed by Matt Maiellaro and Dave Willis
Tuesday, April 10, 2007
Late Night e-mail/s for the Day: Pan's Labyrinth and the uselessness of empty, cruel violence onscreen.
[This is the Pale Man, he's so stupid he can't fuck you up.]
[It's been said before but goddamn if I can't help but contribute this, however hateful, to the discussion of why Pan's Labyrinth blows. When Travis Mackenzie Hoover called it "thoroughly mediocre" his generosity may have been more on point but I feel like this movie epitomizes what I don't like in movies, along with Sin City. There's no joy and there's no real "honesty" or "truth" illuminated, as people seem to think. So, without any editing, here's my diatribe, followed by a reply from my friend and brilliant colleague, Steve Boone, with his permission. If you think either of us is full of shit, let us know -- but be smart about it and prepared to stake your claim with some sure footing. Rag on me all you want about falling asleep but shit, this movie is not only horrific -- it's bullshit boring and, worst, banal when shooting for profound.]
From: Ryland Walker Knight
To: more than a few people
Subject: pan's labyrinth
shitty. so much shitty shit -- and pointless gore. a fucking lazy bore to boot. how can a movie with that much 'action' be so stultifying? i fell asleep and woke up at one point and i totally didn't miss a beat. seriously. i'm starting to think violence isn't cool in general -- but especially not like that, when it's all cruelty, kinda like with 'sin city'. the reason the violence works in tarantino movies (and 'death proof' especially) is cuz there's a weight to it and it's motivated by SOMETHING from a brain (well, a lot of things, and the way he makes movies helps load the images a lot).
this movie thinks it's got a brain for profundity when all it's got is an eye for comic book compositions and annoying editing. i get it already. i'd watch 'planet terror' five times before seeing this POS again. all those pretty ladies and the cute little girl (and even sergi lopez) are wasted cuz the movie just doesn't have any kind of wit or gravity. when it's got that voice over saying you learn about life through its cruelties or some bullshit i was way beyond checked out but jesus christ, give me a break. i can learn about life when i'm fucking laughing, too. i wish i'd brought 'life aquatic' with me, or '8 1/2'. maybe i'll go grab 'inside man' or something to make me smile.
gimme 'spirited away' any day. there was another movie i thought of, another alice in wonderland type, that did this whole mess a lot better, but i can't remember right now. whatever.
Grade: D minus
From: Steven Boone
To: Ryland Walker Knight
Suject: Re: pan's labyrinth
sight unseen, I have to say Amen. I've been formulating my own theories about screen violence, and they run counter to Tarantino's ethic. But I think QT's actual filmmaking runs counter to his theory that gratuitous violence is cinematic. He's the guy that dollied away from the ear-slicing in Reservoir Dogs and made us feel the victim's misery.
Audiences don't know why they love QT either. All my thug homeboys who worshipped Pulp Fiction (and Goodfellas) when I was coming out of film school thought they adored it for the flippant brutality, but it's really beloved for its vitality. In Kill Bill, when Vivica Fox has Uma Thurman in a choke hold in vibrant, hot-lit anamorphic widescreen, its an ecstatically alive moment. They could have been doing anything at that moment-- baking cookies or fucking (even BETTER)-- so long as there's intense motivation, which as you said, is what QT tends to provide in spades.
Meanwhile, you've got elaborately production designed-to-death arthouse "grownup fables" like Pan's Labyrinth that, yep, use grisly imagery to convey some bullshit sense of unblinking "honesty."
Don't get me started. Long and short of it, there are filmmakers and there are image makers. A lot of the eye candy movies in recent years were made by directors who really need to be commercial photographers. Or crime scene photogs.
Can you tell I just saw 300? ugh
Saturday, April 07, 2007
by Ryland Walker Knight
It’s a shame Quentin Tarantino is so tight with Robert Rodriguez. Grindhouse, their new joint opus of nonsense, doesn’t have to be coherent by design but it’s so backloaded by Tarantino’s brilliant Death Proof that one wishes one could just skip over Rodriguez’s inane Planet Terror to get to the good stuff right away. Much how Kill Bill was mostly spoiled by its marketing split (it deserves to be three hours, unlike this mess), Death Proof is tainted by an apparent geek-out greed fest. As we’ve been given it, as the backend segment of Grindhouse’s carnival of idiocy, Death Proof’s glee almost erases Planet Terror’s numbing parade of bad choices; had it stood alone, Death Proof would be one of the best American movies of the year.
The problem with Planet Terror (and all of Rodriguez’s movies, really) is he’s not quite as smart as he thinks, nor does he try to be as smart as he thinks he’s attempting to be. His idea of playing with the audience is to spoon-feed it clichés with a smile and pat them on the back for recognizing said clichés. It’s not really post-modern as much as post-thought. He does do casting right, however, and to see Jeff Fahey and Michael Biehn play brothers is something of a treat, even if it tastes kind of shitty and looks like gruel. Really, though, I doubt I’ll spoil it by saying, yes, Rodriguez goes there and name drops not only the US involvement in Afghanistan but Osama Bin Laden — and, as expected, it is hardly a novel surprise to make the government the ultimate evil or kill off key characters late in the third act. And Rodriguez is fully aware of this since each turn is wholly schematic — and banal. So, watching Planet Terror is kind of like saying “D’uh!” for 90 minutes.
