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100 °C.

Oy vey.  Here we go again.  I don’t mean to be such a Frankie Boyle apologist… BUT…

Here’s the joke: “I’ve been studying Israeli army martial arts. I now know 16 ways to kick a Palestinian woman in the back. People think that the Middle East is very complex but I have an analogy that sums it up quite well. If you imagine that Palestine is a big cake, well… that cake is being punched to pieces by a very angry Jew.”

Frankie Boyle made this joke on a radio show called Political Animal in 2008.  The official apology from the BBC in the past week.  The individual complained, it was reviewed, and if I understand correctly, the producers agreed and promised to take preventative measures in the future.  The complainant felt that wasn’t enough so he went higher up and whatever official committee they have handling these matters reviewed it and only now did they issue an official apology.  Full details about the hullabaloo here.

Primero: Just from reading the joke I don’t find it very funny.  I wonder how it sounded, but I’m too lazy to dig around and search for the audio.

Segundo: I’m really irritated by the complainant for a very minor reason.  I understand it is commonly accepted that “antisemitic” is mostly used in relation to Jewish people.  If I’m not wrong, however, Arabs are considered a Semitic people.  So saying that Frankie was being antisemitic doesn’t really fly in this occasion.  Besides, there’s plenty of other negative words we could use in regard to Frankie’s brand of humor.  Heh.

Tercero: Regardless of what you think about the complaint situation, Frankie’s open letter in regard to Palestine got me verklempt.  Seriously, READ IT.  Clearly the BBC apology bothered him enough to actually say something, so I don’t doubt he has thought about this long and hard and means everything he says in the letter.  Probably the most impressive statement made about the continuing Palestinian-Israeli conflict since Jon Stewart invited Anna Baltzer & Mustafa Barghouti on his show.  (Watch here: Part 1 and Part 2)  I’m not saying Israel shouldn’t exist, it’s not about shitting on Israel.  I recognize that there are way too many complex issues that I won’t delve into, but basically, the current situation clearly is NOT and HAS NOT been working for… well, ever since the state was established.  I think the most important thing I take away from Frankie’s letter is the idea of COMPASSION.

Cuarto: I’m also incredibly irritated by the headlines in regard to his open letter, which are most often quoting Frankie’s statement that “the BBC are cowards.”  I feel like one of the downsides of Frankie being pegged as a rabblerouser and for being known as “controversial” is that so many people are going to be focusing on how this is a comedians versus censorship issue.  As inappropriate as he may be, there is heft in his words and I was very touched by the last bit of his letter.  It would be cool if people would take this as a good starting point to educate themselves and to demand a better, non-violent solution from their governments.

Quinto: That said, what the fuck is going on with the BBC?  The whole Brand/Wossy/Sachs shit sent them spinning into a frenzy–it feels like post-“wardrobe malfunction” United States!  What I don’t understand is how it only takes one person to be offended for the BBC to take some official action (even if it’s just a statement).  What does it take to push people into demand such action anyway?  Whatever happened to people just getting a blog and vaguely threatening the lives of comedy writers anyway?

Even more importantly, why is it difficult to understand that something a comedian says is not a reflection of an entire fucking broadcasting corporation and may, in fact, not be a completely accurate reflection of the comedian’s attitude?  In this case it is, but it’s not always so—I mean, let’s not confuse the persona for the person.  Newsflash!  Humor requires close reading too!  You can’t just take words at face value!

I’m not sure why the BBC is quaking in fear at its own audience.  The biggest problem for me is that it seems like they’re just panicking now, to the detriment of the quality of their programs.  Frankie delves into that too.  The suppression of certain perspectives is troubling.  Of course it’s possible to shrug it off when it comes to a comedy show, but it just makes me question how widespread this self-censorship is.  To what degree, for example, does it affect the real news?  This sort of behavior on their part makes me trust them that much less.

Sexto: so, who’s next in line to be offended by something Frankie says?



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.

I’m Not Ready to Give Up.

Um, it’s Independence Day and I’m home. My parents are already asleep. They both worked today. I have my window open and I can hear people in a nearby house partying. I’m six floors up, but it’s impressive how well I can hear them. If I looked out I could probably see them, even. Well, in recent days I’ve been bumming around reading blogs and there’s been a lot of (fabricated) buzz about how reggaetón is dead. I don’t know about that. The people partying were just blasting “Lo que pasó pasó,” and I found myself singing along to it–and hilariously enough, I could hear people trying to shout along to Daddy Yankee. I could even hear them tripping along to the lyrics, since Daddy Yankee has that rat-tat-tat delivery style. Sure, it’s an older song, but the enthusiasm for the track is still there.

Ooh, they’re listening to a remix of “Qué tengo que hacer” now.

Anyway, I wouldn’t be so worried about reggaetón being dead. I don’t get where this is coming from, or why we’re worrying so much about it agora. It’s true that the sound of reggaetón has changed, it’s even more club ready, yeah? More synth-happy, less reliant on the dembow beat, and so on. But it’s like, don’t you want your favorite genres to grow and develop? I sure as hell don’t want my favorite musicians to get lazy and for their music to become stagnant. Like, I can’t wait to see 10 years from now how much the genre has changed. This is a great time for reggaetón: the novelty is over for the masses, but that is just invitation for innovation, don’t you think?

I think the weird thing, too, is that calling a music genre “dead” just invites nostalgia. See, the problem with nostalgia is that a set of people will grab onto this genre and proclaim that it can only sound “pure” if musicians stick to a set of rules. If people make reggaetón-by-the-numbers (FruityLoops, anyone?), it barely leaves room for creativity. And maybe less brave musicians will settle for this, probably at the suggestion of their label peeps or whatever, but you know that only the ones who expand on the sound will really shine.

Anyway, I guess this is my quite unfortunate semi-response to the following folks: W&W, Unfashionably Late, Marisol LeBrón, Raquel Rivera, and Racialicious. Clearly these posts dwell on all sorts of aspects in regard to the demise of reggaetón, and I haven’t really responded adequately to any of them in any sort of timely manner (then again, no one asked me to). But I do recommend that y’all read these posts if you haven’t already. Really thought-provoking, and I feel like they bring up questions relevant to all genres of popular music, not just reggaetón.

