Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Speech acts for the late night.

by Ryland Walker Knight


I'm far too tired this week to offer much more beyond: Esther Kahn is one of The Great Things. This scene in particular hits me in all the right spots. This scene, like the film as a whole, makes my ideas about acting in the world seem redundant and old hat, nothing new. But I guess that's why I dig Adrian Martin and Andrew Klevan and what they offer us in this conversation almost as much as I dig Wittgenstein and Austin and Cavell—and Summer Phoenix. She's just perfect here, isn't she? Wrecks me something fierce, too, Zach; and then it builds me up again with the drop of a curtain and a carriage clopping forward.

Monday, November 17, 2008

A matter of scale and color: Lola Montes

by Ryland Walker Knight

talkin spectacular blues

Max Ophuls' final film, the legendary Lola Montes, will grace Bay Area screens starting November 19th: at San Francisco's Castro Theatre, at San Rafael's Smith Rafael and at Berkeley's Rialto Elmwood. I saw it at the Castro. I cannot stress the importance of size enough. On such a grand scale as the Castro offers, all those screens Ophuls shoots through—like curtains, gates, stove pipes—become supple folds in the conjunction of space; his cinema of things is too full to be seen small. Another thought: I couldn't quite shake how much Paul Thomas Anderson seems to inherit from Ophuls' roving, snaking camera that hovers through life's stages. Also, color. Lots of lots of color—as punctuation, as affect, as paint in the image, as a reminder (at every moment) that your eyes are being directed. This issue seems crucial, and unexplored in any explicit terms in my piece, which can be found at The Auteurs' Notebook. I trust some morsels will shine through my hi-jinks.

style and grace, scandal
what a bust
[Martine Carol was teh hottness. Bonus!]

Sunday, November 16, 2008

VINYL IS PODCAST #6: A waltz is a fault; like, falling.

by Ryland Walker Knight and Mark Haslam and Jennifer Stewart

turn away

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Today we saw Waltz With Bashir at the Landmark Embarcadero as the final film in the 3rd Annual SF International Animation Festival. It took us even longer to get home this time but, after some food, we talked on digital tape again. Last week's podcast saw us working through a very common reaction to Kaufman's film. This week we were more hesitant and disparate, largely because of Waltz With Bashir's traumatic ending. Juxtaposed with stunning animation, we struggled to account for the shock of its ultimate loss. Or at least, some of us did.... Ry's earlier thoughts can be read by clicking here, and we would also recommend the ever-astute Michael Koresky as well. Thanks for listening! Here's some songs; go buy them, too.

The Books - There Is No There
Squarepusher - Massif (Stay Strong)

Sunday, November 09, 2008

VINYL IS PODCAST #5: More synecdoches, more f-words, more more.

by Ryland Walker Knight and Mark Haslam and Jennifer Stewart

a look-see

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[SPOILER WARNING IN EFFECT. There's no other way to talk about the thing, is there, Walter? Seriously, if you want to preserve the experience, don't listen. However, as we try to argue in the podcast, there's no way, really, to "spoil" this thing. For one, it's sour to begin with...]

RWK here. On our third podcast, Mark and I discussed his first take on Charlie Kaufman's Synecdoche, New York (as well as Jean Eustache and, briefly, Jia Zhang-Ke), with Mark saying, "I liked it enough to not have an opinion of it right away." (He then put that reaction into some written words.) What I took and take that exit-poll impulse to mean is that he didn't feel it necessary to simply say, "I liked it," or, "I didn't like it," say to make a declaration of value. Because it's undeniable: this is a grand old meditation on major themes and concerns that continue to sprout up in cinema and, yes, in life. It's bound to shake, rattle and roll some souls. It's equally bound to simply turn off a large percentage of its audience, no matter its wit, right up front with some ugly images of festering decay and disease. Literally: dis-ease. There's little comfort in this film, although there are a lot of jokes. So, what does one do with this little beast? Well, we went straight home and talked on digital tape. We tried to form our opinions live. Of course, like the film, our conversation splintered and, in a way, as is always the case with words, it failed; or, it failed to resolve. And yet—even though an hour is a lot to ask of you, our faithful listeners—I think this is our best podcast yet.

