Wednesday, August 31, 2005

A Bouquet of Hammers

There's little in the world of cinema as rare or as exciting as a truly original thriller. Oh, Hollywood still puts out plenty of thrillers, thrill conveniently, perplexingly, perhaps conveniently removed. Part of the problem is that we--and by we, I mean I--have seen far too many thrillers. We've learned the arcs, we recognized the archetypes; and as such, we're no longer absorbed, surprised . . . thrilled. Some independent fare, as well as similar-seeming imported product from Japan and Korea, manages to shock with incoherent plotting, graphic violence, unsympathetic characters, torture, masochism and/or other deviances, from the petty to the truly perverse. This approach can have its merits. Shock is, after all, a powerful emotion; and handled well--think Tarantino's Reservoir Dogs or Pulp Fiction, Takashi Miike's Audition--shock can actually transcend itself, morphing into a sense of genuine dread or existential ennui. But without a context, social or aesthetic, to ground the shock in the moorings of our innate fears or current zeitgeist, it becomes another trick to overuse, like the glut of CGI in the average Hollywood blockbuster. Besides, all young directors who think they can create a shock-opera crime thriller that will have a real impact on the market should see Takashi Miike's Ichi the Killer. Whatever they think they can shock us with has been done. Ichi is the last word in Asian shock cinema the way Dead Alive is the last word in zombie flicks.

Every so often, though, someone manages to re-define the boundaries of the template, and come up with a piece that challenges the intellect, rouses the emotions, dazzles the senses. Sometimes a young turk in the industry can surprise you the way audiences must have been surprised when they first saw John Frankenheimer's The Manchurian Candidate back in the '60s. A Christopher Nolan, perhaps, with Memento (you haven't seen it yet? GET THEE TO A VIDEO STORE, CRETIN!!). Takashi Miike with Audition, which unsettles you with its eerie quiet before knocking you between the eyes with its nauseating torture sequence. Dirty Pretty Things, a return to form of sorts for Stephen Frears (plus it has Audrey Tatou, which never hurt any movie).

Add to that list: Oldboy, a troubling, shocking, sexy, funny, brutal, surreal and bizarrely redemptive fever dream from South Korea, directed and co-written by Chan-wook Park.

Min-sik Choi, in one of the best performances I've watched all year, is Dae-su Oh, a fairly ordinary man who, like many ordinary men, drinks too much. We meet him in a stupor, where general drunken goofiness and gently amusing references to his young daughter--he puts on a pair of white, feathery angel wings ostensibly meant to be a costume for a performance and frolics for the camera--progress to violent and tantrumic outbursts. He's carried out by a friend . . . and next seen in a cramped, seedy "motel" room with a prison-style door. He spends his time with no human contact but a television (no cable, even), fed only fried dumplings and periodically put to sleep with gas so his (unseen, unknown) captors can clean him, cut his hair & nails and change his clothes.

Fifteen years later, Dae-su is released to a grassy rooftop with a new suit. He soon after acquires a cell phone, on which he receives calls from his captor and is given clues to find out who imprisoned him and why. After enlisting the aid of a sympathetic waitress (thank God for those), Mi-do, he gradually sniffs and fights his way to the answers.

It's both fortunate and unfortunate that I can't say much more about the plot. Truth be told, the story, as complex and intelligently wrought as it is, is less a matter of plot than of puzzle. For all it's violence--and there's plenty--Oldboy is a meditation. Like Kill Bill Volume II, vengeance is no mere pretense for lots of violence (as it seemed to be in Kill Bill Volume I--and I'll have you know I was perfectly fine with that): It's a human impulse that is explored, studied and well-chewed-on. In a rare turn for a revenge pic, forgiveness is actually mentioned. More than mentioned, it is sought, discarded and revisited. Memory, too, gets a thorough exploration, on a continuum that calls to mind Memento's questioning of the human mind, and whether its contents and recollections are to be trusted.

It's only fair to warn that this movie isn't for the weak of stomach. While not as bloody as Kill Bill or flagrantly amoral as Ichi the Killer, Chan-wook Park is more than willing to push an envelope or two: A man devours a live octopus for the camera; a claw hammer is used as a dental instrument before becoming a formidable weapon in a long and brutal fight; various acts of torture and self-immolation accompany our "hero's" quest. As purplestine said after the film, "I loved it, except for the parts I couldn't watch."

A word or two on the fighting in the film: While not as balletic as anything in a Jet Li movie, as mind-bendingly precise as Jackie Chan's choreography or as focused and vicious as any of the moves immortalized by Bruce Lee, the efficient, brutal choreography--basic street-level pugilism (without the rules), leavened with a subtle dash of Muay Thai's circularity and force--seems more real than anything I've ever seen onscreen. When Dae-su takes on a veritable battalion of thugs in a long, dark corridor, armed with the aforementioned claw hammer, what should be an implausible maiming spree makes perfect, naturalistic sense, so skillfully does the choreography and direction convey the sense of a man so driven by his fury that he can't be put out of commission.

I won't give anything away about the end . . . except to say that those critics and viewers who found it hollow, nihilistic or self-defeating weren't paying attention. Indeed, the resolution of the story grows naturally from its thematic wistfulness, the anxious, inconstant faith that even in the midst of chaos, vengeance, violence and deception, love and redemption are possible . . . and necessary.

A side note on Korean cinema: I've had a reasonable bit of experience with Chinese and Japanese cinema. While I've always enjoyed both, they actually share a magnified version of a flaw endemic to American cinema: Lots of violence in a very, very sexless atmosphere. Korean cinema, or what little I've seen of it, has no such reservations. Both films by Ki-Duk Kim that I've seen--The Isle, which is quite good, and Spring, Summer, Fall, Winter . . . and Spring, which is outstanding (more on those in a future post, I'm sure)--were extremely sexual; and Oldboy is also not fearful with regards to sex. Granted, sex is dangerous in all of these movies; but even a pro-sex sort like me has to admit that, good, bad, comforting or nihilistic, all of my sexual experiences were at least a little dangerous.

Tuesday, August 30, 2005

The Sheltering Grey

Yesterday, in the morning, I stepped out--tired, foggy, hungover, my stomach burning, eyes perpetually coated with my body's reluctance to awaken--into the Seattle I sought when I moved here.