Aw, the music is being drowned out by all the (illegal) firecrackers. Okay, off to my continued non-celebration of my nation. Hope y’all have a good weekend.

What’s Left to Say?

So odd, just a few days ago, I was checking out Ta-Nehisi Coates‘s (excellent) blog, where he wrote some posts on Michael Jackson. Inspired, I went on a YouTube binge checking out his old videos.

The sad thing about hearing of Michael Jackson’s death is that not even a minute after finding out, all I want to do is make a shitload of jokes about it. I mean, it’s been so long since anyone has taken him seriously, you know? So it’s kind of hard to remind myself that here was this really influential, talented musician under all the weirdness. I’m trying my hardest not to make fun of him though, because frankly, he had a huge impact in popular culture. He made some fine music.

He was very successful and became very very wealthy, yes, but he didn’t have the easiest life. So all I hope is that he is at peace. Hope his kids are okay, too. Ugh, I’m not looking forward to the tabloids going crazy over this.

Shit, Michael Jackson and Farrah Fawcett in one fucking day, this is so crazy. I know you’re going to tell me people are dying every minute, but you’ll have to excuse me, my mind is totally blown right now.

Serious Talk About a Guy I Can’t Take Seriously.

[Edit: Jay Smooth finally made a little video about Asher Roth, and as you’d imagine it doesn’t really have to do with Asher Roth himself.  Click here for a more level-headed and eloquent discussion about Asher Roth than whatever my post says.]

I should tell you about my latest morning routine.  It involves watching music videos.  I flip between VH1 and MTV, and watch whichever channel is showing the less annoying video.  And if they’re both annoying, I flip to the morning news–which is pretty frustrating to watch, too.  In between videos one time, they showed a commercial for Asher Roth’s album, with a snippet of “I Love College.”

I was amused by it, but I didn’t think much of it.  I thought it was just a fun and breezy song that will probably be forgotten soon.  So recently Jay Smooth asked on his site whether he should talk about it, and I was surprised by the strong reactions from people.  As you will see if you click on the post, I traded some comments with one guy in particular.  What the guy was saying was that he felt weird liking Asher Roth partly because of the crowd it attracted; although this commenter saw (some) merit in Asher, he felt like Asher is emblematic of a certain type of person who might like shit like “I Love College” but don’t really care to delve deeper into hip-hop, and the commenter worried that he might be seen as one of those people, too.  I mean I know how painful it can be; I love love love music and it really upsets me to meet people who claim to love music too, but they eventually reveal that for them it’s just a superficial thing.

But I told the commenter that he shouldn’t really give a shit what other people think, because if you like (or love!) something, you can’t help it, so why not just enjoy yourself?  If you feel a spark–and you know those sparks don’t come often enough–shouldn’t you just let go and not listen to what other people say?

Well, tonight I (kinda) retract my statement.  Although I firmly believe that if you love something you shouldn’t get it twisted worrying how other people think of your likes and dislikes, I am starting to see why people don’t like Asher Roth.  Or rather, don’t like Asher Roth’s public persona–who the fuck knows what he’s like in private.  This Racialicious post delves into the several stupid things he’s said.  (Make sure to read the comments, too, since the readers bring up some great points from all sorts of angles.)

For me, the main issue is whether to ignore his musical existence and hope he goes away, cos what if we do ignore him and all he does is fester like a cancer on us? I’m very conflicted about Asher Roth, as you can see, and I’m also very conflicted about making this post.  Because my word count keeps increasing by the second and most of me is thinking, “Um… do I really give that much of a shit about this guy?”  I really don’t want to seem like one of those crotchety folk who are think that whatever latest thing is like, the work of the devil or whatevs.  I see him strictly as a novelty, it’s really not worth it to get so worked up about someone who’ll most likely fade away.  (If I end up being wrong about him fading away, though, I’m gonna be worrying a bit more, for sure.)  Anyway, that’s why I haven’t really researched much on him.  I know, I know.  That’s like a cardinal sin when talking shit: if you’re gonna talk shit about someone you should know everything about them so you can talk shit accurately.  And yet… just a few clicks here and there show he’s been saying some real wack stuff and it makes me averse to learning more about him.

So what did he say–out of all the dumb shit he’s said–that got me mad enough to write about it?  In this article, he is quoted as saying:

Roth addresses poverty and greed on the song “Sour Patch Kids.” And at his fans’ behest, Roth uploaded to his MySpace page “A Millie Remix,” a freestyle rhyme over Lil Wayne‘s “A Milli” beat, criticizing rappers who boast about having millions of dollars but “don’t share, don’t donate to charity.”

“When I dropped that … (I thought) ‘You guys are always going off about how much money you have. Do you realize what’s going on in this world right now?’ All these black rappers — African rappers — talking about how much money they have. ‘Do you realize what’s going on in Africa right now?'” Roth says.

“It’s just like, ‘You guys are disgusting. Talking about billions and billions of dollars you have. And spending it frivolously, when you know, the Motherland is suffering beyond belief right now.'”

So I read that and I pretty much gasped.  What is he thinking?!?!  “All these African rappers…”  My dear bro, lemme tell you something.  Most blacks in the US were like, kinda born and raised in the US?  Like, their ancestors might have been African but most of them are not.  Of course in recent years there’s been a new wave of immigrants from Africa (like Obama’s papa!), but what I mean is that you can’t just generalize and be like, “Y’all are African!  Why don’t you take care of Africa then!”  The quote is also ridiculous because the “suffering Motherland” needs help from all of us, we’re all implicated and we are all responsible for helping, so I don’t see why Asher’s singling out rich black rappers to donate their money away.  Since he brought up the subject, I think it’s fair of me to ask him what he’s done for people who are less privileged than he is.

