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June 29, 2003

Geoff Berner

Why didn't anyone tell me about Geoff Berner while I was living in Vancouver? That's right, I'm talking to you two bastards! - the one who comments, and the other who emails his comments in, discreetly.

Why guys, why?!

I caught his act at The Oasis on Friday. It was just him and his accordion, playing to a room of maybe 20 people. His humour was as sharp and biting as a young Randy Newman, his melodies reminiscent of Elvis Costello in his prime. His set, song for song, stunned me into submission, while his between-song-bantering made it clear he could be a comedian if he so desired.

The highlight had to be the one about the song that was simply too real to listen to. It was the saddest, most inspired little ditty I'd heard in ages, and when I find the album it's on, it may, for me, become the song his song was describing. But somehow I doubt it, as sad songs are rarely too sad for this chump.

You could go here and listen to "The Clown And Bard", to lines like "Prague's like a Disneyland for the terminally fucked", to the chord change under the phrase "I don't know why I find the leaving so hard"-- pretty much everything I love about song-writing in a nutshell, and it isn't even close to being my favourite piece on We Shall Not Flag Or Fail, We Shall Go On To The End.

If you hate the accordion too much to bother, I'm with you! But I was seriously thrilled to have had my convictions tested on this one. I love the place he's singing from - and I don't just mean the West Coast.

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June 27, 2003


I'm looking at the guy thinking: It's Tarique. It's that kid I used to hang out with in grade 6 who was at at least 3 on my list of 'all time best-friends in the world', and who once said of baseball (in a television interview that I recorded and stumbled across recently): "You don't have to have biceps rippling out of your ear holes - it's a thinking man's game - quote unquote". A wondrous turn of phrase for an eleven year old.

One too many weeks went by in Junior High and that was it. I know his last name, suspect he might still be in the city, but can't look him up. Nope, the only way I'll ever catch up with Tarique is if we run into each other, which is why it's perfect he's on the patio, practically in front of me - if only I could be sure it was him.

Fifteen years can do a lot to a person and their face. So I decide to do a little eavesdropping. And while I'm doing this - discreetly, of course - I notice he's squinting at me, seemingly also at a loss. Then, as he's leaving, he comes over and says: 'Now what's happening here, why are we recognizing each other -- where do I know you from?' and the barrage is hyper-active, it's the kid who used to try to explain steam-engines to me - it's that kid! And you can imagine - I'm only too happy to tell him.

Problem being, he's Tarique - he's brown - and I'm pure honky. So if I'm wrong, (as I explained insightfully before he approached,) well, then I'll be an inventor of a racial tension, and pay accordingly.

What a peculiar dynamic. I might confuse this guy and this guy or this guy and this guy, and sure, it can get offensive - what can't? - but failing at the name game with a "minority" (though, this word won't hold) - and being white - it's always got a terrible charge to it.

"No, but I do know a Tarique." And the sneer on the face of those within earshot, the look of indignation on his behalf, when he himself is totally unfazed - it's his goodness, his persevering struggle to place my face, and the peripheral scorn - these things and some red wine lead me to it: 'I was just telling my sister I thought you were a childhood friend I hadn't seen in years, but I kept thinking if I asked and was wrong I'd be like racist-' 'Oh, I don't think it's racist,' 'Oh good, then, that's what matters,' 'Not in the least,' which made me think: 'Are you sure you're not Tarique?' And it was all this to make them stop with the horrified expression-bit, which didn't stop, but still I thought to myself, at least they've heard first-hand how little it matters, at least they've heard, if not processed, that much. Then, God bless him - whatever his name was - he shrugged, gave up, shook my hand, smiled kindly, was on his way.

In case you're wondering, I'm also a little surprised I bothered writing this.

But only a little.

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June 24, 2003

Ebert On Kane

Ebert talks off-the-top-of-his-head throughout his portion of the Citizen Kane DVD, offering an array of observations and insights that justify his assertion C.K. is The Greatest Film Of All Time, (even while commenting on the silliness of such pronouncements).

On the technical side he points out matte drawings, optical-printing, the originality of the dissolve-process, the use of low-hanging muslin ceilings, (which enabled his cinematographer to hide lights,) compositional strategies that situate the viewer within the narrative, and, of course, the revolutionary use of deep focus so unlike anything audiences had seen before.