Fall has begun its slow creep into the Northwest. Enveloping billows of distressed slate loom overhead, cooling the proceedings while, paradoxically, trapping the warmth of the city's inhabitants close to the ground. This is what I imagined when I imagined Seattle: A city like a movie set, like the city-scape in schlock classic "Streets of Fire"--though less grimly industrial (that fantasy city was, after all, supposed to represent Detroit)--which had been granted its strange, ashen light when director Walter Hill insisted that all exterior scenes be shot with a gray tarp over the set, so that even the ostensible "daylight" would reflect a half-dead colorlessness. Or like Burton's Gotham City.

Funny enough, though, while all my aesthetic comparisons are resolutely dystopian, I've never found anything ominous or sad about rain or overcast skies; and Seattle's enclosed, vaguely claustrophobic fall is, for me, largely a blessing. Maybe it's because I'm a water sign on the Chinese zodiac: When I see clouds, I see water, that which flows, changes state, moves things, makes everything happen. Or maybe, being an actor, film-buff and fan of post-punk music, my interests invariably play out indoors, and are therfore best suited to a cloudy city. But I suspect, more importantly, that the impending precipitation of my city on Elliott Bay, like the terrifying cold fronts I experienced in Helena, MT (the worst was a freak arctic front that shut the state down for four days--temperatures got as low as 75 degrees below zero before windchill factor) and the snowstorms that characterized the Montana winters (and, to a lesser extent, the Cedar City winters), serves to trap us in places where we're forced to acknowledge one another, listen to the things our companions (or would-be companions) have to unload. The cold outside calls upon our own warmth, forces our hands as we become mutually entrenched. Inclement weather as social and spiritual unifier.

Who would guess, then, that my next favorite terrain, next to the misty forests of the Northwest, is the desert. Specifically, the high, mountainous desert of Southern Utah. To live in Cedar City again, I'd either need to hook myself up with a lot of online resources for independent music and art films, and would probably need to make regular Vegas trips to see bands and movies that mightn't make the rounds. But more than the city, I find myself missing the place, the controlled delirium of open spaces surrounded by rising monoliths of crimson rock, the tiny mesquite forests springing from coarse sand. In some ways, the desert possesses the most iconic views of Americana--westerns, road movies and various psychedelic ruminations on our nation seem to take root eagerly in the seemingly inhospitable soil of our driest regions. There's a reason that both pantheism and hallucinogenic drug use thrive in such an environment: It's heat, it's expansiveness, it's dryness--and the shocking volatility with which that dryness is interrupted, the thunderstorms, the flash floods--all conspire to create a nursery for the delirious, the spiritual, the imaginative.

So why would my favorite environments be the northwest rain forest and the southwest desert? You got me . . . although I could throw out the theory that I'm simply a man who loves contradiction. I love to see people in suits with tattoos creeping out the edges onto the hands and the neck. I love beautiful melody played with ferocious feedback and drums that are less played than they are flogged. I love vegans who smoke cigarettes, potheads who won't touch booze. And I like to soak up the rain and fog, or I like to be the rain and fog.

I'm thinking about this because I'm happy with the weather, but generally antsy about life in general. I'm looking for part-time work to supplement our income, because the income isn't even coming close to covering our expenses . . . and we really can't cut out any expenses. We go to and/or rent some movies, but for God's sake! We don't have a car, we don't travel much, I almost never buy CDs, we scarcely eat out (when we do, it's at the pizza/pho/cheap Chinese food level), we play CDs on our DVD player 'cause the CD player on our stereo's been broken for about five years . . . You get the idea. We're not broke because we're living high on the epicurean hog. Anyway, I'm trying to find part-time work, and I've sent out a bunch of resumes, and I'm not even getting reasonable nibbles. I assumed part-time evening/weekend work would be easy to find, since I wouldn't likely be facing competition from other reasonably qualified thirtysomethings. It all leaves me feeling like a bad provider, because the full time job I hold, like all the full time jobs I've held, just doesn't cut the mustard.

Aimless. That's how it makes me feel. Like Bud, the "hero" played by Vincent Gallo in The Brown Bunny, which he wrote, produced and directed. Aimless, like the film itself. Gallo scored an unlikely hit with Buffalo 66, another road movie with Christina Ricci and a cameo by Mickey Rourke (!). And he deserved that hit: The split screens, freeze frames and other devices worked superbly in that film; and the prog-rock tap dance that Christina Ricci does in the bowling alley is so surreal and sexy that it should have won an Oscar all by itself. "The Brown Bunny" is beautifully shot, with a sense of existential stasis that has served directors like Takeshi Kitano, Terence Malick and David Gordon Green well; but where the others use stasis to create a sense of resigned despair, intimate pantheism and uncontainable ardor (respectively), Gallo seems to use this stasis to create . . . more stasis. As it turns out, the film is about stasis, specifically the failure of its protagonist to move on from a failed relationship and a tragic event; but by the time we reach that realization--and the now infamous, highly explicit fellation scene that precedes it--we're hard-pressed to care. There's a nice supporting turn from Chloe Sevigny, and a strangely affecting silent cameo by Cheryl Tiegs (purplestine was nice enough to explain to me who she is), some beautiful travel shots (love those desert road movies!); but for a film that wants to be a meditation on loss and male sexuality to come off as little more than a nihilistic travelogue . . . well, let's just say I'd hoped for better. Not so much a dud as an interesting failure, The Brown Bunny is best viewed as an object of bemused curiosity . . . if, indeed, it's to be viewed at all.

Friday, August 26, 2005

SEVEN, or How I'll Get to Heaven

(FYI: The title of this post is a variation on a lyric from a song in a musical, "Little Boy: The Epic Rock Fable", aka "Little Boy Goes to Hell", that purplestine and I were in during the hot, booze-soaked summer of 1998.)

7 things I want to do before I die:

1) Write a rock opera
2) Learn to play bass
3) Get at least 3 more tattoos
4) Teach what I've learned through martial arts to at least one person who will go on to teach it to others
5) Smoke a joint with Willie Nelson
6) Be choreographed by Yuen Wo-Ping
7) Be the channel, as a writer, through which a previously unknown band hits it really big

7 things I can do:

1) Twist my tongue to both sides
2) Beat box fairly credibly
3) Remain on my hands--standing, walking or performing various balances--for a very long time
4) Play the saxophone
5) Play the flute
6) Sing almost exactly like Peter Murphy
7) Tie a Windsor knot

7 things I can't do:

1) Hit a baseball with a bat consistently or accurately
2) Drive a stick shift
3) Grow (credible) hair on the very top of my head
4) Enjoy Ben Affleck
5) Tolerate Celine Dion
6) Completely give up smoking
7) Draw three-dimensional, organic figures

7 things that attract me to the opposite sex:

1) A ripe, round ass
2) Sexual adventurousness and willingness to experiment
3) A touch of the masculine
4) Willingness to instruct for the purpose of improving sexual encounters
5) Fearlessness in the face of challenging art
6) Honesty
7) A dark and whimsical sense of humor

7 celebrity crushes:

1) Juliette Binoche
2) Carla Kilstedt (of Sleepytime Gorilla Museum)
3) Dawn "the Faun" McCarthy (of Faun Fables)
4) Bjork
5) Clive Owen
6) Isabelle Huppert
7) Audrey Tatou

7 things I say most often:

1) Fair enough.
2) Jesus-monkey-fucking-Christ!
3) I'm sure I don't know.
4) I dare not speculate . . .
5) Um . . . sure.
6) Aaaaah, fuck me!!
7) I'm not sure how I feel about that.

