Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Michael Azerrad vs. Jonathan Meiburg on Jet Plane and Oxbow

MA: Of all these songs, “Quiet Americans” sounds most like a hit to me, or your version of a hit, more than any other Shearwater song I’ve heard.  It’s hard for me to get it out of my head.  And I think I know what it means, but what does it mean to you?
JM: My idea for Jet Plane and Oxbow was to try to make a protest record that wasn’t dumb or preachy.  Which was sometimes hard to reconcile with how much fun it was to do!  But the more grand or triumphant the songs sounded, the more conflicted the lyrics became, which I really liked. I listened to it the other day for the first time since we mastered it and it reminded me of a breakup letter—the kind that’s furious and tender at the same time, because it’s written with love.
MA: Wow, who are you breaking up with?
JM:  Good question…the United States, I guess, though that sounds ridiculous when I say it out loud.  Maybe the idea of the United States.  Some of the things we like to tell ourselves about ourselves.  I’m as guilty of that as the next person, by the way; I’m not saying I’m the guy who sees it all clearly.  I don’t know if anybody really can.
MA [in his best Bowie]:  “I’m afraid of Americans!” But it can’t really be a breakup, can it?  Because in a breakup you walk away, and you’re not leaving… are you?
JM:  That’s the thing.  I can’t stop being an American, even when it makes my skin crawl.  I also can’t help loving it here, even though I hate it sometimes, too. And I don’t think I’m the only one here who feels like this.  So in the end, I guess, the record felt like a way for me to send out a little beacon that just says “You’re not alone.”  In the tense, polarized, tech-addled—but still very beautiful—world we’re in, I don’t think anyone can hear that enough.
- via

Saturday, January 16, 2016

Orpheus in reverse

Then one day Nina is playing a Bach sonata on the piano, one that she and Jamie used to play together. A note from a cello sounds, and slowly the camera moves to show you that Jamie is there, playing his old instrument. At first it’s hard to tell whether the camera is showing us Nina’s daydream. And then she turns, and together with Nina you realize, no. He’s there.

The Siren often dreams about the people she’s lost. In these dreams, she always knows that her father and mother are dead, yet somehow they are back, and she accepts it in the way a dream makes you accept everything. There’s no big reunion, seldom even any discussion. The emotions come when the dream is over. When Nina turns and sees Jamie, she embraces him, weeping so hard she can scarcely see, clutching to make sure this is him, this is his body. That moment has everything the Siren would feel if she found her parents when she awoke, if she could say, “You’ve come back to me.” She would weep and clutch at them the same way. We all would.

Nina’s love has returned, and the movie traces the goofy joy that has come back with him. They play music, sing off-key serenades, talk, even make love. He stays for days, then weeks. Jamie is amusing, attentive, he’s always around. But he complains ceaselessly of feeling cold. He eats strange food. He fills the flat with pale, badly dressed friends from the afterlife who lounge around the TV, argue about whether to watch Annie Hall or Fitzcarraldo, and scatter crumbs all over everywhere. ''I don't know who these people are,'' Nina protests, to no avail. ''I don't even know what period they're from.''

And so Nina gradually recalls the things she pushed out of her memory when Jamie was still gone. He has a snobbish streak and a tendency to drone on about the Tories. He’s controlling, too. Even on loan from the hereafter, Jamie nags his girlfriend about how she brushes her teeth. He maxes out the thermostat and rearranges the furniture without asking. It isn’t that Jamie is secretly a jerk; he’s artistic and loving, and besides, all his rebukes and suggestions are uttered in that sinuous Rickman voice. But soon we realize that this scenario is wrong, that no matter how badly she wanted him back, Nina can’t be with Jamie anymore.

What isn’t as apparent, at least at first, is that Jamie hasn’t returned to comfort Nina. He’s here to show her how to do that herself. And then, he will leave.

