Scribbling Again

Month: October, 2012

Very Brief Thoughts on American Movie

1. Chris Smith’s documentary ingeniously comments on what it takes to create a worthwhile product while showcasing a failed one.

2. Going along with 1, the film directly comments on the misguided alcoholic, bohemian vision of the American artist (which seems to primarily stem from Hemingway amongst a whole host of others).

2.1. The movie’s title seems to implicitly hint that its ideas stretch to fit the national scale. Thus Smith’s films comments on what it takes to make an American movie. What would be more stereotypically American than an independent filmmaker trying to make it big?

3. The film satirizes the famed bohemian artist. It presents a scary place in which your best years are over and without critical success and youthful zeal the prospect of ever leaving one’s hometown appears impossible.

3.1. Similar to when people realize that they cannot write poetry or prose or can’t make movies or music under certain conditions (ie while drinking, drugs, cigarette smoking, etc) simply because they aren’t those types of people. Finding one’s own creative process is of the utmost importance if you expect to meet your own creative goals.

4. A very thin tether of expected connection ties most everyone in the movie together. Whether it’s Mark’s parents who are separated or he and his ex-wife (or wife?) who are separated for the most part, but she still occasionally manages to appear. She also gets upset when our protagonist attempts to begin a relationship. All of Mark’s brothers are distant at best and most of his friends originate from high school where the only thing they had in common was drinking, drugs, etc.

Anyway the subjects are funny and Borchardt’s attempted greatness inspires now more than ever given how many people are creating stuff via Kickstarter or in their free time for Youtube. Check it out if you haven’t!

And I should also mention that this form of writing was taken from Biblioklept whose riffing articles always interest me and have always seemed like an idea worth stealing.

The Rolling Stones – Doom And Gloom

It’s alright but I cringe at “boom, boom, boom” and sure, it’s not a single track off Exile on Main Street but it’s still a nice surprise.

Stacy D’Erasmo on Roberto Bolaño

“Among the many acid pleasures of the work of Roberto Bolaño, who died at 50 in 2003, is his idea that culture, in particular literary culture, is a whore. In the face of political repression, upheaval and danger, writers continue to swoon over the written word, and this, for Bolaño, is the source both of nobility and of pitch-black humor. In his novel “The Savage Detectives,” two avid young Latino poets never lose faith in their rarefied art no matter the vicissitudes of life, age and politics. If they are sometimes ridiculous, they are always heroic. But what can it mean, he asks us and himself, in his dark, extraordinary, stinging novella “By Night in Chile,” that the intellectual elite can write poetry, paint and discuss the finer points of avant-garde theater as the junta tortures people in basements? The word has no national loyalty, no fundamental political bent; it’s a genie that can be summoned by any would-be master. Part of Bolaño’s genius is to ask, via ironies so sharp you can cut your hands on his pages, if we perhaps find a too-easy comfort in art, if we use it as anesthetic, excuse and hide-out in a world that is very busy doing very real things to very real human beings. Is it courageous to read Plato during a military coup or is it something else?”

Another Calvino Excerpt

“What makes lovemaking and reading resemble each other most is that within both of them times and spaces open, different from measurable time and space” (152)

“there is always something essential that remains outside the written sentence”

“but in the case of the novel you must consider that in the succession of sentences only one sensation can pass at a time, whether it be individual or general, whereas the breadth of the visual field and the auditory field allows the simultaneous recording of a much richer and more complex whole. The reader’s receptivity with respect to the collection of sensations that the novel wants to direct at him is found to be much reduced, first by the fact that his often hasty and absent reading does not catch or neglects a certain number of signals and inattentions actually contained in the text, and second because there is always something essential that remains outside the written sentence; indeed, the things that the novel does not say, and only a special halo around what is written can give the illusion that you are reading also what is unwritten.” (198)

From Italo Calvino’s If on a winter’s night a traveler his wonderful 20th Century rendition of One Thousand and One Nights.

