Wassup Rockers

Category Archive

The following is a list of all entries from the New York City category.

Some Words and Images.

Went to see Gary Shteyngart read for his new novel, Super Sad True Love Story at Greenlight Bookstore. This involved me getting on the A and going express three stations past the stop I needed in order to reach the store, and barely making it on time, so that it was so mo’fucking crowded (Gary’s a rock star, don’tcha know!) that I basically didn’t even look for a spot to sit and listen. I just walked around the store instead, which was great because it was my first time at the store and I’d been curious about it. Really enjoyed the space, it’s very welcoming and bright.

In regard to the reading: I don’t know why, but I felt a bit iffy about the story at first, because it involved not only Koreans, but Korean Stuyvesant alumni, which I know a thing or two about. Okay, I went to Bronx Science, and I silently wept to myself wishing some really funny writer dude would share a few kind words about Bronx Science. Except the culture at Stuy and Bronx Science is basically the same, so it’s not that big a deal. Plus, my brother went to Stuy!

(He saw the second plane crash.)

Anyway, Shteyngart did win me over with his humor. Except not enough for me to buy a copy, though I’d like to point out it’s because I can’t afford it. I’m currently #246 on the queue to receive a copy from the library. Shouldn’t take me too long. I think for The Yiddish Policemen’s Union I was in the 500s when I first joined the line, so I’m not too bothered about my place on this line.

On my way home I listened to a recent interview of him with Leonard Lopate and, combined with the reading tonight, the more I’m convinced that Super Sad True Love Story is like a bastard Russian Jewish cousin of The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao. It’s not just that both authors are immigrants. Ethnicity plays a huge role in the books, and there’s a strong speculative aspect to them, though the approach is different: Shteyngart’s novel is set in the future, whereas Díaz’s Oscar is a huge fucking nerd in love with sci-fi/fantasy. Also, there are significant female voices, and when Lopate asks Shteyngart about it, he says the same thing I heart Díaz say at readings: he tried it because he’d never really done it before. What with the recent Kakutani stamp of approval, could the Pulitzer be next?!?!

Hopefully I’ll get a copy soon and find out for you. Then again, you might as well find out for yourself if my theory flies.

I haven’t had much time on Racialicious lately and was pointed to this post that came out a week or so ago. I saw the title and for some reason the first title that came to mind was Kiffe Kiffe Tomorrow (Kiffe kiffe demain), except as I read I learned they were focusing on a rising American trend, whereas Kiffe is about French Muslim girl. The book the post mentions actually sounds really cool because it fills in these complexities and diversity that exist within the Muslim communities in America. I only wish they’d given even more examples of this trend. Kiffe is not, by the way, an urban book. It’s set in the French suburbs. I must clarify, however, that the French suburban life is actually equivalent to inner-city American life. It’s where the lower-class ethnic minorities find themselves stuck… I’m not explaining this right, but if you want to get an example of what life in the French suburbs is like, I most definitely recommend La haine Anyway, I haven’t read Kiffe but I figure if it was good enough to be translated, maybe it’s worth checking out and should provide an interesting counterpoint to this rising trend of urban Muslim fiction.

Been watching some good TV. Obviously Mad Men has started again, but plenty a column inch has been devoted to the damn show and what else could I say? It’s brilliant, it’s brilliant, etc!

I do want to endorse Louie, Louis C.K.’s show. He’s been around a long time and he’s already got a built-in audience. If you aren’t his fan, please do check it out! It’s only half an hour a week and it’s this weird combo of great, funny, sometimes foul standup, bookending two sketch pieces. Except all the sketch pieces feature stories about C.K., or more specifically, a fictionalized version of C.K., and they’re goofy and uproarious and silly and yet sometimes they’re poignant and often incredibly intelligent. It’s low-budget and yet they do so much in the span of, what, 23 minutes? Its rhythm is so different to most of (all?) the stuff on TV right now.

It’s actually thrilling to watch.

The other show I’ve been enjoying is Huge, which is just a really well-written teen drama that happens to be set in a summer camp for overweight kids, which means that it features a lot of fat actors. And they’re great! I love the characters: as in real life there’s no clear antagonists and everyone has flaws as well as redeeming qualities, and unlike a lot of kids’ shows, the adults are as wonderfully rendered as the kids. Yes, Skins, I’m talking about you. It’s not cynical, and yet, it isn’t sappy either.

I’ve been keeping up with a couple of British panel shows. First is Mock the Week. As I’ve mentioned previously I have a soft spot for Frankie Boyle, and I’ve had a hard time with the show since he left it. I get particularly annoyed when someone lame is seated to Hugh Dennis’s right; it leads me to grumble that the guest is not worth sitting in “Frankie’s seat.” His absence has led to a lack of balance among the three team leaders. It would be cool if we could just get another regular, and not one who will mimic Frankie’s role as a fucking rabblerouser but will have a good rapport with the rest of the group. In fact, I’d argue that Russell Howard has try to fill Frankie’s shoes, but it’s hard to take him seriously. And this is coming from someone who likes Russell Howard.

The show itself has gotten such a reputation amongst comedians, notably Jo Brand and Rhod Gilbert, that it seems like a lot have given up on being on it because they think it’s too much work and stress with no guarantee they’ll get a favorable edit. And then there are those, like Mark Watson, who haven’t been invited back even though they’ve been good and likeable guests, if not always at the top of their game. Mind you, there might be plenty of guests who want to be on it and get good exposure, but their schedules may not leave openings for TV appearances. That really limits the number of guests who show up and not all of them are very good at jumping in on a show where the regulars have such a set dynamic amongst one another. Either way, if it doesn’t get consistently good during the rest of the season, I’m gonna jump ship.

It’s just as well because there are better panel shows out there. Such as Would I Lie To You?, which just started up its fourth season. They tend to get decent guests, not necessarily comedians. It’s pretty breezy and light-hearted, not least because the team leaders are great. It’s great for Americans, too, since it’s not about keeping track of British current events and more about personal stories.


Bite the Apple.

This is something my mom told me just now:

My brother queued up this morning to get an iPhone. He went to Fordham, in the Bronx, to do so. While on the line some woman passed by cursing out all the people lining up how they were buying iPhones even though they’re on welfare, blah blah. Obviously annoying but who cares, the woman’s walked past, it’s over, right?

Wrong. She called the cops on everyone on line.

And clearly, this being a situation where there were really expensive items—the iPhones, I mean—involved, a shitload of police officers actually showed up. They show up all worried and ready for a major problem but everyone is waiting calmly on the line. WTF, right?

The lady’s still there cursing everyone out, and the officers find her and they admonish her, rightly so, for calling them onto the scene. Think about it, that’s a serious offense. Causing false alarm may mean that other areas, other people, might have gotten less or much delayed help because they were distracted by this non-situation. That’s what I find most infuriating.

Of course by this point all these officers are annoyed at her, and all the people on the fucking queue are annoyed at her, and being the kind of bitch who calls the police on innocent people instead of minding her own, she’s also the kind of bitch who doesn’t know when to let go so instead she’s like, trying to take a picture of the officers and basically take down their info so she can get them in trouble.

Good luck with that, you asshat.

A Mishmosh of Topics.

(1) Javiera Mena‘s new album is just gonna be called Mena, and the new single is “Hasta la verdad.” When Super 45 kindly uploaded the song I lost two days just hitting play over and over. It’s a solid lead single. I absolutely love it though I’m not sure how someone just being introduced to her music would feel. I can only hope they would dig it as much as I do. And I really want there to be enough buzz about her over in the US so that she’ll finally get to tour here.

(2) Lost ended. I liked the finale a lot, but it was incredibly flawed. I held on for a while but I finally cried when Sawyer and Juliet connected.

Yesterday my Token Twee friend and I went to the Vilcek Foundation which has a small exhibit on Lost (until June 5th!). There were a lot of visitors when we went! The props were totally cool, like the Dharma van and Faraday’s notebook and Ben’s fake passport that identifies him as “Dean Moriarty.” I think the majority of the pieces are up for the massive auction that’s coming up. The best part though? Reading the guestbook. I can only hope that whoever keeps the guestbook uploads the messages in it, they were so funny and cute. Most of them, you know, quote lines from the show, or mentioned favorite characters and moments. Like someone actually traced their hand and wrote “NOT PENNY’S BOAT” in it. Others wrote about how much the show had impacted them. As my friend and I laughed our way through the book we relished the catharsis and closure that people must have felt when they wrote these messages.

(3) I joined Twitter and it’s overwhelming but generally really fun getting a glimpse into the virtual lives of people I dig. Turns out they’re just as lame as I am. It also has this theatrical absurdity to it–when Gary Coleman and Dennis Hopper died I was bombarded with over 100 different versions of the same story: “RIP.” Like they were all saying the same thing, but they were all trying to say it differently, so the fact that the substance/sentiment of this message was the same, it all felt like… noise.

Unfortunately I’m guilty of just making noise, too. I was trying to show restraint and just post relevant stuff, but it’s no use. Now I’m only putting only enough thought to it by asking myself, “Will I be embarrassed to have the Library of Congress archive this message for posterity?” If not, I go for it.

If nothing else, below is an amazing rant about Twitter, courtesy of Lee Mack. Actually, the argument that ensues is absolutely hilarious. After hearing it I thought maybe I shouldn’t have given up on So Wrong It’s Right so quickly. Josie Long’s contribution to the argument is great. Not only that, I like Mack so much more than I already did!

(4) On Twitter I had a lot of people on my feed talking about Eurovision, so after an hour of watching these people mumbling about it I was like, “Well, why the fuck not, let’s tune in.” After all, the Eurovision final is like, the most important evening of the year for The Singles Jukebox. Like an idiot, I realized just a few months ago that The Singles Jukebox is still alive and so I’ve been going through every song they’ve covered since they reopened their shop (as long as they get at least a 6.00). It’s been incredible and I’ve found some amazing songs on there, many of which aren’t even the type of music I would have tried on my own. I’m so happy TSJ didn’t die with Stylus and that they’re still so enthusiastic about pop music.

But yeah, Eurovision was gaudy and over-the-top and I really enjoyed the spectacle for the first time, even if I didn’t understand the voting completely. My connection was piss poor, too, but when things got out-of-control tacky I was glad to be missing out, haha. The Norwegians made for really good hosts, and as far as I could tell, the show ran really smoothly. I was rooting for the Romanians, and I actively disliked the eventual winner, Germany. What can you do though? I’m not one to boo and hiss like many did to Russia (I admit I LMAO’d when it happened!); I get that it’s just pop music and I’ll just patiently wait for this German singer to drop into obscurity. At least in the US (I’m pretty sure) she doesn’t even have a chance to penetrate our musical landscape, so I’m not too bothered. I felt bad for Belarus for a long while, but they finally got some points and in the end the UK was last place, which is where their song belonged.

(5) I ended up buying the Jónsi, Jamie Lidell and Janelle Monáe albums from a chain. I still have to sift through these–they’ve all offered up some dense material. I also bought Sandman #8, finally completing my collection.

(6) Simon Amstell, he of former Never Mind the Buzzcocks fame, is coming to NYC. He’ll be performing at UCB, of all places! I don’t even know how he got a visa to perform here, but kudos to him, and I’m looking forward to seeing his stand-up act. Let’s hope it doesn’t suck!

(7) Until yesterday I thought Matthew Barney was British and that he’d been, y’know, a futbolero. My Token Twee friend explained to me that, in fact, he’s some nice, handsome Midwestern boy who used to play American football. I was shocked! And felt real stupid about this confusion.

(8) This vid is off the hook:

On a final note: I am one of the few people who still watched Law & Order, and I’m sad that such a New York institution met such an undignified end. Especially to be substituted by some offshoot in LA? Por favor. Upset about the loss of job opportunities for the local theater community. Sigh.

