Tuesday, November 30, 2004

God, I still love Spider-man 2

I should really be working on my essay - tentatively subtitled "Mary Barton and the triumph of character over Marxist class determinism." - however, Anton did me the favour of picking up Spider-man 2 on DVD for me while I was at work this evening. Of course, arriving home and finding it, just for me, I proceeded to watch half the movie and some of the special features instead of working on the 3000 word essay which needs to be done for Thursday morning.

Many of the early posts of this very blog were focused around the anticipation, and later, the praise of the film. I think it's safe to say that it easily out did any expectations I had for the film, delivering not only a solid superhero film, but a film full of engaging characters, humour, love and thought. Spider-man 2 is probably my favourite film I've seen all year.

It's hard to explain to others how important Spider-man is to me. I've always loved comic books, my favourite ones being Batman, Spidey and the X-men titles. But Spiderman is special because of way in which I can connect and identify with the character. Peter Parker is in many ways me. He suffers the same indignities I do. He pines over beautiful girls the same way I do. His heart is broken. His family is supportive. He labours at menial tasks, while knowing that he is destined for greatness. Heck, in most comic book renderings (especially Marvel's recent Ultimate Spider-man), he even looks a lot like me.

I wish I could do this. I really do.

Peter, unlike any other hero is the everyman. But more specifically, he is the "every-nerd." He's the character that I would be if I was given superpowers. So to me, Spider-man 2 is a special movie. Not because the Spider-man stuff is so cool, which it is, but because it really is a film about Peter Parker; his love for Mary Jane; his challenge to follow his dreams, while live up to his responsibilities. And for that, to me, it is one of the best movies of the year.

Institutions of Higher Gullibility

I just got out of my English Satire class (with the ever delightful Terry Matheson) and I'm flabbergasted. Can you believe that there are actually people in a university setting who think that The DaVinci Code is based on fact? I'm dumbfounded. People like that piss me off so much. I've read so much about the book that I don't feel the compelling urge to read the thing; For one, I've heard it's so badly written that it's like a Hardy Boys mystery. Not that I didn't enjoy those when I was 10, but I like to think I've moved beyond that level.

The most disturbing thing is that people buy into the conspiracy theories and mind-numbingly bad theology, while at the same time criticising Christianity for doing the same thing they are. The least they could do fact check, and not just assume that because Dan Brown says it in the book, that it must be true. Don't forget this is the guy who wrote a book entitled Illuminati. I think I stopped believing in that when I was 13.

It's ironic that because someone brings up "facts" against something that you want to disprove, you're so eager to believe it that you end up being as duped as anyone. To find this in a university is really disturbing. To realize that so many people have such a limited understanding of religion and history that they just swallow it all wholesale, I just don't know how to react. I would suggest beginning by finding a knowledgeable history or religious studies professor to take you through the first few pages and point out some of the innacuracies that are peddled as fact.

Well, I guess it shouldn't be surprising. I guess the fact that National Treasure was number one at the box office again this weekend should have clued me in.

"That I have read the book is not a cause for celebration. It is inelegant, pedestrian writing in service of a plot that sets up cliff-hangers like clockwork, resolves them with improbable escapes and leads us breathlessly to a disappointing anticlimax. I should read a potboiler like The Da Vinci Code every once in a while, just to remind myself that life is too short to read books like The Da Vinci Code." - Roger Ebert on The Da Vinci Code, from his review of National Treasure

Monday, November 29, 2004

Which house are you?

A quick link before I go work on my essay for the next four hours.

Here's something I'm sure most of you have seen, but just for fun I thought I'd link to it. Get sorted at The Sorting Hat.

I'm Gryfindor. But I already knew that.


This is in response to Ewan's comments in this thread, and yes, Caitlin, I will get around to another Star Wars post that will address your comments; don't give up hope.

I think that The Beatles break up is a key part of their legendary status. Like Seinfeld, they went out at the top of their game. Rather than dissapearing with a quiet whimper, slowly into the night, The Beatles went out with a crescendo, and a final crashing chord, not unlike the final notes in "A Day In The Life." However a part of me has always wondered what The Beatles might have done if they stayed together. I think the solo careers of Lennon and McCartney, and Harrison, were filled with further great works, and I doubt they would have become washed up, but rather I think it was a matter of those egos, esp. Lennon and McCartney, couldn't really fit into one band. They had become bigger than The Beatles.