The look-see: I'm torn between the two poles. The repugnance of the film is somewhat remarkable, even admirable, but it's still repugnant. It wallows as much as it falls away from the viewer. Not that I know them, but I understand why people like Walter Chaw and Manohla Dargis and Andrew "Filmbrain" Grant rhapsodize Kaufman's achievement, such as it is, with this picture; on the flips, an element of me was eager to indulge the "piss off" stance of my buddy Keith Uhlich, but not the "fuck you" of Rex Reed (no link needed for that bile). For all the yucky destitution of narcissistic projection, for all the death and dying, for all that kinda bores me (as well as Jen) with all that, there are some truly great moments, and cool tropes, as can be expected with Kaufman. The narcissistic projection, for one, works brilliantly: Philip Seymour Hoffman's Caden reading books as he imagines them, seeing himself in pharmaceutical ads and, um, building that massive and ever-receding and ever-multiplying theatre space. Add to that, that unlike Mark, I had an immediate and positive response to the film's negotiation with time: I think its fractal nature, with time splintering, works to exemplify its title; this is not a film about endurance. Caden does not endure lost time, he just keeps living in spite of himself, in spite of all the pills he takes and the cane he adopts and the losses that pile up (in the fucking street, no less) around him on his pathetic plodding towards death. In one way, I could probably develop a passion for this film as an argument in negative, as this is how not to live, since the film seems to understand this, but, at the same time, the film does ask us to spend our time with cumbersome and base decomposition.

If all a critic is to do is to tell you to see a film or not, then there's no two ways about it: I would say go for a run instead. But, as I understand it, my job, such as it is, such as I may be a critic (as much as simply a thoughtful person), is to argue for significance—indeed, for understanding—within the object over against of the object. So it's a tough spot. I'd like you to listen to our conversation, and I'd like it to continue, here in the comments as much as in future episodes, but I'd also like to remind you, that, yes, it's good and fun to go live in the world. And, you know, that Lola Montes talks about all these ideas, too, and it'll be playing at the Castro next week. For more on that film, though, you'll have to wait for a link. So, instead of that recommendation, I can just as easily (yes, with greater ease), turn to the other film I held up (perhaps foolishly) against Synecdoche in our podcast talk: David Lynch's INLAND EMPIRE. About 35 minutes into this hour-long talk we offer to you, I say, "I love INLAND EMPIRE for a lot of the same reasons I think a lot of people will love this movie. And they should. If this movie turns you on, and you find a lot of resonance with you, that is great—I'm not gonna try to take that away from you. Um, this is just, you know, this is just this. It's just three people—two of us are drinking beer—and, you know, but, INLAND EMPIRE, to me, is about everything that's going on in this movie, and it's a much more joyful thing. And a lot of it boils down to that. For me. Definitely. And that gets into a lot of goofy relativism right there, just saying, 'For me.'" But, as I couldn't formulate last night, all art is, in an basic way, experienced narcissistically, for the me that you are wherever you stand in relation to a film or a painting or a screenplay or a song or a novel or a dance. The trickiest part is to account for your self—to question your "me"—in a fun way, to be thoughtful and hilarious at the same time. Now I don't know if we're exactly hilarious here, but you'll here me laugh a lot in this, and, hell, that's good enough for me.

fire is red

This episode's intro and outro songs, for your downloading pleasure:

Friday, November 07, 2008

Baggy like a house, and running away. Playing catch-up with Arnaud Desplechin’s My Sex Life... and Kings and Queen.

By Ryland Walker Knight

ma vie sexuellerois et reine

NOTE, 9/24/2011: I decided to repost this in its entirety here because the formatting on the new Slant-housed HND post is all screwy. I trust Keith won't mind.

