Monday, February 23, 2009


Finished Roberto Bolano's novel The Savage Detectives. Wonderful. A unique novel. The story of a group of poets in Mexico City who call themselves the Visceral Realists and about the two leaders of the movement, Arturo Belano and Ulises Lima. The book is structured as a triptych: the first part is an introduction to the major characters in the form of a diary by a poet new to the group; the second part is the longest part, nearly 400 pages, that details in interview form people who knew the two leaders, either as friends or enemies; and the final section is back to the same characters from the first section and their Quixotic quest to find the original Visceral Realist. The quality of writing was excellent and I could barely put the book down. It is sad that Bolano died in 2003. He only left one more novel, 2666, which he finished 3 weeks before he passed away. It is sitting on my night stand and is being eagerly awaited.

I am not a patient person. I tend to get frustrated when it takes a long time for me to achieve something or for something I want to happen to happen. I recently met someone that I would like to get to know a lot better. We have similar interests and seem to have an interesting connection with each other. The issue is that he was in love with someone else last year and that person broke things off with him and returned to his former lover. The person I am interested in, though they broke up over three months ago, still has feelings for this other person and is trying to let him go. I have tried to just get to know him without dating him to see if there is at least an interest there on both our sides, but unfortunately he is still hung up on this person and it seems to infect every aspect of his life. So I tend to get attention from him on his good days, which seem to be few and far between. So, I am more than likely going to just let him go. I don't need this type of complication in my life at this time. It just saddens me, because he is a good guy. Hopefully, he will be able to get over this person soon.

It is no secret I am huge music fan. I think it is interesting following the careers of certain musicians and seeing the paths they take. Why do certain bands, U2 or R.E.M. for example, start out making interesting, non-mainstream music, then get a taste of popularity and streamline their music to become more popular, thereby getting rid of what made them interesting in the first place? And on the other side, you have artists like Radiohead, who make even darker or more challenging music, almost to point of alienating any fans they have made. Radiohead, at least, has taken a few steps back, and are making more digestible music that is still challenging.

Lyrics rattling around my head:

"Hilary walked to her death
Because she couldn't think of anything to say
Everybody thought that she was boring, so they never listened anyway
Nobody was really saying anything of interest, she fell asleep
She was into S&M and bible studies
Not everyone's cup of tea, she would admit to me
Her cup of tea, she would admit to no one"

Belle & Sebastian
If You're Feeling Sinister

"Jumped into the river
Black-eyed angels swam with me
A moon full of stars and astral cars
And all the things I used to see
All my lovers were there with me
All my past and future
And we all went to heaven in a little row boat
There was nothing to fear
Nothing to doubt"

Pyramid Song

"More than I can hold in my hand
Running through the gaps like water
Aching with a passion inside
Deep as the river
All desire
The ashes and the fire
Turning this night inside
And the light from you"

This Big Hush

"If you love him you should leave me
That's the best thing to do.
Because if you need him, you don't need me
Like you used to.
And if you believe that you'll be happy
Then I'm happy for you."

Lloyd Cole
Happy For You

"It's the blaze across my nightgown
It's the phone's ring
I think last night (you were in my dreams)
You were driving circles around me"

Kristin Hersh
Your Ghost

Appealing Things:

The Original Cast recording of Sunday in the Park with George
Roland 808 drum machine
Listening to Satie's Socrates on a cold day
80s music
Little Britain ("computer says noooooo")
Mafia Wars
Polihale Beach
Sad Stephen's Song
Iron Chef
Pavement (the band, not the sidewalk or street)
Spicy Mustard
Tom Ka Gai soup

Annoying Things:

White wine
Light bulbs going out while you are shaving
Alarm clocks
Ryan Seacrest
Bad crabcakes
Jessica Biel's dress at the Oscars
People who wear too much cologne or perfume
Hell's Kitchen

Sunday, February 22, 2009


The Oscars to me are like the Super Bowl for everyone else. I have always been a major film buff, even going so far as to applying to film school and actually getting into NYU. Needless to say I did not get to go, more out of financial concerns than anything else. So now, I just sit on the sidelines and enjoy the movies as they are made. Tonight is the 2009 Oscars and although I am not overly excited by the list of nominees, I will dutifully watch them. This is the first time I have a had a blog for the evening, so I will be basically commenting as the evening is going. I will only be commenting on the categories I have some familiarity with.

Red Carpet:

Ryan Seacrest is amazingly annoying, but not as annoying as Evan Rachel Wood (what drug did she take beforehand?).

Outfits are very subdued this year.

Best so far: Kate Winslet, Anne Hathaway, gasp Meryl Streep (she opted for non frumpy for a change), Taraji P. Henson, Amy Adams, Heidi Klum, Viola Davis, Penelope Cruz, Marisa Tomei.

