Monday, January 26, 2009

Hard Rocks

Copies of the notorious Quacky Pig and Friends Coloring Book are still available, each issue with color additions on the front and back cover hand-painted by moi!

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Sunday, January 25, 2009

Wild Goose Creative Presents...

Wild Goose Creative threw on Thursday night one of the most enjoyable concerts I've seen. Four acts, suggested donation five bucks (really worth much more), oodles of CDs and other merchandise goodies to purchase, food provided, and Andy Anderson even heated water for tea (and Jessie helped me find the tea)! A very welcoming environment.

I suppose the theme for the evening (if there was a theme) could have been "rustic". Listening to these acts from the perspective of 2009, one would have guessed punk, new wave, and all the related genres that spawned in reaction to hippy excess had never happened. It was as if there was a space-time continuum between 1972 and now: long hair, banjos, organic, harmoniously rustic sounds are in again, spearheaded (or at least exemplified) by the Fleet Foxes. Not that that's a bad thing. One could do worse than be influenced by Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young, Gram Parsons, and the Carter Family. Much worse.

The Shaw Brothers were up first, Chris on violin, Andy on guitar (for the most part; various arrangements of voice and instruments were used). Both very strong, capable musicians, the music they created was just plain beautiful. Andy's voice is a powerful instrument, and they reminded me at times of Beirut and/or a more subdued Muse. I'll be buying their album.

Next up was Pezzettino, a young lady with a wonderful old-looking accordian (she usually also performs witha piano). Dressed all in black, situated with the black and white accordian, Pezzettino looked like she stepped out of the Weimar Republic, and before she began her set I half expected her to be singing Kurt Weill and Bertolt Brecht songs. Her songs were much more personal, though, heartfelt, intimate songs of love and lost love and almost love, expressed with a wide range of emotions and subtleties both delicate and forceful. The style of her music was difficult to place, but I've never heard an accordian played so effectively; her control over the instrument was really mesmerizing. I was very impressed.

I purchased Pezzettino's first CD, Because I Have No Control..., and will be listening to it soon. She'll be releasing two more albums this year.

Longsleeves was up next; because I was purchasing Pezzettino's CD, I missed the beginning and didn't know if Longsleeves was a person or a group. He is a singer, songwriter and guitarist, this evening pared with banjo player and singer/songwriter Ben Laatsch.

We were again back in Carter Family territory. There has always been a folk music tradition, of course, flowing through the decades regardless of whatever other genres were transcendent at the time. To call Longsleeves' (and the Shaw Bros. and the Fleet Foxes) music folk seems somehow limiting, though; it's rustic music that is also informed by the potential forcefulness of rock. Neil Young's early '70s recordings were a sort-of template for this new music.

In any event, these guys were good! Like the Shaw Brothers, they used a variety of arrangements of instruments. Longsleeves' voice was forceful, and their interpretions of old standards some groups would consider too old-fashioned to perform were lively and audience-involving. Ben Laatch's solo songs using only the banjo were exquisite and with his long hair, plaid shirt, and red scarf, he looked the part.

I immediately purchased three of their CDs (one of them a Ben Laatch solo CD), and will probably be purchasing more. I'll be keeping an eye on all of these acts. Vinyl, my friends, keep vinyl in mind.

I had to leave soon after the last act, Eric Nassau, took the stage. Another time, Eric.

Here's a ton of links to keep you busy for research on these fine musicians:

The Shaw Brothers


Longsleeves' website:
Ben Laatsch's website:
Longsleeves' MySpace:
Ben Laatsch's MySpace:

Wild Goose Creative website:

Photo above taken by the talented Amanda Anderson!
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Friday, January 23, 2009

A Flock of Chicks
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Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Godspeed, Barack Obama

I've nothing to add to the gazillion voices of the blogosphere except to say it's heartening to see it's as possible to attain and fulfill the benevolent promises of American democracy as it is to abuse them.

Here's to a four-year span better than the previous one.
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Monday, January 19, 2009

New Mesh for the New Year

After a holiday hiatus, my pulp-drenched online comic strip, The Mesh, is back with new panels, and will updated with four new panels on a regular basis (every week and a half). Four more new panels will be posted Wednesday evening, January 21st.

If you enjoy two-fisted action in dark alleyways, check it out!
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Monday, January 5, 2009

The Best Films I Saw in 2008

It was not a great year for films, as you'll see by the list below, but good films are still somehow made every year. (I did miss some I was hoping to see, such as Frozen River and Changeling).