Working his way around to the cubistic structure and larger than life themes, Ebert smartly praises C.K. as 'a shallow masterpiece'. For him, the inventiveness of the story's structure, the groundbreaking cinematography, and the enigma of Kane himself - 'who remains somehow forever cordoned off and out of reach' - make C.K. a timeless film he'll 'never tire of watching.'

For me, Kane's mystique is entwined with the mystique of the 25 year old who had the gonads to go up against Hearst, break so absolutely with cinematic convention, and find a way to come out on top.

Welles's presence in C.K. is awesome, but Kane's enigma is something else. Over the years the title-character's mystery has been conveyed and explained to me, by Welles firstly (with truly extraordinary stylistic panache), then by various enthusiastic friends and professors, and finally by Roger Ebert himself. Yet I confess I've never known the pleasure of feeling truly mystified by Kane. He's painted in such broad strokes and ages so rapidly (from 25 to 70,) it's like I never have time to get close enough to encounter his mystique in any meaningful way. C.K.'s a great film, but it's a film I process in my head rather than feel in my gut, and my personal list of Greatest Evers reflects a preference for the latter.

Which I suppose is neither here nor there.

The fact is, Ebert does a sound job explaining for people why it is people so love this well-loved work, and because all Ebert is setting out to do is just this, and because he perfectly accomplishes his goal, I give Ebert on Kane 4 (of a possible 5) stars.

See this commentary track at once!

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June 18, 2003

Chomsky Interview

The more I've read of Chomsky, the more I'm coming around to the conclusion he's not needlessly controversial for the sake of being controversial, nor is he a 'racist' or a fear-monger. Call me naive, but I'm buying into this idea he's a good-hearted man with a sincere interest in saying what he thinks those interested in educating themselves ought to know. Nothing in this interview was jaw-droppingly surprising to me, yet the subject matter falls into this category I have for things that I can't actively afford to think about and in fact would unconsciously prefer to forget. (So, a reminder every now and then doesn't seem like the worst idea.)

Thanks Tomas!

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June 16, 2003

4 Things From Lately

1) An Ordinary Inkling - happy to report this comedy troupe was hilarious. Every time a few of them came on stage I giggled before they did a thing - they were just that funny. I was super-glad I went, and I hate going to see comedy!

2) I went to the Winnie, or The Winch, and took in the funk on Saturday night. As a kid, The Winch was a David Lynchian sort'a place at the end of my street. One time a woman had been killed there, on the second floor - and hacked to pieces. The clock fixed to the side of the building read 11:15 - it had for as long as I can remember and still does to this day. Between the dead body hacked to pieces and the frozen clock, I never dreamed I'd be able to go in there and disco it up in such a care-free way, but there you go. Throw a few bucks at a place and pack it full of fun-loving Australians and the next thing you know anything's possible.

3) Broken Social Scene - quite solid. I can't mention this show without saying that one of the band members is an appallingly bad waitress. It was hard for me personally to come to terms with the fact that she's entitled to be appalling, as she is a legitimate Rock-Star, and has every right to ignore me in her place of work. I'm sorry about all the confusion on my part about this - I simply didn't know. Their set was great.

(Also on this bill was a band called Stars. The lead singer of this band has a fake British accent-- not just his singing-voice, but his on-stage bantering voice as well. I thought this unacceptable:

tv: Why not? It worked for The Cult.
me: Did it?
tv: Yeah. They were fine. No one cared.
me: I guess even Madonna's switched it up, though she waited until after she made it.
tv: And I don't think it worked for her. She's finished.
me: You think so?
tv: Finished - Absolutely that's what I think!

Stars set was good and everything, and maybe their British-accent impersonating will pay off. Here's hoping it does!)

4) I checked out the tv listings for Tuesday night and it should be interesting. New Pornographers will be on Letterman. Earlier on in the evening, as a warm up to this, on the Comedy Network at eleven, one blisteringly funny satirist (Lewis Lapham) will come face to face with another (Jon Stewart) on The Daily Show. So great~! Tuesday night I stay home and watch a great interview with two smart guys and then do a little reading while Letterman's first forty minutes are muted in the background, then I'll watch some ok music. They're playing "The Laws Have Changed" if anyone's still reading at this point.

Should be dandy.

