Wednesday, November 30, 2011

RIP, Montserrat Figueras

I've never (except obliquely) discussed my passion for the early music or authentic instrument/practices movement. Suffice it to say that there are many completely first-rate and compelling performers in the field whose fame is limited by the sometimes cultish/snobbish attitudes of both audiences and performers.

That has not been true of the Catalan violist Jordi Savall, his ensemble Hesperion XXI, and especially his wife Montserrat Figueras, who died last week at the age of 69. The attached half hour clip shows a lot of popular appeal (at least around my house). Figueras sings at about 8:30, but the whole thing is worth a listen. (I'm planning to adopt the percussionist's look someday...)

Maybe because a lot of the performers are young, or because a lot of the music is dance music, or simply because the performers usually seem to be having so much fun, early music has in a lot of ways replaced rock in my affections.


Sunday, November 27, 2011

Amis explains why

In a review of a book of Don DeLillo short stories, Marin Amis formulates (in self-defense, probably) the 50/50 rule:

When we say that we love a writer’s work, we are always stretching the truth: what we really mean is that we love about half of it. Sometimes rather more than half, sometimes rather less......

Our subject, here, is literary evaluation, so of course everything I say is mere opinion, unverifiable and also unfalsifiable, which makes the ground shakier still. But I stubbornly suspect that only the cultist, or the academic, is capable of swallowing an author whole. Writers are peculiar, readers are particular: it is just the way we are.


Jonathan Lethem's Library

A snapshot from what seems to be an interesting new book, called "Unpacking My Library: Writers and their Books" of a bookshelf of the former sf (now literary) writer Jonathan Lethem. A man after my own heart...


Thursday, November 24, 2011

Count Floyd and Dr. Tongue talk 3D

Note the cool effects, precursors of Hugo's steady-cam 3D move through the train station.....


Anthony Lane Makes The Case

From a recent New Yorker:

There’s only one problem with home cinema: it doesn’t exist. The very phrase is an oxymoron. As you pause your film to answer the door or fetch a Coke, the experience ceases to be cinema. Even the act of choosing when to watch means you are no longer at the movies. Choice—preferably an exhaustive menu of it—pretty much defines our status as consumers, and has long been an unquestioned tenet of the capitalist feast, but in fact carte blanche is no way to run a cultural life (or any kind of life, for that matter), and one thing that has nourished the theatrical experience, from the Athens of Aeschylus to the multiplex, is the element of compulsion. Someone else decides when the show will start; we may decide whether to attend, but, once we take our seats, we join the ride and surrender our will. The same goes for the folks around us, whom we do not know, and whom we resemble only in our private desire to know more of what will unfold in public, on the stage or screen. We are strangers in communion, and, once that pact of the intimate and the populous is snapped, the charm is gone. Our revels now are ended.


Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Appropriate Celebrity Behavior

I saw John C. Reilly and his family having lunch today at Pie 'n' Burger in Pasadena. Don't think I'll see Michael Gambon or Julie Delpy there any time soon.....


Monday, November 21, 2011

Probably Unfair

Richard Rushfield, unknown to me, but apparently an editor at Vanity Fair, the LA Times, and Gawker, makes concrete an often-made observation by cruelly comparing Cary Grant, Jimmy Stewart, and Lauren Bacall to their age cohorts in the above photo, which he captions "Gatsby for Kids." It does look like senior prom at Lawrenceville.....


Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Frank Miller makes a right turn

And gets denounced by all the usual suspects. Commentary has the story, including a passing denunciation of China Mieville's pro-Palestinian politics. But Miller's rant is righteous:

Wake up, pond scum. America is at war against a ruthless enemy.

Maybe, between bouts of self-pity and all the other tasty tidbits of narcissism you’ve been served up in your sheltered, comfy little worlds, you’ve heard terms like al-Qaeda and Islamicism.

And this enemy of mine — not of yours, apparently - must be getting a dark chuckle, if not an outright horselaugh - out of your vain, childish, self-destructive spectacle.

In the name of decency, go home to your parents, you losers. Go back to your mommas’ basements and play with your Lords Of Warcraft.

Or better yet, enlist for the real thing. Maybe our military could whip some of you into shape.


Tuesday, November 15, 2011

So wrong. And yet.....

From the wonderful BibliOdyssey


Monday, November 14, 2011


The movie version of the Doctor. Yates is a talented guy, but this is really dumb:

"We're looking at writers now. We're going to spend two to three years to get it right," he said. "It needs quite a radical transformation to take it into the bigger arena."


Sunday, November 13, 2011

More media death

From frequent commenter Christian Lindke, we find an article in Crain's New York Business, from which we learn the following. ("A good thing", mutters David, who hates trade paperbacks...)