As for Nirvana, I always wonder about that as well, and I think part of their status was that they burnt out so quickly. But the fact that they were in the spotlight for such a short time makes me wonder what we're missing. A lament for what might have been, if you will. Reminds me of the literary examples of Christopher Marlowe (Dr. Faustus, Tamburlaine) - whose plays were arguably as good as Shakespeare's - but whose plays were cut short when he was stabbed through the eye in a bar brawl. Or John Keats who died at age 24. What masterpieces did we lose when poor health cut short his amazing output? It's something I don't think we can ever know.

Then there's the further examples of Sting, Elvis Costello and Stevie Wonder. All I can do is quote Barry (Jack Black) in High Fidelity..."top five musical crimes perpetuated by Stevie Wonder in the 80s and 90s? Go... sub-question... is it in fact unfair to criticize a formerly great artist for his latter day sins, is it better to burn out or fade away? "

And with that the example of U2 becomes curious. They are arguably doing as good work now as they were in any era. They haven't really pandered to the youth demographic, nor are they merely an adult contemporary act (ie: Sting). It's really quite amazing the more I think about it. I'm hard pressed to come up with another example of it.


"Well, everybody wants to go forever
I just wanna burn up hard and bright
I just wanna be your firecracker"
- Ryan Adams, "Firecracker" from the album Gold

Sunday, November 28, 2004

veritas or res?

It's been a while since my posts have really lived up to the name of this blog (have they ever? "philosophy" is such a muddy word also), but I just wanted to post a few ideas related to a topic that I've been thinking about recently. Note that my philosophical rhetoric is weak, and I don't claim to know exactly what I'm talking about. Anyone who has anything to offer, I welcome criticism and correction.

What is truth? It's a question that I want to raise in the context of the search for "absolute Truth". I recently said in a conversation that I was moving away, not from the notion that there is truth to be found, but rather that as a limited being, my ability to distinguish what is true is limited by perspective and my experience.

One thing that I found interesting, and relevant to that discussion, which we discussed in my art class was the difference between the thing itself or veritas and the idea of the thing, or res. Tim, our art instructor told us that before Plato people were more concerned with the res and after him, our word for truth and reality was instead defined by veritas. In art, we can never accurately describe our subject, but instead art is always representational. A picture can be "true" and be a "true" representation of the object, capturing the res, but can never be the veritas of the object. Tim found the allegory of Plato's cave to be very helpful. Plato's allegory goes such that there is a cave in which a group of prisoners are bound and all that they can observe are shadow's on a wall infront of them. The prisoners would give names to these shadows, thinking them to be the things themselves, but never seeing the real objects. Their worldview then is not wrong, but rather shaped by their perspective and limited understanding.

As humans, we are like the prisoners. Through no fault of our own, we are inherrantly limited in our view and capability to understand our world. If one of us were to be freed from our bindings, we would find that reality does not line up exactly with our prior view of the world. It would take us a long time to come to grips with the differences between our perceptions before and our new understanding. If after a time we were then to return to the cave and describe our perceptions to our fellow captives, they might think we were crazy. In fact, we might seem rather blind - the dimness of the cave being much darker than the brightness we found outside.

In a sense, religion is like art. I see it as truth, but more in the sense of res than in veritas. Like the story of Moses, when we come before God we can only see a part, for the full pressence of God would be beyond us completely.

What this comes down to is not a denial of truth, nor the ability to understand truth. Like art, some art is better at representing the truth than another. As humans, our goal should be to seek the truth, but still recognize our limitations.

Sometimes You Can't Make It On Your Own

A significant portion of the next week is going to spent either working on an upcoming essay and studying for my Christmas exam in Old Icelandic. Combined with my efforts to remain more frugal as Christmas approaches, in order to be able to actually buy gifts for people, this is going to have an effect of essentially isolating me from most activities and people until next Monday. Fortunately I have U2 to keep me company.

I've probably listened to How To Dismantle An Atomic Bomb about 10-15 times now, so I think I'm ready to make some kind of comment on it. I like it a lot. It will probably end up somewhere just behind Achtung Baby and The Joshua Tree as one of their best. I agree with most of the critical consensus on it, however one thing that bugs me is that all the critics (from Rolling Stone to allmusic.com) keep putting down Pop and U2's 90s work as being a failure, for perhaps being too experimental and vastly different from their 80s work, but then in the next breath saying that the problem with HTDAAB is that it's not experimental enough and that they have just retreated to their 80s style "big rock band sound" that made them a success to begin with. Personally I respect the fact that U2 is still a relevant band after more than 25 years as a group. The Beatles may be the best, but they broke up after less than a decade; The Rolling Stones faded out into self-parody; The Who essentially disintegrated and became irrelevant after Who's Next. I think it's astounding that U2 are perhaps still in their prime as a band well after 20 years. Whether you like them or not, I think that's an accomplishment that few other groups have been able to. I hope that when I'm into my 40s I'm still able to do what Bono and the boys are doing today.