7 people I want to "tag" to also complete the lists:

1) The Beige
2) Purplestine
3) Izzle Pfaff
4) Four people I've yet to meet but am sure I'll love unconditionally (I know that's a copout, but everyone else I know and have read has probably already done this--remember, I'm very new around here)

Thursday, August 25, 2005

All About Adult ADD . . .

No, this isn't going to be a case study (although one could easily make a case study of me). The title's just a disclaimer: I have no subject, just an overactive cranium channel-surfing over many topics. You've been warned.

Now, then . . . OK, tattoos. I just saw a mailman walk by, a younger guy, arms covered with dark tattoos. Neither dense enough nor continuous enough to be called "sleeves", but close. He was the sort of lithe, well-muscled youth who can pull off sleeves attractively (note: large arms and tiny waist are a must for full sleeves, because they tend to make the arms look smaller and the torso larger by comparison; hence, only skinny-but-buff guys can really afford the effect). The young buck in question was too far away for me to identify any particulars with regards to his body art, but the lines were nice: Waves and curls, an illusion of motion, flow like water currents or the billowing of clouds.

I've encountered a number of people who dislike tattoos for purely aesthetic reasons, and have no argument to offer them other than the sheer force of my preference. Some are so vehement--or just plain snotty--in their dislike that I avoid the topic altogether. More interesting to me are those who actually see tattoos as signs of a moral failing. I remember, when we first moved to Seattle, a girl we knew had just pierced her nipple. She had a liaison with a man who claimed certain spiritual beliefs (I won't go into what, except to say that it was apparently some variation on rastafarianism; but being ignorant, largely, regarding the rastafarian tradition, I'd hate to assert anything that portrays the belief system inaccurately) shortly thereafter; and the man insisted she remove it. Apparently practitioners of this man's "system" take the whole "body-as-temple" thing very seriously, oppose body-piercings and tattoos on the grounds that, as our friend put it, "You wouldn't walk into a church and start painting on the walls, would you?"

Well, first of all, maybe the world would be a better place--and religion a more positive force therein--if we did get to paint or draw on the walls of our churches. Second, I tend to view the body less as a temple than as a something of a mobile home, a property that, for the time being anyway, you own; but that, like a house, will belong to forces outside the realm of your control when you die. And modifying your house . . . well, I'd say that's your perogative, n'est-ce pas? Indeed, isn't being able to furnish, paint, remodel and restructure your house kind of the point of owning property? I can also take the Franciscan view of the body--that attributed to Saint Francis of Assisi, for those not in the Catholic-or-ex-Catholic know--which posits that the body is best referred to as "brother ass", a useful, obstinate donkey which carries on our burden of existence. And God knows I'm all for decorating my ass.

And just as you can learn much about a person by looking at what she hangs on her walls, plays on her stereo or watches on her DVD player, I think that the best tattoos, if they're wisely chosen, offer certain insights into a person's essential character. The mandala on my wife's foot or the mantra in the small of my back are useful examples: Pieces of text or spiritual symbols pretty much come right out and advertise the POV of the tattooed. But even the guy with, say, the Lorax ("I speak for the trees, for the trees have no tongues!") scrawled on his shoulder is saying something about what he seeks in or from the world around him.

Tattoos also make for a great special effect during sex, the ultimate permanent toy. The artwork both separates you from and more fully integrates you with your partner. Separates because the art itself gives off a whiff of fantasy, the exotic; integrates because, if the tattoo really reflects something psychic or spiritual about its wearer, that aspect, otherwise locked in the abstract, is then represented by a concrete symbol in the midst of the act. You no longer make love just to a body, or even merely express relation with an idividual: You engage in communion with the ideas that person has chosen to represent.

I've often been fascinated by the tribal histories of tattooing. Even removed from its context in primitive cultures, Western tattoos have largely been a function of ethnic, class or tribal identification. Until fairly recently, the tattoo was largely a function of blue collar and/or military solidarity: Soldiers in units would get matching tattoos, sailors would get tattoos that varied according to the purpose of their seafaring (whaling, naval, merchant marine). Mechanics have always been a standard bearer of the tattoo. The association with both working-class and tribal concerns inevitably allowed the tattoo to become a prevalent symbol in rock, and the gradual democratization of rock, in turn, made tattooing acceptable to the middle-class.

But the tribal aspect of tattoos persists: The Yakuza, the popular name for the Japanese organized crime syndicate, uses tattooing as a sort of branding, an assertion of neo-feudal tribal identity (the hierarchies of the Yakuza aren't unlike those of classic Japanese feudalism, where mob leadership essentially takes the place of the Shogun).

This makes me think of movies (because all things in this world make me think of movies). Takeshi Kitano--known, when he acts, as "Beat" Takeshi--has directed some beautiful and meditative Yakuza films (if a meditative tone poem about mobsters sounds like a contradiction, rent Sonatine immediately). In many of them, tattoos are featured prominently as part of the visual design, and emphasizes the patently Asian character of his cinema. Even his non-Yakuza themed films use tattoos in ways central to the visual design. His campy, instant-classic samurai film The Blind Swordsman: Zatoichi features card dealers with ornate designs on shoulder, arm and neck. Even Kikujiro, a small but lovely film that basically resets the hackneyed thug-with-a-heart-of-gold-finds-redemption-on-road-trip-with-lonely-child plot in modern Tokyo (and brilliantly making use of Kitano's patented, existentially resigned blank slate of an anti-hero, evolved directly from Alain Delon's frigid hitman in Jean-Pierre Melville's Le Samourai), spends at least a few minutes showing long, still shots of a rising sun on Kitano's back, as if his very tribal criminality is also, paradoxically, the source of both his redemption and the child's.