There’s a little light ahead when three fake trailers are shoehorned in between the features (there’s also one that opens the, uh, experience) that are almost worth something. At the least, the one made by Edgar Wright (of Shaun of the Dead fame), called Don’t, shares a similar wit and skill with Death Proof that, briefly, shows you all the possibilities of this trash genre Tarantino has so expertly perfected: a hyper-awareness of the medium manifest through puns (visual and auditory) and the silly joy of watching movies.
Death Proof’s first great move shows the delicious Vanessa Ferlito racing up a flight of stairs holding her crotch saying, “I have to take the biggest fucking piss of all time.” We’ve just watched a movie and this implicates the audience — of course! we need to pee, too! — so, whether or not those in attendance do, in fact, need to urinate they’ve already begun to think about it. Later, closer to the end but before the quite literal climax (more later), Rosario Dawson is told to stay in the backseat of a car and has a door slammed on her dialogue as she pleads, “But I really have to piss!” Tarantino knows people are watching this and those people are people with bodies and fears and needs and, being whip-smart like his most obvious influence Godard, he plays with his ever captive audience and its bodies and fears and needs. I really had to piss too.
For all his fanboy inanity and no matter his actual intentions, Tarantino, unlike his buddy Rodriguez, makes smart films that are fully aware of the film medium — and how it works onscreen, and on an audience. His films demonstrate his realization that film is not necessarily or primarily a narrative vehicle. The narrative is always subsumed by the spectacle in an unexpected, peculiar fashion. Despite this insistence on visuals, however, there’s a greater insistence on words, as in Godard. Both these filmmakers toy with narrative progression to the point where it’s hardly important but each knows how to make it resound with the audience, somehow, dramatically or not. Again similar to Godard, Tarantino’s films appear narrative but are really outright incidental captures: things just happen. And a lot of those things are awful.
Death Proof stars Kurt Russell as Stuntman Mike, owner of a black 1971 Chevy Nova, who may or may not really have been a stuntman and says he was on a lot of television shows from the 1970s. But the young girls he’s telling his story to have no idea what he’s talking about. His story isn’t validated, he’s not trustworthy. He’s just some creepy dude with sideburns, a frightening scar along the left side of his face, a goofy pompadour, a satin rainbow driving jacket and a badass muscle car. The Hostel director Eli Roth cameos long enough to say Stuntman Mike must have cut his face falling out of his time machine. Our knowledge that this is an homage (and campy send-up) is winked at once again.
Yet, try as he may, Tarantino’s attempts at camp always play earnest. His best film, 1997’s Jackie Brown, is a similar homage/send-up of a similar exploitation genre but it plays it straight at all times, even with the deadpan jokes (even Chris Tucker). The few times Jackie Brown gets a wicked grin and winks at the audience it’s not for any camp value, it’s for love, as in its deadly final sing-a-long scene. Death Proof’s signature camp moment is pure joy but also one of menacing hollowness: Kurt Russell stands at the door to his so-called “Death proof” vehicle (which, from the inside, appears empty and made chiefly of metal roll bars), watches his target car drive away and then turns his head to look straight into the camera for that wicked grin that erupts into a laugh. Of course he’s going to kill. But this glee is the scary thing. It’s important to note, though, Stuntman Mike’s glee is not Tarantino’s glee. Mike’s first kill is horrific, not orgasmic. That comes later.
In what may be the biggest formal stroke of brilliance in Death Proof, the movie is split in two like its host, Grindhouse. And, as the film only gets better, the second half of the second half — while name-dropping and visually quoting Vanishing Point by way of a very specific car — is unlike anything else, yet the same as everything else in movies: it is the joy of movies. It’s what Kill Bill should and could have been. Simply, it’s a movie about chasing tail that chases tails all over the map and yet, oddly, while chaotic, it's more unrelenting and rigorous than Cronenberg’s Crash. It’s fucking absurd. It adores the absurdity. And it’s absurd how much fun it is to see so much terror and wreckage and, most shocking, the glee of it all its bloody fallout. We forget we have to pee and we surrender to the hell ride. We almost want to be Zoe Bell (Uma Thurman’s stand-in for a lot of Kill Bill’s stunts) out there on the hood, defying death, proving she’s the one who’s death proof, clinging taut and lithe to centimeters of iron. (Tarantino’s nimble camera adores her limbs, too.) And like Rosario Dawson’s ever-widening smile, we get giddy, we are overcome, we tap that ass and we shoot our hands to the sky!