I watched The Godfather last night with my dad, who had never seen it. He wasn't convinced that it could be as good as me and Anton raved, but he was sold on it and watching it again reminded me of how great a film it is. It's not just the craft, but the characters and the themes in it that come through so strongly. It deserves it's spot in my top 10 films.

"Fredo, you're my older brother and I love you, but don't ever take sides with anyone against the family again. Ever." - Michael Corleone

Thursday, November 25, 2004

Twisp & Catsby

You all should really check this out.

Or buy me this T-shirt.

Actually, you really shouldn't. I'm already enough of a geek.
Click T-shirt for link.

Les Miserables

Just got back from seeing Les Miserables. Suffice to say, it was amazing. I've listened to the music for most of my life, I even own the CD of the Original London Cast, but finally getting to see it live was brilliant. I went with Anton, who had the good fortune of seeing it in London in the spring of 2003 (he saw so much theatre when he was in London that I don't even want to go into it. If I am lucky enough to get a Hannon Travel Scholarship, you know what I'm doing with it - London, Stratford, Paris).

Les Mis is one of the those brilliant pieces of art that is both beautiful and profound. I know, I know. I said that about Ikiru as well, but it really is. The themes present in Les Mis, such as grace, forgiveness, and love (Romantic, Parent-Child, Un-requited) are dealt with effortlessly. I really need to read Hugo's novel now. It's one of those things that I'll have to read on my own, since it's a translation it can't really be studied in English Lit. proper. Also, I was really impressed with the production values on the performance. I know that it's Broadway and that the designers are all pros with multiple Tony's and Oscar's, but I was still really impressed. The rotating stage gives the audience a unique perspective that one mostly finds in film.

It really is the best. No hyperbole.

Wednesday, November 24, 2004

The Collection Continues

Last night I was up until 1:30 AM finishing a long overdue inventory of my DVD collection. I know, you're saying, "You need to do an INVENTORY of your personal DVD collection?" The sad truth of the matter is, yes!

As of last night I have 234 films, in 218 collections, by my count. I had to go through my collection and manually count what I had, and see if it matched up with my records. Then I double-checked my list of DVDs that I have lent out and see if it all worked out. Thankfully it did.

Then I went to my database at DVD Aficionado and entered all the new DVDs I've gotten over the past few months, updated the cases in which I'd gotten a new Special Edition and ditched the old one (Trainspotting, The Manchurian Candidate), then, just because it was bugging me, I went through and updated all the star ratings for each of my films. Just for you info, the first gold stars rate the DVD (technical quality, sound, picture clarity, special features, etc.) and the second red stars rate the feature itself, basically how many stars I would give the film.

I decided to use the scale the Roger Ebert uses:

**** - Great, among the best of that given

***½ - Excellent
*** - Good
**½ - Good in it's genre
** - Average
*½ - Poor
* - Terrible
½ - Frightening
No Stars - Run in Terror!

I did do many of the ratings late last night. If their are no ratings, either I haven't watched the movie or it's been too long for me to make an accurate assesment. Also, for disc ratings, a film needs to have a good mix of both features and technical quality to qualify for the **** rating. Feel free to disagree. Heck, make a comment. I might even change my mind.

Monday, November 22, 2004

Ikiru - To Live

I just finished watching Akira Kurosawa's Ikiru. To say that it's very good or excellent wouldn't really be doing it justice. Profound, that seems like a more suitable adjective to describe it. It's thought provoking and contemplative about life like many of my favorite films, like Citizen Kane or It's A Wonderful Life - in fact it's lack of overt sentimentality make it more appealing to some than those films. Though, that makes it sound as if it lacks the entertainment or emotion of the other films, which isn't true. It is entertaining and engrossing throughout, in a way few films have been for me lately.

The story of Kenji Wantanabe is a story of a realization of a life wasted, and a life redeemed. It's equal parts A Christmas Carol and Death Of A Salesman, while maintaining it's own identity. Wantanabe-san is a mid-level buracrat in an unnamed Japanese city. His job is essentially meaningless, shuffling papers for thirty years. When he discovers that he has stomach cancer and only a few months to live, Wantanabe goes through a soul searching that spans wild partying to self-pity, until realizing the impact he can make in his position with the short time he has left. His journey to self-discovery, and his effort to create a legacy, challenges us to do make the most of the time we have on earth, while never forgetting the human side of our jobs.