Speaking of Japanese cinema, Purplestine and I saw Kiki's Delivery Service last night. What a lovely little piece that is. Not as rich as Princess Mononoke or Spirited Away, but with the same thoughtful approach to fantasy. Interesting how, even when aiming for children, Miyazaki's animated fables are still more thematically potent and intellectually rich than most of the animated fare our own studios try to sell us.

Top 5 animated movies ever, according to thelyamhound:

1) The Triplets of Belleville
2) The Incredibles
3) Spirited Away
4) Kiki's Delivery Service
5) A Bug's Life

That's how I feel about it today. There's a French film called Fantastic Planet . . . or maybe Strange Planet (much abuse of the short term memory since we saw it) which deserves honorarable mention and might have made the list on another day. I'm also very fond of both Toy Story films; and while I thought that, for its year, Finding Nemo fell short of the majestic heights reached by The Triplets of Belleville, it's still a fine and worthy piece of animated cinema.

Anyway, Kiki's Delivery Service featured some nice, deadpan vocal work by Phil Hartman, and some sweet work by Kirsten Dunst as the eponymous heroine. It's message of personal empowerment and self-esteem was simple and very directly stated; but it managed to convey said message with a winking sense of humor that never became overly smug, a sweetness that was never saccharine and, being a Miyazaki film, a sustained sense of wonder at beauty both natural and man made (the waving grass that opens the movie and the lumbering dirigible that close it are among some of the best pieces of eye-candy in the canon on animated film).

The night before last, we watched Layer Cake, a British crime thriller with Daniel Craig, whom I'm growing to like quite a bit, and Michael Gambon, whom I've adored for some time (if local video stores or libraries have the British TV series The Singing Detective--not to be confused with the recent, condensed, Americanized cinematic remake with Robert Downey Jr.--pick it up immediately, and prepare to see Michael Gambon in probably the finest television ever produced). Anyway, the producers of Layer Cake are apparently the same cats responsible for Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels, which I loved, and Snatch, in which I loved Brad Pitt--with his tattoos (hello, full-circle) and incomprehensible "piker" accent-- and Jason Statham, but which I merely liked as a film. Matthew Vaughn--producer of the two aforementioned pieces (both directed by Guy Ritchie)--takes the director's reigns here. His style, while still possessing a certain "music video" flash a la Ritchie, has a more deliberate and, dare I say, adult feel to it, inspired (one imagines) by the weightier crime dramas of Mike Hodges (Get Carter, Croupier, I'll Sleep When I'm Dead). Craig is a great presence, Gambon is funny and menacing, the pace is nearly perfect. An erotically charged sex scene is cut short quite cleverly and abruptly; but sadly, it has the (perhaps unintended) effect of making the woman (Sienna Miller) seem like a prop. Still, while it's no classic, Layer Cake is a solidly entertaining piece of genre cinema.

So I'd have to say my ramble has run its course. Sorry you're not getting my best writing today; but what I'm lacking in lucidity, I'm making up for in the raw exposure of my thought process (or at least that's what I'll keep telling myself). So have a lovely afternoon, folks, until the 'hound bays again.

Tuesday, August 23, 2005

Ass Mints

I like mints. A lot. Tiny little lozenges that freshen the breath, making every exhale into a little gust of wintergreen.

My question: Can they make ass mints? Anti-gas medications tend to mess with the system, so I need something a little more elemental in its approach. I need a tasty mint I can pop in my mouth and ensure that my intestinal gas smells like green tea, or a pine forest.

I'm just sayin' . . .

In other news, Robert A. Moog (1934-2005) died Sunday of a brain tumor at his home in Asheville, N. C. Robert Moog, for all intents and purposes, is the engineer credited with inventing the music synthesizer, and was one of the first to commercially market synthesizers to musicians. You've heard Moog synthesizers in songs by the Beatles (the Moog was featured prominently on Abbey Road), Manfred Mann, Yes, Pink Floyd, Emerson Lake & Palmer . . . Early albums by The Rentals, a side-project by one of the members of Weezer, functioned almost exclusively on Moog synthesizers. Artists who patronized his instrument sales and repair business include Trent Reznor and members of Sonic Youth. R.I.P. to a great innovator.

Monday, August 22, 2005


Between a picnic for a chiropractic center, a graduation ceremony for a massage school and Hempfest, one could say this was a weekend of EVENTS. Of course, one of those events being hempfest, my recollection of the weekend's events is hazy at best. I'm getting ready for a second refill (3rd cup) of (black, sorta sludgy) coffee. A delivery man has dropped off our bi-weekly supply of shortbread cookies. The perk is that he drops a giant plastic bag of said cookies on my desk. The drawback is that, as a result, I have a giant bag of shortbread cookies on my desk. I tend to eat them. With coffee. The result is my feeling fat, oversugared and highly caffeinated.

So . . . Hempfest. Great outdoor setting, vibrant, fun atmosphere, sunny day, lotsa "hemp-fortified" food and cooling lemonade. Semi-interesting music blared from at least three different stages (and numerous DJs, with the occasional MC, played sets in tents strategically placed throughout the venue), and some attendees created their own performance art. One girl (with whom my wife and I were in mad lust) wore a shimmering wraparound with a top and gossamer wings that folded back into a cape, opening her wings ("spread" by means of wooden, hand-held extensions and waved in arcs) and creating a psychedelic spectacle that might not have needed chemical enhancement to be trippy (though I may never know for sure).

As an all-weekend festival, the event was a doozy. As a political rally, I had a lot of misgivings. The political diatribes weren't much more articulate than those offered by the average Judas Priest stoner: Vague pronouncements about the criminals in the current administration, unweildy comparisons between the drug war and Vietnam, exhortations to "come out of the closet" as potsmokers . . . Levels of veracity vary on the talking points; but sadly, I fear that stonerdom is gonna need to, erm, sober up a bit if we're going to come up with a coherent political agenda.

Still, it's hard to knock a day when stoners from all walks of life can congregate and partake, shop for jewelry and pastries (enhanced or otherwise) and listen to live music. So maybe I'm barking up the wrong tree worrying about the political rhetoric; maybe it's enough that a public space was set aside so that stoners from all walks of life could congregate, partake and chill.

Now I'm sure some of you are thinking that you may have gotten away without having to read a movie review. Well, no such luck. I had the pleasure and privelige of seeing Murderball this weekend, and I'd be criminally remiss, I think, not to share my observations. So, without further fanfare . . .