I am not alone, I am certain, in coming late to the Arnaud Desplechin party poised to jump off this winter. His latest film, A Christmas Tale, already garnered plenty of accolades from those lucky enough to see it at Cannes and/or the NYFF (two takes I dig: GK's gushing and MK's lucidity). It played in San Francisco last month, too, at the Clay, as centerpiece of the San Francisco Film Society’s inaugural French Cinema Now program (dig MG's interview, too). I missed it, on purpose—I was watching Jia Zhang-Ke’s The World across the Bay—because I knew it would be released soon, and would probably be a big deal. Looks like the case; the snowball is gathering speed and size. This election week saw not just something righteous for our country but also, on a decidedly smaller scale (like, minuscule, dude), the start of IFC Center’s current Desplechin retrospective, Every Minute, Four Ideas, as a build-up to next Friday’s New York release of A Christmas Tale. Lucky for me, I got to see two of the other Desplechin films shown at the Clay: his rare debut, the deliciously abrupt La vie des morts (more Maya), and his calling card, perhaps, My Sex Life… or how I got into an argument. Since then I’ve revisited My Sex Life, on Fox Lorber’s abominable DVD release, as well as his 2004 freight-train Kings and Queen. Smart cinephiles that they are over there, the IFC Center has programmed both of these for this weekend, including the possibility of one rich, long, seductive, dark-all-day double bill on Sunday.

Early in My Sex Life, Mathieu Amalric’s Paul Dedalus talks with his cousin, Bob (Thibault de Montalembert can grin), about Bob’s new girlfriend, Patricia (Chiara Mastrionni may be more irresistible than her mom)—specifically about how great her ass looks—and Bob asks Paul to be more inspiring, to quote someone. Paul counters with Kierkegaard: “Is there anything more sparkling, more dizzying than the possible?” It’s easy to see Desplechin in this madness: his films are giddy with cinema, brimming past the point you think they should reach for only to delight you with more, more possibilities and more actual delights, more concrete details to complete the picture. Like Truffaut, whom he acknowledges as monumental and inspirational, Desplechin makes films that look simple at first but (pace Kent Jones) take on a protean charge, eager to move into something new, to grab hold of a moment, if briefly, before rushing forward. My Sex Life... is nearly three hours long but it never flags; it pauses, it fades, but it never halts; it asks to be followed; and it’s so goddamned endearing, so charming, that it would be foolish to resist. Or, that’s how I feel. See, it’s hard for me to separate myself from Desplechin’s films. They invite the viewer, much like Truffaut, very much unlike Godard or Rivette, yet it’s not simple and naïve assimilation. Of course, it’s easy to weep looking at a mirror, and I have, but, for every reflection, Desplechin offers at least three more angles on any given scene-space. It’s that maxim the IFC Center has appropriated, which Desplechin initially appropriated from a letter Truffaut wrote to Jean Gruault, screenwriter of L’enfant sauvage: every minute, four ideas. What makes Desplechin so vibrant (yes, violent, too) is his commitment to the speed of this creed within a grand architecture of cinema.

My Sex Life... should promise, mathematically at least, 688 ideas; I did not count, but it feels like there are more. That’s a lot to contend with, and it’s easier in the watching than in this writing, which is funny because Paul, our ostensible hero, opens the picture sleepwalking, refusing to finish his doctorate, refusing to write, because, well, just because: because it’s tough work. It’s easier to wallow in pretension and hurt than it is to do things. (And, as Stuart Klawans argues, Desplechin is perhaps the most Jewish non-Jew in cinema—and isn’t Judaism a religion of faith in action? —I realize many devotions may argue this point in their favor but it seems inherently Jewish to me; it’s not Kierkegaard’s possible but rather akin to Nietzsche’s allegiance to creativity. This much is true and open to be countered: I have not seen Esther Kahn yet. I do not have the full picture of this argument as does Klawans. But I want to, yes, I want to, as ever, to see more—I’m greedy like that—to grab and digest more, and more. I hear myself in the Kierkegaard as much as in the Nietzsche. I hear and see myself, all too much, all too often, all too human to ignore it, in these Desplechin films.) But, of course, despite its cast of academic types, My Sex Life... isn’t about the ivory columbarium; while he does spout off at length, mostly about pussy, we never see or hear any of the work Paul does; the closest is his late rant that culminates: “It’s not Heidegger climbing some fucking mountain. No, it’s the girl’s face, it’s your fear, as you pull back the elastic, her belly … you see?” If the film is about academia, it understands such a life as a kind of death—as something to shuck, to shake free from, to flee. It’s right there in the title: it’s a film about life, about sex, about me! See? It’s an invitation to look back at your self! It’s no different than any other work of art!