Having been a fan of Kurosawa's samurai films, such as Shichinin no samurai (Seven Samurai), but hadn't seen any of his other work until now. It's amazing how accessible Kurosawa is to Western audiences (something for which he was criticized at home). He references classic myths and archetypes to explore a universal human question. For me, the question of how to make the most of the position one is in is very real. Even though I am in university, there is no guarentee that I have a long life ahead of me. My challenge, like Wantanabe-san, is how to live my life in a way that I would be happy if it were to end at any moment. Ikiru, which means "to live", is definitely one of the great films.


On a less serious note, I'm anticipating waking up and going to Future Shop to get the newest album from U2, How To Dismantle An Atomic Bomb. As a big fan, I've been waiting for this for four long years. In preparation I listened to, what I consider, their three best albums today.

1. Achtung Baby (1992) - Probably one of my all time favourites. Brilliantly bridging the gap between the classic arena-rock U2 of the 80s and defining the band as pop innovators for the next decade. Highlights include "The Fly", "Mysterious Ways", and "Tryin' To Throw Your Arms Around The World."

2. The Joshua Tree (1987) - For many the definitive U2 album, and one which swells with emotion and spiritual awareness. "Where The Streets Have No Name", "In God's Country" and "One Tree Hill" are stand out.

3. War (1993) - The album where U2 really defined what they are and stand for. "Sunday, Bloody Sunday", "Two Hearts Beat As One" and "40" are wonderful.
Where will Atomic Bomb end up on the final list? While "Vertigo" is a great catchy single, I hear some of the other tracks are even better, especially "Love and Peace Or Else" (love that name). Tomorrow morning, we'll know for sure!

Friday, November 19, 2004

"Ain't Life Grand?"

I am still interested in responding to some of Caitlin's comments regarding the Star Wars Prequels, however, I'm just not in the argumentive mood at the moment.

Saw a couple of new films over the past few days. Just finished watching Bonnie and Clyde mere minutes ago. It's a really good film and important too in helping usher in the the filmmaking revolution of the 1970s. Warren Beatty is really good, and Faye Dunaway is just gorgeous in this one - even though it's set in the 30s, she can't help but look like a hot 60s chick, and there's something about her that just does it for me. Of course, this was one of the first films that was really violent, had anti-heroes for the protagonists and all that, but Bonnie Parker and Clyde Barrow still come out feeling like real people. All in all, a highly recommended film.

Saw Jamie Foxx in Ray on Tuesday night. The reason I mention Jamie Foxx first is because the hype is deserved. This guy is the real deal. After Collateral and then this amazing perfomance, he's guarenteed an Oscar nod. Overall I found the film to be solid, but nothing fantastic. I think that in the hands of a stronger director than Taylor Hackford (Proof of Life) the film could have been something more, but it does little to transcend the "biopic" genre in the way that a film like A Beautiful Mind did. But Jamie Foxx is really good, so I'm willing to forgive certain things. And of course Ray Charles music helps make the movie an enjoyable experience in itself.

Ewan introduced me and Anton to Mr. Show yesterday, the HBO sketch-comedy series by Bob Odenkirk and David Cross. David Cross is hilarious. Odenkirk is inspired. Their comedy is right up my alley and the show is creative and clever, while still maintaining a juvenlia about that I find appealing. They take everything that is wrong with a lot of the sketches on SNL these days and do it better. Of course, the show aired on HBO from 1995-98, so DVD is pretty much the only way to enjoy this unless you catch the re-runs on the Comedy Network. However, I'll heartily endorse it. Also, Tom Kenny - who is about to become a legitimit movie star today, albeit in the form of voicing a character who lives in a pineapple under the sea - is one of the supporting characters in Mr. Show, and because I love Tom Kenny, that makes it great.

Oh, and one more thing: Halo 2 is consuming my life. When I got home from school today, during my break before I went to work, I was expecting to get some reading done, or eat, or something constructive. But no. I played Halo 2 online with my cousin for an hour and a half. Then I came home from work and before I watched the movie, I played some more Halo. It's a sickness I tell you, but it's so damn good.

Tuesday, November 16, 2004

Fanboys Are Whiny Babys

So I'm reading one of my daily webcomics, the comic in question being Scott Kurtz's PvP, and today's strip involved the new trailer for Star Wars Episode III (if for some reason you haven't seen it and want to, click here). Anyway, I thought the comic was cute and reflected the attitude that I've seen in many, many people who for one reason or another felt slighted by the Star Wars Prequels yet can't seem to help but fall in love with the new trailer.