Net sales of those artfully designed, easy-to-hold, pleasant-smelling trade paperbacks slid 18%, to $773 million, in the year through August, compared with the year-earlier period, according to the Association of American Publishers.

Meanwhile, sales of e-books, the second-place format, soared 144%, to $649 million.

Just as telling are reports from inside publishing houses, where more and more often, executives are thinking twice about which hardcover books to reprint in a trade paperback edition.


Some recent paperback sales figures show how fast the world is changing. Jonathan Franzen's blockbuster 2010 novel Freedom, for example, sold around 1 million copies, according to publisher Farrar, Strauss and Giroux, with about a third of those in e-book and the rest in hardcover.

Since its Sept. 27 publication, the trade paperback edition has sold just 28,000 copies, according to Nielsen Bookscan, which tracks about 75% of the market.


Saturday, November 12, 2011

Can this really be the end?

I'm really just a stegosaurus looking for food.... From this morning's WSJ:

Activision said Friday that within the first 24 hours of the new "Call of Duty" game's release, 6.5 million units were sold for $400 million in North America and the U.K.

"We believe the launch of 'Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3' is the biggest entertainment launch of all time in any medium, and we achieved this record with sales from only two territories," Chief Executive Bobby Kotick said.

Late last month, Electronic Arts said five million units of "Battlefield 3" were sold in the first week the game was available.

Doing the math: That's a bit under 5% of the gross US theatrical boxoffice so far this year. One game, one day.


Thursday, November 10, 2011

The Guardian has the final word

The ten heaviest albums ever made, with video samples. This, at least, is short:


Wednesday, November 9, 2011

You see, here's what I like:

I know exactly what you're going to say. Doesn't bother me at all. Sigur Ros in concert (make sure you stay past the initial feedback part):

Sigur Rós: Ný Batterí (Inni) from Sigur Rós on Vimeo.


Tuesday, November 8, 2011

May have posted this before...

...though who'd dare complain?

UPDATE: Todd McCarthy in his "Hollywood Reporter" review: "A handsome, dark-haired hard body who wears an evening dress as easily as she does a hoodie, Carano exudes the sort of self-confidence and physical wherewithall that leaves no doubt she can prevail in any situation."


Ricky Hui - 1946-2011


Sunday, November 6, 2011

It's stronger than I remembered...

...and therefore probably easier to dismiss, overstatement being Kael's leading vice as a writer. This is a quote from a quote, just to make sure we know what we're talking about. There's also a memorable "of course" in the final graph.

Are people becoming afraid of American movies? When acquaintances ask me what they should see and I say The Last Waltz or Convoy or Eyes of Laura Mars, I can see the recoil. It’s the same look of distrust I encountered when I suggested Carrie or The Fury or Jaws or Taxi Driver or the two Godfather pictures before that. They immediately start talking about how they “don’t like” violence. But as they talk you can see that it’s more than violence they fear. They indicate that they’ve been assaulted by too many schlocky films—some of them highly touted, like The Missouri Breaks. They’re tired of movies that reduce people to nothingness, they say—movies that are all car crashes and killings and perversity. They don’t see why they should subject themselves to experiences that will tie up their guts or give them nightmares.


Times Book Review Gleanings

These days, the Sunday Times Book Review is the only part of the paper I can stand to read.... These amused me:

Geoff Dyer's essay about the vintage-1970 covers of the Penguin Modern Classics (and why aren't there statues of Geoff Dyer in every town square?):

Since then the happiest moments in 35 years of museum-going have occurred when I’ve seen these Penguin Modern Classic paintings on a gallery wall. Especially since the cover often showed only a detail of the original. Seeing the works themselves revealed exactly what had been lost, though I invariably saw it the other way around, with the painting as an expanded version of the Penguin original.
James Wolcott, quoted in a review of his memoirs (which should be required reading for all overweight lovers of transgressive 70s grunge -- Ugly George and Vanessa Del Rio are mentioned -- the only time you'll see them and Pauline Kael in the same paragraph) on first seeing Patti Smith:
“Shortly after entering below the awning of a bar and club with an initialed name, a place I’d never been to on a street that still looked like a Robert Frank photo­graph of raw, spilling night, I gingerly installed myself for a bar-stool view of the stage, which was stationed left of the aisle and barely large enough for a barbershop quartet. The atmosphere was most unmagical, worthy of a cheap paperback set on skid row. It had a palpable texture, this prosy ambience, a bit of World War I trench-warfare leftover aroma of dung, urine and damp carcass, but it was the ’70s and not a time to be picky. Then I saw this visage, this vision, shark-finning the length of the bar, and I knew this had to be Her.”
And finally, a good joke from Andy Borowitz:
If ‘House of Mirth’ is Edith Wharton’s idea of ‘mirth’ let’s be grateful she never wrote ‘House of Bummers.’