About two-thirds through the picture, we take up the thread of Paul’s put-upon long-time (ex-)lover, Esther, played with fierce liveliness (loveliness!) by Emmanuelle Devos, whom, despite no marital bond, I like to see as Desplechin’s Gena Rowlands. As much as Mathieu Amalric’s goofy grin buoys and motivates this film, Devos anchors its pathos. It was during her direct address speech that I finally began to let the weight of it all fall onto me, curled alone in that fourth-row seat—that I first began to cry—through a smile. The first time I saw the film, it started at noon on a Saturday at the Clay, smack atop Pacific Heights in San Francisco, and I did not know the Blue Angels would be performing patterns in the sky above the city that afternoon. Roughly the moment Esther began reciting her letter, so did the roars of jets leak into the auditorium, and I thought, “Brilliant! It’s a film about love as a flight as much as a fight after all!” The fact that the planes did not cease their aural (and aerial) contortions through the remainder of the film made me question this argument, naturally, but it was too delicious a strand to let loose. It makes sense, after all, however the happenstance played. Love is a flight from the real, or reason at that, into clouds of stupidity and luxurious hurt. It makes the pained descent dig deeper, of course—that return to the ordinary—but, we begin to realize, as does Esther in that shower near the close of the film, that the daily muck makes sense, too, and affords us the next opportunity to fly—a new possibility is forged. Flight remains a thrill and tears are a form of baptism. The world beckons.

Devos and Amalric appear in relationship, again, in Kings and Queen, only further removed. It’s nice and fun to play the cinephilic game and imagine these characters, Nora and Ismaël, as extensions of Esther and Paul, but the fact remains that they feel lively and real, here, and all their own and all too human because Desplechin is so interested in their singularity—and because these are two enormously talented actors. The biggest difference is simple: Devos and Amalric are older, and they bare (and bear) their lives all the more in their gait and their lines and their faces. If we can accept that Devos is a French Gena, then perhaps we can agree that Amalric is some kind of Frog Faulk; but, if Kings and Queen resembles any Cassavetes, it resembles Love Streams, which pits husband John against wife Gena as brother and sister leading a twinned, braided life negotiating how to love one another. At one point, Nora says of Ismaël, “If I’d had a brother, I’d have wanted one like him.” We might say Kings and Queen is about the love available (yes: possible) in a family—and what makes family, where you draw the line. We might also say this later picture is an inverse of the earlier in that My Sex Life details Amalric’s Paul’s love of three different women (all some kind of “wife”) while Kings and Queen muscles through Devos’ Nora’s love of four men (all some kind of “husband,” even her son). Formally, too, they diverge: My Sex Life... operates on a logic of occlusion and expulsion, the frame crowded and held—until the tears and the blood and a shower rain down; Kings and Queen, despite a continued affinity for long lenses and their resultant density, jumps through spaces, cuts frequently, feels more frantic, violent, locomotive. We might say, finally, that Kings and Queen is (like My Sex Life…, I suppose) about what it takes to get mobile in the world—and Desplechin’s continued answer may remain magnanimity.