However, Kurtz's accompanying post regarding his feelings on the Prequels really urked me because it's the same kind of tripe that gets bandied around by these people, who for some reason feel that George Lucas "raped their childhood" and that they infact are the ones who are really the true owners of Star Wars.

Now, don't get me wrong, I have no problem with people who just don't dig the new films. Fair enough. Not every film, especially one that is essentially a fantasy series for children and adolescents, is going to appeal to everyone. But lets get a few things straight. Lucas did not "rape" anyone's childhood. The people who feel so are the ones who developed a ultra-possessive attachment to a series of children's films when they were 8, and now that they are 28, they don't feel the same way about the new films. That's not Lucas's problem. You just grew up. Deal with it.

Now, Kurtz, who spends a good deal of his time ranting about fanboys, and mining fanboy culture to find the jokes for his clever little strip has this to say:

But the Epsiode III trailer reminded me just who I'm dealing with here: a man who lost hold of what made Star Wars great. It was the happy accidents that gave Star Wars charm.

The prequels lack that charm, replaced by CG precision and actors who don't act with muppets, but instead a styrofoam ball against bluescreen.

The thing that pisses me off about the Ep III trailer is how Lucas has put images from the prequel movies against Obi-Wan's retelling of history from "A New Hope." This is obviously Lucas saying "See! I had it planned all along. It all matches up. My vision is pure."

I'm not buying it, even though I know that no matter what...I'll be buying a ticket.

Now, Kurtz let's get a few things straight. Regarding, "It was the happy accidents that gave Star Wars its charm." That partially true, but isn't it also the ability to tap into classic mythic archetypes. If "happy accidents" accounted for everything that made Star Wars great, then it wouldn't be the phenomenon it is today. Sorry, that's just not gonna float with me. Then Kurtz goes off against "CG" and "actors who don't act with muppets." Now, lets get something straight. CG is less real than puppets and models? OK, so one makebelieve is less believable than another? Oh, and these same fanboys who think they are so "hip" to diss CG, fall head over heels for Jackson's Lord of the Rings pictures, which are full to brim with CG. Talk about hypocritical. Why don't these people come up with more cogent arguments. At least tell me what exactly you don't like about the CG in the Star Wars films, because obviously you do like CG in other contexts. Let me tell you, you couldn't have done the new Star Wars or Lord of the Rings without it. Move on. It's the reality of filmmaking today. Geez. These fanboys annoy me. Especially in the last sentence, where he admits he'll be buying a ticket. If Lucas really pissed you off so much, grow some balls and don't buy a ticket. Obviously he's doing something right, and that's more than nostalgia.

Monday, November 15, 2004

Darwin's Plot To Undo Me

So I find myself enbroiled in Gillian Beer's Darwin's Plots: Exploring the Evolutionary Narrative in Darwin, George Eliot and Nineteenth-Century Literature which unfortunately needs to be read for my seminar on Thursday. Actually, not just read, but presented on. Which means I need more than just a casual knowledge of what the book is about. The up side is that so far it's actually quite interesting, and accessible, compared with some works of criticism. So, I guess things could be worse.

The problem is that I've essentially painted myself into a corner. I figured that I didn't really have too much work this semester (which on paper is true - I only had two essays, a couple exams and no finals during December). However, now that I've convinced myself I see that I only have 3 weeks of school left in which to do a couple of presentations, write a Christmas exam in Old Icelandic and a 10-12 page paper of which I have no clue what the topic will be. Oh, and keep up on my readings. Ah, the joys of an English major.

I may have to pick this one up this week.

Of course, being the movie addict that I am I found time to watch a couple of movies in the last couple of days. My love of The Incredibles led me to finally find the much hyped debut feature from Brad Bird, The Iron Giant. However, it lived up to its hype. It's touching, it's funny, and it's well animated. All in all a modern children's classic. I loved it. I also finally saw Will Ferrell in Elf, which also exceeded my expectations. Seriously, I can't help it Will Ferrell is just to goofy not to laugh at. This is one of the few recent Christmas movies that I actually liked (I can already tell it's gonna be better than that God-awful Christmas With The Kranks - I can feel the bile rising in my throat when I see the trailers). All in all, worth checking out.

Wednesday, November 10, 2004

Wandering Down A Familiar Road

I've been listening to The Beatles again. Yes, not that I ever really stopped listening to them. They are unabashedly my favourite group of all time and listening to Abbey Road has re-iterated why they are not only my favourite, but also the legitimit greats of the twentieth century. It's so innovative musically and this probably their strongest rock album. Songs like "Get Together" and "I Want You (She's So Heavy)" are legendary and oft imitated for their strong rock progressions and classic sound.

