Sunday, September 24, 2006


My heart is broken.

Friday, September 22, 2006

Drawing Restraint 9

I've been fascinated and repelled at the same time by the work I've seen by Matthew Barney. I've never seen one of his films, however, so I've felt like I've been missing out on the real culmination of the Matthew Barney experience. I have a new friend who was interested in it, so the two of us attended the showing of Drawing Restraint 9 here in Grand Rapids at the UICA.

In case you know nothing about the film, I'll tell you that there is very little dialogue, and it seems to be about some sort of Marriage ritual (between Barney and his real life wife Bjork). It's a very deliberate film, very self consciously arty, and very weird, but in it's way, very beautiful, and also at times very epic. Each shot is obviously staged to the nth degree. Nothing looks accidental. Each step choreographed, not a second is throwaway. It is at times truly incredible to watch.

It's set on a Japanese whaling ship, and there seems to be a very Japanese attention to detail both on and behind the camera. This film is the opposite of slapdash. There are some really amazing sequences of really ritualistic activities. many of which may be very tied to traditional Japanese rituals, some others, probably not.

Now, I may have piqued your interest, but I've said just about I can about the film's upside. Now for what I didn't like.

Everything else. It's a shame that some obviously talented people put so much time and energy into a piece of art that seems to carry so little in its innards. Barney's work may strike a chord, with some, but for me, his tainted appeal has always been tied to his weirdness and his disturbing imagery, which always seems not only foreign and not resonant, but indeed dissonant. Dissonant and disconcerting. I came out of this film feeling very tense.

Afterwards my friend and me went to Vertigo records right up the street and got into a conversation with someone else who was at the same showing. He liked it, but his friend thought it was boring and pretentious. We got on a bit about Barney's other work and this guy mentioned Barney's other famous film series, The Cremaster Cycle. He said it's 6 hours, and there is a sense of accomplishment to reaching the end. I imagine it's more like sheer relief.

I've talked to a few people about Barney. I used to know a guy who really loved Barney's stuff, but everyone else seems to just be amazed by the guy's weirdness. Now I've seen it, and while I don't feel much richer for the experience, at least I know what people are talking about. Is that an endorsement? Hardly. In fact, I'd really like to tell you that it would be a total waste of your time, as I thought to myself a few times in the theatre, but some of those images are etched in my brain in such a way that I can't bring myself to urge you away from this film. But let me give you one caveat: go in with absolutely no expectations. I do think there is something here, if you are open to it, but I also wouldn't blame you if Barney is just too crazy for you. He may just be too crazy for me.

Thursday, September 21, 2006

M. Ward - Chinese Translation

Great song, great video, great album.

Sunday, September 17, 2006

Noah Simring

Noah Simring must have been a beautiful person. I wish I had known him. I have known a few like him, and they have been some of my favorite people. Under a slightly different set of circumstances, I might have been him, but his artistry and his disease were greater and more terrible than mine.

Photo from by Kenneth Chen for NYTimes: Noah Simring, left, with his friend and fellow musician Aaron Bernstein, in Noah’s bedroom.

Saturday, September 16, 2006

Monica's Legacy

From the Sept 18th New Yorker article on Clinton's post-presidency written by David Remnick:
Clinton left the White House angry, exhausted, and broke. He also had to live with the fact that he had hurt Al Gore in the 2000 election, thereby jeopardizing his Presidential legacy - and, as it turned out, so much else. Not a few people made the calculation that if Monica Lewinsky hadn't been on pizza duty during the government shutdown of 1995 (and Clinton not so predisposed to share the snack) there might never have been a Bush Presidency at all, or a hyped case for a war in Iraq, a botched occupation, a skyrocketing budget deficit, a morally and bureaucratically bungled reaction to Hurricane Katrina, and a loss of American prestige around the world. His kingdom for a slice!
Damn, that was one expensive BJ.

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

I know just who I am.

While we're on topic:

Tuesday, September 12, 2006


Best Concert of My Life

The one at which this was filmed. St. Andrews Hall in Detroit.

Not another 9/11 thing.

How much 9/11 is too much 9/11? I've been surrounded by it all day (week, month, presidential term), and I've had plenty, thank you. I think it's getting to be a little crass, commercially and politically.

Do we somehow owe it to those who died to put ourselves through this over and over every year? Personally, I've mourned for them many times over. How many re-enactment/dramatizations/rebroadcasts do we need? How many more times do we have to see the second plane hit/people jumping/horror on faces?

I don't think it's doing us any good. It used to make me feel patriotic, but not anymore. I'm not learning anything new this time around either. This year I'm only reminded of how our political leaders are still milking the event for all it's worth.

I didn't get to watch all of Bush's speech, but hearing him still(!) struggling(!) to make the case for Iraq made me want to vomit.

New Squarepusher

A great new single is available on iTunes (for 99 cents) and Bleep (Warp's online music store - for $1.35 but also 320k and No DRM). I'm always a bit tentative with Squarepusher, but he won me over in record time with this one.