And this brings me to another thing that bothers me about the quote: where does Asher get off thinking that just because a rapper is boasting about having a shitload of money, that the rapper really does have a lot of money.  I’m gonna guess that most of the rappers Asher listens to are mainstream rappers on major labels, and believe me, when you’re on a major, most of the cashflow ain’t going to the artist.  Oh, Asher, you’re on a major, don’t you know?  Steve Albini is a consummate asshole, but he sure knows his math.  After you give money to your manager and your lawyer and your producers and after you pay for the album manufacturing expenses and to the music video director and after all the payola* your label will pay for you to get radioplay and even to your stylist if you have one… well guess what?  You need to sell a shit ton of records to make millions of millions.  And believe me, I don’t mean like, 62000 records.  So don’t be preaching about “black rappers gotta do this and black rappers gotta do that with their money,” cos God knows how little they’re really making even if they’re boasting so as to make it seem like the rapper lifestyle is mad glamorous.  Let’s face it, the label honchos probably told the rappers to say that boastful shit because it sells…

(*About the payola comment: like steroid use in sports, nobody likes to admit it happens.  But don’t you find it odd that this guy seems to come out of nowhere?  He’s not particularly gifted as a rapper or a musician, and he’s obviously not winning over that many people with his charm.  I mean maybe, just maybe he’s been toiling and struggling and maybe all the stars aligned properly to give him so much luck, but I find it suspicious.  Maybe for some strange reason, his label thinks he will be profitable and they’re just pumping a looooot of money in all sorts of strategic places and they’re just manufacturing his popularity.  What’s the best way to get more hits on a YouTube vid?  Make it seem like the video has already gotten tons of hits so that it’ll pique people’s curiosity and make them wonder what they’re missing.  Same concept applies here.)

Anyway, even though I’m clearly seething, I try to tell myself that there are privileged people out there who get it.  So I leave you with the words with someone who gets it, and I can only hope that he will forgive me for quoting him so extensively and won’t feel offended that I’m bringing him into this silly post about some nobody who will be forgotten in about a month.

You have been trying to tell us to change for a long time.  You lecture us about the social pathology of the inner city and how we need to become more like you.  We need to move to the suburbs too.  We need to pull ourselves up by the bootstraps and abandon our “undesirables” the way you abandoned us.

We need to do this.  We need to do that.

We’re not the ones who did the most to create the problems.  We’re trying to face the problems you left us with.  We’re staying behind and trying to make things better.

We think the suburbs are what needs to be changed about America.  We think the suburbs are bad for America.

Socially, they intensify segregation and mistrust.  Culturally, they erode the sense of history, narrow the outlook, and dull the imagination.  Economically, they intensify inequality by isolating the rich and poor.  Then the poor lack access to good schools, hospitals, businesses, police, transportation, city services, concerned neighbors, and any of the things that would allow them to alleviate their situation.  The rich lack access to reality and any sense of proportion.  They run around in a comfort warp, taking everything for granted and misusing what they have.

– Upski, Bomb the Suburbs.

(Sometimes when I feel infuriated, reading Bomb the Suburbs makes me feel better.)

I’m sure it wasn’t Asher Roth’s idea to grow up in the suburbs and I’m not going to assume that his life was easy peasy.  But I think his words reflect a lack of comprehension of the world around him.  It’s like, he’s being challenged to think critically for the first time in his life about privilege, and instead of trying to learn and grow and understand, he’s kinda stuck in a defensive mode.  He obviously doesn’t have the vocabulary to talk about race because he hasn’t really had to talk about it before–not to the extent that people have been pushing him now that he’s a public figure.  The question is, is he willing to learn?

Oh, and by the way: I finally listened to what “I Love College” was really saying, and I was like, “Wait… he’s not extolling the pleasures of reading Aristotle and Zizek and writing papers where you get to use all those big vocab words you learned for the SATs?”  I feel like such a geek, but I’m damn disappointed that the whole song is about partying and not about like, learning and shit.  Haha.

Ugh, what am I doing still typing up this post?  I gotta catch me some sleep.  Will I wake up tomorrow and find out that this post makes no sense?

In Case You Were Curious, Which You Most Likely Were Not.

(1) I decided recently that Roy Orbison is fucking brilliant.  I find his voice quite strange.

(2) A couple of weeks ago I went to the Virgin on Times Square and found out they were closing.  Got some cool shit.  My biggest find was a fucking Man Recordings 12″ that features Deize Tigrona.  I chortled to myself at the fact that no one had bothered to buy it and I was giddy that I had the pleasure to do so.  I was so excited, in fact, that I kinda didn’t want to listen to it, because I was so fucking sure I’d be disappointed.  But I listened anyway.  And let me tell you something–now, I know you’re going to laugh, but I wish you wouldn’t–after listening to it, I was thrilled, but I also couldn’t figure out if I’d listened to it at the right speed.  I know it makes me sound like a moron, but I’m telling you, both sides of the single are so fucking weird, so many miles away from what I recognize as funk, that I am still kinda disoriented about it.  At the same time, this disorientation makes me feel even more excited about the 12″.  The A-side in particular is off the hook.  Hee!  I think it’s gonna be one of those songs, like “Ni Fu Ni Fa,” that I’m gonna listen to years from now and still think that it’s ahead of its time.  Seriously.

(3) I also bought a copy of Scratch half price, and thank the lord cos that shit was mad expensive originally.  I started watching it today, and I couldn’t finish it cos my parents told me to stop hogging the teevee.  I’m telling you, though, it’s really fun and just watching the footage of all those DJs slouched over their turntables is so beautiful.  Okay, the sounds, I don’t care much about the result of the sounds, but fundamentally, I find it really inspiring, because you know that for them to create the music that they do, they need to go crate-diggin’ for the most beautiful sounds to their ears, and they need to learn every element in a song intimately, and I’m awed by the dedication and discipline and pure love of music they show in doing that.  I know that I don’t hear music the way they hear music, and I’m fascinated by it.  I also think it’s amazing how they take a pre-existing work and they really reinterpret it, not unlike a singer covering someone else’s song.