Posted by at 06:03 PM | Comments (17) | TrackBack

June 08, 2003

Bruce Almighty

Bruce Almighty is basically gone, and I didn't see it. I was sad to hear (from everyone) that it stunk, as I thought it had potential:

BRUCE ALMIGHTY: So you're-- you're God?
MORGAN FREEMAN: Yes Bruce, I am.
BRUCE ALMIGHTY: But you're black?
MORGAN FREEMAN: Well, I can appear before you any way I choose, and lately I guess I jus' been gettin' into bein' black, yo.
BRUCE ALMIGHTY: That's... just... so... so strange.
MORGAN FREEMAN: What's strange about it?
BRUCE ALMIGHTY: (stammering) I figured, I mean... C'mon, practically the only way it would make sense for you to exist is if you were a racist old white dude!
MORGAN FREEMAN: I get that all the time!
BRUCE ALMIGHTY: I'm sure you do!
MORGAN FREEMAN: Maybe I was for awhile, but I've found out being black is all kinds of fun.
BRUCE ALMIGHTY: Well, you might consider taking your new found love for black people and doing something with it. Like, you know, in Africa, for instance?
MORGAN FREEMAN: (with sincere interest) Africa? I keep hearing all this stuff about Africa. Everyone's always goin' off about "Africa". Where is this place?

Then after journeying to Africa, Freeman thinks better of entrusting his powers to a white guy. Decades go by, hundreds of heartless billionaires die, everyone's shocked to learn their fortunes are willed to the most desperate of Third World Nations. Africa's life-expectancy-rate doubles over half a century, during which time Our Guy Bruce becomes an old man.

And then one day...

BRUCE ALMIGHTY: Hey - it's you again!
MORGAN FREEMAN: Why you're the fellow who tole me about Africa!
BRUCE ALMIGHTY: That's right!
MORGAN FREEMAN: And to think I was gonna give you my job so you could enlarge your girlfriend's tits and make your enemies look bad in public.
BRUCE ALMIGHTY: Yes, I know. Shameful. Don't suppose you still have any interest?
MORGAN FREEMAN: Interest? Hell no! You weren't worth my time then, and you wasted every day since hating yourself for doing the only good thing y'ever done.
BRUCE ALMIGHTY: (Stunned and furious) "Wasn't worth your time"?! How dare you! I was the one who told you there was life outside the North American Continent--
MORGAN FREEMAN: Oh screw off Bruce - I'd have figured it all out on my own eventually.
MORGAN FREEMAN: Now go on - get outta my face before I do something nasty.

This is not the most satisfying ending - I know. But my version goes in the only direction I can see taking a movie when the opening revelation is that God's a black man.

(Next up, alternative versions of Daddy Day Care, The In-Laws, and Anger Management, the last of which I've decided only makes sense (given the cast) if it's about fisting. Unfortunately, this revelation's forced me to abandon my ambitious plans for Hollywood Homicide, fearing it would only seem a retread.)

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June 06, 2003

Lousiest Review Ever

Having now spent too much of the last 24 hours thinking about Ebert, I'm reminded of what truly awful criticism looks like.

Rob Mitchum your perversity confounds me!

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June 04, 2003

Excuses Excuses

I will be extremely busy over this next week as I managed to get a job for myself writing a screenplay for someone who stands a good chance of getting funding together in September to shoot something shortly thereafter. I'm thrilled about this because I know the director well, have a sense of his taste, and honestly think it'll be easier to write something he likes than it would be to ever meet my own impossibly high standards.

Part of me's been tempted to post some of the outlines and scenes here to see what kind of feedback emerges, but for now I've decided to just write to the end of this latest draft, filtering in the high-quality feedback I've received so far.

It's been quite gratifying talking with this dude about where I'm going with the story that's emerging and where he'd like to see me go. Today for instance, I found myself working on not one but three distinctly different stories, all of which I could see, eventually, turning out to be ok little films, and one of which emerged from a bout of insomnia that took hold no more than three days ago.

The director I'm writing for is a HUGE fan of the French New Wave, which means everything I'm writing is lifted from "The Mother and The Whore", "Masculine Feminine", "400 Blows" and "Contempt", with overtones of "Irmavep" and "Day For Night" thrown in for good measure.

Ah, aren't film-geeks boring? I'm asking you!

Ok, must now tend to the great canyon of typos hiding before my very eyes.

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June 01, 2003

The Neurology of Morality

Fascinatin' article (via e)

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