As the son of an amputee--my father lost a leg in Vietnam, well before I came to be (in point of fact, before he even met my mother)--I've always had mixed (but strong) feelings about the "overcoming adversity" storyline in cinema about the (for lack of a better word) disabled. Obviously, it's not intrinsically problematic to admire one's accomplishments all the more in light of the obstacles which he's had to overcome; but all too often, such admiration takes on a paternalistic and self-serving tone. Documentaries are both more immune to such posturing and more prone to it: Limiting the scope of cinematic observation to the real keeps filmmakers from imposing the facile narrative contrivances of the average "inspirational" film. At the same time, in this age of reality TV, the intrusive camera can be used to shoehorn the ostensibly real into the ill-fitting confines of our prejudices.

Murderball, the fantastic documentary in theaters now about the mind-bogglingly rough game of quad-rugby, the well-deserved nickname of which provides the film with its title, nicely avoids such traps by making it clear from the beginning that these guys could kick your ass. No, really. You may, for a moment, feel a trace of pity or sadness when the opening shot--a deliciously stark digital framing of Mark Zupan changing from his jeans into a pair of athletic shorts, preparing to work--sucks you in. Watching Zupan struggle through a simple act of changing, after all, may make you appreciate how easy it is for you to do the same. But it becomes clear soon after, when a quick-cut montage of a typical game of murderball is set to the chugging riffs of a Ministry song (I couldn't quite identify the track, but it was definitely from the A Mind is a Terrible Thing to Taste/Psalm 69 era of the band, shortly after their peak days of Land of Rape and Honey), that this movie isn't here to offer facile truisms about courage or strength of character (although there's plenty of both on display). No, this is a movie about hard, complex, beautiful people playing the toughest game on earth.

No, really. The toughest game on earth.

You've seen rugby, right? The one where burly, largely toothless guys play something like football, but with fewer rules and no body armor? Yeah, well, these cats play it in wheelchairs. These guys--all of them quadriplegic, with impairments in all four limbs (but with enough upper body function to operate a wheelchair)--run a ball across a modified basketball court in chairs tricked out like the armored cars in The Road Warrior, and score goals by getting both large wheels of the chair across the goal line with the ball securely in their laps. Oh, and the defense does everything they can to halt the would-be touchdown. Defense usually involves crashing hard into the chair and knocking it over, sending the receiver tumbling across the court.

The game scenes in this film operate on a visceral level not unlike that of Fight Club, wherein all manner of suppressed or misdirected emotion emerges in calculated burst of sheer physical force. Those who are not inclined to see documentaries in the theater should take note: There is no action in any movie this summer more potent, more adrenalizing, than watching this game being played. And the prefab uplift of most sports movies--the adrenaline they try to raise in films like Rocky, Victory or what have you--will seem seem false, and possibly misguided, by comparison.

Indeed, the real subject of the film would seem to be testosterone. A segment on the sexual function of quadriplegics (yes, there is such a thing, thought the sheer squareness of a medical video primer on the subject excerpted in the film is downright laughable), in which Zupan asserts asserts that those in a chair are likely to "really wanna eat pussy", seemed to confirm my suspicion that, more than overcoming any obstacle, these men seek potency, confirmation that they're still forces with which to be reckoned. It's not just that they manage to be fathers, lovers, athletes, pranksters, drinkers and brawlers. It's that they want to be good fathers, great lovers, funny pranksters and hard drinkers; and if they're gonna play the games and get into the fights, they wanna win. Zupan takes exception to the notion that anyone would hesitate to hit a man in a wheelchair . . . and slyly, almost cruelly, warns that the real danger of hitting this disabled guy is that he'd hit back.

The movie has so many subplots that it would be useless to go through them. Bob Lujano, who lost all four limbs to Miningococcerina, a variation of meningitis, provides both the most poignant meditation on disability and the funniest comic relief (he's hidden in a small box as part of a gag cooked up by the guys to mess with the staff at an hotel), is worth special attention; and watching Joe Soares try to navigate his relationship with his intelligent, talented but dissolute son is as powerful an exploration of parenting as I've ever seen.

I should also note that the film makes exceptional use of pop music from The Polyphonic Spree, Ministry and others, giving a cogent focus to the narrative and aiding scenes in succeeding on a truly cinematic level.

Indeed, this is more than a good documentary, a good sports movie or a good movie about the disabled . . . though I'd have to say it's the single best example of all three that I can think of at the moment. What Murderball is, first and foremost, is great film: Beautifully shot (within digital confines, of course), perfectly edited, chocked with surprises only real life can offer but conveyed with the precision that only great storytelling can achieve. It's the best film I've seen all summer. Go. Now.

Friday, August 19, 2005

Leaving the Apartment is Performance Art

Any coffee is too much coffee. And too little.

See, I'm sometimes a tea person. And sometimes I avoid caffeine altogether. Sometimes, though, nothing but black coffee will do. It's an acquired taste, I suppose, like beer, heavy metal, Samuel Beckett. But it's a taste I've managed to acquire, for whatever reason and through whatever channel; and try as I might, I can't seem to give it up for good.

Sometimes I abandon coffee for tea. Tea seems more British/Asian in character, so I feel like I'm declaring solidarity with the people who make so much great pop music (those limeys) and those who provided the earliest seeds for my physical and spiritual self-cultivation (the Chinese, Japanese and Indian). Still, there's something so patently blue-collar about coffee that I can't resist: I keep imagining Depression-era cab drivers in New York, wrapping their frost-bitten hands around a cup of hot joe for the warmth, or Western plains drifters cooking bitter, black general store coffee--ancestor to the truck-stop sludge I used to down by the pot back in Utah. If tea seems like the short-cut to Zen because of its association with the East, its association, in this country, with the sort of Zen sought and practiced by upper-middle-class liberal intellectuals gives coffee a level of credibility as the drink of the true "Zen lunatic" of Kerouac's obsession: The worker, the drifter, the self-taught ascetic.

Not only that, but the association of coffee with beatniks, hippies (the "hippie-speedball", a staple of my diet, is simply the chemical combination of THC and black coffee), and bohemians--a leftover from the boisterously political and intellectual coffeehouse scene from the Enlightenment--lends it a sort of credibility one who sets himself outside the walls of the norm. Ironically, though, the norm is as coffee-powered as anything else: I never consumed so much coffee--nor saw so much consumed--as when I worked at a bankruptcy trustee's office, where the coffee was free, and sucked down by various type-A personalities (or type-A personality wannabes) to power the soul-sucking machine that is the Protestant work ethic.

The real question I imagine you're asking is, "Lyamhound, you nut, why are you even thinking about it this much?"