(4) I bought a collection of poetry by Jose Garcia Villa (v. v. hard to abstain from adding accents in his name since I’m so used to it, but he’s filipino and I’m not sure if they use them over there).  I’m only telling you this because it’s National Poetry Month and I’m enjoying the book a lot.  I didn’t know of his existence until recently, when the AAWW had an event about him.  Like Tseng Kwong Chi later on, it appears that Villa was one of those cool kids hanging out downtown who has become nothing more than a footnote in pop culture history, even though both Villa and Tseng were serious artists with significant contributions to the scene.

Anyway, reading the book and enjoying really makes me wonder why I don’t read more poetry.  The dumb and easy answer is that I don’t get it, and I find a lot of other people telling me they don’t get poetry either.  I really feel like we’re not taught poetry very well.  The whole population can’t be averse to poetry–we must have been taught that somehow it’s lesser than other writing forms.  And that fucking annoys me!  In one sense I understand that times change and that different writing forms fall out of vogue.  For example, I’d say–without any scientific proof or naught, but still–we’re transitioning out of the era of the novel and more into some weird sort of non-fiction/memoir era (and I think blogs are helping this!), but it still bothers me that poetry is ignored because I think there’s still a lot that could be said and done with poetry.  Poetry came before the novel and I feel that the less literate people are in poetry, that means that works from hundreds and hundreds of years ago will become lost…  Seguro que yo sueno histérica, y yo sé que lo poesía no morirá por completo, pero me molesta que hay tanta tradición, tanta cultura y arte que la gente no aprecia y lo toman todo por idioteces solo porque alguien (some higher up) decidió que la poesía ya no importa tanto como otros géneros, y así es que las generaciones más jóvenes no aprenden el valor que tienen los poemas…  Bah!  Me duele la cabeza.  And so I make my exit.

Noli Me Tangere.

Much love and respect to Jay Smooth for producing this vid. Que Dios lo bendiga. He’s really gone above and beyond what everyone else has been discussing in the whole Chris Brown/Rihanna abuse situation (and if you go to the youtube page for the vid, there are links to resources on domestic violence). This video was so necessary and it is full of TRUTH.

And to Elizabeth Mendez Berry, I don’t read Vibe so I missed “Love Hurts” when it first came out. But y’all better believe that, when I read the article in the Da Capo Best Music Writing 2006 collection, I was captivated and I thought it took mad chutzpah to say what she said. I really hope everyone watches the video and tracks down the article. It’s totally worth it.

Did y’all have a good Valentine’s Day? I am lucky to say that I had a sweet day, and I can only wish the same to you.

Todo Sigue Igual.

Since really really good days are rare in my life–they’re rare in everyone’s life, right?–I feel compelled to document it on the internets even though no one really gives a damn. I set out to do several things today and I accomplished all of them, so I’m very content with that.

I found out a couple of days ago that the IFC Center is doing a series on Cuban films, and that this long weekend they’re showing Memorias del subdesarrollo. The screenings for this series are all at 11 am, which is fine and dandy if you live in the area and you just roll out of bed half an hour before the movie starts, but I woke up at like 9 and I barely made it to the theater on time. I’m just glad it wasn’t for a popular movie, which meant that there was no way the movie would sell out. The only physical copy I had access to was at NYU when I was in school and they don’t carry it at the public library. There has been no DVD release for it (the Criterion peeps need to get crackin’ on this shit, argh). There IS a google video version of it (awesome, I know!), but I thought it would be cool to see the movie in a real theater.

I really enjoyed my experience. First off, there were a baker’s dozen of us film geeks who braved the cold and the early start time. Second, the movie itself was on really old film, which meant that the cells were sometimes grainy as fuck, but there was something exciting about, for example, hearing the crackling sound. You know, like with old records you hear crackling when you play them too? Same here.

The movie was pretty great. I realized I’d forgotten a lot of it so it was good to remember that the protagonist is basically a douchebag. I got really distracted by the subtitles. Sometimes it’s hard to pay attention when you hear one thing and understand it one way, and then you read another thing and understand it in another, similar-yet-totally different way. My favorite scene, the one where Daisy Granados is introduced, was as wonderful as I remembered it. Seeing it on a big screen for the first time was thrilling.

After the movie I walked to Staples and bought myself a pack of CD-Rs. I have no need for a 50-pack but I totally bought one because it was the cheapest one. It makes me feel suspicious about the quality of the CDs but what the hey. At least they’ll last me for a while.

I went to lunch at a Chipotle, and after that I trekked down to McNally Jackson to see if they had a new(er) issue of Etiqueta Negra. They did have an issue I hadn’t bought yet, so I got that. When I was at the register this employee saw what I bought and told me that they got a fresh(er) batch of Etiqueta Negra and did I want one. I didn’t want to impose on him but he said it wouldn’t be a problem and he went around to dig for the most recent arrival. I was like, “Right on, bring out that sucka,” which he totally did. So I ended up dropping like twice as much money at the store, but I’m so happy about it. The only sucky things about this situation are that (1) it saved me a trip to the store, which is sad because I love coming to the store and now I gotta think of another excuse to go there which is hard because I already work at a bookstore where I can get all sorts of sweet shit at a discount that aren’t Etiqueta Negra, and (2) as soon as the employee handed me the magazine he disappeared and I didn’t even get a chance to thank him. There’s like a one in a gajillion chance that he will read this, but I still want to give him a shoutout for being awesome.

After this I had multiple plastic bags and a stupid purse in my hands, but I made a trek to the Bronx Museum of the Arts. I’ve been meaning to go with my friends but I finally had the chance to go today so I did it alone. The current exhibit is called “Street Art Street Life” and it’s closing on January 25. It was cool to see how expansive it was, exploring work from the 1950s to the present, as well as from artists located in several continents. Many of the pieces touched on documenting the ephemeral. For example, the exhibit was heavily photography-oriented, capturing specific moments, whether they were of a passerby on the street, or a piece of graffiti scrawled on some wall. There were also a lot of photographs documenting members of the Fluxus movement performing art on the streets, so even if it’s not possible for the museum-goer to experience the art directly, at least we can see the proof that their pieces existed and that average civilians were able to experience these pieces first-hand.