—Did I mention these films are hilarious? Nora’s half of Kings and Queen is melodramatic, very heavy, full of tears and harsh lessons, full of shouting, full of death, but Ismaël’s half is, in Desplechin’s words, “a burlesque comedy.” Being a smart guy, he’s spot on. The irony is startling, lucid, simple: for all Nora’s mobility and affluence and lightness, it's Ismaël who finds joy in the routine—in captivity, no less—despite being a mopey goof whose posture is so aching, so desirous of Real Life—while it keeps happening Right In Front Of Him. Like, you know, that beautiful and desperate young thing, Arielle (Magali Woch might melt in your hand, not your mouth), whose answer-made-flesh seems too easy to be true at first. Their offhand non-courtship is one of the loveliest and silliest I’ve seen; again, I couldn’t resist its charms. And, again, Amalric’s echo de moi-même (most notably in sessions with his voluminous, infamous psychiatrist, Dr. Devereux, played with great wit by Elsa Wolliaston) makes me wince and aspire in equal measure towards something new and thoughtful. In short, in their hilarity, Desplechin’s films stage, say perform, a moral posture (which subtends invitation and challenge) that echoes (again) Nietzsche, and his forebear Emerson, that argues for gaiety as a form of seriousness. But this is never easy, of course; nor is it quite attainable; it’s something to seek. For Ismaël, this adventure is fraught with a net of troubles of his own creation that, like a cape, he must simply untie and fling off. For Nora, it’s a bit more complicated: she has to kill. This picture of womanhood, however generous, is where you know a man made these films; but, as Ismaël says, in what will prove out (I'm fairly certain) as one of the great film monologues, to Nora’s son, Elias (Valentin Lelong is too cute), “that’s not a failing, that’s a quality.” What’s lovely is that the films know this, too, and, it’s true, they are unabashed: they seem to get off on it.

Cotillard's neck

But a yummy montage of Marion Cotillard dancing in her panties isn’t strictly about the pleasure of looking at her, at the curve of her neck as much as the curve of her breasts or the light in her eyes; no, it’s just as much about how easy (how dumb) it is to fall into thoughtless love with a girl just because you like the way she bounces. She remains a human, impervious and strong, with the force to bowl you over, by virtue of the film’s interest in how fleeting this sight is, despite its lingering imprint. Nakedness is a fact, like rain. When Marianne Denicourt sits naked at the close of My Sex Life..., echoing Cotillard like she echoes her own nudity earlier in the picture, it’s not about turning us on (however much such a sight will titillate us heterosexual males) but rather about impressing us that, yes, we spend some time naked. We play naked. Nakedness is readiness, an acceptance, and shared with another body it's an agreement as much as a delight. (This is, of course, a different picture of nakedness than that of Jean Eustache, but I'll save that argument for later.) It makes sense that My Sex Life... opens with Paul's literal awakening and closes with its deferred significance at bedtime, highlighted by a memory of a game played on the floor, looking down at pieces asking to be picked up with care (I'm talkin' Pixie Stix here), while Denicourt hugs herself across the chest.

I once wrote a free-associative essay for a zine called “Baggy Like A House.” I don’t remember the essay any longer, nor do I possess a copy, but I remember that phrase because it was directed, in the essay, at the reader, and I’d like to rewrite it, say revise it, for you who are here: you hang baggy like a house about me, and I keep running after you just as you keep running after me. I have only offered a few ideas, four maybe, for all the time you've spent reading, so please go soak up some more in that theater if you can. If you’re in New York, do yourself a favor and spend this rainy weekend with some fun frogs trying out life, seeing if it fits, and shucking sheaths as they please, as they run towards the door, towards the clouds, towards some kind of love, some kind of naked, some kind of possible, some kind of life.

Denicourt's nakedness

Alphabetical Favorites, UPDATED!

by Ryland Walker Knight

light that fire, that spark

Started by Blog Cabins, this meme made its way to Ed Howard and then to my man Keith Uhlich and now it makes its way to me. I went ahead and dropped a list in the comments at The House but I figured it's worth recapitulating here as well. This is fun, funny, dumb, wasteful and maybe (in the teeniest sliver of possibilities) illuminative: everything a blog should be, right?
Wow, that was a tough, goofy way to waste 30 minutes. Still, a funny (how many times will I use the same director? do I try to feign cool and pick esoterically? fuck that: don't I just go from the gut?) angle on the bigger picture I'm trying to offer over at this sister blog. Too many great movies start with the same letter. I, too, had to fudge things in spots. What I found toughest was discriminating between one of the biggest things ever and one of the smallest things ever so I went ahead and listed both; it's the only two-fer I gave, although I coulda given more, of course.