Catch Up.

First off I just want to say that Gustavo Cerati had a stroke recently and I was pretty freaked out about it, but it seems like the prognosis is cautiously optimistic.  I thought he might die and I was very worried for his family, but hopefully he’ll recover bit by bit without any problem. ¡Fuerza Gustavo, te queremos mucho!

On Thursday I spent a shitload of cash on trinkets to make me marginally happier about my existence. I originally intended to go buy some albums—Jamie Lidell, Jónsi, Janelle Monáe, others whose names don’t start with J—but I happily improvised my day out and found some other great stuff instead.

On Wednesday I went to Housing Works to check out the Black Keys pop-up store they set up in the bookstore.  I got there around 5 but they’d already closed up because the band was gonna play that evening.  So I returned the next day and I bought myself a copy of Brothers.  It’s actually my first Black Keys album!  I didn’t know which of the older ones to choose.  In theory I’ve always liked them, but it’s always been from a respectful distance.  The main reason I bought something from the pop-up store is that a percent of the proceeds went to Housing Works.  It’s also the reason why I was willing to part with my cash money even though the record was “expensive.”  It was almost $30 and that was… a lot for me, way more than I usually pay for vinyl.  Pretty much worth the money though–it’s a double LP plus came with a CD version as well.  Well played, Nonesuch Recs.

The first single, “Tighten Up,” has two videos and they’re both hilarious.  There’s a teaser vid with a puppet (YEAHHH!!!), and an official one with kids at a playground.  The official one is pretty heteronormative and even sexist (depending on how you read it) so I gotta roll my eyes at it a little, but it’s still incredibly funny.  My favorite part is when Dan Auerbach throws that kid on the ground when he sees the pretty lady.  It cuts away from that moment so fast that it’s easy to miss, but when I saw I could not fucking stop laughing.  Belly laughs, too.  So fucking incredible.  The best part is, I actually prefer the teaser video!  I’m totally a puppet sympathizer so for me, a soulful croonin’ dinosaur puppet = heaven.

Some other vids I’ve seen recently: Robyn’s “Dancing On My Own,” which is an all right song but wasn’t that interesting visually except for one of the cute outfits in it, and MIA‘s “Born Free,” which in the past month or so has caused plenty of verbiage committed to its existence.

But how come no one told me that the director of “Born Free,” Romain Gavras, also directed that one Justice’s “Stress”?  Love how “Stress” has not been banned by YouTube the way “Born Free” has been.  Hm…  It seemed like a lot of the commentary was on how this video fits into MIA’s oeuvre and for me that’s slightly more difficult to consider than when I think of how “Born Free” and “Stress” complement each other.  The two videos are pretty frightening visions of authority and disobedience and violence and power—and these visions are particularly male and adolescent.  Oof.  Seriously gnarly.

Much lighter in tone is the vid for “Por la ventana,” the new track by Gepe which you can see below.  It’s pretty simple and it’s not conceptually innovative, but the execution is committed and effective, and everyone seems to be having fun.  Very colorful, too.  Clearly demonstrating that I’m a lightweight for preferring this over Romain Gavras’s stuff, but I’m not bothered.  Gepe’s song is off the hook!  I can’t wait for his new album, Audiovisión, to come out.  I’ve been really keen on the direction his music has taken in the past year or so.

Shit I got seriously sidetracked…  Anyway, after I stopped by Housing Works, I found myself at East Village Books.  I stayed for like an hour, mainly because they were playing this Carter Family album.  I hummed along to most of it while I browsed.  I got a copy of Eunoia!  Really clean condition, too.  I’m very happy about it.  I walked out as the Carters wailed away on “Will You Miss Me When I’m Gone?”

I also swung by Forbidden Planet, got me Brief Lives (that’s volume 7 of Sandman) and Optic Nerve #8, which means I have own every issue of ON now.  I still need one more Sandman though.  I’m working on it.

In other news, I finally got In the Loop and Breaking Bad season 2 from the library.  I was very excited about the former as I recently read the script for it and I just loved it.  So it was nutty watching it and seeing how different it was from what I’d imagined, from the sets to the setup of shots to the line delivery.  I am surprised that the In the Loop DVD is seriously lacking in features.  Mainly, there’s no commentary track at all; I seriously would have loved to hear about the story, the production and how it fits in with The Thick of It, etc.  Oh well.  The movie’s still pretty awesome, really funny.

Breaking Bad… well, I got it last month, only got through the first 10 eps, so I queued myself up all over again (I know!) and now that I got the DVD I can finished the damn season.  And believe me, it seriously makes you go “DAMN!”  Very stressed out from it, but in a good way.  Trying to decide whether to catch up online before the end of season 3.  It’s gonna take forever for the DVD to come out.  I guess I better decide soon since the finale’s only a few episodes away, but I don’t know how much BB I can take without my head exploding from the tension.

I’ve also been checking out Justified, which is quite breezy in comparison.  I’m very charmed by Timothy Oliphant (read: he’s hot) and by all the twangy twanginess coming out of everyone’s dialogue.  I don’t know that I’d call it superb, but I like it enough to stick with it.  It’s not lacking in poignancy either, which makes it so much easier to like.

A few weeks ago I got the Spaced DVD from the library, too.  I didn’t get through all the commentaries before it was due, which sucks, but in some of them Simon Pegg mentioned he used to do stand up.  I had to look it up, and thank god some kind soul (his mom??  LMAO) uploaded this:

Fucking adorable.  The routine isn’t bad, actually, it’s just that the material is fairly traditional.  Good stage presence though, and I loved how the last bit ended—the crowd response is so awful I totally cracked up.

Something else that’s totally been cracking me up: Parks and Recreation.  I caught up to the final episodes of the season and they were fucking pitch perfect.  I enjoyed this season tremendously and obviously it’s because the writing has been off the hook and the ensemble totally delivers on it!  Paul Schneider and Rashida Jones were a bit misused but for the most part the characters grew and I found plenty to love about them.  Except Jerry.  Jerry sucks.  ;)

The really amazing thing is that even though it’s incredibly funny, to the point where I’m guffawing and gasping for air, I find myself really moved by some of the developments.  It’s weird.  I don’t want to let myself get taken in by a fucking sitcom and yet the show is so good at what it does that, when the grumptastic 20-year-old April failed to get into a bar and her potential date with the ever-goofy Andy came to a premature end, I got a bit teary-eyed.  Just writing about it doesn’t even begin to describe why I got emotional—the expressions on their faces killed me…  And these are supporting players!  But they still bring it.  Shit, I’d tell y’all to watch the fucking show but HEY because of its weak ratings it’s become a mid-season replacement, so it might be a while before we see all these lovely people on TV again.  Sigh.  Hope y’all buy the DVD when it comes out!

…Can’t believe I wrote all this nonsense when I should be studying for a final. Shit.

More Funnies.

Well, I visited Midtown Comics for the first time because at MoCCA fest they were handing out 25% off coupons that were only valid through this weekend.  I bought the last volume of Y: The Last Man, the first volume of DMZ which looks like it’s going to make me anxious as fuck, The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, and Batman: Year 100 which was kind of a consolation prize for not being able to get Paul Pope’s 100% in paperback just yet (and also because Batman is awesome, obvs).  I got a free issue of Spider-Man, “Grim Hunt: The Kraven Saga.”  I’m not sure why, but I’m not complaining.

The only purchase I’d really planned for was the Y: The Last Man.  I was really looking to get the aforementioned Paul Pope and some Sandman but hilariously and inconveniently they didn’t have the volumes I’m still missing.  Sheesh.  Doesn’t matter, I’m still really excited and happy about my purchase.  Yay trade paperbacks!

I remembered that it was Record Store Day so I decided to swing by Other Music.  There was a queue to just get inside!  I scoffed at the line and went on my merry way.

I’m not sure what the point of this post is.  Trying to define my pathetic life’s worth through knick knacks or summat.

MoCCA Fest 2010.

I haven’t had a chance to talk about this year’s MoCCA festival. I wanted to attend both days but I only got a chance to go on Sunday. Before I swung by the fest I had to go pick up a DVD from the library–Breaking Bad season 2. I’m on ep 4 currently and I think I’m going to puke from the tension. The show is amazing.

It was expensive, but overall I feel like the operation ran a lot more smoothly than last year, which was the first time MoCCA happened at the Armory. Unlike last year, it wasn’t incredibly hot. For some reason it felt a lot more family-friendly, and on top of that the Scandinavian presence was stronger than ever.  I guess people are really responding well.

I actually went to the Scandinavian panel. I don’t know that I got as much out of it as last year but it was still fun and I liked getting a perspective primarily from people who are more involved with the publishing industry. The panelists were: Espen Holtestaul from Norway, Fredrik Strömberg from Sweden (substituting for fellow Swede Johannes Klennell, apparently too shy to sit in on the conversation), Ville Hänninen from Finland, Mats Jonsson who is also from Sweden, and Henrik Rehr from Denmark. Sheesh, I wish I could link to more official websites, sorry.  Clearly I’m too much of a dum dum to figure out what they are.  Anyway, it was moderated by Shannon O’Leary who although cheery could have been more incisive on the question front. There also wasn’t a lot of Q&A time, although after one weird and random alien conspiracy question from some feller I thought maybe it was for the better no to have a lot of audience input this time around.

I enjoyed myself a lot and I’m really happy I spent a good amount of money on independent artists, though of course I shelled out some money to the bigger publishers too.

Adrian Tomine was nowhere in sight this time around, but I was very happy I got to meet Dorothy Gambrell. She signed the book I bought from her, and so she drew this really miserable picture of Girl that made me very giddy. Plus the company with whom she does merch (Topatoco) was giving out discount coupons so yay!

So here are the comics I picked up:

Second Thoughts by Niklas Asker
– Issue 1 of The Unwritten, which was given out free!
The Numbers of the Beasts by Shawn Cheng
– The second Cat and Girl book
Lihan Himo (“Lust for Meat”) by Olli Hietala
The Ragbox by Dave Kender – I’m assuming it was the author or one of the artists who graciously sold me the copy for $5 instead of $7
Danica Novgorodoff‘s adaptation of “Refresh, Refresh” by Benjamin Percy
– The first set of L’age dur by Max de Radiguès
Bookhunter by Jason Shiga
– Issues five to seven of Optic Nerve, since they had a special offer. Now I only have #8 left to buy.
Ayaje’s Wives and Monsters & Condiments by Matt Wiegle

“Don’t Ever Tell Anybody Anything…”

“What really knocks me out is a book that, when you’re all done reading it, you wish the author that wrote it was a terrific friend of yours and you could call him up on the phone whenever you felt like it.”

You took the words out of my mouth, Jerome.

I’m speechless.

Fresh Stuff.

(1) Oh, god! Guilty as charged. Seriously, I just sent an email to someone just this week. Obviously I’d like an answer but I’m not gonna slit my wrists if I don’t.

(2) I watched some videos with Daniel Alarcón being interviewed–or rather, being entrevistado–and I totally felt ashamed that my speaking Spanish is not as good as his. (You can watch a really good one ici.) No seriously, his accent is like nonexistent. Damn. But then I watched una entrevista with Junot Díaz and I felt much better. Junot speaks Spanish the way I speak Korean–it’s just sad. Haha. Though in my defense, I’m barely coherent in English as well.

(3) I’ve been pretty synth-happy with my music. Lotta Lisa Lisa avec Cult Jam, and Tears for Fears.

Dude, I can’t wait to get my library science degree.