When Tracie Thoms’ Kim smashes the 1970 Dodge Challenger 440 (with a white paint job) through an out-of-water, abandoned boat stranded aside the road and Dawson screams, “Did you just hit a boat?!” the absurdity is eruptive. Seconds later Thoms yells “I’m the horniest motherfucker on the road!” That Death Proof ends in a devastating orgy of blood can’t come as a surprise but it certainly is a welcome release. Tarantino’s film ends abruptly, like the jarring absence of the missing reels (another possibility Rodriguez plain ruins and Tarantino nails), but, being sudden, we aren’t allowed to question the spectacle — it’s its right to do that, just as it’s the women’s right to do what they do, however terrifying. Still, it’s too bad I had to sit through Planet Terror beforehand.
[This is Quentin Tarantino, he will fuck you up.]
02007: 191 minutes: written and directed by Quentin Tarantino & Robert Rodriguez and Edgar Wright, Rob Zombie & Eli Roth.
Friday, April 06, 2007
Tuesday, April 03, 2007
by Leile One
Yes, yes, y’all – straight from the mess hall…I have just returned to the States from a refreshing blast through Western Europe. Sure, we saw some museums over there and some foreign rap music and everything, but what was really interesting was the food. Basically, they eat really wild shit over there, ALL the time. For instance:
Pannenkoekenhuis Upstairs. “Pancake House Upstairs”. This is the real IHOP, if one indeed existed. You go up these stairs that are more like climbing a ladder than climbing stairs, I’m talking HELLA steep. There you are greeted by this guy - he is both the proprietor and the one who makes the cakes. It’s actually like you’re hanging out in this dude’s kitchen while he’s cooking up some marvelous shit, rather than sitting in a restaurant. There are only about four tables in the whole place, so we were lucky to have available seating immediately. I ordered the bacon and apple pancake, and put syrup on it just like normal, which worked out surprisingly well. You can also get such dishes as salami, cheese and tomato pancake. Or perhaps pear, egg nog, chocolate sauce, and whipped cream pancake is more your steez. Either way, you can get it here.
Febo. Just how impersonal could food get? Febo is one of the main fast food chains in the Netherlands, known as an “automatiek” type of establishment. Basically the restaurant is one gigantic vending machine; the food sits in these little illuminated warming-boxes and if you put the proper amount of money in you can open the door and have it. There is nowhere to sit in there and the overt philosophy is “buy the food and get the fuck out of here”. They sell regular stuff like chicken sandwiches and pile of french fries, for the most part. I’m surprised this idea hasn’t caught on in America yet. In fact, I read on Wikipedia that America did have automats like these back in the early 1900’s: for a time, they were the hip places to go eat. Predictably, the rise of the “drive-thru” format with Americans and their cars ended up pushing these mostly out of existence within our cities back in the 1950’s.
Mayonnaise. The rumors about how the Europeans really go crazy for mayonnaise are, strangely, not at all exaggerated. When I told people I was from America, the first thing they would comment on is how “That’s where they invented mayonnaise,” or “You come from the land of mayonnaise,” and so forth. And I’m like, word, but if anything, THIS is the land of mayonnaise. You don’t see us putting it on hot dogs and shit…goddam.
Pile of hallucinogenic mushrooms. Yep, it’s for real. In Amsterdam, you can cold buy a bag of psilocybe cubensis ‘shrooms like it was straight groceries, no problem. You can get them at virtually any coffee shop, along with your hash and your Northern Lights and what have you. Or, perhaps more amusingly, you can go to a specific store called “Magic Mushroom”, which specializes in herbal druggery. Can you imagine the bizarre sensation of purchasing a bag of ‘shrooms from a fiftysomething white woman, who urged us to “Have fun wid’ it”? The store also sells other crazy shit, like this “herbal speed” which you snort just like the real meth, except it’s made out of plants or something. They have a trial version right on the counter, which you are invited to make lines out of and sniff with these little pastel-colored sniffy-straws they provide. Not as good as the real thing, but it did put a little pep in my step. Thanks!
Katja Biggetjes. Roughly translated, this means “gummy pig heads”. The company also makes other gummy animal heads, like Gummy Ape Head (“Katja Apekoppen”), and Chewy Panda heads. These are delicious but pretty intense in a way, and eating them while tripping on the mushrooms I mentioned earlier presented a special challenge. They were just so CHEWY, to the point that eventually I was like, “I can’t deal with this. I can’t consume these right now.” And then I spit an un-chewed pig head into the wastebasket and was just standing there, staring at it, like “why is this a food that exists”. Then I convinced myself that Katja Biggetjes is probably rich in various vitamins, seeing as how it’s made of real fruit, and things seemed okay after that.
Sunday, April 01, 2007
Wherein, Ryland offers up some of his favorite findings on youtube after some rambling. Not novel or new or anything--these just make him giggle. Why did I use the third person? Ah fuck I'm tired. I need to laze about for yet another week. Good thing I don't have a job and I go to school three days a week and Lightning Bolt is playing in Oakland the same night as the A's home opener.
I guess I should warn that there are major *spoilers* from video 5 onwards. SO! On with the show.
Check back soon for a travelogue through Mexico City. However, we make no promises as to when that will actually hit the interweb. In lieu, in the interim, to whet your appetite (for destruction?), here's some of why I miss Seattle, even though this was a one-shot type of deal. (Although, we should totally make that music video for CHINESE, Mike.)