Here goes --

Andrei Rublev (1966, Andrei Tarkovsky)
Beau Travail (1999, Claire Denis)
Le Cochon (1970, Jean Eustache)
The Darjeeling Limited (2007, Wes Anderson)
Esther Kahn (2000, Arnaud Desplechin)
Faces (1968, John Cassavetes)
Groundhog Day (1993, Harold Ramis)
His Girl Friday (1940, Howard Hawks)
INLAND EMPIRE (2006, David Lynch)
Jaws (1975, Steven Spielberg)
Killing of a Chinese Bookie (1976, John Cassavetes)
Love Streams (1984, John Cassavetes)
Mirror (1975, Andrei Tarkovsky)
The New World (2005, 2006, 2008, Terrence Malick)
On Dangerous Ground (1952, Nicholas Ray)
Out 1 (1971, Jacques Rivette)
Playtime (1967, Jacques Tati)
Quick Change (1990, Bill Murray)
Rules of the Game (1939, Jean Renoir)
Sans Soleil (1983, Chris Marker)
The Thin Red Line (1998, Terrence Malick)
Unfaithfully Yours (1948, Preston Sturges)
In Vanda's Room (2000, Pedro Costa)
Where does your hidden smile lie? (2001, Pedro Costa)
Xiao Wu (1997, Jia Zhang-Ke)
Yi Yi (2000, Edward Yang)
Zelig (1983, Woody Allen)

Tell me yours, please, if you can or if you want to or if you like me enough to allow a preposition dangle at the end of a clause like that one before this one I'm trying to close off.

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Reclamation #1: Yes we will. We did.
Reclamation #2, Songs #29: I'm so grateful!

by Ryland Walker Knight


Although the haters of my home state, that odd paradise on the gold coast, seem nearly victorious pushing Prop 8 into legislation, we do, indeed, have our first black president in President-Elect Barack Obama. Yes: this is our first black first family. Yes: there are still hurdles--there's a ton. But: fuck that. This is awesome. This is big, like HUGE. And his speech was so well written it was hard not to smile and tear and laugh and raise my flute more than a few times. I went on a run at midnight last night, then I stayed up late reading all kinds of reactions and watching the Prop 8 results slowly reveal their terrible (as well as the sad loss of Al Franken, who I was pulling for for a variety of reasons). I didn't sleep much. I read the transcript of our man's speech and I brimmed again. I re-read some Cavell that stirs my soul, that I sent around the internet the past week in emails, and then I put on Happy-Go-Lucky and then I fell asleep smiling. This morning brings those realizations of defeat home a little harder, yes, but it equally reminds us of that trope everybody is loving right now: a new dawn. Yes: the idealist in me only wants to weep, to celebrate, to dance in the streets of Chicago and show the world love, to remind my friends that, well, it's just a law and while we must subscribe to that law if we live in this society we may also see some brave body say, "No," and appeal his and his and her and her rights to build a more perfect union along with the rest of America, this America that, for at least a speech's length, was, Yes, my head.

If there is anyone out there who still doubts that America is a place where all things are possible; who still wonders if the dream of our founders is alive in our time; who still questions the power of our democracy, tonight is your answer.

It’s the answer told by lines that stretched around schools and churches in numbers this nation has never seen; by people who waited three hours and four hours, many for the very first time in their lives, because they believed that this time must be different; that their voice could be that difference.

It’s the answer spoken by young and old, rich and poor, Democrat and Republican, black, white, Latino, Asian, Native American, gay, straight, disabled and not disabled – Americans who sent a message to the world that we have never been a collection of Red States and Blue States: we are, and always will be, the United States of America.

It’s the answer that led those who have been told for so long by so many to be cynical, and fearful, and doubtful of what we can achieve to put their hands on the arc of history and bend it once more toward the hope of a better day.

It’s been a long time coming, but tonight, because of what we did on this day, in this election, at this defining moment, change has come to America.

I just received a very gracious call from Senator McCain. He fought long and hard in this campaign, and he’s fought even longer and harder for the country he loves. He has endured sacrifices for America that most of us cannot begin to imagine, and we are better off for the service rendered by this brave and selfless leader. I congratulate him and Governor Palin for all they have achieved, and I look forward to working with them to renew this nation’s promise in the months ahead.

