Flywheels and Crucifictions, One Crazy Bastard and his “FUCK YOU” ponyshow

This is the second post in our speed-related series “Speed Trials, refractionist ” I was tipped off to the video on Kottke.org. This piece by Chris Burden takes advantage of a giant, web 19th century iron flywheel joined up with a low power motorcycle.

As you can see it takes about a minute for Burden to give the flywheel a full “charge.” At that point the wheel is spinning at an insane rate, page and according to information online, the wheel spins for 3 hours before stopping. In the early 70s, Chris Burden made a name for himself in the performance art world. As I learned from this New York Times article, (from 1989) the man quickly created a reputation for staging ridiculous acts, such as being half-crucified on the roof of a VW Beetle in Trans-Fixed (1974), or trapped in a locker in the aptly-named Five Day Locker Piece (1971).

As mentioned in the NYT story, Burden’s work is often viewed as part of an art history trend of “undermining the notion of art as a salable, museum-friendly object.” On one hand I appreciate the more ingenious mechanical aspects of Burden’s work, though some of his other pieces leave me with a twinge of annoyance, that by acting out in desperate, and embarrassingly self-deprecating way, he was able to achieve fame. The fact that he went through with being crucified on a car, electrocuted or trapped in a locker for 5 days is impressive, but only in the fact that he went through with them, not so much the ideals behind them. I don’t mean to suggest that those pieces are devoid of meaning, as it is possible I’m missing something. Perhaps what hits me wrong is that much of Burden’s work contains a property that suggests his yearning to be accepted in the insular art world, while at the same time offering a superficial, ponyshow “fuck you” to the establishment. In either case, Burden is a name worth knowing about. He’s not entirely on point all the time, but then again who is.

Podmonsters: Jordan, Jesse, GO! with David Koechner and James Adomian

Let’s reminisce a bit, ailment to a show I attended during the Bridgetown Comedy Festival on April 26th at the Bagdad Theater here in Portland. I’d originally came to the “Monsters of Podcasting” set to check out the live recording of You Look Nice Today. If you are unfamiliar with YLNT, pregnancy it might be best described as a group of friends with writing/improv comedy backgrounds who, it appears, decide on a loose guideline for each show and then banter their way through it as if they were shooting from the hip. It’s quite entertaining if you can get past the absurdist nature. This set felt a little forced though it might be purely because I was watching them for the first time. To my surprise I was actually more impressed with the act that followed (which I’d never heard of before), Jordan, Jesse, Go!

JJG is hosted by Jordan Morris and Jesse Thorn. They’re able to get a surprising quality of guests to appear on their series, which has just recently passed the 100 episode mark. A few of those include the heroic Kurt Andersen, a co-founder of Spy magazine, and Daily Show correspondant Rob Corddry. In this live video you’ll find impression comedian James Adomian making a guest appearance as Gary Busey. While Adomian went unacknowledged during the live taping, he’s a legitimage force – if you’ve seen Harold & Kumar Escape from Guantanamo Bay you will have seen him in his most famous role, a pot-smoking George W. Bush. As you can see from the video he pulls off the Busey impersonation like a pro.

The next guest was David Koechner, who you should instantly recognize – probably most famous for his role as “Champ” in Anchorman.

I won’t get too much into the nitty-gritties of the show, because it’s right there, just watch it. If you enjoy it, I’d recommend checking out the podcast, Jordan, Jesse, Go! – I’ve been getting into it at work and I’m pretty sure it’s making me smarter, so don’t get too far behind.

It’s also notable that Mr. Thorn also hosts another fantastic show called “The Sound of Young America,” a public radio show featuring interviews and music from a variety of American musicians. Both shows can be found on the admirably-named website, Maximum Fun.

7:20 Tomorrow Night, I’m gonna get Hungover.