(4) Tried to go see the Tim Burton exhibit at MoMa. It was mostly a bust. Although I expected crowds I didn’t imagine the massiveness of the multitudes. Deserved, obviously. I got to see some stuff, but for the most part I was too hot and too short to be bothered. In the lower levels, where the movie theaters are located, there was more Burton stuff, posters and also some blow-ups of Polaroids he’s taken. Very beautiful and creepy. Much less crowded, too, thank the lord. Also less crowded: the Gabriel Orozco and Bauhaus exhibits. I loved them!

(5) Last week I saw A Single Man, and it was beautiful. Wonderfully acted, poignant and sweet story, and this incredible and subtle use of color that was done very effectively. Some of the music was by Shigeru Umebayashi, always a plus. Really curious to read the novel now, as well as After Many a Summer Dies the Swan. Except I already have such a long queue of books to read for this new year. Sigh.

Inbox Issues.

Holy mother of god! What is the deal! I don’t get a lot of mail except for a few subscriptions, one of which is One Story. It comes with just enough regularity so I’m always excited to wait for it. (The quality of the stories has, in general, been pretty good, and some have even been excellent.) On top of that, I always feel anxious about whether the issues are really gonna make it to my doorstep because I don’t trust the US Postal Service.

Well, it had been a while since I received a copy but not too long; I was still in that period of decision where I couldn’t figure out if I should write to the One Story peeps, and today I received an issue… but not the one I’d been expecting. Crap. I got issue 129, but the last one I’d received was 127. What happened to 128?? Sigh. I really don’t want to write to them. But I want my issue! Damn it. I mean, I doubt that it’s their fault since it’s Christmas season after all, but they’re gonna have to pay for it, and that sucks. Bah.

I highly recommend the magazine, though. And I’m really happy that 129 made it to my house safely, don’t get me wrong. The issues are perfectly pocket-sized, and the subscriptions aren’t too expensive compared to some quarterlies that are chock-full of advertisements and content I wouldn’t read.

Fuck Queue.

Oh man. I got an email from the Public Theater about the cast list for The Merchant of Venice, which they’re doing for Shakespeare in the Park. At first I was way excited: Jesse Tyler Ferguson! And then more excited: Jesse L. Martin!

And then my heart sank:

Al Fucking Pacino?

Don’t get me wrong, I understand it’s AL PACINO. But that’s the problem. He’s a real star. Not even a Broadway-level star, which would have been problematic enough. I mean, my mom knows the name Al Pacino, y’know? Okay, she couldn’t pick him out of a lineup, but she has heard his name. Not only that, she knows he’s a big deal. And you know what happens with big deal stars when they decide to sashay their way across the Delacorte Theater? The lines to get a ticket are fucking massive. Ohhh I’m gonna have to wake up so early for this shit!! I’m not looking forward to it.

(Don’t you love how I’m worrying about this five months in advance?)

On the other hand: I can’t wait to see a latter-day Pacino chew up the scenery. He’s already done Shylock on film though, I wonder how he might read the character this time around? We’ll see what he and Michael Greif come up with. And to think, I was already so thrilled they chose to do The Merchant of Venice!

Playing “What If…?”

Here are some thoughts, unorganized, maybe inflammatory, but sincere and very much based on my own experience growing up.

I was reading this post on Racialicious on Excuse My Gangsta Ways, a documentary short about a young woman who was involved in gang life from the ages of 12 to 17 and her journey to transition out of that subculture and into being a “normal” person.

Oh, and the young woman, Davina Wan, happens to be Chinese-American, so for some reason I just looked at the picture and I really had to wonder if at one point in my life I could have been that girl in the picture.

To elaborate: when my family first moved to the US, one of the things my parents emphasized over and over and over to me and my brother was that we should be careful to make good friends. At this point in my life, I’m still struggling to be a good friend, but the people I’ve chosen and with whom I’ve connected have been, by and large, really positive and inspiring and fun friends. But for a short while there, my parents really worried about whether our adjustment to American life would be a success or a failure. They knew they had to work a lot and couldn’t necessarily guide our every decision the way they did when we were 2 years old.

One of my parents’ concerns was that my brother and I would end up in gangs. Of course anyone who has met me would LOL their hearts out, partly because I could pretty much get beat up by a fucking six-year-old but also because I’m not much of a “joiner.” I don’t blame y’all, it’s easy for me to chuckle about it too.

But I look at the picture of Wan and I’m like, well, she doesn’t seem like the type of girl who’d “attend 35 funerals before the age of 18.” This young woman joined her gang when she was 12! Can you imagine what sort of pressures led her there?

What my parents kept telling me about gangs is that they only pretend to be your friends, that it’s conditional love. For some people, the conditional love of a gang is better than no love, better than no stability. These gang members will tell you they’re gonna be your second family (or sometimes your only family), but ONLY if you succeed in your initiation. ONLY if you carry out whatever tasks the higher ups want you to do and ONLY if you don’t get out of line. And don’t even think about getting out, this shit is X VIDA. My parents would try to scare me straight with all sorts of stories: “You know what they have you do to join? They have everyone in the group beat the shit out of you until you’re barely breathing, and your face is unrecognizable,” and already being so sorry-looking, I was all like, “Erm… yeah, I’ma go back to reading my BSC books.”

Now, you’d think my parents would know me well enough to know that gang life was never gonna be a career move for me or my brother, but if things had unraveled the way they did in Davina Wan’s life, who knows what kind of shit trouble I would have gotten into.

I don’t know. I mean, in my case, the whole issue of growing up in one country and then having to transplant your entire life to another country where you don’t speak the language–that’s a huge deal. And I guess my parents thought that I’d look for a support group with people who looked like me. My parents knew that public school in the Bronx wasn’t gonna be easy-peasy, especially when you were the only Asian kid in the Spanish/English bilingual class. My parents had already heard of other immigrant families who had struggled to have their kids succeed.

Oddly enough, this led me, and I think my brother as well, to set ourselves apart from other immigrant Korean kids. A lot of them tended to run in groups, they would all fall in line and they all seemed to like the same music and all dress the same way and to me it was just such a joke.  I couldn’t muster up the enthusiasm to pretend that I liked H.O.T. and S.E.S. and dye my fucking hair red and all that shit that was happening in the late 90s/early 00s. Most of these kids obviously end up fine, because they know there’s so much at stake to have your parents abandon their old lives just so you can have better opportunities. Most of these immigrant kids end up having pretty healthy interests and friendship circles, they join church groups or sports teams bands or, I don’t know, knitting groups. My brother and I fall into that category, but at the same time I think it was very necessary for us to set ourselves apart from other Korean-American kids because we thought that, even though most of these kids are good and not in violent gangs, there was still a group mentality that was stifling to me.

When you’re 12… It’s not even a strictly immigrant kid life narrative, though the immigration situation played a major part in my life story. But at 12, you just want to find a reliable group of friends and you’re looking to define who you are because if you don’t know who you are and what your interests are how are you gonna find friends who connect at your level and blah blah blah. A lot of times you’re not sure of who you are anymore so you wonder where you should turn. So sometimes the whole idealized concept of a gang, of protection and loyalty, can look real fucking alluring. I can see how shit can go really wrong in a kid’s life.

What am I trying to say? This is all so muddled, I’m sorry. Well, reading the Racialicious post, all I could think was, “Damn… I’m really lucky.” I doubt I might have ended up in a rough position like Davina Wan, but who knows if, at a particularly low point, I would have resigned myself to make a decision as drastic as joining a gang. I see how lucky I was, to have a stable home life with overworked but vigilant parents who really made me into a priority in their lives. I’m just acknowledging that I’m really grateful to my parents, that for every times I’ve bitched about them being overprotective, there’s way more times that I’ve felt thankful that they care about my safety and health and that they love me (unconditionally!). That’s a privilege that sadly not everyone gets, and I’m aware of that. C’est tout.

Oh wait, actually–I wrote all these words without even having seen the short.  So obviously this is way less a commentary on the film or on Davina Wan’s life, and more about myself.  I do want to see it on a big screen, it’s the sort of life narrative that you don’t hear about enough…

WFMU Record Fair 2009.

I went to the record fair today, a nice closing punctuation mark to CMJ.  Not that I did anything CMJ-related this year, whereas I seriously waited all year long to go to the fair today.  Thinking I’d learned my lesson last year, this time I decided to budget myself and also made a mental list of things I wanted: God Is For Real, Man, Del Shannon and Roy Orbison, and maybe some Carter Family shit.

So how did I end up dropping $40 on just two records?  Obviously it’s not that much, but I was really hoping to find a shitload of beat up $5 records, so an average of $20 per record is a little much.  I just entered the place and was immediately overwhelmed, as usual.  After sweeping up and down the aisles, I decided there were definitely some things I wanted (and could afford, cos God knows how much shit I really really wanted and couldn’t pay for it).

I specifically want to bitch about this Ska Au Go Go album that I wanted.  I saw it, noted in my mind to come back to it, and kept looking for other cool shit.  (Leonard Nimoy reading HG Wells, anyone?)  Anyway, when I finally finished making my round of all the exhibitors about 20 minutes later, I went back to the spot and looked all through the crate and… it wasn’t there!  No–it was in the hands of some guy standing right next to me.  So I kinda waited a couple of minutes to see if he was gonna let go of the record so I could swoop in on that shit.  Alas, he held on to the LP pretty tightly.  Damn you, dude!!  Heh, just kidding.  I understand how these things go: you snooze, you lose.  That’s okay, I was mostly intrigued that there was a track called “I Should Have Known Better.”  Well I just downloaded that shit, and indeed, it’s a cover of the Beatles song.  Yeah, it’s pretty sweet.  Sigh, if only that record was in my hands…

Well, the more expensive one is a double LP, which inconveniently doesn’t even come in a gatefold sleeve.  It’s just a greatest hits called A Arte de Tim Maia.  It’s hilarious, almost every song sounds fine except for “Não quero dinheiro,” which skips a bit.  I imagine that whoever owned the record first played the shit out of that song, and who am I to blame them?  My dad looked at the record and pointed out that title, to which I asserted, “THAT’S THE BEST SONG IN THE ENTIRE THING!!” even though this statement might not be true.  Anyway, I felt kinda wack about having paid “so much” for the record when I’d gone into the Metropolitan Pavilion looking for deals, but by the time I got to side B of the second LP, I was just crying and crying from the thrill and the honor of getting to hear this seriously beautiful music. In conclusion, it was totally worth the money and I’m very happy with this find, even if it’s a minor Best Of.

The less expensive (but still kinda costly) record is a compilation of Chilean jazz from the first half of the 20th century.  I haven’t listened to it and I’m kind of scared to.  The seller had several records that seriously caught my eye, including a nice copy of a Joe Cuba Sextet record that cost less than the Chilean jazz one, but I wondered, “Which album is more likely to be here next year?”  I understood that Chilean jazz ain’t as in demand over here as, say, bugalú, but at the same time it’s more rare to see a record of Chilean music at all, so I decided to go with it.  Plus, the Chilean record is sealed!  Do I dare open it?  Of course!  I can’t wait to see what treasures it contains.

I don’t know that my experience was wild as previous years–for some reason the whole affair seemed a bit more muted today, did I imagine it–but I still had a lot of fun.  The best genres to check out were the kids’ albums.  My friend and I found a Topo Gigio record!!  He was da bomb.

I’ve been all right, just listening to a lot of this and that.  One of my classmates burned me a copy of The Saturdays’ Chasing Lights, which is surprisingly excellent.  So many of the songs could have been major singles, really!  I’m smarting from the Sugababes breakup fiasco, so at least it’s nice to see that there’s a new generation of pop tarts bringing cute escapist ditties to the masses.  They don’t write their own songs, but they do sing live!

