Sunday Sessions – A Long Time Ago…

And in a galaxy far, far away I recorded these songs. Since I didn’t do any recording today, I am posting three, count ’em, three songs. Two of which are instrumentals.

“The Key in the Ignition” was recorded while I was cat-sitting for David Silverman sometime in the late 80s. It’s not really a complete song, more of a sketch that ends abruptly, but there is something about the car that starts in the background that I have always liked.

“Glow in the Dark Rosaries” was an experiment in improvisation. I laid down a drum track and then each succeeding track was made up on the spot. Oh, I’m sure I did multiple takes -and developed the ideas instead of just making each track up in just one take. But I like the guitar in this one, and the way that I fit all the pieces together reminds me that I can create compositions rather than only write songs.

“Unicorn”– well, I really don’t have any memory of the circumstances surrounding this recording. It was probably done sometime between 1989 – 1991.

There you go. I hope you enjoy and would love to hear what you think.

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Warning: Light Blogging Ahead

As I have an academic article being considered for book publication, and as said article is due on September 1, and as I need to facilitate a great deal of improvement on said article, therefore I shall be blogging but lightly between now and said due date.

But fear not intrepid readers and eager listeners… the Sunday Sessions will be posted! However, rather than recording songs, I will most likely be posting some of LtL’s “deep tracks” – songs that I recorded on my old Tascam Portastudio back in the late 80s/early 90s.

A quick update on LtL’s goings on:

  • Now – “Redressing Ripley: Disrupting the Female Hero” – academic article due Sept. 1, considered for inclusion in a book being edited by Lisa Robson & Elizabeth Graham and published by Cambridge Scholars Press.
  • SeptemberNot returning to graduate school this fall. I am taking a leave of absence from the Theatre Ph.D. program at CUNY’s The Graduate Center.
  • September – Having been granted the film rights to Charles Mee’s Orestes 2.0, I will be adapting the play for film. If you are a director of photography or a producer and want to be involved in this project, please email me with a resume and why you want to help make a dogme-style film version of Orestes 2.0.
  • October – will be spent doing another draft of my play, Massive Gravitational Objects – after it has had a public reading produced by Emergency Theater Project (date TBA). After which I plan on letting the play fly free on the wings of submissions and see where it lands.
  • November – I plan on taking part in the National Novel Writing Month, and spend the month writing a 50,000 word novel–for those who don’t want to do the math, that is roughly 1700 words per day. Check out their site, and if you are interested in joining with me in this mad-cap writing adventure, let me know and we can start a LivingtheLiminal Novel writing forum.
  • Ongoing – Background development and collaborative brainstorming on Tales of the Frumush, Series 1: a multi-authored, epic series for the stage. Think Joss Whedon meets Mac Wellman, with some Ronald Moore, Charles Mee, and Caryl Churchill thrown into the mix.
  • Ongoing – Temping and/or getting some sort of “day job” in order to make money. Of course, if I happen to have a wealthy admirer out there who wants to become my patron and support my writing and directing goals, please contact me and I will gladly dedicate all my work in honor of you in return for your financial support. Just think of the karma points you would make off of this deal!
  • Ongoing Returning to a vow I made several years ago that I have not managed to keep up on a regular basis: write one letter every weekend to one person I care about.
  • Ongoing – working toward a goal of going to the gym 6 days/week and alternating days with 1 hour of cardio one day and 30 minutes of cardio and strengh training the next. Honest? I didn’t go today, and probably won’t.

I guess that about covers it. I would like to find some time to get out of the city for some canoeing and to enjoy a natural setting. I would also like to see some of the events at Spiegeltent – but that will depend first upon getting some work and some money.

I will leave you with a few quotations:

If all economists were laid end to end, they would not reach a conclusion. George Bernard Shaw (1856 – 1950) Why is this thus? What is the reason for this thusness? Artemus Ward (1834 – 1867) Violence is the last refuge of the incompetent. Isaac Asimov (1920 – 1992)

Lars von Trier, Part 2

(click here for the first part of this essay)

The Five Obstructions, perhaps one of von Trier’s most optimistic movies, answers that question with the idea that making art–and in this case, films–might hold the key to surviving this world with one’s honor intact. The setup of the movie is that von Trier challenges the filmmaker Jorgen Leth to remake his classic 1967 film “The Perfect Human.” Not only to remake it, but remake it five different times and each time he will be faced with a set of obstructions that von Trier will impose. So, for example, the first obstruction contains the parameter that each shot can only last for 12 frames before moving to a different shot. For those of you who can count film frames, that’s 1/2 second worth of shot before moving to another shot. In the forth obstruction, Leth is required to make a cartoon version, despite his hatred of animation. The rotoscoped version that he puts together with the aid of Randy Cole (Waking Life, A Scanner Darkly) is gorgeous, one of my favorites of the obstructions.