Worst: Tilda Swinton (love ya honey, but the outfit is awful), Miley Cyrus (bedazzler hell), Mickey Rourke (it might be Gaultier, but still hideous), Reese Witherspoon, Jessica Biel.

Oooh. Tim Gunn on the Red Carpet. Heaven.


Hugh Jackman was such a charmer. Amazing talent. Good choice for the host.

Interesting use of former winners to announce the nominees and the winner. Eva Marie Saint looked awesome.

Best Supporting Actress
Winner: Penelope Cruz

Not really a shock. Didn't see the movie or any of her performance, so I don't know how to judge it. But I love her so much; so pretty and charming. I just wish she could have won for Volver or for All About My Mother. So glad she gave a shout out to Almodovar though and thanking him for being such an inspiration.

Tina Fey and Steve Martin were pretty funny.

Best Original Screenplay
Winner: Milk

Very deserved. Saw the movie on Thursday and was deeply moved by the passion of Harvey Milk. The screenplay was phenomenal. It was tremendously inspiring. Wonderful acceptance speech by the screenwriter Dustin Lance Black.

Best Adapted Screenplay
Winner: Slumdog Millionaire

While I enjoyed Slumdog, I have not made it a secret that it wasn't one of my favorite movies. I would have given the adapted screenplay to Frost/Nixon, which was just incredible.

Best Animated Feature
Winner: WALL-E

Should have been nominated for Best Picture. Was probably the best movie of last year. Completely moving, hilarious, and wonderfully done. Everytime I watch it I find something new.

Best Art Direction
Winner: The Curious Case of Benjamin Button

Was not able to see the movie before the telecast. From the trailers it looks like it was a deserved winner.

Best Costume Design
Winner: The Duchess

Deserved winner. I saw the movie a few weeks ago and the costumes were amazing. I think she had over 200 costume changes.

Best Makeup
Winner: The Curious Case of Benjamin Button

Seems pretty well deserved.

I am over the endless montages though.

Natalie Portman needs to eat a cracker or something.

Best Cinematography
Winner: Slumdog Millionaire

I would have chosen The Dark Knight. But the cinematography in Slumdog was pretty good.

Jessica Biel looks like she made her dress out of some bad hotel drapes. What the heck does Justin Timberlake see in her?

Funny short movie with James Franco/Januz Kaminsky/Seth Rogen. James Franco is hilarious.

About time Hugh Jackman came back. He must have disappeared for about an hour. Though I could have done without the musical number.

Still enjoying them having the past winners of the acting awards give the awards out. Though where the hell did Cuba Gooding Jr. come from. He has been such a disappointing best supporting actor winner.

Best Supporting Actor
Winner: Heath Ledger

So deserving and so sad that he passed away without being able to receive the honor. Brilliant performance. He will not be soon forgotten.

Best Documentary Feature
Winner: Man On Wire

Very deserving. Story of the man who tightrope walked across the two towers of the World Trade Center.

Best Visual Effects
Winner: The Curious Case of Benjamin Button

The effects seemed pretty amazing so probably deserving. Dark Knight and Ironman were pretty amazing as well.

Best Sound Editing
Winner: The Dark Knight

Very deserving.

Best Sound Mixing
Winner: Slumdog Millionaire

Should have gone to The Dark Knight.

Best Film Editing
Winner: Slumdog Millionaire

Should have gone to The Dark Knight.

Hard to enjoy the award to Jerry Lewis considering all of the homophobic remarks he has made over the years.

Best Original Score
Winner: Slumdog Millionaire

I don't recall the score for Slumdog being all that memorable. I'm trying not to be completely anti-Slumdog. I thought it was a good movie, but just not so deserving of all the gushing accolades.

Not understanding why John Legend is singing the Peter Gabriel song from WALL-E. And I guess M.I.A has not recovered from having her baby in order to sing her song from Slumdog.

Best Original Song
Winner: Jai Ho from Slumdog Millionaire

Didn't particularly care of the song. Would have given it Bruce Springsteen, but his song from The Wrestler wasn't even nominated.

Best Foreign Language Film
Winner: Departures

Haven't seen it. Would have thought it would go to The Class or Waltz With Bashir.

Reese Witherspoon, wonderful actress, terrible dress.

Best Director
Winner: Danny Boyle, Slumdog Millionaire

Don't get me wrong, I like Danny Boyle. Just not for this movie. Really thought Gus Van Sant deserved it more.

I love Anne Hathaway. Her thanking of Shirley Maclaine was touching. Kate Winslet was luminous looking. Although I liked the actresses commenting on the nominees, but would have liked to have seen clips from their performances.