Also, I’ve gone back to obsessing over Zoé.  Mostly because I randomly developed a crush on Sergio, their guitarist?  Mostly because I get the feeling that he’s one of those betas who could really be an alpha if he wanted, but he can’t be bothered because he already knows he’s fucking awesome and doesn’t need that validation?  Regardless, I’ve been going through their old stuff and I’m loving it.  I found an episode of Verdad y Fama on YouTube featuring the band and they pretty much verify that the band members, especially León, are pretty much fried out of their minds, not that it was too hard to tell.

Dude, watch that video!  It’s not even their best song, but look at the way people are singing along.  It’s a huge fucking crowd and they all know all the fucking words.  It’s amazing.  I love this band so much, I wish they’d come to NYC more often.

I’m finally looking forward to stuff, too, after a long funk of not caring about what was next.  First, I can’t wait for the new Shakira, which seems like it’s becoming an unmarketable dud for her label.  I can’t believe “She Wolf” hasn’t really taken off, “Loba” is doing pretty well on MTV Tr3s and I personally fucking love that song. Awooooo…!!  The last English album of hers I bought was Laundry Service, which in hindsight I find a bit blah, but this single has me really excited and I’m totally gonna buy the new album.  I also found out that Gustavo Cerati, god bless his Jewfro’d self, just released a new album and I can’t wait to track it down and listen to it.  Not only that, Javiera Mena is finally gonna release her second full-length (about time!!) and apparently she did a song with Jens Lekman!  Hope it turns out well.  She’s also busy at the moment opening for Kings of Convenience, who also have a new album out and I’m trying to decide whether I want to hear it.  My undying crush on Erlend tells me to do it, but half of the time I find their shit beautiful and the other half I find it boring.

Y’know what I mean?

Who’s Watching?

Last year I heard about Antonio Campos’s Afterschool and I thought it sounded lame.  Like why would I care about angsty privileged teenagers desensitized by the technology that surrounds them blah blah blah.  But now it’s in a theatrical run and the reviews are out, there’s been plenty of press… and they’ve been pretty damn positive.  So it seriously caught my attention.

Impulsively, I went to the movie theater after work and bought myself a ticket even though I have a test tomorrow.  It was my first time at Cinema Village.  Can you imagine?  I passed by the theater almost every week for four years (the school newspaper offices were across the street) and as much as I love movies I never fucking went in!  I was also very curious by this Vulture post about Antonio Campos, which mentioned that he’d be willing to meet with audience members for coffee if they couldn’t make it to a screening with a Q&A.  I just wasn’t sure if it was for real, but I can confirm that it’s actually true.  Not sure if anyone has tried it out though.  I’m gonna call him tomorrow and see if I can talk to him about the movie.

The movie was really good and I’m pretty sure I liked it, too.  Maybe.  I mean there were definitely uncomfortable scenes, like this one sequence where this kid talks shit about another kid’s sister and it’s just long and lewd and you’re just like, “Please, just put a bar of soap in this kid’s mouth so he’ll shut the fuck up” and all the other kids sitting around the lunch table are like trying to ignore the filthy kid and…  I don’t know, I was just squirming.

The subject of the movie and the way it’s handled is pretty heavy, too.  But I never felt bored, I was always wondering what was going to happen next.  And there were a couple of familiar faces–Rosemarie DeWitt, who barely shows her face, and Michael Stuhlbarg, whose Hamlet did nothing for me at Shakespeare in the Park last year so it was pretty awesome to see that he’s actually a good actor when not doing drastically “interesting” interpretations of Shakespeare.  (Wow, that last sentence makes me sound like a bitch…  Sorry dude!  Congrats on the Coen Bros. movie!)

Fuck, okay, my post is already too long.  I want to dwell on the movie extensively but basically, the movie was cool and you should go see it and feel uncomfortable.  Also, there was a Q&A after the screening I attended; Campos wasn’t there cos apparently he was too busy partying hard with Michael Haneke (heh), but he sent his producer Josh… Josh something.  Unfortunately I didn’t catch his last name.  Well, the sucky thing is that by the time he came to do the Q&A the credits were over and almost everyone was gone.  The producer guy seemed kinda bummed.  There were literally four of us with him in the theater, so we just had a heart-to-heart about art and inspiration and la-dee-da.

Okay, not really.  But it was seriously fun and since the producer dude wouldn’t answer any questions about the content of the film (and believe me, I have plenty of questions about the story itself), I asked him a lot of questions about just the more business-y stuff.  It was a nice Q&A, if only because it really felt more like a conversation.  Some Q&As can be quite lame, but this one was pretty sweet.

A Long Walk on the Beach.

Last year, after a screening debacle downtown at the Quad, the management gave me a free movie pass to appease me.  The pass was good for a year and just as it was about to expire, I finally found a movie that I wanted to see.  I mean, I tried using the pass at the Hola Mexico event for Desierto adentro, but since they wouldn’t let me redeem it, I used it last week to see Les plages d’Agnès.  It was a movie by Agnès Varda reflecting on her life.  I don’t know anything about Varda but I remember hearing about this specific movie a little while ago and being absolutely charmed and entranced by the trailer.

Of course I really hoped the movie would live up to the awesomeness displayed on the trailer, and I’m happy that it’s pretty much what I expected.  I must mention it was my third time at the Quad, and this was by far the most crowded screening I’ve attended at the theater, partly because it’s been well-reviewed and partly because I went on a date night.

I don’t know how other people feel about biographical films but I liked that this work, though loosely chronological, still had these sort of tangents and pauses that made it feel far more organic than the typical Humble Beginnings-Rise to the Top-Reflections on the Good Ol’ Days narrative arc that biographical works tend to have.  There were a lot of moments to experience rather than being told by this or that talking head about a memory or having this or that individual reenacting some past event.  I also liked that she acknowledged the role of memory in the making of the film.

Even though it was clear that Varda was posing one reading of her life for the cameras, it still felt authentic and honest.  It may have a lot to do with the fact that she got to tell her story her own damn way, thankyouverymuch.  I found that very inspiring and empowering, like when she stated that one of the reasons she had to quit her Hollywood aspirations was because the studios wouldn’t give her final cut.  It’s just that how many women artists do you know who forge their own paths for most of their life and then get to tell you about this life on their own terms?  Refreshing.  If only more women were given the chance to do the same.

I think one of the greatest charms of the movie was just seeing the incongruent image of the older Varda and seeing bits and pieces of her photography and film work.  In her work I detected a real independent spirit, a bit of a punkass.  But seeing her at 80 year old, her hair haphazardly dyed, wrinkles on her face… and hearing her speaking softly about Jacques Demy, the love of her life, and how she loves her children and grandchildren, you think, maybe that’s all a person wants and needs in life.  To have children, and to care for them and love them, and to see them grow and fluorish into their own selves, and all of one’s achievements don’t seem as important and crucial as much as spending your life loving and being loved.

She didn’t even seem very keen on discussing the French New Wave as much as talking about her friends and family, some of whom just happen to be famous.

It was a very sweet movie, and fun, too.  But thinking about it leaves me melancholy, too.  I was in a room full of old people–I guess all the young’uns went to see 500 Days of Summer or something?  Maybe I’m going absolutely batty, but watching Varda on the screen reflecting on eight decades of life, I could kinda feel this… I don’t know that I’d call it tension, but they were really really quiet, as if wondering about their own lives and how they’d choose to tell their stories.  Like that one time I went to see Julia Cho’s The Piano Teacher at the Vineyard theater, here I also felt like the mood just changed into something deeper and more personal as the film went on.

Pure speculation.  Or maybe not.

Calle 13, Bomba Estéreo + Eric Bobo @ Central Park SummerStage.

Yesterday I went to SummerStage to see Calle 13. It wasn’t as crazy as I expected in terms of the crowd. Maybe it’s because they played for free just a few years ago, but I feel like it took a while for the place to be packed with people. When I got there the doors weren’t even open, and I didn’t want to bum around for two hours in the sun, so I actually left the park and cooled off in a bookstore for a while.

When I returned, although the venue wasn’t packed, it was crowded enough that I didn’t want to push my way to the front. I decided to watch just a couple of yards away from the bleacher seats, right behind a barricade. This means I really couldn’t see anyone on stage, really.

The first act was Eric Bobo, son of Willie Bobo. He played percussion along with a DJ. It was okay. The DJ played pretty much all the famous old school breakbeats ever, except no one declared that there was no problem they couldn’t fix since they could do it in the mix. Eric Bobo performed well, but I thought the set was better suited for a club.

Bomba Estéreo fared better than Bobo, for a number of reasons. This is a band, so that there was more happening on stage. The music itself was better, too, more hooky, with more momentum, plus the arrangements were a lot more dynamic. Eric Bobo was limited to his percussion, and although he pulled out all his tricks, at the end of the day, I feel that it didn’t compare.

Bomba Estéreo played a similar set to the one at the Bowery, full of energy and great stage presence. They also go to try some more songs, since the Bowery set was pretty short. I wasn’t sure how well they’d sound in an outside, daytime show, but they were excellent again. I didn’t know how well the rest of the audience would respond, since I myself had no clue who they were just five days ago and I imagined most of the crowd was the same. But people really took to them. The band got the crowd’s attention and the crowd obliged them with plenty of attention, and I found that really impressive. Hope they make it big, whatever “big” means nowadays.

When Calle 13 took the stage, the audience was plenty hyped up. It was pretty overwhelming. I just don’t have enough people to talk to about this kind of music. Not in real life, anyway. It gets lonely. So it was incredible to see thousands of people roaring approvingly at the band. I was feeling the triskaidekaphilia, y’all, haha.

That’s what was really great, too, there was a huge band. Rhythm section, horns, the works. It made me realize how well the music lends itself to a live setting. The sounds just took over and my body could only respond by dancing. It was amazing.

Residente was pretty awesome, really funny and really appreciative of the audience, though with mad attitude, too. That’s one thing I gotta give him, I think his rhymes are kinda lame sometimes, but he’s a great performer. I couldn’t really see Visitante though at one point I saw him playing the accordion and I was just filled with glee. I’m sure René contributes, but I still consider the music to be Eduardo’s domain, and I’m constantly amazed by some of the sounds with which he comes up. (Sorry for switching in their real names; for some reason I don’t think of them by their stage names!)

Not gonna lie, one of the biggest thrills for me was hearing their little sister Ileana singing live, even if she looked like a pulguita from where I was standing. I just think she’s incredibly talented. Are you pumped for her solo stuff? Cos I am. I mean, I’ve pretty much come to the conclusion that “Hormiga Brava” is my favorite Calle 13 song, but I didn’t expect them to play it because it was never a single or anything. They went through all their hits and I loved every moment. But then they DID play “Hormiga Brava” and I almost fainted from how beautiful it was. I felt like they were playing it just for me, you know? Sigh.

They finished the set with “Atrévete-te-te” and everyone went batshit crazy and the band left so everyone was clamoring “¡Otra! ¡Otra!” and obviously we were all being silly because the concert was planned so that there would be enough time for an encore but we all got into shouting for them to come back anyway and when they did we was all cheering so loud and then, and then, and then! I could kinda see them all lining up in a row together, and “Thriller” started playing and they started doing the zombie dance and everyone was like, “AHHH!!!!!” cos it was awesomesauce. They did play an encore (“Electro movimiento,” yeah!) but that MJ mini-tribute pretty much took the cake.

I think I can die a little bit happier now.

Aubele, Niña Dioz, Bomba Estéreo, RH+ y la Lafourcade @ Bowery Ballroom, 7/9.

Qué onda, I have to keep this short. Long story, but obviously don’t have a chance to do my usual let’s-make-the-post-as-long-as-possible thing.

Okay, last night I went to the Bowery for the LAMC showcase, mostly to see the most lovely Natalia Lafourcade. I actually sat at a table in the upstairs section for a bit, but I learned my lesson: the best way to go is to be out on the floor. I had a pretty sweet time. There were a lot of acts so here are a few words about each of them.