I want to thank my partner in this journey, a man who campaigned from his heart and spoke for the men and women he grew up with on the streets of Scranton and rode with on that train home to Delaware, the Vice President-elect of the United States, Joe Biden.

I would not be standing here tonight without the unyielding support of my best friend for the last sixteen years, the rock of our family and the love of my life, our nation’s next First Lady, Michelle Obama. Sasha and Malia, I love you both so much, and you have earned the new puppy that’s coming with us to the White House. And while she’s no longer with us, I know my grandmother is watching, along with the family that made me who I am. I miss them tonight, and know that my debt to them is beyond measure.

To my campaign manager David Plouffe, my chief strategist David Axelrod, and the best campaign team ever assembled in the history of politics – you made this happen, and I am forever grateful for what you’ve sacrificed to get it done.

But above all, I will never forget who this victory truly belongs to – it belongs to you.

I was never the likeliest candidate for this office. We didn’t start with much money or many endorsements. Our campaign was not hatched in the halls of Washington – it began in the backyards of Des Moines and the living rooms of Concord and the front porches of Charleston.

It was built by working men and women who dug into what little savings they had to give five dollars and ten dollars and twenty dollars to this cause. It grew strength from the young people who rejected the myth of their generation’s apathy; who left their homes and their families for jobs that offered little pay and less sleep; from the not-so-young people who braved the bitter cold and scorching heat to knock on the doors of perfect strangers; from the millions of Americans who volunteered, and organized, and proved that more than two centuries later, a government of the people, by the people and for the people has not perished from this Earth. This is your victory.

I know you didn’t do this just to win an election and I know you didn’t do it for me. You did it because you understand the enormity of the task that lies ahead. For even as we celebrate tonight, we know the challenges that tomorrow will bring are the greatest of our lifetime – two wars, a planet in peril, the worst financial crisis in a century. Even as we stand here tonight, we know there are brave Americans waking up in the deserts of Iraq and the mountains of Afghanistan to risk their lives for us. There are mothers and fathers who will lie awake after their children fall asleep and wonder how they’ll make the mortgage, or pay their doctor’s bills, or save enough for college. There is new energy to harness and new jobs to be created; new schools to build and threats to meet and alliances to repair.

The road ahead will be long. Our climb will be steep. We may not get there in one year or even one term, but America – I have never been more hopeful than I am tonight that we will get there. I promise you – we as a people will get there.

There will be setbacks and false starts. There are many who won’t agree with every decision or policy I make as President, and we know that government can’t solve every problem. But I will always be honest with you about the challenges we face. I will listen to you, especially when we disagree. And above all, I will ask you join in the work of remaking this nation the only way it’s been done in America for two-hundred and twenty-one years – block by block, brick by brick, calloused hand by calloused hand.

What began twenty-one months ago in the depths of winter must not end on this autumn night. This victory alone is not the change we seek – it is only the chance for us to make that change. And that cannot happen if we go back to the way things were. It cannot happen without you.

So let us summon a new spirit of patriotism; of service and responsibility where each of us resolves to pitch in and work harder and look after not only ourselves, but each other. Let us remember that if this financial crisis taught us anything, it’s that we cannot have a thriving Wall Street while Main Street suffers – in this country, we rise or fall as one nation; as one people.

Let us resist the temptation to fall back on the same partisanship and pettiness and immaturity that has poisoned our politics for so long. Let us remember that it was a man from this state who first carried the banner of the Republican Party to the White House – a party founded on the values of self-reliance, individual liberty, and national unity. Those are values we all share, and while the Democratic Party has won a great victory tonight, we do so with a measure of humility and determination to heal the divides that have held back our progress. As Lincoln said to a nation far more divided than ours, "We are not enemies, but friends...though passion may have strained it must not break our bonds of affection." And to those Americans whose support I have yet to earn – I may not have won your vote, but I hear your voices, I need your help, and I will be your President too.