The shot of Alan Rickman as Jamie, watching Nina through a window as she walks into what will be the rest of her life, is the Siren’s favorite in all his films. (And brother, the Siren has seen a lot of Rickman. That crush is still with her, and always will be). Rickman was never maudlin. He isn’t prompting the audience to pity Jamie or marvel at his sacrifice. In his face, and his wave, and when he turns back to his ghostly friends, Rickman plays the truth of this supernatural, impossible moment: Jamie still loves Nina, and from wherever he will spend eternity, he wants to know she is fully living while she’s alive.

Most of us believe art isn’t didactic, much less therapeutic. And yet there are movies like Truly, Madly, Deeply that tell us things, or perhaps affirm truths that we already know. That whatever plane the dead move to, no matter how cruelly or how soon, that is where they have to stay. That even if we could call them back, in a deeper sense, we couldn’t.

- the Self-Styled Siren on Alan Rickman

Thursday, January 14, 2016

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

just for one day

What was being negated by Bowie was all the nonsense, the falsity, the accrued social meanings, traditions and morass of identity that shackled us, especially in relation to gender identity and class. His songs revealed how fragile all these meanings were and gave us the capacity for reinvention. They gave us the belief that our capacity for changes, was, like his, seemingly limitless.
Of course, there are limits, obviously mortal limits, to who we are how far we can reshape ourselves — even for Bowie, who seemed eternal. But when I listen to Bowie’s songs I hear an extraordinary hope for transformation. And I don’t think I am alone in this.
The core of this hope, which gives it a visceral register that touches the deepest level of our desire is the sense that, as he sings in “Rock and Roll Suicide,” “On no, love, you’re not alone,” the sense that we can be heroes, just for a day, and that we can be us just for a day, with some new sense of what it means to be us.
- Simon Critchley

Monday, January 11, 2016

Tuesday, January 5, 2016

this is what a totally useless liberal arts education gets you

T: //is watching a truly terrible skiffy series

MOI: //is surfing the web aimlessly

SOME DUDE IN THE SKIFFY SERIES: //types in "R O C I N A N T E" as a ship name

MOI: Hunh.

T: What?

MOI: That's the name of Don Quixote's horse. Rocinante.*

T: Hunh. The guy said it meant "workhorse."

MOI: //pained Not really.

OTHER DUDE IN THE SKIFFY SERIES: I like it. I knew a woman named Rocinante.


T: //sighs

*I remembered this because the WHOLE BOOK is the first thing you read junior year at SJC. You spend all summer reading it before classes start -- the seniors do the same thing with War and Peace. I beavered away at the Tobias Smollett translation for weeks in the un-air-conditioned top floor of a lovely house which belonged to the grandmother of a friend of mine. I've had far worse summers.

Sunday, January 3, 2016

movies seen in 2016 (Jesus Christ that year still seems unreal)

The Force Awakens (2015)
Star Wars (1977)
The Big Short (2015) (wow, HORRIBLY overrated. Watch The Flaw instead)
The Fast and the Furious (2001) (surprisingly good!)
Thor (2011)
GalaxyQuest (1999)
Of Dolls and Murder (2012) (MURDER DOLLHOUSES FTW)
Kiss Kiss Bang Bang (2005)
Under the Skin (2013)
Her (2013)
Lucy (2014)
The Fifth Estate (2013)
The Program (2015)
We Steal Secrets: The Story of WikiLeaks (2013)
The Social Network (2010)
Kill the Messenger (2014)
Ghostbusters (2016) (AWESOME)
Jurassic Park (1993) (first time in ages)
Moon (2009) (superb)
ARQ (2016) (Rachael Taylor!)
Amanda Knox (2016)
You've Been Trumped (2011)
Sherlock Holmes (2009)
Arrival (2016) (fantastic)
Rogue One (2016) (amazing)

TV shows:

Agent Carter S2
Person of Interest
Daredevil S2
12 Monkeys
The Man in the High Castle
Dark Matter S2
Luke Cage S1
Doctor Who S5 (rewatch)