The album is fantastic thematically, and this for me is some of my favourite stuff. "Mean Mr. Mustard" through to "The End" is a fantastic stretch, that I could listen to over and over again. "Golden Slumbers" is majestic to the point that it brings tears to my eyes to hear it and think that this is one of the last things that the group recorded together. Some of the strongest stuff is Harrison's "Something" and "Here Comes The Sun." I also just can't get enough of "Oh! Darling." It's almost pure classic rock perfection.

Abbey Road was the last Beatles album recorded and it shows that the boys from Liverpool went out with a bang. I'm just thankful that we got what we did.

Tuesday, November 09, 2004

The Enduring Power of Children's Books

I just returned from Professor Ron Cooley's excellent lecture on "Harry Potter and the Temporal Prime Directive," the first, in what I would love to be an ongoing series, of the English Undergraduate society's guest lectures. He touched on the theme of "rule breaking" and how the Harry Potter books fit into that tradition in literature,a fine tradition that includes Twain's Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, and the importance of these themes in the moral lessons of the story. His lecture deepened my appreciation for Rowling's books, and got me thinking on the importance of children's literature and juvenilia in general.

Most of my favourite books of all time fall into the category of children's literature. The Hobbit is considered children's lit by many, and I think it's one of the most enduring works of twentieth century fantasy. As mentioned before, Twain's Huck Finn and Tom Sawyer are two of my favourite books (though despite the critical consensus, I still like Tom Sawyer better). C.S. Lewis's Chronicles of Narnia are among my most treasured childhood reading memories. Orson Scott Card's Ender's Game was probably the book in high school that had the most direct impact on my life and my own self worth.

Let me not forget Roald Dahl, whose delightfully whimsical, yet dark children's fantasy's are among my favourites as well. Dahl's James and the Giant Peach is a wonderful book, as is Danny, Champion of the World. Of course Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and it's sequel Charlie and The Great Glass Elevator are so good.

Charlie was made into a film back in the 70s - which IMHO isn't nearly as good as the book, and I can pretty much dismiss, apart from Gene Wilder's excellent performance. However, Tim Burton is hard at work crafting a new film version of the book, that he promises will be closer to the theme and feel of the original book. Colour me excited! Burton's films, especially and Edward Scissorhands and The Nightmare Before Christmas, have a very Dahlian feel to them. I have high hopes for this one, especially with the exciting casting for the Willy Wonka himself. None other than...

(Click on the above link for a larger version)

Monday, November 08, 2004

A Rare Glimpse Behind The Fascade?

I've been reading a lot lately. Nothing actually important, mind you, but the kind of things that most would consider to be a complete waste of my time. No, I haven't made much more of a dent in the social drama that encompasses much of Elizabeth Gaskel's Mary Barton, but I did read the online New York Times. I haven't begun Sinclair Lewis's biting satire, Babbit, but I do love to read the wity, elitist, left-wing cultural barometer that is Salon.com (not to say that I don't love it, but I'm actually too cheap to become a "Salon Premium" subscriber and instead rely on the free day passes - the beauty of the Internet being that I don't actually have to pay attention while they play, what is essentially, a two-minute ad for whomever the daily sponser is). And I guess I'd be lying if I said that this isn't anything that I actually consider important. My daily perusal of movie rumour at Ain't It Cool News and my deep, yet cynically distanced, interest in American politics were both part of what I always liked to imagine was a part of who I am and what I talk about.

I guess that's what worries me. As much as I love the clever debunking that Christopher Hitchins dishes out in Vanity Fair, perhaps I'm beginning to realize that this poseur, ironic personae is becoming a part of me. I see it in the people around me as well, and yes, it reminds me of myself sometimes, but that is what frightens me.

Yesterday I wrote a review of The Incredibles, which should see print in this weeks edition of the Sheaf, in which after a first read over, I found to be incredibly banal. I thought to myself, "There isn't enought witticism in this movie review. My earnest interest in themes like family values and the dynamics of superhero politics is going to cost me points with the hip, culturally sophisticated university crowd." But then I said, screw it. My review was honest. The crack in my carefully constructed facade.

Today the cracks continued to appear. In MSN conversation, it became clear that my sincere excitement over the new Star Wars trailer wasn't all that contagious. My attempts during the Sheaf arts meeting to explain why the humour in Shrek 2 wasn't good because it wasn't honest, was met with confused looks and the conversation turned to the popularity of the Sheaf's sex column. Around the time I got home, excited about the pending release of a video game I realized that perhaps I wasn't as ironic or cynical as I liked to convince myself.