One piece I really liked was this video of David Van Tieghem, a percussionist, just banging on all sorts of surfaces on the street, which was captivating to watch because I couldn’t believe how many different sounds he was able to create just by banging his sticks. It wasn’t even a strictly rhythmic thing, it was so musical, too. You can see the video below!

Another piece that stuck out was from the Blank Noise Project, an India-based activist group focused on stopping street sexual harassment. Included in the exhibit was a printed version of this blog that gives props to those who have actively fought against harassers. It just upset me because it’s hard to realize that sexual harassment is an issue everywhere.

When I got home, I was super happy to find a package from Cat and Girl. I think Dorothy Gambrell might have written the addresses on the envelope! I like to think so, anyway. I bought some t-shirts and stickers for cheap and hoped to god they fit me. They do! And I think I got an extra sticker, too. Yay. I’m so happy because my mom ruined and threw out my old Köttur og Stúlka t-shirt, but now I have a new one.

Okay, this post has gone on long enough. Now I’m off to watching Gangs of New York.

A Dance With Death.

If you just want to know whether I recommend Waltz With Bashir, then the answer is yes, you should go. You should go and you should do it with your friends, and you should talk it out. I have to admit that I dozed off in the beginning, but only because I hardly slept last night and I was exhausted. But after a few minutes of dozing off, I rebooted and was fucking absorbed in the story. I’m back to being fucking exhausted though.

Anywya, if you want to hear my rambly AND DETAILED (spoilers?!) thoughts on the movie and its themes, then read on.

When the movie was shown at the NYIFF, I knew I’d missed out big time, so last month when I found out they were going to release the movie officially in New York, I was ecstatic. And this, just from having seen the trailer.

After work I shimmied on down to the Sunshine. (I made a brief detour to McNally Jackson; picked up the new David B.) The movie theater was fairly packed and as I waited for the movie to start, I thought of all the demographics this sort of movie would appeal to. So I came up with: general movie geeks, old people with nothing to do, foreign film buffs, people who are totally into hyped up movies, war movie fanatics, animation dorks, politics fiends, those of Israeli/Lebanese/Palestinian/other applicable Middle Eastern descent of various faiths…

As with any other movie, I sat through several trailers, including this silly German one about an old man who discovers himself in Japan or something like that, which reminded me that we U.S. Americans are not the only ones to look to the Orient when seeking enlightenment in a time of crisis. (Oh hey, remember Darjeeling Limited…?) Okay, okay. Obviously I haven’t seen the movie so it’s unfair that I should get into such a tizzy about it.

So back to Waltz With Bashir. On a more technical note, I just want to give props to the soundtrack person. The pop songs really helped to set the era, and the original score by Max Richter was used effectively–it wasn’t overwhelming, knocking you over the head with it and dictating every emotion you should feel in every scene, but it was memorable and evocative.

Another surprise was that, in one scene, you can briefly see someone’s copy of The New Yorker on a table. The amazing thing is that you can see pretty clearly which cover it is, and it’s actually a cover drawn by Adrian Tomine! Titled “Missed Connection,” you can see an image of it here (the very first image). HOLY SHIT! I pretty much gasped when I saw it.

In fact, the animation was fucking astonishing. I didn’t know this until now, but apparently Asaf Hanuka took part in it (he illustrated the graphic novel version of “Kneller’s Happy Campers,” which was published as Pizzeria Kamikaze). I don’t get how the technology works, but I gots to tell you, this ain’t yo daddy’s 2D animation. How can two-dimensional drawings appear to have such depth?? Movies such as Beowulf try so hard to make the animation as close to life as possible, but the eyes of the characters are just dead. In this movie, the more abstracted animation helps infinitely to add emotion in the characters. I guess it’s kinda like what Scott McCloud said in Understanding Comics, the more abstracted a cartoon figure, the more possible it is for an individual to relate to the figure. Since it lacks specificity, the person experiencing the story can transpose their features onto the character.

I thought the story arc was very interesting, too. I’ve read a few things here and there and gotten conflicting reports as to whether this film counts as a “documentary,” and after watching the movie, I can understand why. Written and directed by Ari Folman, he basically goes on a search to reconstruct his experiences as an Israeli soldier fighting in Lebanon back in 1982. Throughout the film we meet talking heads, some of whom were fellow soldiers, others who happened to experience a massacre that Folman can’t fucking seem to remember, hard as he might try. So that’s what had me bugging out. He had other people telling him his story. What is a memoir when you have no living memory of what happened? Here, we see the many people it takes for them to tap into his mind and awaken all the images (as well as the emotions attached to the images) of what he experienced.

There is an element that complicates this. Early on, one of the first people Folman contacts is a lawyer friend who gives a lot of input on the frailty of memory. (Annoyingly and conveniently so, this friend seems to have all the answers as to how Folman’s mind ticks.) Basically, the lawyer friend states that many people can convince themselves into fabricating a memory, even if there is no fucking way it happened. And he also points out that multiple people can come to believe that a fabricated experience really occurred. So as I watched the talking heads helping Folman remember, I couldn’t help but wonder, is Folman truly remembering? Have they really unlocked all these memories? Or was he just latching onto their memories?

I think Folman would say, ultimately, that it doesn’t matter whose memory it is, as long as it exists and that others are aware of its existence. The relationship between trauma and memory is an intricate one. Why do we say shit like “never forget”? Take, for example, the establishments of Truth Commissions in Latin America as a way to come to terms with the many people who were “disappeared” under the many dictatorships that came into power in the 20th century. In their way, these commissions acknowledged the private, individual suffering of the families of the disappeared by becoming public knowledge. The pain of losing these people was meant to be a burden shared by entire nations, not in private.