What is amazing about this movie is the reminder to all artists, that obstacles, obstructions, strictures, and other such limitations can be incredibly productive, driving the artists to reach new heights of creativity than he/she would otherwise reach. With each set of obstructions (and that word choice is important, as it could just as easily have been “limitations” or “rules”), Leth is at first appalled, clueless as to how he will surmount the challenges that von Trier sets out. But quickly the viewer sees Leth’s mind begin to work, finding ways around, above, under, and through each set of obstructions. The film should be required viewing for all artists and is an inspiring film. I would also argue that this is von Trier’s answer to the problem of being human: we must be true to ourselves and our art regardless of the obstructions in our way. Such as path does not guarantee happiness, but it does ensure a measure of honor, of freedom. I also think that “art” can be applied broadly here, to include the art of living, of being a friend or a lover, the art of family, or the art of politics. This is not simply a message that we should all be “true to ourselves.” Rather, that the answer to the guilt of being human is to create.

This helps explain the tragic structure of Dogville. In the end, it is both Tom’s inability to create, his need to experiment in life rather than sitting down to the hard work of writing, as well as Faith’s choice of destruction that cement the tragedy into place. Before I go further, I must note that Dogville is both an intensely disturbing and technically brilliant film. On the disturbing side, the film is brutal, forcing the viewer to look at images of power and abuse that are not graphic, at least not in relation to any number of other films, but that carry a moral weight that von Trier wields like a cudgel, hitting us in the gut and the heart over and over again. This is not a movie for fun or even enjoyment. Watch it only when you are able to deal with an utterly human, but utterly caustic vision of life.

On the technical side, von Trier uses the barest of settings and shot entirely on a sound-stage, this is a kind of Our Town for movies: the houses are drawn out on the stage, there are a few architectural elements (a church bell, some bushes, and some of the interior bits and pieces of the houses), but everything is, for the most part, quite literally sketched in. But the film stands up to the technique and I, for one, quickly lost sight of the “trick” of it all and became engrossed within the characters and the story. However, there is always a slight remove, or, rather, there are times when the staging does make itself apparent and you are pulled away from identifying with the characters and are able to reflect on their actions from a slight distance. In a sense, the viewer’s position matches Tom’s position: setting forces in motion, judging people and events, but never really becoming a part of it all.

The fact that Tom is a writer who plans great novels and even greater receptions of those novels but who has never written anything, is not inconsequential. I would suggest that it is the cornerstone of von Trier’s argument. Beyond the story of rape and revenge, of innocence and power; beyond the violence and the brutality that people are capable of committing upon one another, the story is set in motion by Tom. While he is an apparently likeable character, he is also sadistic, impotent, inhumanly ethical, and humanly hypocritica man. Much has been made of Nicole Kidman’s role in this film and the brutality she suffers. Less has been made of the brutality she inflicts. What I admire about this film the most is that it offers up a vision of revenge, of retribution and then refuses to condone or criticize this act. However, looking past this one film, and keeping in mind The Five Obstructions, Faith’s decision at the end is suspect because it is a purely destructive act.

This is where we get into some gender problems with von Trier that I’m not really ready to go into beyond the briefest of glosses. Of the films I have seen, women are most likely to be the agents of destruction. Katharina Hartmann (Barbara Sukowa) sets the bomb in Zentropa, Medea kills her children, Faith orders the slaughter of the town. Even in Dancer, Selma is responsible, no matter how justified, for killing a man. This is not a facile suggestion that von Trier is sexist or misogynistic. And I would need to see some of his other films as well as reviewing the ones I’ve seen to make a coherent argument about his gender politics. However, I didn’t want to leave this essay without at least mentioning the potential problem of his representation of women.

In conclusion, I wouldn’t recommend his films, except for The Five Obstructions, to everyone. If you want to challenge yourself with films that expose the wet and bloody viscera of the human psyche, if you want to watch a master filmmaker at work, or if you want to be made to genuinely feel something while watching a movie, then Lars von Trier won’t disappoint.

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Sunday Sessions – Song 4

This one took me most of the afternoon and evening – I think next week we’ll go back to a simpler recording style, but for today we have a drum machine (which I programmed this afternoon), 3 guitar tracks, and multiple vocals. Let me know what you think.