Best Actress
Winner: Kate Winslet

I think she definitely deserves the Oscar, but not for The Reader. I though it was more of a supporting role. She was much much better in Revolutionary Road. But I love her so much. Very happy for her. Wonderful acceptance speech.

Best Actor
Winner: Sean Penn

Very thrilled about Sean. He was absolutely fearless and moving as Harvey Milk. Wonderful, self depreciating acceptance speech.

Best Picture
Winner: Slumdog Millionaire

Well, we all know what my opinion of the movie is so I will leave it at that.

It is late and I am off to bed.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

The Pains Of Being Pure Of Heart

Do we generally get trapped in patterns of things we like, never to venture forth to try something new? I tend to like the same food, same movies, hell, even similar men. With music, however, I find that this is my worst trait. If I ever see a album review that mentions the term "shoegaze" I will most likely at least check the band out on iTunes or MySpace in order to get a feel for them. This does not mean that only seek this type of music out. I would like to think that this is my "comfort" music. There is just something about guitars turned up to 10 and processed through a million effects pedals that just makes me feel warm and cozy.

So I was very interested in the initial cd from the band The Pains of Being Pure of Heart. It has been getting warm and glowing reviews from the likes of Pitchfork and Cokemachineglow, with of course the requisite mentions of being reminiscent of My Bloody Valentine/Jesus and Mary Chain/Ride/Lush, et al. And yes, they utilize the same hazy, feedback drenched guitars, echoey drums, and dreamy otherworldy vocals. But there is something more that keeps it from being merely a pastiche.

PBPH are not using the effect pedals to mask a lack of proficiency in their playing, to cloud over juvenile lyrics, or even to just jump on a trendy bandwagon. The hazy music serves as a counterpoint to the lyrics, to show that not everything can be taken at face value, that there are always hidden depths. The music itself is very sunny and propulsive and dare I say toe-tapping. And you find yourself smiling and in a good mood. Then you start paying attention to the lyrics and it smacks you in the head that there is more going on here than meets the eye. Underneath the winsome exterior is a very dark heart.

The jangly Smiths meets MBV song "This Love Is Fucking Right!" seems like a bright Spring-like song you'd play with the top down rolling through the countryside. Of course, it also has lyrics such as:

"In a dark room I can see you shining bright
You don't have to tell me twice, it's alright
In a dark room we can do just what we like
You're my sister, and this love is fucking right."

Which of course can literally be interpreted about being incest, or perhaps, more imaginatively, a first lesbian/gay affair or any kind of new love. After this song, you really find yourself listening more attentively, and finding that most of the lyrics have some sort of sinister or secret bent to them.

The song "Teenager In Love" has a sprightly, 50s girl group swagger to it, with propulsive drums and twinkly keyboards, and the disturbing lyric:

"And if you made a stand,
I'd stand with you til the end
But you don't need a friend
When you're a teenager in love with christ and heroin.

In "Young Adult Friction" the narrator is a student who is the rebound guy for a girl dumped by her boyfriend who trysts in the empty library:

"Between the stacks in the library
Not like anyone stopped to see
We came they went, our bodies spent
Among the dust and the microfiche"

When she gets out of her funk of losing her boyfriend she dumps the poor guy:

"Now that you feel, you say its not real."

The narrators always seem to be trapped in situations they cannot extracate themselves from. In "The Tenure Itch" a student having an affair with her professor knows that it is wrong, but he has some sort of pull over him/her and though it pains them, they stick with the relationship:

"He makes corrections, you shut the blinds
You're talking less and less,but the words aren't hard to find
His last suggestion, it makes you ill,
Still one more lesson leaves you twisting to his will."

This is not to say that the entire album is full of these types of juxtapositions. Sometimes the lyrics are as sunny as the music itself. For instance, "Come Saturday" details a long distance relationship and the joy of having the person visit.

"But come Saturday,
You'll come to stay
You'll come to sway in my arms
Who cares if there's a party somewhere
We're gonna stay in"

But the majority of the songs have a bit of a bite to them; the sour with the sweet. Which I am told is a lot like my personality. So I guess it is fitting that I am drawn to this type of record. This album will not change your life in anyway, but it has moments of lyrical brilliance. Another band that comes to mind is Belle and Sebastian. Well, a less twee version; their distant cousins who are prone to sitting in dark rooms, smoking pot, and turning the effects pedals on stun.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Sequiturs of the Non Variety

The Pillow Book is a book of observations recorded by Sei Shonagon during the late 900s and early 1000s in Japan during her time as court lady to Empress Sadako. In it she included lists of all kinds, personal thoughts, interesting events in court, poetry and some opinions on her contemporaries. While it serves as a fascinating account of that period in medieval Japan, it interests me more as a sort of mental clearing house, ridding the mind of extraneous bits of information. In modern parlance, akin to Dumbledore placing his memories in the pensieve in order to make room for current memories.