And in the end, the pain that we share is not his pain for having been in a war so young, forced to shoot when he didn’t want to and so on. In this movie, we see a personal story becoming part of history. There are bigger victims here, and as someone who can’t keep track of all the fucking conflicts that have occurred out in the Middle East, it was illuminating enough becoming aware of the heartless shit that happened.

[Here I’m going to write about the ending which is too unforgettable not to discuss:] Another key moment in the film is when Folman meets with a doctor who has worked with people who have suffered extreme traumatic experiences. The doctor mentions one patient of hers who was a young photographer, and we see how this photographer coped with the things he experienced. The young man felt okay as long as he framed his experience as if he were not directly involved and was just watching from a distance. Of course, once the photographer couldn’t deny the reality of his situation, he just fell apart emotionally.

And here is where I seriously have to give props to Folman because he successfully demonstrates how we as viewers hide behind the comfort of just watching this movie. When the final moments appear, he pulls away that “distance” by taking away the animation. In the end, we are left with live action footage, and it’s not even a reenactment–it’s real footage from the aftermath of the very massacre Folman has forgotten. When these moments come, it’s not only jarring to have the cartoons disappear, it’s fucking shocking too. Just sent my head spinning.

And you better believe there wasn’t a fucking peep out of anyone in the theater.

Pushing Daisies Going Six Feet Under?

There are all these news reports that ABC is going to cancel Pushing Daisies after a shortened 2nd season. I don’t know what ABC is thinking. Oh, how about pumping some money for November sweeps? No, instead they bump the show for two weeks and they’ve only done the most minimal of advertising for the show for season 2. Speaking of ratings, I feel like they’re only considering the number of people watching the show on television at its broadcast time, instead of considering those who record the show, and also the people who watch it on their website. I mean, really? Only an average of 6 million people?

The news of the show’s imminent cancellation is infuriating that there are so many loose threads for the show, and the channel doesn’t have the decency to at least give it a full season so it can die a dignified death. If anything, it would be a nice gesture to the fans who have stuck around, instead of dicking them over. Honestly, the show may only average 6 million viewers, which I know is pretty dismal, but 6 million people is nothing to laugh at. I mean, Gossip Girl only averages about half of those people! (FYI: I fucking love Gossip Girl too.) And what about the critics? The critics love Pushing Daisies! Shouldn’t that count for something, kinda like superdelegates and shit?

What, exactly, is ABC planning to do if the show gets cancelled? I just can’t imagine the replacement show being better than Pushing Daisies. I mean, it might be. But most likely, it won’t be. Because every week, there are dozens of TV shows that I could choose to watch, and they’re all shit. I watch Pushing Daisies because it’s well-written, well-acted, and overall, well-produced. It has its quirks, but at least it’s not some forgettable cookie cutter shit.

I hope for a better future for the show. If ABC wants it, how about just giving it at least until a third season, so that ABC can find a suitable replacement? (Haha, a girl can dream.) If ABC doesn’t want it, I am crossing my fingers that a cable network will have the decency to pick it up. That would actually be the better scenario. It would be kind of fitting, wouldn’t it? ABC lets the show die, and another network brings it back to life. Just like an episode of Pushing Daisies.

What Are We Selling Here?

I wanted to point to two commercials from the current Payless ad campaign. The first I’ve seen for a few weeks now, and the reason it caught my attention was because it uses “Van Nuys (Es Very Nice)” by the totally defunct band Los Abandoned. You can see the ad here. I was very pleased to hear it because they never got very big and I feel like they should get a few royalties for their hard work, right? Also, that song is so peppy, I can’t fucking deny its awesomeness. Below, the original video to the song.

Well, more recently I noticed another ad with happy beautiful young people running around in bargain-priced shoes. But this ad uses “Snapshot” by Kinky, who will be playing a free show on August 9 at Central Park. That one surprised me more because it’s an older song. It was never one of my favorites from Atlas, so at first I had to ask myself, “How do I know this song?” I know that Kinky and Los Abandoned are very different bands from very different places, but seeing the two ads, I was pleasantly surprised by two Spanish-language groups featured in these ads. (Actually, I must clarify that both bands had a strong “Spanglish” approach to their lyrics, though.)

I just went to the Payless website and it said that the agency that did the ad is Martin Williams. I wonder if the person who took care of the music thought it was fun and young and appropriate for the demographic they wanted to hit (trendy “cosmopolatinos”??), or if the person just really liked those bands. I also wonder if there are other Payless ads with Latino-friendly bands playing in the background?

Of course, neither of these ads will have as much of an effect as the use of “Paper Planes” in the Pineapple Express trailers and ads. I don’t know how well the movie will fare, which is being released today, but I sure as hell know that the use of “Paper Planes” has affected M.I.A. somewhat positively. I mean, I don’t know for sure if she’s moving more units, but I assume greater exposure to the masses means more chances of selling albums. I was listening to Z100 for the first time in ages, and heard the intro to the song. I wasn’t sure it was the commercial for the movie, but the DJ assured me that I was hearing a “new” track from M.I.A. At first I was really excited that I was hearing her on the radio (don’t ask me why, I can’t explain), but then I was like, “Wait, what about the gunshot sounds??” They tried to mute them, but the song just sounds ridic like that.

“All I wanna do is BANG! BANG! BANG! BANG! … and take your money…”

We Now Return To Our Regularly Scheduled Programming.

Get ready for a longass post. I know that in the blogosphere, timeliness is next to godliness, but y’all gotta understand my modem died in the ass on the 23rd and it took me a while to get back on track. Believe you me, I was überpissed that my modem died only after two months.