It's called Welcome To Europe. I'm digging it and I hope it's a sign of good things to come with the new album, Hello Everything.

There is a scheduled release date for Oct 16, but I'm not sure if that applies to us here in the US or not (I hope!). In coming weeks two more non-album tracks will be released on Bleep.

Monday, September 11, 2006

Left Behinds

I'm recently digging on Left Behinds, a blog I found when doing some google-y research on Deep Springs, an extremely small (25 students) and extremely remote (in the desert) college which was the subject of an article in the Sept 4th New Yorker. Its smart and funny political stuff and where else are you going to find this:

Oh yeah, it's pretty gay bright pink, too.

The Price of Green Energy

After talking with an official from Consumers Energy, I have some hard numbers on their renewable energy program. The program itself began last September, and under an agreement with the Michigan Public Service Commission, the are required to have 18,000 customers signed up by a year from now. Currently they have 5,000.

The renewable energy surcharge is .01667 cents per kw/hour. At my house last month, we used 443 kw/hours (which is slightly below average). That means that if we were to switch over to 100% green power, it would mean a total surcharge of $7.38 for this month. Sounds very doable to me.

Previously: Empties For Energy.

Dodds Robbed

I received sad news over the weekend. One day after our piece aired, Gerry Dodds, the owner of Dodds records, was robbed. To the best of my knowledge, Mr Dodds is okay. Apparently this isn't the first time he has been held up. His shop is near some iffy elements down on South Division avenue. I hope to pay him a visit soon.

Previously: Dodd pulls some 45s

Friday, September 08, 2006

Shellac in concert

Last night Grand Rapids hosted the legedary producer supergroup(?) Shellac. I only listened to Shellac for a little bit back in college when my friend Jeremy played it for me, but I liked it then, and it ain't everyday that a act I'm interested comes through GR, so as I had a rare Thursday night off, I took advantage.

The Wealthy Theatre is such a charming little place. It has something to do with it's very uncommercial vibe. A few years back it was reopened and it's run by some not for profit lefties of some sort or another. I'm down with that. I've been there a bunch of time with a camera on my shoulder for various lefty-type events. I met Carly Simon there campaiging for Kerry before the election (duh!).

It's kind of a strage place for a rock n' roll show, though, because it's got bolted down theatre seating. I guess Shellac likes to place in wierd joints, trying to avoid all the corporate ClearChannelTicketMaster mafia. Sounds appropriately lefty to me.

The opener was a band from Sicily called Uzeda. I settled into a nice cusioned aisle seat and soaked in some of the beauty of the theatre's interior while I waited for the show to begin. It's got two big super neato indirect lighting fixtures in the ceiling that look like planets or giant portholes. Eventually Uzeda came out with little fanfare and the female on the mic quiety introduced the band. But when they hit the first note it was anything but quiet. I half expected the molding details of the old theater to lose some amount of structural integrity. I hadn't thought to wear any earplugs, but I could have used them for Uzeda, and that was from halfway to the back of the room. I wanted to get a few pics, but it wasn't until their last song that I dared go any nearer.

Drumming. Uzeda's drummer looked like Andre Agassi, and I wasn't the only one to notice. Loud thick super-tight chunky abstract changing all work to describe the drumming in Uzeda. The drummer was definitely the star of the show. The female vocalist was a real yeller, in a good way. The guitarist's sound was a bit Jimi Hendrix and a bit Kurt Cobain, and he was pretty intense too. The bass player worked this goofy looking eyebrow curl and looked confident with his heavyness as he eyeballed the audience with a mild an expression that looked as if he expected the audience to be impressed with his gravity.

Everyone save maybe the singer was probably over 40 and they were nicely light on stagecraft on heavy on rocking for the sake of art rock. Those guys really were nailing it. Every change and start and stop were right on the money. The mathrock was in full effect. On the way out, I wanted to buy their record but I was cashless as usual and poor too, so I resisted the lure of the ATM down the street, but I won't forget Uzeda too easily.

Shellac are old dudes too. Steve Albini could pass for a nerdy sloppy younger brother of my Dad. He kinda looked like a dude who has given up any desire to lure a lady in favor of computer work or, in his case, studio shenanigans. He wore his guitar on a strap wrapped twice around his waist like a belt. Bob Weston looked like any normal guy. Todd the drummer was the rockinest looking of the bunch with his spiky mess of black hair and ripped (at the shoulders?) silvery shirt over a strung-out-wiry frame. I imagined his shoulders being sharp enough to cause the holes in his shirt.

Shellac just like to rock out. There didn't appear to be a lot of excessive structure to their simple punky throbbing, but there was a certain poetry to it. Bob and Steve took turns on the mic, and Todd banged out the beats with workaday release (I'm not sure that means anything at all). It kinda felt like I was watching these guys goofing and jamming out in their basement. Steve at times displayed a pained earnestness that did at moments galvanize and hynotize the audience. Bob wasn't disinterested, but maybe mildy amused. He was a straight man of sorts and had an everyday Joe presence and sense of humor in between songs that served as the connective tissue between the audience and band. The guys told a few corny jokes and had some pleasant banter, but they're still nerds, I think.