These random posts will serve to clear out the thoughts in my head. It will indeed be random and I do not claim that there will be a unifying theme to any of what is written.

Lyrics that have been haunting me of late:

"Architecture students are like virgins
with an itch they cannot scratch.
Never build a building till you're 50,
what kind of life is that?"

Pavement, "The Hexx"

"And this is not my face
and this is not my life
and there is not a single thing here
I can recognize
this is all a dream
and none of you are real
I'll give anything
I'll give anything"

Nine Inch Nails, "Head Down"

"One sin leads to another one
Oh, the harder I try
I can never, never, never find peace in this life
I ask myself where does lust come from
Is it something to yield to or be overcome
I ask myself
Why love can never touch my heart like fear does
Why can't love ever touch my heart like fear does?"

The The, "Bluer Than Midnight"

"She whispers while I'm sleeping
I love you when you smile
I didn't really lose you
I just lost you for a while"

Slowdive, "Dagger"

"I don't need a better thing
I'd settle for less
It's another thing for me
I just have to wander through this world alone."

Pete Yorn, "Lose You"

Why does my cat Ms. C ("Missy") insist on me standing by her bowl every morning to watch her eat? Her food is always out and I can hear her eating it before I get up in the morning. If I don't go over to the bowl, I am harassed all morning with caterwauls that would wake the dead. I have tried to break her of this habit by ignoring her, which essentially makes her turn up the volume exponentially. I have determined that the slight annoyance of walking over there is infinitely better than hearing her ugly tones all morning long.

The Oscars are like the Super Bowl to me. However, this year, I have almost no interest in it whatsoever. I have seen the majority of the best pic nominees, but have been dragging my feet on two of them and only have plans to see one of them prior to the ceremony. Slumdog Millionaire, to me, is one of the most overrated pictures I have ever seen. If it should win, it will not be remembered fondly in the future.

I think I will most likely be single the rest of my life. In a year of being single, I have been on many dates. Most of the men have been very nice and will probably make wonderful partners to someone, but for some reason there has been a disconnect with me and I barely make it to a second or third date. Dating seems appealing, but then a switch goes off and I find myself staring across the table at this person thinking about how much I'd rather be at home doing laundry.

I have been laid off for almost a year with no immediate prospect of a full time/permanent job on the horizon. I have been on the same consulting project for 7 months and it is paying my bills. I go through tremendous highs and lows, sometimes weekly, most times daily, even hourly at times. It is an odd feeling not being able to define yourself through a job. The job shouldn't define you; I mean it is just a means to pay for life's necessities. The reaction I get when I tell people I was laid off is often comical, as if I am telling them I have cancer. They look glum and spout off some cliched saying meant to inspire or console. I guess I am nervous about finding something else, but I've made it this far. There is nothing to say that I can't continue for awhile.

Appealing things:

Rain on my tin roof.

Fresh sheets with the scent of lavender and vanilla.

My cat purring while sitting on my chest.

A clean kitchen.


The Sunday New York Times; specifically the Book Review Section.

Online Scrabble.

Playing Hand and Foot (card game) with Darin, Tom and Jeff.

Piles of apples at the grocery store.

My neighbor playing piano on a Sunday afternoon.

The sound of shoes or tires on gravel.


Garden paths.

Cobblestone streets.

The beach in winter.

Unexpected daliances.

A hand caressing the small of the back.

Cherry coke.

Making baked ziti for my friend Howard.

Discovering a new author.

Scotch on a cold day.

Stephen Sondheim.

Marathons of America's Next Top Model.

No plans.

Odd lyrics.

Reading a book in bed before going to sleep.

Lemon zest.

The smell of new leather.

Dancing at the Eagle.

Annoying things:

My irritating co-worker who passive aggressively keeps shutting the office door even though we have no ventilation in here and it is 1000 degrees.

My neighbor who insists on slamming her front door at all hours of the day and night.

The woman at work who takes my parking space.

People who take the elevator up or down one floor. Get off your fat ass and take the stairs.

Not having universal health care.

Not being able to thread a bobbin.

People who can't figure out the self-checkout aisle at Kroger.

People who have not been laid off from their jobs complaining about their jobs. Shut up. You can complain when you have to pay $700 a month for your COBRA premium.

T-shirts at Target that are only sold in sizes M-XXL. Um, some of us wear S.

People who do not respond to specific questions in emails. I asked it for a reason. Answer it or tell me why you refuse to answer it.