But part of me is really glad, because on the 23rd I went to a free panel for the NYILFF on this movie that, until the day of the panel, was titled Humboldt Park. Now it’s called… something really generic and forgettable with the word “holidays” in the title. I really enjoyed myself at the panel, mind you; the cast members present were Freddy Rodríguez, Luis Guzmán (!!), Melonie Diaz and Vanessa Ferlito. They were all really nice, and the cool thing about the footage was that they really did seem like this big, fun family which warmed my crooked little heart. Half the panel focused on the making of the film and the other half was a Q&A that veered a lot more into Latinos & the film industry in general. But I felt funny listening to the filmmakers. I’m not trynna sound like some punkass kid who’s all “FUCK THE SYSTEM,” but I felt like they were pandering too much to what the studios want. The filmmakers seemed really eager to please a wide audience (por ejemplo, the title change was, apparently, because Humboldt Park “wasn’t testing well”) and although that’s a noble pursuit, you can’t be all things to all people, so I wasn’t sure how to receive this information. More than anything, I ended up feeling worried.

The whole conversation was kinda getting me down, PERO. Then they talked about an upcoming project that I pray will not end up in some sort of development hell. The words “Puerto Rican City of God” actually escaped their lips a number of times. Holy shit. It’s gonna be based on that Tego song, “Julito Maraña.” They said the script was a beautiful mess of 160 mofuckin’ pages. That’s a shitload of pages, y’all. It’s actually gonna be filmed in the Puerto Rican ghetto, too. I don’t know where this area is but I inferred that it’s an area headed by a drug lord, and he actually gave his blessing for this movie to be filmed. They haven’t started filming though, they’re probably still working out all the pre-production shit.

I know we should be moving away from the sort of movie that makes it seem like Latin America is nothing but a destitute shithole filled with violence and pain and corruption, but I dunno… if it’s done well (I fucking hope it’s done well) and there’s true artistry involved, I think this sort of story is worth being seen.

On the 24, I went to the Public Theater to see a new play called Tío Pepe, which was part of the Public’s Summer Play Festival. I knew it was going to be a modest affair, but I had no idea that all the tickets for the play’s week-long run were already sold out. They told me I could get on a waitlist for the matinee, and since I didn’t have other plans, I told them I was game. I was the fourth person on the list and some of the people were requesting multiple tickets, but I totally lucked out and got a ticket!

I’m so glad I got in, because the play totally exceeded my expectations. Just goes to show that, even though this work is by an up-and-coming playwright, Matthew Lopez, the Public definitely produces quality shit. It had a cast of five and, although I don’t claim to be an expert, they were all really wonderful except that a couple of them had really really terrible accents. I mean that it was very obvious they’d grown up here or had lived here since infancy and that they mainly spoke English. But that’s okay, generally their delivery was really good and believable and fun.

The script was pretty good, too, lots of laughs and it was really a great way to deal with issues of escapism and self-delusion, among other things. When I found out the reason for the play’s title, I was like, “Ooh, this is really juicy info.” The other thing is that it was totally sincere about its appreciation of old school musicals. The matriarch of the family, played by April Ortiz, got to sing a bit and she had a great, booming voice. I hope this play can move up to longer runs or bigger venues. It would be a pity to just let it die.

Oh my god, and the actor playing Alejandro, the son who wasted all of his potential, was sooo fiiiiine. He’s some dude named Nathaniel Mendez, and his bio was short as hell–he doesn’t even have a Law & Order credit (yet). What is this kid doing with himself? Okay, maybe it’s because he’s not a New Yorker or something? I was shocked by the short bio, to be frank, because he was so good in the play. Hope he gets more work.

That same evening I went to see Estilo Hip Hop. Last year, I went to a screening of Raquel Cepeda‘s Bling: A Planet Rock, and they showed a preview of Estilo Hip Hop. At that point the filmmakers, Vee Bravo and Loira Limbal, were still seeking financing and were working on their footage. They showed us like 15 minutes, and I’m telling you, that after seeing the final product on the 24th, only two or three of those minutes made it into the 1-hour movie. I do remember them last year expressing their ambition to do a far more extensive project with exposure to more countries, but in the final product they focused on rappers from three countries, Brasil, Chile, and Cuba.

The screening was fucking rowdy as hell. The doc was awesome, I wish it hadn’t been just an hour. The doc doesn’t just focus on hip-hop in Latin America, it also focuses on the real activism that hip-hop has inspired, which I thought was fucking rad. The music was great, too. As ex-Prisionero (and current Updater) Jorge González said in an interview about Chilean hip-hop: “Chile es un extraño caso en el que el hip hop no pasa por los Beastie Boys, sino por De La Soul.” Loosely, “Chile’s a strange case in that hip-hop is influenced not by the Beastie Boys, but by De La Soul.” Don’t worry if you missed out on Estilo Hip Hop in Nueva York, though! Vee and Loira said the movie’s gonna air on PBS in Spring 2009.

As I noted in my overly emotional way last Friday the 25, I had wack first time at the Quad, what with the screening of Stellet Licht (Luz silenciosa) fucking up and all. As luck would have it, El Guincho cancelled all his US shows (visa issues?), which meant he couldn’t do his show at the Seaport. So Friday was just filled with disappointment. The bigger slap in the face is that they were replaced by some Brooklyn indie band. C’mon, those are a dime a dozen. I mean, yeah, the band was okay, but what makes them stand out? I was pleasantly surprised, however, to hear Atlas Sound for the first time. The tourists and other passersby didn’t give a shit, but I thought the music was good. Pop-y just the way I like it, and kinda ethereal in certain parts, too. I wonder what Deerhunter sound like.

On Saturday the 26 I went to see Malta con huevo, which isn’t ~*QUALITY*~ shit, but it still made me giggle. There were like ten of us in this hugeass auditorium, which in itself was totally hilarious. I think my favorite thing about it is the tone and how it changes from the first half to the second, but I also dig the structure of the story.

This past week I wasn’t up to much. I’m still getting used to having cable for the first time since, um, 1995. And that was cable in fucking Chile, too. I’m totally fascinated in how useless it is. (We got the service so my parents could watch Korean-language channels.) We don’t get any of the expensive channels but I was still shocked that there’s really no profanity allowed on cable. I think the bestest thing about having cable is that they show Law & Order all the time, and I’m totally addicted to the entire franchise, it’s true.