First off was Federico Aubele, hailing from Argentina, and I was surprised because I thought he had a bigger following. Unlike all the other artists (aside from Natalia) he was the only one with whom I was familiar. I hadn’t been impressed by the stuff I’d heard before, but I was pleasantly surprised by his brief set. I’m definitely going to revisit his recorded stuff.

Second was Monterrey’s Niña Dioz, and I swear to god, I was tickled by her presence. I just didn’t expect her and her sound… she mostly reminded me of Lady Sovereign, mostly cos she was tiny, too. Wow, I was just shocked that she was rapping for real, but I still couldn’t help that just last year (it was just last year, right??) La Mala Rodríguez was kicking LAMC ass. Niña Dioz was an oddity, but after two songs I got over it.

Next was Bomba Estéreo, from Colombia. By this point I saw the floor filling up and I decided to join in because I wanted to be right up front for Natalia. Bomba Estéreo were EXCELLENT. I knew nothing about them but the lead singer girl just comes out and she’s like, “¡¡CUUUUUMBIAAAAA!!” And you can imagine what came next. Or not! She wasn’t joking about their sound as “psychedelic cumbia.” The only thing that sucked is that they got too into their music, so that they would just draw out the psychedelic sounds to the point that it tested my patience and also felt kinda masturbatory in their part. Obviously it would have been fine if they’d been headlining but c’mon, son! If their music hadn’t rocked and if they hadn’t had such a punkass attitude I would have jumped on stage and punched them into silence.

I’m pretty sure Hector Buitrago was there!!! I love him. It’s too bad I missed him tonight at Celebrate Brooklyn. I saw him pop up at the venue when Bomba Estéreo came on.

After that was Chile’s RH+, who were okay. That’s all. Of all the musicians, I think they were the oldest, either late 20s or early 30s. (At least that was my perception.) I don’t know, man. I just couldn’t believe they came all the way from Chile when there are plenty of bands with their sound right here in the city. Underwhelming, though confident and well-rehearsed.

AND THEN: Natalia. And two band members, one who was on synth and xylophone and backup vocals, and also a drummer. Natalia was so beautiful and er, Lilliputian. Como una muñeca de porcelana, pero no como las extrañas que me dan heebie-jeebies. She was so full of joy, every statement she made was pretty much followed with a giggle. Her thank yous were so sincere and she genuinely seemed to want everyone to just love her new material.

I think bands like Grizzly Bear would just seethe with jealousy if they heard her music. They would go into a small room and weep to themselves, “Why didn’t I think of that melody first??” Her music is a refreshing pop delight, and I think I left the venue with cavities she was so damn sweet. I can’t fucking wait to hear the new album and I hope she comes back to the city real soon. The music was so uplifting.

I just want to say that her bandmates were right on. It wasn’t just that they were competent and focused in doing a good job, or that they were happy to be there. It was more like, they were so ecstatic to be with Natalia and when she played a couple of songs alone, they would bop their heads and mouth along to the lyrics–they clearly LOVE the new songs. It was so great. Especially the drummer, I loved him so much! He was this flaco who looked like a mouse and you could tell that he’s one of those dudes who drums because he can’t mofuckin’ sit still. Even during the songs when he wasn’t drumming his ass off, he was just swaying along happily.

After their set was one more artist, León Polar. Unfortunately, it was already past 1 am by the time Natalia finished, so I couldn’t stay. (In fact, I got home at around 2:40.) As Natalia and her buds cleared their way, I waved to her drummer “¡OYE!” and when he noticed me I asked, “¿Me puedes dar el setlist?” He was kind enough to do so, and even though I said gracias, I kinda didn’t get to say it loudly enough, and there were other concertgoers behind me clamoring for a setlist, too, so he was distracted and didn’t hear me. I wish I’d had a chance to ask him his name, so I could thank him appropriately. Oh wells.

I don’t have a scanner or whatever unfortch, but here is what the setlist says:

Bowery Ballroom
Natalia L

Cursis Melodías
Ella es Bonita
No Viniste
Hu Hu Hu

I will say, however, I don’t think they followed the order quite as it was. They definitely did NOT play “Casa,” probably because they were running out of time and they were too nice to be like, “I don’t care, I’ma do what I want!” Ah well. La próxima vez, right?

BTW! I thought I saw Jon Pareles at the show, but it was from a distance so I wasn’t sure. Turns out I was right! Do I get points for being geeky enough to recognize him? No? Boo.

Jesus, my post still turned out in epic length. I’m so sorry.

Hola Mexico Film Fest: Desierto Adentro (Rodrigo Plá) @ Quad Cinema.

Well, the Hola Mexico Film Festival ended today. I almost forgot about it, just as I pretty much forgot about TeatroStageFest this year. Seriously, I’ve just been so out of it. I feel really bad about missing the TeatroStageFest events, too, cos a couple of weeks ago I even got a call from one of their peeps reminding me about the shows. But of course at that point I was like, “Meh, there’s still time to figure out my schedule,” and of course just last night I was like, “Holy shiiiiit.”

Luckily, I remembered to attend the Hola Mexico fest. I was torn between watching Voy a explotar (I’m Gonna Explode) or Desierto adentro (The Desert Within). A while back I read about the former on Super45, and the soundtrack listing excited me, but the storyline seemed kinda boring. I was interested in the latter because it was directed by Rodrigo Plá. Last year I saw La zona, which he also directed, which was quite memorable, if not exactly perfect.  If you couldn’t tell by the title for this post, I ultimately decided on checking out Plá’s new one.

This movie wasn’t perfect either, but as it happened with La zona, it’s given me a lot to think about. Both works are lacking in hope and infuriating, which I see as a good thing.

On a superficial level, Desierto adentro could not be more different from La zona, which makes me appreciate Plá’s willingness to try different things. Whereas La zona is wrapped up in modernity, the urban and the secular, Desierto adentro is steeped in the olden days, the rural and in Catholicism. La zona, too, focuses on a close-knit community that chooses to close itself off from the corruptions of the greater society, whereas in the newer film, isolation is imposed upon the individual, and it’s never voluntary; rather, it’s meant to be experienced as a punishment.

The story is broken into four clearly marked acts, and we get cues to the main theme of each section. We meet Elías, whose choices lead to a series of events that lead him to be cursed out by a priest and disowned by his mother. A deeply religious family man, Elías understandably takes this very badly. Even worse, he loses his wife and one of his sons, Aureliano–and this is only the beginning of his troubles. (BTW, Cien años de soledad vibes, anyone? Aureliano is not a name I hear thrown around very often…)

The rest of the movie we see Elías trying to show penance for his errors, growing increasingly desperate as time passes, but what complicates things even more is that his 7 children suffer right along with him… some more than others.

We experience most of these events through the eyes of Elías’s son, Aureliano. No, not the Aureliano who dies. See, Elías’s wife was pregnant, and she died giving birth to a boy. To honor the memory of Aureliano, the baby is named after his brother. Elías sets Baby Aureliano (literally) apart from the other six surviving children, nurturing an artistic side. Some scenes feature animated versions of the pictures Baby Aureliano draws.  To a degree, Baby Aureliano thrives and finds comfort in this, but he soon comes to understand that Elías’s excuses of wanting to protect Baby Aureliano are rooted in more complex and sinister motives.

I’m sorry, I want to keep talking about it but I’m really tired and I need to work tomorrow.  I’ll try to edit it and update it mañana, maybe. :( Before I go to sleep, I want to mention the music in this movie, which was used to great effect. We only hear music intermittently, which makes it more conspicuous when it does appear. It just shows up on occasion, a naked chorus of voices, no accompaniment. It’s so creepy.

Twelfth Night @ Delacorte Theater (Shakespeare in the Park).

[EDIT July 6: I am getting several hits from people wondering how early to line up for the show. My coworker’s girlfriend had Friday July 3 off so she decided to try for a ticket. She lined up around 6:30, but apparently, about 100 people showed up around the same time… she did NOT get tickets. Since this is the final week, you’re probably going to have a pretty tough time. I’m speculating that Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday, being workdays, won’t be as bad, and that Friday, Saturday and Sunday will be particularly difficult. I’ll leave you to decide when to show up. I wish you the best of luck!]

For weeks I’d been planning on going to see Twelfth Night at Shakespeare in the Park on June 18, because it was a week day I had off and before the reviews came out, so I figured the lines wouldn’t be as bad. But when I woke up on Thursday, the weather was just drab. Rainy all day. I watched some of The View; Anne Hathaway was on and all I could think was “Damn… I guess today’s a bad day to go.”

But as the hours passed I kept checking the weather, and by 5 pm I noticed that by 8 pm, there would “only” be 50 or 60% chance of precipitation. So even though I’d spent all day resigned with not being able to go, I decided that a little rain was not enough to keep me away. In fact, I imagined that plenty of people would be hesitant to go to an outdoor theater on a rainy night, so I decided to take my chances and see if I could get a ticket.

Well, the girl at the box office gave me my ticket and all I could do was throw my fist in the air and cry ALLAHU AKBAR! Why? Because my ticket was in section C, row CC: front row, in the best section of the theater. Although it’s sucky to go to the theater alone, the fact is that it’s more likely you’ll get a better seat. I just didn’t expect it to be that good!

I went off and grabbed me some dinner, and then I came back for the show. They opened the doors a bit late, and the show itself started past 8 (not unusual). The theater was about half empty, and I’d guess that a good number of the people there were (1) people who are familiar with the rain policy at the Delacorte Theater, (2) people who, like me, made sure the weather cleared out before they got a last minute ticket. As I waited for the show to start, two thoughts ran through my head. The first was, “Shit, I hope the production doesn’t suck,” and the second was “Muthafuck, I hope this doesn’t turn into some participatory production.” That’s what freaks me out about first row, that maybe an actor will try to interact with you and shit. That just sent me into a panic.

On the first count, I can confirm that the production was good, a solid B. I feel like it was time well spent, and I felt a pang of sadness I didn’t have anyone to share the experience. I’d say the entire cast was pretty good, committed, well-rehearsed. I’d even say that they really embraced their roles and were having a lot of fun, which, in turn, made it fun for me to watch.

It was drizzly the first half hour but the actors soldiered on, and I felt particularly bad for the ladies who wore gorgeous, short-sleeved dresses. The clothes were seriously rocking. I’d peg them very Napoleonic-era (maybe?).

A good half hour into the play, the drizzle finally got a little too hard to bear, so the Voice From God (okay, the dude who does the announcements) said that there would be a pause while the rain passed through. It didn’t take long for the rain to weaken, and so the actors went back to their places, kinda rewound a few lines to remind us where we’d stopped, and just went on as if nothing had happened.

I should mention that, when I first read the cast list, I really hoped there would be singing involved. Now I can say I’ve heard lovely people like Audra McDonald and Raúl Esparza sing to me live onstage. Er, well, the music was fairly good and the musicians were totally right on, but I did feel like the compositions were a bit long and dragged the pacing a bit. So part of me was like, “Damn, these songs are so pretty,” and another part of me was like, “Damn, can we get on with the ~*CRAZY ANTIX*~ already?”

But I didn’t hate this as much as I hated the fool, Feste, walking over to the front row right as the second half of the show started, and putting out his hat for money. Holy shit. I mean, I was totally laughing on the outside but weeping in the inside, and the only thing that made me feel a little better was that he didn’t put out the hat in front of my face, just the people next to me. It was a very close call, though, and lucky for the actor, David Pittu, because the couple sitting next to me was a lot more gracious about the unscripted moment than I would have been. Ack!