The final chapter of my daily crisis, which began with analysis of my Internet reading habits, came full circle - or not quite. The realization came while reading an article at Salon about teen characters in popular television shows like The O.C. (of which I'm not quite hip enough to enjoy, but I can pass that off as being too good for television and not merely indifferent). I realized that I'm not a character on a television show. I'm a human being. And as a human being, I'm allowed to have enough complexity to at times be earnest and child-like, and at other times be cynical and sophisticated. I don't have to fit into a character-type. And that's what I had been doing.

In the end I realize that I can enjoy my online magazines, while still be enthralled by the joy of a children's movie. I can read both Mary Barton and The New York Times. And I realize that this blog probably doesn't make a lot of sense, but it felt good to write. And it's been a while since I've written something like it (see my post on Annie Hall for a slight insight into my own personal neurosis). And that being said, take this for what its worth.

Saturday, November 06, 2004

The Incredibles

Just got back from seeing The Incredibles, the newest Pixar Animation film, for the second time. I know, I know. You're gonna say, "My God boy! The film only came out last night and you've already seen it twice?" In my defense, I offer the following. A) Pixar is really, really good. I love all of their films. Monsters, Inc is my favorite, though The Incredibles is a close second. B) I went to see it with different friends and siblings each time, whom I had promised to see the movie with - as for the old Seinfeld joke about "saving" movies, I don't believe in it, but I also don't have a problem with seeing a good movie twice. C) I love superheroes, and superhero films. And comic books. I had to go by 8th St Books & Comics and pick up my weekly dose right after the movie today. As of today Spider-man 2 is battling The Passion of the Christ for the spot of my favourite film of the year - ah, yes the epic battle between my devotion to issues of faith and fantasy. The Incredibles is definitely Top Ten material as well. Finally, D) (And this is probably the geekiest reason of all) I wanted to see the trailer for Star Wars - Episode III: Revenge of the Sith, but to my chagrin, it wasn't playing either time, despite the fact that it was supposed to be attached to all prints of The Incredibles. Pissed me off big time. Of course I read on the theforce.net that some theatre chains were confused by the fact that the Star Wars trailer came labelled as "Sand Dogs" (a code name to stave off theives, and commonly used by Lucasfilm) and didn't attach the trailer. Arrgh, their stupidity pisses me off. Though the trailer will be online Monday, but I wanted to see it in theatres.

As for The Incredibles, I thought it was great. Definitely one of the best superhero films of all time. It explores some of the ideas and themes common in books like Fantasic Four and so, with the idea of a family of superheros. Also, the animation was on par with the best stuff that Pixar has done. So it looked amazing. One of the things that it got me thinking about was how the portrayal of powers and superheros looks different from the art on the page of comic book, to the big screen. This is somewhere in between. It has the stylized look of comic book art, but the realism of something like the Spider-man films. It also made me realize that regardless of how rediculous it looks, the ability to stretch and be elastic (ala Elastigirl in the film, or Reed Richards in FF) is actually a much better power than people would think and capable of some pretty impressive stuff.

Wednesday, November 03, 2004

More from Ivana Santilli

I had mentioned a few weeks ago that I had done an interview with Ivana Santilli. Most of the interview probably won't make it into the final article, however, if anyone is actually interested here's the original transcript:

Interview with Ivana Santilli

Telephone: Saskatoon-Toronto, Oct. 26, 2004

[Beginning of interview recording]

Ivana Santilli: You know I’ve been trying to get out of the studio for the last hour and half. But it’s something that you always have to just keep at. You know. Whatever.

Anders: So you’re busy at work right now?

Well, actually right now I’m actually driving to dinner, which I’m late for, with a friend. But no, I’m good to do the interview right now.

Ok, so...

Again, I apologize. Things were scheduled too tightly today. And the interview was scheduled right in the middle of my day, when I’m working and running around, and I actually don’t like doing cellphone interviews in the day, because I find I can’t be as focused and I’d rather give you a good interview.

Definitely. Thanks. So, uh, I just have a few questions for you. Uh, to start…a lot of people know you from your time with Bass Is Base. What precipitated your decision to leave Bass Is Base and begin a solo career?

What happened? You know what it was? I wanted to know where I begin and where I ended. In a band you don’t know that. In a band other people finish your sentences and you finish other peoples sentences. You know? I didn’t know how complete I was. If anything I just didn’t know if I was growing. There was no room for me to grow. And even…at the time I didn’t even know if I was good at what I did. I just knew that I liked doing it. And that a lot of the things I did worked. So, you know, at one point I…I can’t explain what the need is, but it’s just a very visceral need to express something. And if I couldn’t do it in that formation, I wanted to do it someway. And more than anything I knew that it just wasn’t a healthy relationship in that group anymore. And the expression was being…um…what would be the word…stunted. You know what I mean? We just weren’t working well as a group anymore.