The ten best new films I saw for the first time in 2008 (in no particular order):

1. There Will Be Blood, directed by Paul Thomas Anderson. A near masterpiece of the sort I thought impossible to make in our age. Anderson breathes film history, and this film resonates with echoes of Erich von Stroheim, D. W. Griffith, and Orson Welles.

2. The Band's Visit, directed by Erin Kolirin. Not a revelation, but instead a modest cross-cultural character study.

3. Iron Man, directed by Jon Favreau. A good script and smart casting - what every superhero movie needs and rarely gets.

4. Redbelt, directed by David Mamet. Mamet and martial arts: what more needs to be written?

5. WALL-E, directed by Andrew Stanton. Early '70s sci-fi, plus silent comedy, plus great animation, plus social commentary. If only some adult films were this smart.

6. Vicky Christina Barcelona, directed by Woody Allen. Like an Eric Rohmer fable, only with Penelope Cruz and a gun.

7. Doubt, directed by John Patrick Shanley. Not perfect, but intriguing in ways that most Hollywood films don't attempt.

8. Young @ Heart, directed by Stephen Walker. After seeing this documentary, you'll never hear Coldplay the same way again.

9. Hellboy II: The Golden Army, directed by Guillermo del Toro. Toro has taken the helm from Ray Harryhausen, bringing fantastic new worlds and characters to life on the screen.

10. Synecdoche, New York, directed by Charlie Kaufman. Pretentious, puzzling, depressing, ambitious, disturbing - you won't be able to get it out of your head.

Honorable mention: The Dark Knight, for having the courage to take the popular characters' concepts to their logical conclusions.

The ten best older films I saw for the first time in 2008 (in no particular order):

1. Blade Runner (the final director's cut), directed by Ridley Scott. This is the film that should have been released in 1982.

2. Judex, directed by Louis Feuillade. A four-hour serial, strictly speaking. Judex draws upon 18th century literature for its framework, but projects forward to 20th century pop and pulp culture with its potent influences on characters like Zorro and Batman.

3. Trader Horn, directed by W.S. Van Dyke. Not a great film by many standards, and racist in bizarre, early '30s ways, but nevertheless somehow mesmerizing in all its dreamlike, hallucinogenic, poorly-shot wonder.

4. The Beast of the City, directed by Charles Brabin. A forgotten, pre-code, proto-crime film with Walter Huston playing a cop Jack Kirby could have written (ala Sgt. "Terrible" Turpin).

5. This Happy Breed, directed by David Lean. An obscure Noel Coward work is given a sweeping but subtle treatment in this immersive and moving family study covering several decades.

6. Oliver Twist, directed by David Lean. Captures and distills the "look" people now think of as Dickension.

7. Harriet Craig, directed by Vincent Sherman. Joan Crawford's on the warpath, obsessed with the neatness of her house in this vehicle that borders on being camp, and was almost certainly partly autobiographical.

8. Parlor, Bedroom, and Bath, directed by Edward Sedgwick. Sedgwick tries to do right by Buster Keaton in this one, but the MGM taskmasters were breathing down his neck. One of the last Keaton feature films with scenes bareable to watch.

9. The Web, directed by Michael Gorden. Tidy little film noir with Vincent Price as another delicious baddie.

10. The Maltese Falcon, directed by John Huston. After two misguided attempts, Hollywood finally got D. Hammett's novel done right. This version is reasonably faithful to the source material (even when watered down), and Huston brought a "live in the studio" immediacy to many scenes that foreshadow the look of '50s live television.

The worst film I saw (for the last time) in 2008:

Yes, directed by Sally Potter. Pretentious directing, embarrassing script, characters you quickly learn to hate, situations that lull you to sleep, a false, happy ending - and the entire screenplay is written in iambic pentameter for no discernable reason.There's nothing to like about this movie. Nothing. Nothing.

G, directed by Christopher Scott Cherot. There was nothing to stop this hip-hop version of The Great Gatsby from working, but it was wrecked anyway.

The Is-it-a-Masterpiece-or-Junk? award goes to the Rialto rerelease to theatres of Jean-Luc Godard's Contempt. It's either fascinatingly bad or fascinatingly good; I can't yet tell. But I wish there were more movies like it being made.
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Thursday, January 1, 2009

Happy New Year!

...from Landlark, the Heat-Seeking Dwarf.
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