I found the Criterion Collection DVD of La haine at the library (thank heavens, cos I didn’t want to spend the money on it without seeing what was in it) and I have decided that Mathieu Kassovitz is the most handsome director in France. Also, fashion aside, the themes in the movie are still remarkably relevant. It was weird hearing the director’s commentary, though, because it was done before Sarkozy was elected, and Kassovitz is very vocal about not being a fan of the dude. But I’m still glad I listened to it, because I did get a better sense of how these kids’ lives are turned upside down in a mere 24 hours. It was cool because he also mentioned that he was on Charlie Rose, so I tracked down the interview and it was great!  It was a relief to see that Kassovitz hasn’t always had a great accent in English–when I heard how well he spoke English on the DVD, I was kinda shocked and wondered if this man was perfect.  I’m glad to see that he is human after all, and that he had to learn not to sound like the stereotypical French person speaking English. You can see the interview here. I also loved hearing on the commentary that Jodie Foster sent a copy of the movie to fucking Scorsese, imagine how Vincent Cassel felt about this? He musta pissed his pants…

I also watched American Psycho and it was pretty fucked up but I couldn’t stop laughing. It’s just that when a part was funny, it was really fucking funny. Like that whole sequence with all those interchangeable yuppies comparing their business cards… it was delightful to watch. It was exciting to find out that it was directed by a woman, just because there aren’t enough female movie directors anyway. I’m glad I heard the director’s commentary for this movie, too, just because it helped me understand and interpret Patrick Bateman a little better.

I’ve been reading a bit, too, if you would call it that. I read Agota Kristof‘s The Notebook, which had its share of disturbing moments, but the narration was incredibly and consistently well-done and the story culminated to a satisfyingly fucked up ending. In addition, I finished The Left Bank Gang and The Living And The Dead by the Norwegian comic book wonderboy that is Jason. I was pretty “meh” about The Living And The Dead, but I thought The Left Bank Gang was fucking awesome. I finally read The Rabbi’s Cat, too. Damn, I totally forgot that Joann Sfar is a dude, so you can imagine my surprise when I read the “about the author” bit in the inside cover of the book. I read Sfar’s The Professor’s Daughter which I thought was too brief and not substantial enough, but thankfully The Rabbi’s Cat did not disappoint. The story was lovely, especially because I don’t know much about the Jewish culture in North Africa, and I also loved Sfar’s artwork. Can’t wait to read the second part.

I also read a couple of essays from this book called Beyond Babar, which is about children’s literature in Europe. The only reason I picked it up at the library is because one of the essays was about Christine Nöstlinger‘s Konrad, which was one of my faves as a kid. There was also one on The Neverending Story and how it’s ~*TOTALLY META*~ in a way that the films could never capture. (Would have been cool to read an in-depth discussion on Michael Ende‘s Momo, too.) It was a cool book with a lot of discussion on translation.

I’m excited about this month. I’m gonna go see Janelle Monáe and Jamie Lidell at Central Park mañana (¡¡es gratis!!), and I’m gonna spend a lot of time at MoMA watching Coen Bros movies. They’re having a marathon! Also, next week, the Fordham University Theater peeps are staging a version of The Martian Chronicles with mofucking puppets, and the tickets are pretty cheap, too, so I’m gonna try and check out the production. Good shit all around.

For Your Consideration.

I was thinking back on this year and I started getting really mad when I realized Diablo Cody might end up winning a lot of awards. It’s not that I don’t applaud her efforts, I think she did a good job at Juno, but it wasn’t the best-written movie I watched this year. I think the best-written movie I watched in 2007 was Hot Fuzz. But everyone’s forgotten about the movie cos it came out so early in the year and it probably didn’t make much money because it’s like, British and shit. You’d think a movie that features older people so prominently, and in such as badass way, would strike a chord with older committee voters. I mean most people who vote for these awards tend to be older, right? Well, whatever. I just feel that not only was Hot Fuzz incredibly funny, the delivery of the lines was fantastic AND the execution of the movie as a whole was incredibly tight. I was so impressed. Unlike most movies that claim this, hilarity DOES ensue in Hot Fuzz. It’s a pity it won’t get no props.

Sorry, I didn’t mean to rag on Diablo Cody alone. If anything, it just says that I seriously see her as a strong contender during the awards season. Honestly, I don’t know why I’m getting into such a tizzy about all of this.

I Can’t Even Think Straight.

It’s been nice not going online much. I’m pretty exhausted but it’s nice being able to watch the first half of Romeo and Juliet every night. Anyway, one thing that’s been ticking me off is this feature the New York Times published about Rufus Wainwright a few days ago. See, a few years ago, during the Want era, they did a big feature on him and the headline was “Rufus Wainwright Journeys to ‘Gay Hell’ and Back.” Rufus got shit for that; people got upset because the article made it seem like teh gheyz do nothing except get high on crystal meth and have unprotected sex. Anyway, this most recent article is tamer, but the headline still irks me: “The Superfabulous World of Rufus Wainwright.” I don’t understand why the need to make it so obvious that he’s gay. I know “fabulous” is a regular word, but you have to admit there are certain connotations of queerness attached to the word, especially if you tack on a fucking “super” in front of it!

Like I understand he is gay, and I understand everything he does is over the top, but I don’t understand why they correlate his grandiose musical vision with the fact that he’s gay. I really just think that (1) he’s a megalomaniac (and I mean that in the nicest way possible cos I do love him) and (2) he’s a really awesome songwriter. C’est tout. I don’t think his sexual orientation has as much to do with his music as everyone makes it out to be and I wish the press wouldn’t dwell on that so much.

I know, I’m totally overreacting.

Oh, and in more queer news: the dude from Grey’s Anatomy who used the f-word was totally fired from his job. Nice. Especially because in news reports about this story, they stopped actually saying the f-word and have been using terms like “gay slur” instead.

Here, some music!

Rufus Wainwright – April Fools
Rufus Wainwright – Rebel Prince
Rufus Wainwright (zomg, again!) – Dinner at Eight