And this allowed saying, “This is what Ivana wants to do,” not “What the group wants to do”?

And you know, it’s not a selfish thing because you can’t really give much of yourself unless your happy somewhere. So I was growing and there was no more room for me to grow, and I just wanted to find out who I was. I had written a bunch of songs and then I recorded them, and then do an album. I was just one step after another. I didn’t just decide to leave the group, [saying] “I’m going to release an album.” This wasn’t all planned out. More I had to figure some things out for myself.

Sounds like a fairly common music career, in that it’s not something you can plan out. So you have two albums out right now, Brown and Corduroy Boogie, and both have been pretty successful. Brown was one of the top selling Canadian releases the year it came out.

Yeah, I still can’t believe it. [laughs] It’s really great.

You’ve had a lot of success with that. Are you working on a new album right now?

No, no, no. Right now is all about Corduroy Boogie. I mean, I do some side projects, you know with other people, like that’s what I was doing tonight. Working with somebody, something for a soundtrack. But I can’t say what it was at the moment…

[laughs] Yeah, I understand.

Yeah, but uh…I like to work on side projects, I like to work on remixes once in a while. But right now the concentration on my solo career is with Corduroy Boogie because it was just released.

That leads to my next question. You’re doing touring right now, as well as some studio work. What’s your love? Is it live? Touring?

Both. They feed each other. Yeah, they definitely feed each other. Because at some point you can’t just keep playing live, you need to go back in and write. And refuel the inspiration. You know? They’re just two completely different animals. There’s something with live that happens, it’s completely spontaneous and completely interactive and it’s really about a direct connection with other people. And it’s more like, social. Whereas studio is more like…it’s more like meditating. You know what I mean? You can experiment a lot in the studio. It’s about sounds, and direction as opposed to something, more…I like the word visceral, because that’s where it comes from. You know it’s all from the soul when it’s live. You just got to go with your guts. Like “Am I going to go for that note?” or “Am I going to get it?” You know?

So, your music, of which I’m a fan. Discovered it a couple of years ago. Appears on my playlists quite a bit. And when I heard you were coming, I was like “You know, I want to do this interview.”

Oh, good. You know. Thank you. [laughs]

I know a lot of people find your music difficult to narrow down to a specific genre. I remember when I was doing some research for this, I looked up…you got some really good Amazon reviews,

Mmm hmm. I saw some of those. It was actually really encouraging.

One of them described it, your album Brown¸ as a blend of “drum n’ bass, Jazz, R&B” and do find that an accurate description? How would you describe your music?

I think that was. It is a blend of things because I was trying to do all the styles that I loved. I just wanted to represent all of that on one record. It’s hard to say what I am as a whole because this record is a little different; it’s more focused on Groove and Funk. Because you know funk can go a lot of ways, like Jazz-Funk, there’s Hard-Funk. So there’s all kinds of…

It’s a wide genre.

It is, it is. At the same time it really is about the groove. And you know I love Earth, Wind and Fire, Gap Band, but I love Sheik. And I really love that whole Boogie Era where it wasn’t necessarily Disco, but it wasn’t really Funk, but somewhere in between. You know, where it was about bass lines, it just moves that part of your body that’s just like mid-thigh to belly button. And that’s really my favourite type of music right now.

You mention Earth, Wind and Fire. What about some of your other influences? I read you have French and Italian roots. Is that right?


Does that have an influence on your music?

Yeah, I would say, the things I can see now coming out in my music most; I’d say there’s Italian melodies, Neapolitan tunes especially, that my father used to sing. They’re very melodic and they’re very passionate. And they like, kind of tear at your heart sometimes, the melodies. And….

[Interview recording interrupted, loss of cellphone signal]

[Recording cuts back into middle of interview]

The last time I was in Saskatoon, I was there on a Sunday it [a local spa] was closed.

But this time your show is on a Friday. So, more of Saskatoon should be awake and alive.

Ok, good.

Well, I’ll definitely be at your show. It was great talking to you. Thanks for the interview.

If you can, I mean, introduce yourself to me after. Just wait around or something.

Ok. I will do that. Also, definitely do a write up and promote the show.

Thank you very much.

No problem. Again, thanks a lot.

Ok. Bye!

[End of interview]

So that's it. A minute or so is lost toward the end, because the cellphone lost the signal, and being the idiot that I am, I forgot to start the recorder again later when the interview resumed. But over all it should give you an idea of what my first interview went like.