Another aspect of the show I didn’t dig too much was that the humor was played very broadly. The thing is that, in terms of execution, the actors did a great job, so my beef is with the directorial choice to deliver the lines with a clear wink and a jab with the elbow. At the same time, I infinitely preferred this more accessible, enjoyable production over last year’s Hamlet, you know? So I ain’t complaining too much on that element of the show.

I have to admit I wasn’t too hot with Esparza in the part of Orsino. He wasn’t bad, but I’d say miscast. Then again, I was basically expecting Pushing Daisies all over again. Sigh! Not only that, he had like, superintense sideburns–they really distracted me. I’d love to see him in another production soon, though!

McDonald was pretty good, though I found her far more watchable in her funny moments than in her brooding ones. Her timing is really good. Anne Hathaway held her own, and it’s probably the most physical thing I’ve seen her do since like, The Princess Diaries. She even gets into a sword fight. The choreography was all right, nothing major, but it’s still always cool to see a sword fight in a live production. By the way, the dude who played Viola’s twin brother looked acceptably similar to Anne Hathaway, but even more eerie, he seriously reminded me of the youngest Jonas brother(!). The actor’s name is Stark Sands (for real…?). Surely it was just from seeing him from a distance, but I was still like, “WHOA… Where’s Miley Cyrus, dude?” That said, I thought he was pretty good in his more minor role.

I really loved Jay O. Sanders in this; he was in A Midsummer Night’s Dream a couple of years ago as the head of the rude mechanicals, easily the best part of a so-so show. Again, he did not disappoint. He has a great voice, too. But I think my favorite cast member was Julie White, who played Maria with mischievous glee. Even though Maria plays a pretty awful trick on Malvolio, I still felt like she was totally awesome, and Julie White really made her a very inviting and sympathetic character.

The play itself is so funny. I had very faint memories of reading it in school and then watching the version with Helena Bonham Carter. I couldn’t remember anything except that there was a mistaken identity plot that centered around cross-dressing and that there was a funny servant lady named Maria but whose name was pronounced Mariah. Also, I remembered feeling more than a little awkward with the weddings at the end because of all the gender-bending. I’m not even gonna consider the political statement that the Public Theater may or may not be making by putting on this show at this moment in American history cos my mind would explode, yeah? But back to the words: there were some hilarious lines, that had everyone tittering and at times howling. Really bawdy lines. The weird thing was realizing how badly I’d needed to have a good laugh, and the production did the trick. All in all, a good night at the theater, especially since it was free.

The show will officially open on June 25, and will close on July 12 to make room for The Bacchae.

One Last Trip.

Last night I decided to go shopping at the Virgin since it’s closing. This means I missed So You Think You Can Dance, so I spent the last few hours tracking down the performances (many props to Rickey!) and although there were a couple of clunkers, I’m really excited about this group of dancers. I’d give you a breakdown of my favorite dancers but at this point I feel like my judgment is clouded by all the handsome dudes. Seriously, the whole group of dancers is stunning. By the way, there’s a reason why I had to go hunting for the performance clips: Fox doesn’t put them on the show’s site. Travesty! You’d think that Fox would be kind enough to post the stupid show on their site, but apparently they can’t be bothered. Good move, you morons!

Anyway, the Virgin had hit the 70% off mark last night, and shockingly enough they’d moved enough units to have the lower level closed off! I don’t think I’ll go back again before Sunday, which is its final day. So here is a list of the things I bought in my final trip to the Virgin at Union Square:

Crash, JG Ballard
– The Jim DeRogatis bio of the Flaming Lips
Doubt, John Patrick Shanley
A History of Violence, David Cronenberg
A Scanner Darkly, Richard Linklater
– That Arctic Monkeys DVD with that video for the one song of theirs I really dig and that features Stephen Graham
Primitive Love, Miami Sound Machine
– A Talk Talk Best Of
– A Stray Cats Best Of
Lotofire, Ely Guerra
Los de atrás vienen conmigo, Calle 13
Te quiero…, Los Temerarios
Citizen Boris, Golem
Vôo de coração, Ritchie

I need to explain my purchases. First, they’re pretty much down to shit now! There really isn’t a lot of great stuff so I do feel very happy and lucky to have gotten what I got. Seriously, even all the Spanish language Pop/Rock section is pretty much depleted. Second, the fact that everything is 70% off meant that I was willing to take more of a chance. The last three items listed, well, I’ve never listened to any of their stuff, but I thought I’d be adventurous. I’m especially curious about that Ritchie guy, who looks pretty goofy on the album cover–muito 80s, LOL. It’s too bad that I have a tendency to go for flashy and tacky, but I just couldn’t say no!!

Actually, there were definitely some items to which I said no, for various reasons. Sigh. They included a busted copy of an Illya Kuryaki and the Valderramas album, as well as a Gram Parsons bio and Queens Reigns Supreme. Also, there was a Green Day bio I was eyeing… Yes, yes, my taste in music books is even odder than my regular taste in music. Now shut up about it.

I do feel ambivalent about this specific store closing, because as far as megastores went, its stock wasn’t so bad. Obviously it’s because the crowd around Union Square skews younger and more “indie,” so there was always a relatively decent vinyl section and stuff. (The Tower at Lincoln Center, in comparison, tended to have a more extensive classical/Broadway section.) I hope that a store like this closing means that the smaller, more specialized stores get to survive, whether it’s Other Music or, I dunno, Turntable Lab. Brick-and-mortar music and video stores are becoming a rare breed, that’s for sure, and you know something? It is really fucking inconvenient. Especially because the Virgin was the #1 choice for me to meet up with my friends when we hung out.

I leave you with a few highlights of my experience at the Union Square Virgin. I bought my Langley Schools record there, as well as the Young Liars EP. I got to see Franz Ferdinand throw a really nice in-store performance back when their first album came out. And perhaps the highlight of the highlights is this: I was in the store on August 14, 2003, when all the fucking lights in the city went out. Actually, I can easily say that it was one of the Top 3 worst days in my life, so it’s a shitty memory, but it’s a vivid one regardless. Stupidly enough, I didn’t steal anything from the store when the blackout happened. Haha. Damn my integrity.

Hm, I guess I kinda will miss the store. But I’m not surprised that they’re closing, c’est tout.

Speaking of music stores: Next Thursday, June 18, Insound is having a Warehouse Sale for the first time. So if you’re in NYC, you should definitely definitely check it out. I’m sure the deals won’t be massive, but imagine the shipping charges you’ll avoid! The details here. I’m not sure if I can go yet, but I’m gonna try. I highly recommend it! Although they push a lot of new stuff on their site, they still have plenty of back stock that is worth sifting through. I should know, because I used to pack everyone’s orders there. :D

MoCCA Fest 2009.

[Edit: My friend from work wrote a li’l something on MoCCA too. Clickety click here. Also, I was lurking around a day or two ago looking at other people’s posts, and someone mentioned how annoying it was that there didn’t seem to be any trash cans in the fucking armory. I agree! I kept looking around for a place to dump my trash, and eveeeeentually I found a receptacle.]

Went to the MoCCA fest, which was moved from the Puck building to the Armory between 25th and 26th Streets. The space was striking, absolutely massive–everyone fit under one space, instead of having to split the exhibitors into several large rooms. On one level it was easier to have everyone under one roof, but on another level it also felt a little less personal. I don’t know what could be done about it; the fest had long outgrown its former space, and the move was necessary. The one thing that actually sucked was how humid it got, people were just sweating left and right.

It was just overwhelming to have so many exhibitors and fans in there. Even though there was a floor plan, it was easier for me to just get a feel for the space, so I literally walked up and down every aisle to see who was there and what they had to offer. Then, once I finished doing that, I just returned to the tables that really caught my eye, which was mostly the international artists.

It remained crowded almost all day, so I didn’t get a good glimpse at certain tables. As it happens every year, I saw Adrian Tomine, and his buddy Seth was there, too. I didn’t get anything signed by him, but seeing Adrian was comforting, like, “There’s a familiar face!” Haha. Jason showed up and signed shit, as well as Tom Gauld and I think Kurt Wolfgang too, among many many others. Everyone was so friendly and eager to engage in sweet conversation while enticing us common folk into buying their creative output and in my head I was like, “AHHHHH TOO MUCH I CAN’T HANDLE IT!” but mostly I just smiled politely, said hello, glanced at some of the comics here and there, and just moved on.

Listen, I was on a budget, okay? I really wanted a copy of Joann Sfar’s Piano, but by the point I saw it, I was down to less than $30… And the book was going for $40. There were some other really cool from L’Association and this Belgian publisher named Bries. Bought a couple of titles from the latter.

I was hoping (it was a wild and futile hope, really) that maybe they might have Papa est un peu fatigué but they didn’t. I bought another Ville Ranta comic instead. Bought some other comics from the Scandinavian contingent. I got a mini-comic signed by one of the artists, and I thought he was just gonna give me his John Hancock but he was nice enough to draw me a little something. So I just want to declare this artist, Simon Bukhave, as totally awesome for taking the time and effort to do so.

There was also a Romanian table. I shit you not. Like, of all the random places… They were featuring a series called Hardcomics and I bought a couple, including one that wasn’t even translated. But that’s okay, because I really love the artwork.

The one panel I attended was called “Scandinavian Comics 101,” and the panelists included: Åsa Ekström (Sweden), Mattias Elftrop (Sweden), Johanna Rojola (Finland), Thomas Thorhauge (Denmark), Ib Kjeldsmark (Denmark), Erik Falk (Norway), and one more artist whose name I didn’t catch (also from Norway). If you know his name, or if I misspelled anyone’s name, please let me know! The panel was moderated by Steffen P. Maarup, who is Danish. As soon as I saw how many artists were participating in the panel, I realized we weren’t going to get too far into some deep dialogue from the artists of the various countries they represented. The allotted time was just too brief to get very far… However, the panelists were all very charming and made some great points. For example, I had no idea that so many of them were deeply influenced by French and Belgian comics as opposed to American ones. There was a curious audience member who posed a really interesting question about race and whether the POC in the Scandinavian countries were active at all in the comics scene. The panelists didn’t have much of an answer other than that POC are not really visible. Honestly, there was plenty said during the short time and I’m sure someone who took more copious notes will hit every bullet point discussed… but unfortunately that someone isn’t me. Sorry!

Dude! I do wanna give props to MoCCA for putting out refreshments at the panels!! I feel like my admission money mostly went to good use. Hehe. I had fun, and I got some really cool comics that I’m probably never ever gonna see again, so… it was worth it. Hope all the international artists are able to come next year, too!

Some Geekery.

– Wednesday eve I ran the fuck out of work and I made it just in time to the Broadway district.  Went to see August: Osage County.  It was tightly written, deftly acted, and beautifully staged.  There were a lot of genuine laughs and none of the actors had quirky/distracting acting styles.  Even though one of the understudies was in the production that night, the play still felt completely natural, like the entire acting team had been playing these roles together forever.  It was incredible how well everything meshed and I have to commend the director for that.  I admit that I was a bit of a hardass in the beginning, not wanting to get too involved with the story, but I’d be lying if I said it didn’t move me.  I didn’t give an ovation, but I was very content that there was an emotional impact somewhere deep in my sorry little heart.

There was a pretty heavy revelation in the play that had no foreshadowing even, except when the scene where the revelation is revealed began, I understood from a mile away what was about to be revealed and so I braced myself for it.  My friend from work had warned me there was a big twist, true, but I didn’t know the nature of the twist.  All she told me was that this is not the sort of play to read before watching.  It seems that other people weren’t as ready, because the majority of the audience gasped loudly when the character finally dropped the bomb.  I could only giggle nervously when I heard everyone react.