  • Posted by
  • on June 4, 2009
  • Filed in: Film

First off, prescription let me get this right off my chest, I happen to be slightly bitter that my little brother has gotten to see Away We Go already, no more than two minutes before I opened this site to sit down and write (Unfortunate Rhyme (which will someday be the lead character in a white rap pseudo biopic pot comedy that I have been kicking around in my head) and for that I am sorry), I saw a preview for that movie, and fell in love with it all over again, the preview crushes me, then I see that flat out amazing review, which I skimmed, cause I had some ideas of my own in my head, which at this point and that insanely structered “thesis” statement. Well let me just say, I can’t wait to sit down and fully read his review, almost as much as I can’t wait to rush out and see that movie at the earliest possible convenience (man I had a bastard of a time spelling that for some reason, even with spell checker, I just struggled, I need to sleep).

Right, the main event, we have all been so blessed over the last several years with a staggering array of R-Rated comedies, that have been hit out of the park, over and over again. This week, The Hangover, will make its run at the King of the adult comedy Castle, though, it’s going up against a Juggernaut (spelled that one perfectly first try, go figure): I Love You, Man. If you’ve seen it, you know, if not, go see it, then you’ll know, yes, it’s THAT good. 

Now, I thought of myself as someone who would have celebrated Todd Phillips’s entire career, turns out not so much, I’ve actually seen less than half of his movies, but I’m a fan of his work, that I’ve seen, Road Trip has it’s moments, but I remember the experience of going to see it the day it came out, I was was 20, it packed theater on a Friday night, with a good group of friends, us having poured vodka into one liters to sneak into the show. Starsky and Hutch, wasn’t a disaster, but it wasn’t Broken Lizard Dukes level of entertainment. Old school, was his crowning achievement to date as far as I’m concerned, that movie still makes me laugh out loud on a regular basis, where as Road Trip registers an occasional bourgeois-ish chuckle, like pfft, my taste is so much more refined than that, when in reality, Im sitting here enjoying the shit out of The Heartbreak Kid for like the third time, so I really have no rights, my taste is so all over the the maps, that Al Gore has to use a pneumatic platform to illustrate how odd they really are. Interesting piece of cinema history/trivia for you all, Old School was one of two movies, that have both Will Ferrel, and James ‘The Ragin’ Cajun’ Carville in it. True Story.  » Read Full Story

Away We Go: Earned Emotion

  • Posted by
  • on June 4, 2009
  • Filed in: Film

Sam Mendes’ new film is billed as a comedy but it plumbs the depths of melancholy as much as it pursues the funny bone.  The presence of melancholy shouldn’t be a surprise as he’s built his career around the emotion (American Beauty, sale Road to Perdition, recipe Jarhead, Revolutionary Road). The surprising part is that he’s making a comedy of any kind.

Summary taste: John Krasinski and Maya Rudolph are having a baby and they decide to fist-fight flux by searching for the right city to raise the child. The journey is composed of chuckles, cringes, belly laughs and, at least in my audience, sniffles.

The streetfight between somber and plucky could place a wet blanket directly on top of the demographic that seeks the sort of plucky that is only accompanied by superficial emotional turmoil.  The scathing, close-to-bone,  tone Away We Go adopts to deliver its portion of sadness offers a valuable juxtaposition to the moments of beauty and hope it also offers.

A question: does the fuzzy, singer-songwriter, veneer offered by the trailer accurately represent the film or does it just attempt to cling to a vibe that is readily-identifiable as hip?

The danger that comes with the commodification of “indie” films is that the independent spirit is often lost in the factory mechanisms of studio filmmaking. As a result you end up with something resembling a product, not a film.  This conveyor-belt process is summarized below:

PARTICULAR FRINGE ART FORMS → PARTICULAR FRINGE ART GAINS STEAM → STUDIOS RECOGNIZE AND EMBRACE THE FRINGE → FRINGE IS NO LONGER FRINGE → NEW FRINGE ART FORMS TO REPLACE FALLEN BROTHER

And then the snake eats its own tail for the next couple hundred years.

What should be taken into account when dealing with a film that first-urge wants to dismiss based on the above-mentioned circle of pain and hellfire, is that the quality of the film still is still relevant.  To disregard a work based on its often-unavoidable partnership with the hype-machine and marketing gurus is an insult to a process which, despite thousands of variables, still holds the potential to produce something fantastic.