The short answer is that I'm avoiding more important matters by turning my attention to trivia. Really, though, I tend to filter everything I do through how such actions might seem to the casual (or not so casual) observer. What do the things I do, wear, say, drink, eat represent? Because let's face it: For the homeopathically medicated manic-depressive with a messianic complex, getting out of bed and going out to face the world is a performance. The idea of pure function is anathema: It reeks of effort without reward, a daily endurance of the maddeningly prosaic without reason to hope that one's presence outside the walls of the apartment may actually affect the people he encounters. When one's effect on the world is abstract--as it is necessarily to the office lackey, the retail clerk, even the artist (only doctors, policemen, soldiers, possibly teachers and certainly professional killers can measure their effects in number and matter)--the significance, real or imagined, of tiny gestures is magnified.

My own tastes, with regards to foods and flavors are hard to discern: Circumstances in my upbringing left me afraid by my adolescence to indulge any preferences one way or the other. The plus side is that I like the taste of pretty nearly everything that's considered food in Western culture. The downside is that, in order to narrow my field of the desirable, I have to imbue everything with some pesky meaning or other.

So bear with me when I analyze something as mundane as coffee for its broader spiritual and cultural implications. Think of it as the obsessive-compulsive loop of a neurotic gnostic: If one is to know God through the world, the world through the daily environment and the environment through the self, it goes to follow that the quirks with which I experience my environment--chemical veils, cultural associations and all--will color the analysis which drives and accompanies my search. Or, if nothing else, I'll be awake enough to notice the more important stuff.

So no cream, thanks. I've got an epiphany to chase.

An American Sociopath in Hamburg

I promise to have some new content soon (and some thoughts on something other than movies or music, although those are my twin obsessions). But this is the last of my "heralded" posts from the fray; and I think the film I review is an obscure-ish should-be classic that, if you can find it, you would greatly enjoy.

So here we go:


I had seen my share of Ripleys. Tom Ripleys, that is. Most people see Matt Damon when the think of the eponymous sociopath of "The Talented Mr. Ripley"; but that book had already been adapted once before, in a French film entitled "Purple Noon" in English-speaking countries. The always dashing--and always ice-cold--Alain Delon played Patricia Highsmith's budding sociopath. A more recent adaptation of "Ripley's Game", with John Malkovich in the role of an older, wiser, more self-aware manipulator stumbled straight to DVD without the benefit of wide release.

But like "The Talented Mr. Ripley", "Ripley's Game" also has an earlier film adaptation with an altered title (presumably to justify or offset certain liberties taken with the text). The great German filmmaker Wim Wenders--director of two of my top 10 films ever, "Wings of Desire" and "Paris, Texas"--created, in 1977, an acclaimed thriller based on Patricia Highsmith's "Ripley's Game", the story of a European innocent manipulated into participation in a mob hit by a certain American named Tom Ripley, a suitable master of such games due to an utter lack of anything resembling conscience. In the role of the hapless protagonist, Wenders casts Bruno Ganz, who would later be the sad-eyed angel at the center of Wenders' "Wings of Desire". And Tom Ripley? Well . . . that would be Dennis Hopper.

Alain Delon, Matt Damon, John Malkovich . . . Dennis Hopper. One of these things--as the TV show used to say--is not like the other.

I'll be damned if it doesn't work, though.

Whatever the differences, cinematically, between the various Ripleys, Damon, Malkovich and Delon all had the common virtue (if you can call it that) of being able to pass for an Ivy League playboy, but for a certain cold, dissolute intelligence. They were all the kind of guys in college whom you would have found attractive were they not so dang creepy . . . or else the kind you found extremely attractive precisely because of the apparent "defect". Of the three, Delon was the most convincing sociopath--his Gallic iciness pierced through the celluloid and drew blood. Damon gave the most layered performance, capturing the nervousness of a man who doesn't yet understand that he's necessarily missing anything, who hasn't come to understand how ill-equipped he is for virtue, how uniquely suited to evil. And Malkovich--always a sentimental favorite of mine, despite his affectations--seemed like the perfect future version of Damon's Ripley, socially awkward but happily resigned to it, dressed cheerfully in untucked shirts and beret's like an overgrown college kid who never grew out of wanting to be seen as a thoughtful, sensitive indie beau-hunk (though here I could be projecting). Malkovich's lazy, slightly feminine delivery represents, to me, a compendium of the Ripley ideal as the ultimate failure of east coast, middle-to-upper-class character construction: A poncey, predatory organism that knows all the rules, but not what they mean.

This is not Dennis Hopper's Ripley.

If "Paris, Texas", which would come in 1981, seemed to betray Wenders' belief that America was all about open spaces, cars and pop-culture insignia, it probably came as no surprise to those who'd already seen "The American Friend", in which said friend--Tom Ripley--was a dissolute drifter who happened to drift here, to Hamburg, where he deals in forged art and mumbles a sort of psychological journal into a tape recorder (entries to be replayed while driving at dusk). This being 1977, Hopper is at the peak of his incoherence; and his incoherence beautifully, tragically becomes Ripley's. While Tom is never shown doing any drugs, the notion that he might be lingers over the proceedings as he stagger through the motions in what would appear to be a thick fog of incomprehension. With his semi-ridiculous cowboy hat and lopsided swagger, Hopper's Ripley is nearly as dangerous as Delon's, more unpredictable than Damon's and more recognizably human than Malkovich's.

More than that, though, one has to wonder if Ripley wasn't meant to represent Wenders suspicions about Americans: Drunk on open space, prone to rely on firearms at inappropriate times, steeped in tacky decor (a lit neon "Canada Dry" sign hangs overhead in the center of Ripley's living room), constantly seeking identity.

Considering how little screen time Hopper actually gets, it would be criminal of me to fail to mention Ganz, who's as much a marvel here as in "Wings of Desire". His character--suffering a potentially fatal (and unnamed) blood disorder, devoted to his family and contemptuous of those who treat art as commerce--is the sort of simple, hard-working-yet-passively-cosmopolitan European who serves as a perfect foil, dramatically speaking, to Tom Ripley. Bruno Ganz's deep, dark gazes betray a sense of loss even when he laughs, apologizes or offers assistance. When the character is finally lead to kill, his frustration feels . . . for lack of a better word, very real: As in many of the best Wenders films, pathos is here served somewhat chilly.

Wenders is working with his usual cinematographer, the great Robby Muller; and, true to form, the film is beautiful. Like he did in "Paris, TX", Muller revels in beautiful widescreen compositions, with stretches of open road, skylines and long-distance views of barely-overheard events opening the picture up so wide you feel like you can crawl in.