Recording Session: Aug 20, 2006 /2:30pm – 9:00pm Song: There’s a Place‚ written 2004 Lyrics:

there’s a place on your neck that i’m trying my damnedest to forget there’s a light in your eyes like you gathered up all the stars and put them inside and you wanted and i wanted too but the time just wasn’t right and the place wouldn’t do
so i’m left with a question your ghost on my cheek what do you do with a vision that you know you never will see
looking for a home that i’ve never had before in the eyes of too many strangers and too many whores but when i held you close knowing i couldn’t keep you, knowing i never wanted to let you go never wanted to let you go but i was just a vacation for you cause you already had someone else to be home
so i’m left with a question your ghost on my cheek what do you do with a vision that you know you never will see and i’m left with a memory that grows colder each night that pales and fades and disappears leaving only the ghost of our one night so i’m left with a question your ghost on my cheek what do you do with a vision that you know you never will see
there’s a place on your neck that i’m trying my damnedest not to forget there’s a light in your eyes like you gathered up all the stars and put them inside

Links You Should Follow

Politics:

With the use of terror as a political weapon growing to be the norm, both for terrorists and elected officials, Craig Murray, a former British Ambassador to Uzbekistan, offers a clear review different viewpoint of the alleged plot in Britain, pointing out facts that most other news outlets have neglected (such as the fact that most of those detained by British police didn’t even have passports, which would make getting on a plane with anything a near impossibility).

“The UK Terror plot: What’s Really Going On?”

Music:

James Kim, over at Cnet.com has a great article regarding digital rights management. If you are like me and hate the fact that most online music stores restrict downloaded content to one proprietary form (Itunes) or another (WMP), there is some great info here. The highlights are the stores that enable you to buy non-restricted formats:

There are actually a bunch of Web sites, stores, podcasts, and other places that cater to those looking for good DRM-free music. In addition CNET’s own music.download.com, there’s musikethos.org, where you can download a broad range of classical music and other music in the public domain or authorized to be used under Creative Commons licenses. There is also Audio Lunchbox, an eMusic-like site offering loads of indie-based MP3s. We like Live Downloads, a site where you can download recordings of live performances in either MP3 or uncompressed FLAC. And there’s Magnatune.com, which states: “No major label connections. We are not evil.” You might not be able to download Shakira or Gnarls Barkley from these sites (though you can stream some songs for free), but you’ll get Ulrich Schnauss, Starlight Mints, and other indie faves.

Read “Rallying Behind the Emusics of the World” for more great information.

Humor:

Actually, this is kind of scary-funny, but you should check out H.E.R.B – Had Enough Religious Bullshit!! For those who are religious, this site is not anti-religion, it is anti-theocracy. Of course, that naturally lends itself to being anti-Bush… a very, very good thing in LtL’s opinion.

Futurism/Speculative Science:

An interesting set of propositions, and definitely some food for thought can be found in David Brin’s essay “Singularities and Nightmares.”

I’ll be back soon with the second part of my Lars von Trier essay and some more music extras.

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Sunday Sessions – Song 3

This is a simple song, just guitar and vocal. I’m not completely satisfied with it, but the point of these sessions is to get things recorded and out there. Enjoy…

Recording Session: Aug 13, 2006 / 7:45pm – 9:00pm Song: Untitled #1‚ written sometime 2003 Lyrics:

the flames danced naked in your eyes as i caught my breath under candlelight and a falling sky our hands lightly touched like a poems whisper from a child’s lips your heartbeat gently rhyming mine the sound of your voice like softly speaking stars falling into time

View from the Gowanus

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J & I went canoeing this afternoon. Canoeing on the Gowanus, or, as Southbrooklyn.net calls it, “an incredibly dirty body of water located in the heart of Brooklyn.” Yes, how scary is that. Actually, the next picture captures the greenish tint of the water (and not a good greenish tint at that!) a bit better:

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The canoe was provided by the Gowanus Dredgers Club and we were on the water for only about 30 minutes. The canal cuts through industrial buildings, so you could almost imagine it was a post-apocalyptic journey through the ruins of humanity.

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Still and all, it felt great to be back in a canoe again – I really did love canoeing when I was a teenager. The Dredgers Club is doing a canoe trip out to Governor’s Island on Sept. 2 that I am thinking of doing, but I also need to get out of the city and do some canoeing or kayaking outside of an urban, dirty, polluted area!