Shameless namechecking: I’m pretty sure Lauren Hutton was in the audience.  The only reason I am kinda doubting myself about whether it was really her is that I couldn’t imagine her being as short as the woman I saw at the theater, what with Lauren Hutton being a model and all.  And I guess I couldn’t understand why she would be seeing the play a year after it opened on Broadway.  And I don’t even know if Lauren Hutton was bumming around NYC lately.  Does she live here?  But I stand by might words: I saw Lauren Hutton in the audience.

Regardless, it was well worth the money and the fact that I missed Lost.  But you mofuckers better believe I’m not gonna miss the Lost finale next week.  Hope it doesn’t suck, LOL.

– My friend from work and I went to see Star Trek today.  I am not a Star Trek person at all and my knowledge of it is minimal, so I was pretty much experiencing everything for the first time.  The movie was… kinda boring.  No, I mean… it was fun… it was okay, but it didn’t feel necessary.  Do you think it’s fucked up that I expect so much out of a fucking action movie?  Star Trek was slick, and noisy, and busy, with a lot of stuff, and a lot of good-to-great actors in bit roles, and a lot of redshirts.  There were some funny parts, too, I won’t deny it.  I liked a lot of the actors and I thought they were well cast, but when there’s so many peeps in the screen, it was like they barely got to do anything other than look good in their uniforms.  Each of the characters got a pivotal scene, or if not pivotal at least a spotlight scene, but mostly to serve either Kirk and sometimes Spock.  Other than Kirk and Spock, they have no internal growth that we can see, it just feels like a lot of cool actors wasted, c’est tout.  For example, I wish Uhura had (literally) kicked more ass, it’s like she only threw one punch, and her biggest contribution was to confirm something that Kirk said.  Oh, and I guess she played a love interest.  At least she took the initiative to kiss first.

The action was just okay, not especially well-choreographed, and I was particularly mad about the villain’s death.  It was very Darth Maul, you know, like this big looming evil presence that is discarded of fairly easily at the end.  I ended up wondering what the big deal had been with the dude.  Sheesh.  Most of the plot did make sense, which was nice, although a lot of it felt like going through the motions.  Y’know, just a lot of archetypes reaching familiar points of growth, like the rebel who grows up to be a leader, or the mixed-race dude who learns he doesn’t need to prioritize one of his races over the other and instead learns to love all of himself.  Et cetera, et cetera.

My biggest concern was that I never felt there was anything at stake.  As soon as Leonard Nimoy showed up I thought, “Well, no one has to worry about anything, everything will turn out just fine and dandy.”  It’s like, it finally hit me that in this alternate universe, the rules are so flexible I never really feel like anyone is really gonna get hurt and I’m never really gonna get emotionally invested.  Not that I want emotional manipulation in the form of  women in refrigerators and the like, but some real sense of struggle would have drawn me in more.

Another thing I think really sucks is that the movie was as good as it could have been, and I’m bummed that most likely, there will be a sequel that will just be more big explosions and playing it safe so as to please all the fans.

Oh!  And let’s not forget what we really learned in Star Trek.  (1) Cheating in tests is okay.  (2) If you ignore ALL the rules, you can still become captain of a starship and everyone will love you!!  (3) It’s fine to needle your anal-retentive frenemy into having a mini-emotional breakdown so that you can take over his job after he proves himself incapable of being level-headed enough to lead a team.

The previews were pretty wack.  The audience was mostly dudes, many at least in their 30s, though there were all these middle school boys, too.  There were some girls, many of whom were with their guys.  Okay, I’m out.  Live long and prosper, y’all.

LAMC 2009.

Okay, here goes!  I totally missed that the LAMC website posted its full schedule.  Sorry about the delay.  Below, I’ve organized the shows by artist, with approximate set times when available. Please let me know if you see any errors OR if you have other, non-official LAMC events for me to add. And remember, times, locations and acts might change!

Sat July 11 – after midnight – SOB’s

Fri 10 July – Celebrate Brooklyn @ Prospect Park Bandshell – GRATIS

Banda de Turistas
Wed 8 July – Mercury Lounge

Sat 11 July – Central Park SummerStage @ Rumsey Playfield – GRATIS

Bomba Estéreo
Wed 8 July – Bembe
Thurs 9 July – SOB’s
Thurs 9 July – Bowery Ballroom
Fri 10 July – Antigua
Sat 11 July – Central Park SummerStage @ Rumsey Playfield – GRATIS
Sat July 11 – after midnight – SOB’s
Sun July 12 – Nublu

Calle 13
Sat 11 July – Central Park SummerStage @ Rumsey Playfield – GRATIS

Ceci Bastida
Wed 8 July – Mercury Lounge

Tues 7 July – Oveja Negra

Wed 8 July – Central Park SummerStage @ Rumsey Playfield – GRATIS

DJ Afro (Los Amigos Invisibles)
Fri 10 July – Celebrate Brooklyn @ Prospect Park Bandshell – GRATIS
Sat July 11 – all evening(?) – SOB’s

Tues 7 July – Oveja Negra

Domino Saints
Wed 8 July – Mercury Lounge
Thurs 9 July – SOB’s

El G (ZZK)
Wed 8 July – Central Park SummerStage @ Rumsey Playfield – GRATIS

Ella Fuksbrauner
Thurs 9 July – SOB’s

Eric Bobo
Sat 11 July – Central Park SummerStage @ Rumsey Playfield – GRATIS

Federico Aubele
Thurs 9 July – Bowery Ballroom

Gaby Moreno
Thurs 9 July – SOB’s

Javier Garcia
Thurs 9 July – SOB’s

Juana Molina
Wed 8 July – Central Park SummerStage @ Rumsey Playfield – GRATIS

León Polar
Thurs 9 July – Bowery Ballroom

Los Amigos Invisibles
Tues 7 July – 7 pm – Apple Store Soho – GRATIS
Thurs 9 July – SOB’s
Fri 10 July – Celebrate Brooklyn @ Prospect Park Bandshell – GRATIS

Los Delinqüentes
Thurs 9 July – SOB’s

Los Fabulosos Cadillacs
Sat 11 July – Central Park SummerStage @ Rumsey Playfield – GRATIS

Los Hollywood
Wed 8 July – Mercury Lounge
Thurs 9 July – SOB’s

Tues 7 July – Oveja Negra

Tues 7 July – Oveja Negra

Wed 8 July – Mercury Lounge

Wed 8 July – Mercury Lounge

Natalia Lafourcade
Thurs 9 July – SOB’s
Thurs 9 July – Bowery Ballroom

Raza Odiada
Tues 7 July – Oveja Negra

RH+, AKA Rock Hudson
Thurs 9 July – SOB’s
Thurs 9 July – Bowery Ballroom

Tues 7 July – Oveja Negra



I’m excited, they announced the panel topics for the LAMC recently.  Pueden encontrar los temas en el sitio oficial, aquí.  Make sure to check back for the full schedule!  Hope they get a good mix of acts this year… Can’t wait to see who’ll play Summerstage! NYRemezcla reports that Los Fabulosos Cadillacs will be playing the free show at Central Park!  It’s going to be INSANE. EDIT April 26: There will be two Summerstage shows this year, both of which will be free.  The opener for Los Cadillacs will be Eric Bobo, maybe one more opener to come?  The other show will headline Juana Molina, Curumin and ZZK’s El G.  Should be a hot show.  Details here. EDIT May 4: Celebrate Brooklyn date is up, and it’s amazin’!!  Los Amigos Invisibles AND  Aterciopelados will be playing on Friday July 10.    Also of note (but not related to the LAMC) is a free show on July 2, headlining Obie Bermudez and featuring Cucu Diamantes and Rebel Diaz.  All Celebrate Brooklyn deets here.

EDIT May 19: SOB’s updated their website.  On Thursday July 9, they will be holding the LAMC Acoustic Showcase; actual acts to be determined.  On Saturday July 11, they will also have an LAMC After Party, featuring Bomba Estereo, Afrobeta and DJ Afro on the turntables throughout the night.  EDIT May 24: I was snooping on Natalia Lafourcade‘s MySpace page and realized she’s playing two gigs, one of which is the Acoustic Showcase at SOB’s.  The other set will take place on the afternoon of Thursday July 9 at the Bowery Ballroom.  Yay!

EDIT May 27: Heyyy the Mercury Lounge posted its LAMC show, and it looks like a marathon event!  If you wanna see 7 bands in one night, this is the night to go, haha.  The show will take place on Wednesday July 8 and some of the acts featured are Ceci Bastida and Monareta.  The other acts included are Banda de Turistas, Maluca, RH+, Domino Saints, and Los Hollywood.  Click here for all the details.

ND/NF 2009: La Nana (Sebastián Silva) @ MoMA.

Hurm.  Well, I’m trying to pump out as much as possible without having my computer freak out.  Let’s see how that turns out.  A couple of nights ago, I found myself amid hundreds of older people who had the free time to go see La nana (The Maid) at MoMA for the New Directors/New Films series this year.  Directed by Sebastián Silva, this Chilean movie takes explores the tense relationship that employers and employees have.

In this movie in particular, a live-in maid (Catalina Saavedra) who has served a family for over two decades finally reaches her breaking point, forcing the family to hire a second maid to assist the first one.  Of course, the original maid sees this as a threat to her turf, what with not really having a life outside of this family.  So poor coping mechanisms in the form of harrassing the new maid(s) and other such hijinks ensue.

Before the movie started Silva gave a brief intro, explaining that in Chile there is a tendency for well-off families to have live-in maids, which is not really the case in the US.  But the power dynamic between the maid and the rest of the family totally translated.  You should have been at the movie theater, it was totally packed and we were all laughing and gasping together, and at the Q&A afterwards, people couldn’t contain themselves from mentioning that they liked the movie.

It was kinda weird to see how realistic the interactions appeared to be, and even though there were a lot of gaps story-wise–in the sense that they’re not explained explicitly–there are definitely telling moments.  The oldest child does not get along with the maid, and when she asks her mother why she can’t fire the maid, the mother just has this blank look, as if she couldn’t even bear to think about it.  “Porque no puedo,” the mother replies, obviously helpless.  The daughter, too, has a huge look of guilt when the maid finally collapses, even though the two have a very passive-aggressive relationship, and this look indicates that the daughter has a more complicated view of her maid that previously indicated in the movie.

At the Q&A that followed the movie, one of the audience members mentioned Sergio Vodanovic’s “El delantal blanco,” which is part of his Viña plays.  I also thought of Vodanovic’s play the first instant I saw the maid’s uniform, but the comparisons quickly dissipated.  Although both Vodanovic and Silva use humor to show a greater critique of class differences* in Chile, “El delantal blanco” functions more as allegory and its two characters (a maid and her female employer) are  strictly representative and not three-dimensional at all.  On the other hand, Silva does flesh out the titular maid of his film considerably, so that even though we’re missing a lot of back story, her actions and reactions reveal a shitload about what motivates her and what breaks her.  The director actually mentioned that whenever he saw how maids are portrayed, they’re usually caricatures, they’re types and never just people, so he wanted to show the life a maid with more depth.  I think he can take great pride that he succeeded and that he did it with such humor.  Catalina Saavedra, too, was especially fearless and her facial expressions were priceless.  She really gets the audience to root for her character, even though the maid is obviously off.

Silva, by the way, had never heard of “El delantal blanco.”  A lot of his material came from his own experience living in a household that had several maids, and I think he even mentioned that they helped him flesh out the story.  Pretty awesome.

Fuck, honestly, I could go on talking about the details of the movie forever, but I’m worried my computer’s going to explode.  Also, I’m kinda tired.

One last thing, Sebastián Silva’s English is pretty good.  In fact, he said his next project will be in English.  Sounded interesting and I hope it turns out well.

*From what I can tell, Chile is similar to England in that both have huge class anxiety, as opposed to here in the US where we are more hush-hush about class but we’re far more openly preoccupied with race.