Like his American independent contemporary, Jim Jarmusch, Wenders plays liberally with pauses and poses, disaffected cool, and a passive nihilism that yearns for romantic release. The warmth and humor this lends to what may otherwise play out as another thriller of double-crosses and identity games is delightful, irksome, plodding and gorgeous. What makes Hopper's Ripley different from others--and Wenders' "The American Friend" different from other Ripley movies--is that the man at the center of all schemes seems to see something better on the horizon. He can't picture his redemption, but he truly hopes it's waiting for him, somewhere on the other side of the next great conspiracy.

The Stench of Legitimacy

Another repost from the fray, this in response to an article on "the canard of 'classical training'". Seems some journalist took exception to the fact that some pop/punk/rock/metal artists make dubious claims of having received "classical training" to "legitimize" their music. I, too, took exception . . . to the notion that an artist needs to do anything to legitimize his or her art other than make it and find an audience for it. I'm particularly proud of this one--not because it's particularly great writing, but because it offers a more complete glimpse into my true artistic values than do the others.

So here, for a second look:


I have flippantly tossed about the term "classical training" in reference to musicians I admired, so my hands are a little dirty on this. And yes, I'm sure that a truly classically trained musician may take exception to so glib an application of the term. But the real reason such terms get used so frequently is something only hinted at in the article: Elitist dismissal of modern forms of vernacular and popular music.

I have often referred to Mike Patton's "classical training", which I know about only because I read in an article that he studied some opera. What I KNOW is that Faith No More (particularly circa "Angel Dust"), Mr. Bungle and Fantomas have made some of the most complex and visceral music ever to be too damn weird for the pop canon and too damn pop for the classical canon. The music doesn't need the stench of legitimacy to render it legitimate; and yet I feel compelled to offer it precisely that dubiously sought aroma. Why? Because as an educated man (of sorts) and a (moderately) trained stage actor, I'm supposed to bow to the gods of academic tradition and precedent.

I think that what we forget is that all art begins with someone who doesn't know what they're doing. Sonic Youth picked up instruments they didn't know how to play correctly, and that "incorrectness" has since become the foundation of a new school of technique that has not only influenced (and continues to influence) post-punk music, but led Sonic Youth to tackle composition by some of their aesthetic forbears (Cage, Ives, Glass) on "Goodbye 20th Century". Jean-Luc Godard never attended film school; and yet the French New Wave, which he is often credited with all but inventing, created a new chapter in the academic cirriculuum of modern film theory. And don't get me started on jazz, once a music played in bars and whorehouses by men who, often as not, had no more training in classical music than I do in animal husbandry (that's, um, none, in case you're wondering). Yet now, thanks to the tests of time, jazz is granted high regard quite nearly on par with classical music in measures of aesthetic and historical importance.

I don't object to classical training, or the claim thereof, if classical music is what you want to play. Feel free, also, if you must, to defend your precious "classical training" from any dilution of its meaning. In turn, may I suggest that rock, a form still too young to have earned induction into the canon, and particularly younger, more ostensibly academic variations thereon--post-punk, post-rock, krautrock and its descendants, and whatever genre you may suspect will have future importance--not be asked to serve proof of its legitimacy in order to be taken seriously as an art form.

The Great Diversion, or Why Even Arthouse Hounds Need a Dumb Summer Movie Now and Again

This is a repost of a review I originally wrote in the fray at . . . basically, I'm jumpstarting my content by gathering the recent writing/thinking that led to my starting a blog in the first place. Content will get more up-to-date and personal as momentum builds; in the meantime, I'll try to warn you (as I am now) when you're getting recycled content.

That said, please feel free to respond to the recycled posts, because I'd love to get some fresh and friendly eyes on them.

A month or two ago, I had an opportunity to see a free preview of "The Island", which I exptected to hate and ended up sort of enjoying. I wrote this before the reviews came out in the mainstream press, so I was fairly surprised to see that many of the critics agreed with me. Sadly, the movie has since bombed at the box office. While I'm always secretly happy to see blockbusters bomb, it's a little sad when they're among the few such movies that I find myself enjoying.

So without further ado, here's thelyamhound with a movie review:


First things first: I hate Michael Bay.

I know, EVERYONE hates Michael Bay. Maybe the average filmgoer doesn't care; after all, he's among the higher-grossing directors in the industry. And there's always some contrarian film geek--and God knows, I've often been a contrarian film geek--who'll sell you on the idea that he is, in his own slick, silly, sensationalistic way, an auteur. Which he is . . . a HACK auteur, to be precise. I'm not one to criticize MTV filmmaking reflexively: I always believed that the damage music videos would to to music would be offset by the schooling they would offer for novice filmmakers. And if I'm looking at films by, say, David Fincher, Spike Jonze, Michel Gondry and even early Guy Ritchie, the tools of advertising and music promotion have, on occasion, served the industry well.

But Michael Bay is exceptional in his lack of interest in the truly cinematic. It's not just his content (or lack thereof); nor is it specifically the latent misogyny and homophobia that seem to crowd his frames at the margins. It isn't even the popcorn frivolity. In fact, if we were to illustrate the difference between the best of his previous output ("The Rock") and the worst ("Armageddon"), it's that his worst work fails specifically on the the popcorn level. "The Rock" manages, despite comically overwrought and implausible action sequences, leaden dialogue and unlikely plotting, to speed through on the power of its stars. In "Armageddon", on the other hand, even Steve Buscemi and Billy Bob Thornton can't register throught the haze of epileptic camera work and ADD editing. The best thing I can say about that particular cinematic abortion is that it was so scattershot and mind-scrambling that I barely remember that Ben Affleck was in it at all. We can all be grateful for small favors.

So take my word for it when I tell you: This is the best pure summer movie of the summer.

Yeah, I loved "Batman Begins"; and I was impressed, if not particularly moved, by "War of the Worlds". But in their own ways, and on their own terms, these were FILMS, works of art which could actually endure thematic, formal and philosophical scrutiny. Neither was quite the tremendously enjoyable, emotionally manipulative, instantly forgettable joy that a proper summer movie could be. "The Island", on the other hand, spends over two hours spoon-feeding you that which should be laughable and actually moves you with it. And if Michael Bay is a hack, making you swallow that which you shouldn't put in your mouth in the first place and actually making you ENJOY it is a skill that earns him the title of World-Class Hack.

The plot is nothing you need worry about. Basically, it's "Logan's Run" meets "THX 1138" for the first half, "Spartacus" for the last third and an extended car crash in the middle. The car crash in question defies all laws of logic, gravity and spacial relevance; but I don't know that my hands ever stopped clenching the armrests, so my snobbery on the matter can rightfully be called misguided.