And to all those watching tonight from beyond our shores, from parliaments and palaces to those who are huddled around radios in the forgotten corners of our world – our stories are singular, but our destiny is shared, and a new dawn of American leadership is at hand. To those who would tear this world down – we will defeat you. To those who seek peace and security – we support you. And to all those who have wondered if America’s beacon still burns as bright – tonight we proved once more that the true strength of our nation comes not from our the might of our arms or the scale of our wealth, but from the enduring power of our ideals: democracy, liberty, opportunity, and unyielding hope.

For that is the true genius of America – that America can change. Our union can be perfected. And what we have already achieved gives us hope for what we can and must achieve tomorrow.

This election had many firsts and many stories that will be told for generations. But one that’s on my mind tonight is about a woman who cast her ballot in Atlanta. She’s a lot like the millions of others who stood in line to make their voice heard in this election except for one thing – Ann Nixon Cooper is 106 years old.

She was born just a generation past slavery; a time when there were no cars on the road or planes in the sky; when someone like her couldn’t vote for two reasons – because she was a woman and because of the color of her skin.

And tonight, I think about all that she’s seen throughout her century in America – the heartache and the hope; the struggle and the progress; the times we were told that we can’t, and the people who pressed on with that American creed: Yes we can.

At a time when women’s voices were silenced and their hopes dismissed, she lived to see them stand up and speak out and reach for the ballot. Yes we can.

When there was despair in the dust bowl and depression across the land, she saw a nation conquer fear itself with a New Deal, new jobs and a new sense of common purpose. Yes we can.

When the bombs fell on our harbor and tyranny threatened the world, she was there to witness a generation rise to greatness and a democracy was saved. Yes we can.

She was there for the buses in Montgomery, the hoses in Birmingham, a bridge in Selma, and a preacher from Atlanta who told a people that "We Shall Overcome." Yes we can.

A man touched down on the moon, a wall came down in Berlin, a world was connected by our own science and imagination. And this year, in this election, she touched her finger to a screen, and cast her vote, because after 106 years in America, through the best of times and the darkest of hours, she knows how America can change. Yes we can.

America, we have come so far. We have seen so much. But there is so much more to do. So tonight, let us ask ourselves – if our children should live to see the next century; if my daughters should be so lucky to live as long as Ann Nixon Cooper, what change will they see? What progress will we have made?

This is our chance to answer that call. This is our moment. This is our time – to put our people back to work and open doors of opportunity for our kids; to restore prosperity and promote the cause of peace; to reclaim the American Dream and reaffirm that fundamental truth – that out of many, we are one; that while we breathe, we hope, and where we are met with cynicism, and doubt, and those who tell us that we can’t, we will respond with that timeless creed that sums up the spirit of a people:

Yes We Can. Thank you, God bless you, and may God Bless the United States of America.

[There will be something embeddable in the near future, I'm sure (as evidenced above), but for now look here to see these words performed, passsionately.]


As Mark and Kate and I cleaned up a bit last night, before our free can of PBR downstairs and my joyful departure home, I put on this Dennis Ferrer song that Cam sent my way because, really, what else were we to listen to? Fuck. Yes. FUCK YES! Maybe, fuggit, I'll eat some bacon. Or, hell, I'll go get coffee and donuts. Whatever it is, I'm feelin it already.

Dennis Ferrer ft Kenny Bobien - Grateful (Df's Raise Yo Hands Vox Mix)

[x-posted on freeNIKES!]

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Long time coming.
Please, America, be my head!

long time coming
Sam Cooke - A Change is Gonna Come

kick it up the mountain
Bob Dylan - Talkin' Bear Mountain Picnic Massacre Blues

sky high! a lift!
Outkast - Return of the "G"

thas love
Michael Jackson - Remember The Time

junk genius
The Flaming Lips - Be My Head

feel it
Nacho Lovers - Acid Life
(stream link)

[Record label people: these are just up for fun, to celebrate, and they will expire in time. Please don't wig out. Please just vibe. Please just vote. Please, let's turn into tomorrow happy! Please, laugh! Please, dance! Please, remember: you're lucky to be alive! --RWK]