Sexism in the Indie Music Scene

Last weekend I saw David Byrne and St. Vincent which sparked a conversation with my partner about women in indie music. That inevitably led to our responses to Pitchfork’s People’s List from earlier this summer. I regularly use Pitchfork’s scores to determine what I listen to along with Stereogum’s recommendations and Anthony Fantano’s recommendations over at The Needle Drop. I don’t slavishly follow any one of these people but if they give a highly favorable review I’ll listen. I don’t have time to listen to a ton of music that I may not enjoy so this makes sense. However given the weekend’s conversation I’ve decided to seek out more female fronted bands and musicians. I’m not positive that women are being discriminated against in the scene (I don’t count myself as knowledgable enough to make that call) but in my own listening I definitely have not heard a ton of female artists. That said here’s a musicians of the female persuasion list so far and if you think I should check someone else out please comment.

PJ Harvey

Joni Mitchell (I’ve only listened to Blue)

Liz Phair (probably just Exile in Guyville)

Tegan & Sara

The Pretenders

Kate Bush

Laurel Halo

Cat Power

Jessie Ware

Sharon Van Etten

St. Vincent (everything before Strange Mercy)

Kimya Dawson

Elle Varner

Janelle Monáe

Sleater-Kinney

Joanna Newsom

Fiona Apple

Anaïs Mitchell

Anyway that seems like an adequate start but more will be needed…and hopefully I’ll actually start listening to music and forcing myself to write about it here in the near future. Thanks for reading!

EDIT: Artists added along with more links and tags.

A Narrative from Bolaño

I finished Roberto Bolaño’s massive novel 2666 this summer but I haven’t had the concentration to post any thoughts or excerpts until now. Here is one of the novels within the novel.

The novel, so unanimously acclaimed, was called Twilight and its plot was very simple: a boy of fourteen abandons his family to join the ranks of the revolution. Soon he’s engaged in combat against Wrangel’s troops. In the midst of battle he’s injured and his comrades leave him for dead. Bit before the vultures come to feed on the bodies, a spaceship drops onto the battlefield and takes him away, along with some of the other mortally wounded soldiers. Then the spaceship enters the stratosphere and goes into orbit around Earth. All of the men’s wounds are rapidly healed. Then a very thin,  very tall creature, more like a strand of seaweed than a human being, asks them a series of questions like: how were the stars created? where does the universe end? Where does it being? Of couse, no one knows the answers. One man says God created the stars and the universe begins and ends wherever God wants. He’s tossed out into space. The others sleep. When the boy awakes he finds himself in a shabby room, with a shabby bed and a shabby wardrobe where his shabby clothes hang. When he goes to the window he gazes out in awe at the urban landscape of New York. But the boy finds only misfortune in the great city. He meets a jazz musician who tells him about chickens that talk and probably think.

“The worst of it,” the musician says to him, “is that the governments of the planet know it and that’s why so many people raise chickens.”

The boy objects that the chickens are raised to be eaten. The musician says that’s what the chickens want. And he finished by saying:

“Fucking masochistic chickens, they have our leaders by the balls.”

He also meets a girl who works as a hypnotist at a burlesque club, and he falls in love. The girl is ten years older than the boy, or in other words twenty-four, and although she has a number of lovers, including the boy, she doesn’t want to fall in love with anyone because she believes that love will use up her powers as a hypnotist. One day the girls disappears and the boy, after searching for her in vain, decides to hire a Mexican detective who was a soldier under Pancho Villa. The detective has a strange theory: he believes in the existence of numerous Earths in parallel universes. Earths that can be reached through hypnosis. The boy thinks the detective is swindling him and decides to accompany him in his investigations. One night they coe upon a Russian beggar shouting in an alley. The beggar shouts in Russian and only the boy can understand him. The beggar says: I fought with Wrangel, show some respect, please, I fought in Crimea and I was evacuated from Sevastopol in an English ship. Then the boy asks whether the beggar was at the battle where he fell badly wounded. The beggar looks at him and says yes. I was too, says the boy. Impossible, replies the beggar, that was twenty years ago and you weren’t even born yet.