Friday, November 4, 2011

VN on commonsense

Essay "The Art of Literature and Commonsense," in Lectures on Literature

In the fall of 1811, Noah Webster, working steadily through the Cs, defined commonsense as “good sound ordinary sense…free from emotional bias or intellectual subtlety…horse sense.” This is rather a flattering view of the creature, for the biography of commonsense makes nasty reading. Commonsense has trampled down many a gentle genius whose eyes had delighted in a too early moonbeam of some too early truth; commonsense has back-kicked dirt at the loveliest of queer paintings because a blue tree seemed madness to its well-meaning hoof; commonsense has prompted ugly but strong nations to crush their fair but frail neighbors the moment a gap in history offered a chance that it would have been ridiculous not to exploit.


Miike 3-D

The 1st annual LA EigaFest will take place from Friday November 11th to Sunday November 13th , at the Mann Chinese 6 Theatres at Hollywood and Highland in Los Angeles.

The festival will showcase the latest and greatest in Japanese shorts and feature films, opening with "Milocrorze: A Love Story" (2011) from Director Yoshimasa Ishibashi and ending with "Hara-Kiri: Death of a Samurai 3D" (2011), by the legendary Takashi Miike!


The Answer is Pork

The point is supposed to be that it's wrong to eat pork. What I take away from this clever PETA ad is that it would be OK to eat cat in some situations. Like if you're offered some in China and don't want to hurt your host's feelings. Risking the discovery that Mittens over rice is just too darn tasty.


Thursday, November 3, 2011

Fear of Music 2

Perfect choice to direct "Loutallica" video

UPDATE: Vladimir, by contrast, was almost pathologically insensitive to music, which he once described as “an arbitrary succession of more or less irritating sounds.”  (From a review of a new book about VN.)


She's back

Europhile eurocrime fans rejoice! The second series of The Killing starts on BBC Four on the 19th.

Lund's depressed:

But at a mere 10 hour-long episodes, The Killing II runs at only half the length of the first series. That is largely to do with the story, said Gråbøl. "The plot is much more complex than the first season. The plot is the main focus … but our task for ourselves was how far into [Lund's] own darkness we could get."

The new series sees Lund, her life destroyed after the Nanna Birk Larsen case of Forbrydelsen I, working on an investigation that involves national politics, the military and Islamist terrorism.


Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Didn't much like it, I guess

Tom McCarthy, slipstream novelist (and author of "Tintin and the Secret of Literature"), really, really, really doesn't like the new movie. The headline calls it 'great art crudely redrawn' and descends from there, more than a bit crazily. This is truly an opinion that I could never have:

In the books, money both stands for genealogical fakeness and is fake itself (a brilliant scene in The Crab with the Golden Claws shows Thompson and Thomson tricked into passing off the very counterfeit coins they've been charged with tracking down: a doubling of illegitimate faces and false "metal"); in the film it literally pours down, in one scene, from the skies, Haddock's reward for being "true to himself". Thus Hollywood's idiotic "message" is forced on an oeuvre that is great precisely because it drives in exactly the opposite direction. It's like making a biopic of Nietzsche that depicts him as a born-again Christian, or of Gandhi as a trigger-happy Rambo blasting his way through the Raj.

Perhaps this movie will be studied, in years to come, as a Žižekian example of a dominant ideology's capacity to recuperate its own negation, or something along those lines. For now, we just have to wonder how Spielberg went so wrong, or if he was in fact involved at all: so badly put together is this film that it's easier, and perhaps more comforting, to imagine a semi-simian marketing committee writing and producing it under the banner of his name. If your children love the Tintin books – or, more to the point, if they have an ounce of intelligence or imagination in their bodies – don't take them to see this truly execrable offering.


Melophobia (Fear of Music)

Artists need to be willing to risk embarrassment. Unless they're impervious.

Lou Reed + Metallica + Wedekind. Just out and already judged The Worst Album of All Time by eminent authorities.


Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Horror is always good....

.....even outside the season. James Morrison, an occasional commenter here, posted a link to this 'spooky story' roundup over at a blog, unfamiliar to me but pretty well connected, called "The Second Pass".

Lots of good stuff here (including Morrison's own suggestion of a John Wyndham novel -- and not the ones you'd expect), and I especially liked John Crowley's contribution, about "The Sign of Four", which suggests an entirely new way of reading mysteries:

When I first read it (age 10) it was terrifying in the awful sense of paranoid possibility it awoke. I didn’t understand it was a mystery that would be solved; for all I knew it would simply go on generating horrid complications forever, and I didn’t see that the ending resolved anything.


More cute Chinese kids

Including the one in the foreground who's named after me.