So, at first glance, the gut might suggest to the brain that Away We Go falls ever-to-conveniently into the post Garden State wave of woe-is-me-set-to-kickass-music films. The difference between this film and many of the other lost-in-my-generation types that have come out in the past five or so years is that this emotion feels earned.

The episodic manner in which the narrative unfolds offers perspective, both good and bad, for the many different ways a family can operate. It doesn’t offer a clear-cut “this is the way it’s done” but the problem with a number of films like this is that they attempt to offer cure-alls to problems that are more complicated than can be adequately addressed with 90-120 minutes of film. Away We Go comes to terms with this and offers these varying perspectives as productive alternatives. Snippet here, snippet there. If this works, take it. If it doesn’t, leave it.

It was a crafty move by screenwriters Dave Eggers and Vendela Vida to offer a narrative that, while always moving along, rarely treads into obvious emotional growth by the leads. Almost as though the main characters merely serve the function of the control while the people they meet are the variables. To further accentuate this dynamic Mendes cast two non-leads. John Krasinski might be the anchor of a television program but he is an unproven talent in feature filmmaking. Likewise, Maya Rudolph can pull off the subtlety of everyday-woman because she is not commonplace on marquees and I haven’t had the privilege of being assaulted by her face in the tabloids.

That is not meant to be a slam on either of their abilities, in fact they had a very believable routine-like chemistry which I didn’t expect to be so impressed by. My mentioning their relative lack of exposure was meant to be a compliment on Mendes’ savvy understanding of audience’s expectations. Alexander Payne, one of the baddasses on cinema’s corner block, pulled off a similar feat when casting Sideways. George Clooney wanted desperately to be cast in the second banana ex-TV-actor role. But writer/director Payne wouldn’t agree. Despite the healthy box-office boost Clooney’s name would have garnered the film Payne understood that the distracting elements of SUPER MOVIE STAR Clooney in the role of a failed actor wouldn’t be worth the box office boost and would have likely come off as more gimicky and less believable than Thomas Haden Church’s performance.

You might not find an answer to your unidentifiable worry by watching Krasinski and Rudolph navigate a particular path of adulthood, but you might exit the theater with means to appreciate a side of things that was previously obscured by the fuzziness that comes with close-proximity.

Verdict: he likes it!

The fantastic supporting cast should be noted, as they carry much of the weight: Catherine O’Hara, Jeff Daniels, Maggie Gyllenhaal, Josh Hamilton, Jim Gaffigan and Allison Janney.

Opens in NY and LA on June 5th.

The Ascetic Junkies performing “French Girls,” 2 Cameras and a Projector

Another concert video from the January 2nd show at Mt. Tabor Legacy. The folk-frenzy of the Ascetic Junkies is in full force with their song “French Girls.” If you like this video, mind check out “Kansas Road Trip,” which I posted at an earlier date. This was filmed by Sean Whiteman and myself, the re-projected video is a direct line from Sean’s camera.

Herzog Unlocks Cage: Crack Pipes at the Ready

  • Posted by
  • on May 28, 2009
  • Filed in: Film

I always have trouble sitting idly by as the masses ridicule Nicolas Cage. I think it’s the consistency at which he headlines the most godawful shit to hit the multiplexes that really gets people’s collective goat. If he made one clunker every couple years it would be harder to maintain such an active level of hatred for the man. But, this web unfortunately for him, he is a prolific garbage man.

All the same, when people go to town on the fella it still rings foul. He’s the same man who gave me Raising Arizona, Adaptation, Wild at Heart, Bringing out the Dead, Con Air and The Rock (irony is not being employed in the last two selections, just tender love for an oft-maligned genre).

A friend and I started assembling a theory a year or so back. It basically detailed Nicolas Cage as a man with a truly manic energy that, if channeled correctly, can be Nirvana at 24 frames-per-second. If you give the wrong director or project this energy then a void the color of every child’s nightmare opens up and the spirit of a theater full of people can be sucked to nothing and replaced with venom before the director’s credit appears on the screen.

So, when I heard Werner Herzog was directing Cage in a remake-but-not-remake-more-like-reboot-that-borrows-the-bad-lieutenant-brand-if-you-could-actually-say-bad-lieutenant-of-all-films-has-a-marketable-brand I was giddy. I had just forged deep into Herzog’s filmography in the past year and it became apparent that Herzog was THE master of harnessing madness.