Lars von Trier, Part 1

The first Lars von Trier film I saw was Zentropa, which I saw sometime in the early 90s. This was back in his “stylized” phase and the film was beautiful: black and white, but with various bits of color added in during some of the scenes. Starting with the amazing voice of Max Von Sydow “hypnotizing” the spectator, Zentropa creates a dreamscape, memories that seemed real if not quite your own. There is an inevitablility to the film, a sense at the beginning that we have already reached the end and the spaces in between are important not because of their trajectories, but for their textues – the way light moves across her cheeks, or the smell of his aftershave; the sound of fabric against a smooth thigh or the tast of a rose petal. I still love this film. Despite it’s “tragic” ending, it is one of the more gentle films he has made.

Dancer in the Dark hits you in the gut. Hard. I remember the feeling of hollowness I had after watching it six years ago. For several weeks afterwards I told everyone I saw that they should watch the movie… yet forgot to mention just how depressing and raw the film was. What I watched it again several years later I still felt (and feel) that von Trier is capable of exposing the innards of humanity, the guts and viscera of the human psyche. Bjork’s performance is startlingly powerful, and deeply troubling when you find out how far von Trier pushed her, how sadistic he was as a director. Yet, the result is astounding. As with his movies, there is no easy answer as to the “rightness” or “wrongness” of his actions as a director. Her vow to never act again because of the depths to which he pushed–not led, not guided, but pushed her–is disturbing.

Recently I have seen three of his films, Medea, The Five Obstructions, and Dogville. These are intriguingly different films, with Medea being released in 1987 while The Five Obstructions and Dogville both came out in 2003. Medea, is an interesting take on the Medea play, with a screenplay based on a scenario by Carl Theodor Dryer, who is most known for his silent film The Passion of Saint Joan, and with whom Von Trier was supposedly in contant telapathic contact with while making the movie. Kirsten Olesen’s performance as Medea is riveting, and the film has a clautrophobic, damp feel to it, as if the walls are closing in or the mud is sucking you down. Yet, the scene in which Medea kills her children is done in the open, a landspace of sky and grass with one bare tree breaking the space. Some of the cinematography is utterly unique, creating images that surprise you, yet draw you further inwards to the heart of the story.

I wouldn’t say it is the best telling of the story, nor would I say it is the best of von Trier’s work, yet it is compellingly of a piece with his other films. Specifically, there is a sensibility to his movies that the human condition is inexorable: there is nothing we can do to escape the prisons we make for ourselves out of our desires and our fears. From what is rumored, von Trier is a sadistic director. It would be too easy, however, to dismiss his movies as merely sadistic excersizes in flaying open the human soul to the sheer fun of it. Von Trier forces the spectator to watch and, in some ways, participate in the vivisection of humanity. Medea, as with his other films, seems to me concerned, first and foremost, with issues of responsibility and culpability. There is no guilt or innoncent here: only guilt. Jason is guilty of betraying Medea, Medea is guilty of sacrificing her children. The central question for von Trier, and one that is picked up in both The Five Obstructions and Dogville, is how does one bear his/her sins? How does one take responsibility for his/her actions in a world that refuses to allow even the most innocent of characters relief from the guilt of being human.

(End Part 1, please click here for the second part of this essay)

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Web 2.0

There is a great deal of ballyhoo about Web 2.0. Whether you are excited by the concept, or tired of the hype already, check out Yay Horray’s Web 2.0 Logo Design project. They have taken famous logos and remade them in the new styles.

Also, you might want to check out Office 2.0 – an experiment in using only web based applications for all computer tasks.

Nedwolf has a list of Free Web Applications that is worth a look as well.

Recently, and as a consequence of temping, I’ve become enamored with portable applications that run off of a usb drive. I have Portable Firefox, Portable Opera, Portable Gaim loaded up and with me whenever I work a temp job so that way I know that I have better browers than IE as well as an instant message program… all of which don’t leave any trace of themselves on the host computer so I don’t have to worry about somone seeing that I’ve been chatting or updating my blog or reading Lifehacker. Portable Applications has the best website for exploring these programs.

I think I prefer portable apps over web apps simply because I know that I don’t have to access the internet to use them–yes, I know, the ones I have on my usb drive are all for accessing the web, but it’s the concept them… I mean, I’m trying to figure out why I might need to have the OpenOffice.org suite on my flashdrive and just can’t come up with a good reason. Although, having Portable GIMP, an?†open?†source?†image program similar to Photoshop, on the flash drive might prove useful sometime.

Anyone else use portable apps or web apps? Let me know if you have any particular recommendations.