Then the boy and the Mexican detective set off west in search of the hypnotist. They find her in Kansas City. The boy asks her to hypnotize him and send him back to the battlefield where he should have died, or accept his love and stop fleeing. The hypnotist answers that neither is possible. The Mexican detective shows an interest in the art of hypnosis. As the detective begins to tell the hypnotist a story, the boy leaves the roadside bar and goes walking under the night sky. After a while he stops crying.

He walks for hours. When he’s in the middle of nowhere he sees a figure by the side of the road. It’s the seaweedlike extraterrestrial. They greet each other. They talk. Often, their conversation is unintelligible. The subjects they address are varied: foreign languages, national monuments, the last days of Karl Marx, worker solidarity, the time of the change measured in Earth years and stellar years, the discovery of America as a stage setting, an unfathomable void–as painted by Doré–of masks. Then the boy follows the extraterrestrial away from the road and they walk through a wheat field, cross a stream, climb a hill, cross another field, until they reach a smoldering pasture.

In the next chapter, the boy is no longer a boy but a young man of twenty-five working at a Moscow newspaper where he has become the star reporter. The young man receives the assignment to interview a Communist leader somewhere in China. The trip, he is warned, is extremely difficult, and once he reaches Peking, the situation may be dangerous, since there are lots of people who don’t want any statement by the Chinese leader to get out. Despite these warnings, the young man accepts the job. When, after must hardship, he finally gains access to the cellar where the Chinese leader is hidden the young man decides that not only will he interview him, he’ll also help him escape the country. The Chinese leader’s face, in the light of a candle, bears a notable resemblance to that of the Mexican detective and former soldier under Pancho Villa. The Chinese leader and the young Russian, meanwhile, come down with the same illness, brought on by the pestilence of the cellar. They shake with fever, they sweat, they talk, they rave, the Chinese leader says he sees a battle, perhaps just a skirmish, and he shouts hurrah and urges his comrades onward. Then both lie motionless as the dead for a long time, and suffer in silence until the day set for their flight.

Each with a temperature of 102 degrees, the two men cross Peking and escape. Horses and provisions await them in the countryside. The Chinese leader has never ridden before. The young man teaches him how. During the trip they cross a forest and then some enormous mountains. The blazing of the stars in the sky seems supernatural. The Chinese leader asks himself: how were the stars created? where does the universe end? where does it being? The young man hears him and vaguely recalls a wound in his side whose scar still aches, darkness, a trip. He also remembers the eyes of a hypnotist, although the woman’s features remain hidden, mutable. If I close my eyes, thinks the young man, I’ll see her again. But he doesn’t close them. They make their way across a vast snow-covered plain. The horses sink in the snow. The Chinese leader sings. How were the first stars created? Who are we in the middle of the boundless universe? What trace of us will remain?

Suddenly the Chinese leader falls off his horse. The young Russian examines him. The Chinese leader is like a burning doll. The young Russian touches the Chinese leader’s forehead and the his own forehead and understands that the fever is devouring them both. With no little effort he ties the Chinese leader to his mount and sets off again. The silence of the snow-covered plain is absolute. The night and the passage of stars across the vault of the sky show no signs of ever ending. In the distance an enormous black shadow seems to superimpose itself on the darkness. It’s a mountain range. In the young Russian’s mind the certainty takes shape that in the coming hours he will die on that snow-covered plain or as he crosses the mountains. A voice inside begs him to close his eyes, because if he closes them he’ll see the eyes and then the beloved face of the hypnotist. It tells him that if he closes his eyes he’ll see the streets of New York again, he’ll walk again toward the hypnotist’s house, where she sits waiting for him on a chair in the dark. But the Russian doesn’t close his eyes. He rides on.