After watching the just-released trailer it suggests, if nothing else, both men went bug-fuck crazy together and that sort of fraternal insanity is a guaranteed wallet-emptier for me.  Enjoy the trailer and wait till the appropriate moment to bust out your lucky crack pipe.

ICING ON CAKE TERRITORY: Val Kilmer, a man who deserves a similar-in-praise column, is also holding fort in this redemptive clusterfuck.

King Khan and the Shrines Wreck Dante’s

Sean’s been telling me sporadically about the King Khan and BBQ show for a while, view since he used some of their music in his feature length film “The Disgusting Little Shiver” – I just recently started listening to their music after our friend Jeff purchased a 2-vinyl album and left it in my collection. Listening to it did not prepare me. I was expecting a fuzzy, store garage-rock set, diagnosis not a sweaty, collective freakout.

Their current tour has King Khan and BBQ split up, performing with their own bands. The headliner of the night was undeniably King Khan and the Shrines, though BBQ (Mark Sultan) didn’t disappoint either.

King Khan and the Shrines

KK & The Shrines collectively is about 8 members (guitar, bass, drums, sax, trumpet, keys, a dancer and King Khan on vocals and guitar) and once they got onstage the tone changed quick. The crew of half a dozen dancing fans turned into a sweat-soaked semi-mosh of a dance party. Though the band was playing tight, a couple of them seemed on the verge of being sloppy drunk (like the keyboard player who kept putting his keyboard up on his shoulder like a bazooka, playing half melodically). It didn’t matter. The crowd was into it. About half way through the set BBQ came back out to perform a song, then disappeared again. King Khan left and re-emerged with a plastic MF Doom-style mask and a cape.

King Khan and the Shrines

They continued on crowd-pleasing, and soon an entire cake, with candles lit, was brought out. After a handful got smeared on King Khan’s chest, a crew of colorfully-dressed ladies proceeded to throw handfuls of cake at the crowd, some got threw back. By the time the show finally wrapped up I was just glad that I didn’t work at Dante’s because the stage and the floor was filthy with cake, sweat and glitter.

King Khan and the Shrines

Awesome show, if you get a chance see them in concert. They are playing a show in Eugene tonight, sponsored by my homies at the Oregon Voice and the University of Oregon’s Cultural Forum. See the rest of the pictures on Flickr.

Terminator Salvation: A Cinematic Milestone

  • Posted by
  • on May 25, 2009
  • Filed in: Film

In my decades of cinematic adventures, practitioner on countless occasions, I’ve checked show times, and decided upon seeing a flick, and I hoped in the ride, and head down, watched said flick, and went on l-i-v-i-n. Today, I decided to see the new Terminator movie, on a whim, and like I had done countless times, hoped in the car, and head out for the local cinemaplex. Something happened with this movie, that has never happened in all my years of filmgoing. I couldn’t bring myself to see it, I turned around, came home, and logged into the internets. Not quite sure why I couldn’t see it, maybe it was the unimpressive previews, maybe it was the PG-13 rating. Maybe it was the fact that I literally just don’t care if I see it, and so a memorial day weekend shall pass with out me in a theater, which Im sure has happened before, but I can never remember turning around, after I had made my mind to see a movie. Peace Folks, enjoy your day.

“Trying” by Grey Anne

Here is another cut from the a January 2nd show that I blogged about earlier. This was a show we organized at Mt. Tabor Legacy to experiment with some live projection techniques. Aside from some janky wooden ladder climbing, try it was a pretty successful evening. Grey Anne’s performances are always interesting to watch, she plays multiple instruments, looping them (using a Boss RC 20XL I believe) as well as singing throughout.

Check out some more music by Grey Anne on myspace – her recorded tunes are a different experience to that of her live shows. The tracks from “Facts and Figurines,” her long awaited album (out in 2008) feature a handful of other local musicians helping Anne achieve a “full band” sound. Quality CD, check it out. You might also check out the episode of Penny Jam in which we featured Anne performing in a room full of mannequins.