PEN World Voices 2009.

¿Qué onda? Un virus atacó mi computadora… Pero bueno, todavía estoy viva.

I’d been waiting for today for a while. The PEN American Center announced the full lineup for their PEN World Voices Festival. (You can see all the info ici.) And I’m outraged by how many of the events are not free! Hehe, actually, most of the stuff is free and the ticketed events are fairly cheap. So go check out all the good stuff.

Also, Andrés Neuman (Bogotá 39) won the latest Premio Alfaguara. Man, he’s cashing in big time. I’m so curious to read his novels, what the hell does una estadounidense have to do to get her hands on some cool new lit??

On the Watchmen Movie, Mucho Text Avec Spoilers.

A lot of times I know that a movie will be a waste of time, but I still get curious about the usually convoluted plotlines so I go online and spoil myself the movie. It tends to happen with a lot of horror movies, but not always. I had already spoiled myself Watchmen, but it didn’t quell my curiosity because I read about all the changes from the book and I wondered how the fuck everything was gonna pan out, so I was (a) dying for the movie to leak, or (b) waiting for 10 days to pass so I could use a movie voucher to watch it for like $2.

I caved. I went to watch it last night. Paid the full ticket price and everything.

There’s some things I should mention. First of all, I didn’t have a phone on me yesterday, which was awkward because I use my phone as my watch, as most of my friends do. I was fucking blanking out and unsure about whether I’d just left it home, or if I’d dropped it on the street. I was wearing a coat with shallow pockets, y’see. So every few hours I had to get change and look for a payphone to call my own phone, hoping my mom would pick up and thereby confirm that the phone was at home. The whole thing was an exercise in hilarity. First off, it’s ridiculous trying to find a payphone these days, even if I found myself in a tourist-heavy area. (And I do mean the tourists are heavy! HAHAHA okay never mind very rude of me I know…) Second off, my mom is pretty much deaf in one ear, so she really can’t hear my phone vibrate… most of the time she can’t hear her own phone, even though her has a very loud ringtone. Third off, I couldn’t call anyone else because the only phone number I have committed to heart is my own fucking number. I hung out all by my lonesome which suited me fine, but I felt very disconnected to the world.

I was full of win yesterday, really.

It was the afternoon and I didn’t know what to do with myself so I decided to queue up for the West Side Story ticket lottery. Since I didn’t have a watch on me, I just stood in the cold for like a good hour and a half until I found out that I didn’t win. Fuck man, I bet this revival isn’t even all that and it was mad cold yesterday, but there were a shitload of people dying to get a fucking ticket. My god.

Anyway, I peaced out of there but the cold and the hunger was getting to me so I just went into a Sbarro and paid $2.29 for a 20 oz. bottle of water… Jesus fuck. Whatever, I had a fun time people-watching the tourists surrounding me. I wondered if they saw me as a tourist, too. But I peaced out as soon as I warmed up and I walked up to the Lincoln Center area to see if the indie theater had anything good showing at a godly hour. Never mind that I wasn’t even sure what time it was. I wasn’t too interested in the movies showing at that moment, so I walked over to the big chain theater near the Barnes & Noble and bought a ticket to Watchmen.

Okay, I admit it. I was curious about the plot changes, but I have a crush on Patrick Wilson, too. He was one of the highlights of the Angels in America movie for me (and believe me, I wasn’t that enthusiastic about the movie as a whole). I was really puzzled by the fact that he was playing Nite Owl. Nothing on Patrick Wilson’s acting, I think he’s a wonderful actor, but I mean, Patrick Wilson is fiiiiine. And Dan Dreiberg, his character, is totally lame. And has a paunch. So I wanted to see how the hell they worked that out. I was really interested to see Jeffrey Dean Morgan and Jackie Earle Haley, too.

I found out a few days ago that the opening box office for Watchmen was only like, $50 million, so I wasn’t sure how many people would show up for a weeknight screening of the movie. The closer it got to the screening time, though, it filled up pretty nicely. There were a shitload of open seats though; I had a whole row to myself, there was a couple sitting directly behind me, and on the row in front there was a black dude, but he was farther away to one side. You wouldn’t believe my surprise when the lights went out and after a good number of trailers, some dude sits next to me. Or rather, I was sitting in the third seat into the row, on the second seat was my purse, and he sat on the seat closest to the aisle. Well I noticed he had a bag on him so I moved my purse to the seat on my other side. Instead of putting his bag between us, he sat next to me and put his bag on the seat closest to the aisle. See where I’m going with this? I mean from then on I knew there was something odd, right? Like there’s at least a hundred empty seats and you’re like, he just happened to see the seat next to me was empty?

The movie started and everything was okay the first fifteen minutes, but then I realize he was moving a lot. So I peeked over and noticed he actually had his penis out and was masturbating right next to me. There was nothing sexy happening on the screen, obviously, just a sick guy. I didn’t know what to do, because a part of me just wanted to tell him to put it in his pants and just watch the fucking movie. I even considered ignoring him but I realized that I couldn’t concentrate on the movie just knowing that this guy was wanking himself right next to me. In the span of like, four or five minutes, I debated with my course of action and decided that bringing attention to his behavior could bring any number of mostly sucky responses, so I just decided to up and leave. I felt bad about getting in the way of the couple behind me.

Since I was already out of the theater I decided to maybe place a call to my phone. Then I thought, “What the fuck, I paid $12.50 for this shit and I’m gonna watch this motherfucking movie to the end!” Besides, I was kinda worried the dude had followed me out so I thought it was better to be in a room full of people. The row behind the couple whose view I blocked was completely empty, so I sat there. And I hoped the dude wouldn’t show up and give me trouble.

Well wouldn’t you believe it, I noticed that the very row in which I sat was totally empty, too. The motherfucker left after I did.

Anyway, after that I just watched the movie in relative peace, though on occasion I’d drift away and worry that the guy would show up again or something. I mean, maybe if the movie had been more absorbing, I would have forgotten completely about the pervert, but there you go. Watchmen was pretty sweet in pieces, but as a whole, it didn’t gel.

I’m sorry it took me so long to get to talking about the movie. There’s really nothing to say that hasn’t been said already. Yeah, the sex scene was awful. Everyone was laughing and it was probably the biggest laugh in the movie. Listen, I don’t want to hear “Hallelujah” used in a movie or TV show unless it involves Alan Dale dying on-screen of a heart attack, mmmkay? I’m sick of it being used as “emotional shorthand” in the cheapest way possible. Besides, when I read the comic and got to the scene, I thought something like Depeche Mode would play in the background. Sigh.

The changes they made to the characters were really annoying, and sometimes they were fundamental changes. It’s like most of the plot revolving around them stays the same, but there’s so many things about the characters that aren’t fleshed out that would have explained why they did this or that. For example, there’s no real explanation to the complexity in the relationship between Mama Silk Spectre and Baby Silk Spectre, which is such an interesting take on feminism and sexism in superhero culture. And we never see Baby Silk Spectre having this back-and-forth between hating her superhero past and loving it. Instead, she acts as the person who is really way excited about getting back in costume and drags Dan back into his.

Another deep change was that they made no mention of Rorschach’s discomfort with women. We don’t even see the whole thing about why his mask moves and shit. They made Rorschach a lot more sympathetic, and more… I don’t know what word to use, more functional? I imagined Rorschach was in a world of his own, but even in the way he spoke, he seemed like he could still fit into regular society.

And Ozymandias’s plan just seemed like the kind of thing that a regular evil mastermind would come up with, whereas when I read the comic, I was riveted by the level of ridiculousness his plan involved… For all the slow-mo used in the movie, I feel like they didn’t linger on the important stuff, relying more on telling us the important bits instead of showing us and letting us reflect on what was happening on screen. There were so many subtle things missing that I was able to fill in from having read the comic, but I couldn’t imagine how a complete stranger to the movie would fill in those blanks. For example, I wish we’d seen more of Rorschach’s shrink and how he is affected by Rorschach. Part of me wants to watch the extended version of the movie and see how much it improves (or worsens). I also hated that they all seemed to have superhuman strength. Come on, these people have been in retirement! They’re not getting any younger! At least they could have explained that they were secretly still keeping strong, or something.

Worst of all, I never fully felt like there was anything at stake. Or rather, I could see some of what was at stake, but I didn’t feel the depth of how cataclysmic the stakes were. This movie’s failures made me realize how much I loved The Dark Knight.

Yeah, Malin Akerman was mostly wooden. To be frank, for any shortcomings involving the acting, I’m gonna place squarely on Zack Snyder. Not that I’ve seen any of his other movies, but it really felt like he didn’t place acting at the top of his priority list at all, it was like he cared more about replicating the look and feel of the comic a lot more. I don’t know if it was because he thought, “No one’s gonna care, this is an action movie! The fanboys don’t care about beautiful acting, they want to see Rorschach’s capture sequence to be portrayed exactly as it is on the page!” (The sequence involving his capture was, indeed, awesome to watch.) I don’t even know how much prep work they did on the actual performances. But on the screen, it very much felt like it was more about what the actors brought to the table and that Snyder gave them minimal notes on how to maximize the emotion. It’s like he just threw everyone in front of the camera and was like, “Okay, ready? Bring it, y’all!” without talking about the motivations of the characters and blah blah blah. And if a performance was subpar, I can see him going, “That’s okay, you tried, we’ll work on it in post-production!” Am I being unfair to Zack Snyder? Well, if he has beef he can write to me about it. Well, to be nice, I think he would make a really wonderful music video director. He’s got a strong visual sensibility.

Some random shit I did like: the liberal use of fake blood. Whoever gets to press the button that makes the blood squirt out like that must have the funnest job ever. Loved the McLaughlin Group bit in the beginning–I thought it was spot-on. I also enjoyed the opening credits where we see the history of the first generation of superheroes. Mama Silk Spectre’s costume was really cute, even if her boots weren’t appropriate for crime-busting. My favorite moment involving Rorschach was when he’s like, “I’m not locked up with you, you’re locked up with me!” It was a very satisfying moment and I thought Haley’s line-reading was perfect. The movie made me appreciate the Comedian’s complexity more, actually! In addition, there were two funny moments in the jail break out that stand out. First, Baby Silk Spectre unnecessarily kicks some guard’s ass, and Nite Owl’s reaction was priceless. Really nicely done, especially because, even though he was wearing his mask, he conveyed his opinion beautifully. Second, I loved Rorschach’s whole “Need to use the men’s room” bit, especially with the door swinging. I think those were my two favorite moments in the movie. I also thought that 80s NYC was rendered nicely. And I thought they tried to leave a lot of in-jokes for the fans, which I appreciated.

There was one moment in the movie that genuinely surprised me. Just the choice of direction was unexpected. It’s Rorschach’s final scene, and he takes off the mask, and he’s crying. I didn’t remember him crying in the comic, but I looked it up and he totally is. Now, when I saw it in the comic book, I thought he was crying out of anger, frustration, disappointment that his former teammates were willing to settle. But in the movie he seems to be crying in resignation and in fear of death, too. That choice kinda does make sense, now that I think about it, but it makes Rorschach’s exit so much less badass than I originally conceived it in my mind.

I’m sorry this post is such a mess. I said so much but nothing really coheres… I guess some Zack Snyder rubbed off on me. Zing!

EDIT: Oh crud, I forgot to mention, I was totally pumped for some of the trailers they showed before the movie. In particular, I almost died of excitement when they showed the Wolverine trailer, not because of Hugh Jackman, but because I had no idea that Gambit was gonna be in the movie! Holy shit, I do not care how bad that movie is, I can’t wait to see Gambit in action!! I used to have such a crush on him (er, the cartoon version of him) when I was like, 8. Siiigh.