Shellac lays on the guitar and bass thick, and it grew a little tiresome for me before the show ended, but they wrapped it up with a really heartwrenching Albini poetry epic and at the end playfully climaxed with a three man cymbal orchestra that really should be seen and not read about. All in all, it felt like a coup for GR and I was happy to be there.

The link here is to a youtube video from the show that is super loud. Beware!

Thursday, September 07, 2006

Dodd pulls some 45s

Dodd pulls some 45s
Originally uploaded by pheezy.
Lucky dog, that's me. That's because today I combined my two great loves, photography and records, and I got paid for it. Today, the topic for one of our segments at the station was Dodds' Records CD and Cassettes. I was just commenting all over the photo I found on Flickr (hopefully you see it above), and now I'm out of words.

Except to tell you that I was looking through a crate of old house music (my favorite kind) and shooting an interview at the same time and there was nothing wrong with that at all. I got some real nice records, too. Do you know how long ago I lost my copy of "The Bomb" by the Bucketheads? You know the tune, even if you don't know you do. It's the one the samples Chicago's "Street Player," but if you don't know one, you probably don't know the other, so nevermind.

Anyway, Gerry Dodds was hilarious. I basically had to get dragged out of there. Man. It was a fun day. By the way, the guy that took this picture has some really nice stuff on his flickr site. Click it to get there.

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

GR in the Times

In the travel section of the online edition today is a blurbish piece called "36 Hours: Grand Rapids, Michigan" Its pretty neat to read about your town in the big national paper, but I've never heard anyone call The Bob "The Bab." The accent isn't that bad, is it?


Music By Basic Channel. Inspired by Andrea F.

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Kurosawa Alert

After the excellent Criterion treatment of Kurosawa's Ran (one of my favorite films ever), I'm salivating over possibilty of owning the new remastered version of Seven Samurai. I've only ever watched this once, sitting on a floor watching an iMac monitor. Not ideal circumstances. I think I fell asleep. Now, a chance to see a Kurosawa classic as it was meant to be seen. Hooray.

Saturday, September 02, 2006

Neon Ride

Took the bike out this afternoon. I've been slacking on taking it to work, but I got big plans for things after Labor Day. I've been wanting to get some shots of a few of the great signs I see everyday here in GR. I don't think I'm alone in my sign fetish. I love neon in particular. Apparently, the neon sign is something of an endangered species. While being very efficient, there is a certain level of craftsmanship in the making of a neon sign that has a price, and more and more, it's a price that folks aren't paying. The September Atlantic has a nice history.
The low point for neon came in 1982, when Holiday Inn did away with its signature “Great Sign,” replacing the neon extravaganza with a forgettable green plastic box. Of the thousands of Holiday Inn signs that once shone on America’s highways, only one remains to be seen, in the Henry Ford Museum, in Dearborn, Michigan. What good taste and aggressive regulation couldn’t squelch, corporate image making did. Out went lighted tubes, and in came bright plastic signs or, a bit later, individual plastic letters discreetly illuminated by internal neon tubes.
I must admit that it's the ageing decay of most of the great neon signs, their impending anachronism, that is part of their appeal for me. I fear that soon they will all be gone in favor of wonderless plastic.

If you'd like to contribute to the fund to buy me a replacement for my broken, non-zooming digital Kodak, I'll accept any denominations in currency of your choice. Next it's night shots.

Empties For Energy

Last week at our house, we had a party and afterwards we were deluged with empty beer bottles. Yesterday I took the mess to Meijer and recouped a whopping $16. Traditionally my roommate and I try to use the empty cash for household needs.

Then today I realized that Consumers Power offers a green energy program. A customer can buy as little as one "block" of power for $2.50, or choose to switch entirely to Michigan produced renewable power (mostly wind).

Here's the beautiful part. At our house, we probably return enough empties (10 cent deposit each in MI) every month to buy a least a few "blocks." I proposed to my roommate that we devote all the empty funds to green power. Then I got to thinking. This idea has no bounds.

What if Meijer accepted bottle return funds as donations toward Green Energy? Because really, it doesn't matter who pays for it, As long as there is money going into the pot. I envision a drop box in the bottle return bay where one could deposit receipts. Meijer would pledge to use (match?) those funds toward locally produced green energy.

Here's an idea for the college kids. Now that football season is upon us, we'll have lots of beer drinking every Saturday. That's a lot of empties. It's as simple as a convenient collection point for empties. Revelers can free themselves of the empties, and feel good about making a difference. Tailgating for the environment!

At work there is a pop machine, and that means empties. Currently we all toss our cans into a dedicated waste basket, but I have no idea what becomes of those funds. I think come next week I'll be asking some questions. I encourage you to take this idea and run with it! If you live in Michigan or somewhere else with bottle deposits, turn your empties into energy!