The story, such as it is, centers on Ewan McGregor and Scarlett Johansson as residents of a monochromatic compound sealed off from the world ostensibly as the result of a "contamination", the nature of which is never particularly elucidated or specified. Periodically, these individuals are spoon-fed hope by a lottery which promises that the winner will be sent to "the island", the last uncontaminated ecosystem, for the purposes of repopulating the species. What ensues is a sequence of minor discoveries leading to a not unpredictable doozy: That these people are all clones grown for organ harvest, kept in a state of bliss to ensure purity of their tissues, and harvest when their "sponsors"--who know nothing about the sentient nature of the "products"--are in need of organs/skin/surrogate mothers. Escape, chases, moral quandaries and what-not follow. Steve Buscemi makes an appearance as a sympathetic human. Djimon Hounsou shows up as a bounty hunter. The plot loses the fight with momentum.

Where this movie succeeds better than any other Bay film is in how potently it allows star power to run the game. Ewan McGregor's rakish charm is in full force, mixing the sly savvy of his work in "Trainspotting" with the sort of innocence he cultivated effectively in "Moulin Rouge" and "Big Fish". Scarlett Johansson has never been so lovely: Her crepe-paper skin, platinum-blonde hair (wig or dye-job?), reflecting-pool eyes and absolutely chewable lips . . . God, those lips . . .


Anyway, McGregor fares well in terms of charisma--the scene where he meets his sponsor, played, again, by himself, is a knockout--but Johansson more effectively conveys a being who's decidedly incomplete, a blank slate newer to the world than she realizes. Buscemi is as funny as ever, and Hounsou is smoldering, sexy, dangerous and, as always, staunchly noble in his own way.

One complaint: The violence level of this film is way too high for its PG-13 rating. With all the shootings and maimings, they might as well have given it an R and given us some nude scenes. Then again, I can practically draw Ewan McGregor's penis from memory for all the films in which it's appeared; and I don't even know if Johansson does nude scenes. So call that a personal quibble.

In any case, Bay has delivered what no one else this summer has (and what I never imagined he was capable of): A nearly perfect piece of cinematic junk food. I may have to eat nothing but broccoli for a week to get rid of that dirty feeling, but boy-oh-boy, did it taste good.

Thursday, August 18, 2005

A Rant on Music . . .

. . . just so you know what you're in for.

I was thinking about King Crimson today. Actually, I think about King Crimson a lot. I tend to like art that claims no antecedents; but of course, NO art in this day and age is without antecedents. So when I try to build a personal canon of popular music (although, as I explain below, I object to broad cultural canon formation in this arena), I keep coming back to a handful of bands. And the one on my mind today is . . . King Crimson.

I not only dislike much classic rock, I fundamentally object to the concept. First and foremost it's an exercise in hubris to begin canon formation on an art form that's less than 50 years old. Secondly, the criteria for inducting most "classic rock" into the "canon" seems to be that some baby boomer who owns a radio station remembers copping a first feel or smoking a first joint to some song or another, and mistakes such nostolgia for a brush with the transcendant. If canon formation in rock resembled, in principle, the same processes in literature or film (which, at around a century old, is BARELY old enough to justify its canon), most classic rock wouldn't make the cut. Maybe Zeppelin. Probably Pink Floyd and Yes. Certainly Zappa. But the Eagles? God, no. Bachman-Turner Overdrive? Please. Bad Company? This conversation is over.

OK, OK, it's not over. There are many potential criteria, of course. Judgement on merits of technical prowess would include the induction of artists like Rush, Jeff/Tim Buckley, Fairport Convention, Zappa, Yes, and, for my favorites, Can, Neu, Brian Eno, Talking Heads, and King Crimson. If we look at issues of social importance, for instance, and/or effect on the aesthetic evolution of the form, my thinking is that we'd be looking at artists like The Clash, Patti Smith, Elvis Costello, Sonic Youth, Velvet Underground, Bob Dylan, Captain Beefheart, U2, Black Sabbath, Bauhaus, REM . . . and, I daresay, Can, Neu, Brian Eno, Talking Heads, and King Crimson.

Robert Fripp does more than play a mean guitar: He CHANGES what the instrument is FOR. Other standouts in the rotating lineup: Drummer Trey Gunn--for whom the words "drum solo" mean not some meatheaded rock indulgence but a straight shot to post-jazz, post-rock nirvana (not to be confused with Nirvana)--and singer/guitarist Adrian Belew, both of whom contributed great things to the shape of the band. But I still love the lineups of the band that recorded "In the Court of the Crimson King", one of the two greatest prog-rock albums ever, and "Red" . . . the other one.

More than the musicianship, though, is that they managed to be art-rock without being unconscionably pretentious. They rock as hard as Rush, swoon as romantically as Yes and have all the bluster and theatricality of Peter Gabriel-led Genesis; but they do it all with an ironic wink and self-effacement that would later influence punk, and post-punk art school acts like the aforementioned Sonic Youth and Talking Heads.

If you're a real Crimhead, three acts worth checking out: Cobra High (provided you don't mind your prog-rock laced with a little new wave), Sleepytime Gorilla Museum (provided you don't mind it laced with a little world music, a little goth and a LOT of death-metal) and Turing Machine (provided you don't mind it instrumental with a bubbling momentum that calls to mind krautrock giants Neu). Actually, even if you're not a crimhead, I recommend all of the above (reviews will surely follow).

Puppies are born blind, aren't they?

First post, so I'll keep it short.

I'm new to these digs, and my eyes have yet to open. It's not that I don't feel at home writing the words, per se; but the idea of creating an online forum for myself . . . well, it's terribly exciting, to be sure. Exciting and nerve-wracking (what does that mean, anyway? what means the infinitive "to wrack"?). Still, I'd best stick with exciting.

What was I saying? Oh, yes--tangents and digressions. Or that's where I would have arrived (eventually). So my guess is that you'll see a good portion of this space taken up with movie and music reviews, some fawning tributes to French actresses and people with tattoos, musings on my marriage and some occasional navel gazing. I may digress into politics or fashion . . . restaurant reviews, if I have way too much time on my hands. Those of you who can't possibly abide such nonsense need not visit. Those who can abide it in moderation ought to visit when you feel like it. I'll try to make you feel welcome if you don't burn things in my yard.

In any case, thelyamhound likes the smell of this place, and is inclined to curl up on this abandoned porch and nap 'til it's time to howl at the moon . . .