Rabbits Full of Magic

19 December 2017

 

Star Wars The Last Jedi Review [SPOILERS]

So the other night I saw Star Wars: The Last Jedi. I am going to talk about it and there will be spoilers. Hold on to your butts.

Let's start off with the narrative. They are saying this is a "risky" and "challenging" entry that takes the series in a "bold new direction". I say they doing what they have always done, rehashing ideas from better movies, only this time with a modern cynical meta edge to it. They are saying this movie's big theme is "burning the past" and "all about failure" but they still have every character they started with (the one that dies shows that he can project himself across space and time so his death is at once rendered meaningless). In fact the new characters are all better off at the end of this film about failure than they were at the start:
On to the review. First some background. I am 36. One of my earliest memories is going to a movie theater with my parents and seeing Return of the Jedi as a young child. I remember seeing the other films on home VHS and broadcast on TV. I can dimly recall a Pac-Man neon sign that lit up in a crude multi color animation high upon one of the walls of the red theater. They are images and sound that is intricately linked to my psyche. They influence the very form of my memories, the treasured records of my too-short time on this Earth with the people I love. I remember my mother making soup as Yoda slapped around Luke Skywalker on a TV in the kitchen, my little brother playing at the table next to me. Idyllic times. For me and likely millions of people these are genuine memories and the formal baroque sci fi mythos is central to the collective unconscious of multiple generations.

Anyways I am an old fan. That's okay, Star Wars is no longer an isolated part of nerd culture, as nerd culture itself has completely transformed and is now totally mainstream. Star Wars is not the product of one weird film school grad, it is now made by Disney, one of the media monopolies of our age, a company with a greater reach than the Holy Roman Empire at the height of Catholic decadence and corruption. Right upfront I'll be honest: this movie felt more like watching a Disney movie more than a Star Wars movie.

The Last Jedi was fun, don't get me wrong. Some of the visuals were amazing. Leia's space scene was breathtakingly gorgeous, and made me tear up, thinking of the recently deceased Carrie Fisher, how she never got to use the Force powers that Yoda had hinted at in the first trilogy. And now in her final film, we see her use them, and it is a miracle, cos the people in charge of the new series could have waited another movie and she would have been dead by then (seriously they waited 2 movies before doing this). At any rate i found it poetic and gorgeous. It was pure Opera. It was pure in-diluted Space Opera. This moment was the closest this series has gotten to Space Opera since the asteroid scene in Empire Strikes Back (forever and always the best SW film). This is the closest these things will get to art. That she died after filming this and thus comes back in the film while she is dead to us in the real world is stunningly poetic and tragic.

When I saw that scene, as the camera held on Leia's quickly (though how quickly we don't know, this could all be in slow motion) freezing face I began to drift from focusing on the movie to thinking of Fisher and how sad it is that she is dead. My focus returned to the film and the film confirmed what I was recalling, that she was dead, alone, out in space, out nowhere. Then her hands began to move and she came alive again, gliding to the spaceship like it was a glorious motherfucking space opera you could be watching on a stage. It felt like I had witnessed a miracle. Nobody I have read reviewing this movie talked about this. Nobody has put this scene in the context of the actor's death. It's baffling. The critical community is either lazy or illiterate.

Of course people are laughing at this because the world is a place where you hear horrible opinions all the time now. The audience this scene was made for cannot appreciate art, it is there for consumption. The internet only promotes that which is sensational.

Beauty and grace are out, cynicism and skepticism are in.

The new characters were interesting. Kelly Marie Tran (one of the new rebels) and her friend who sacrifices herself for the good guys are both actors from Vietnam, and Tran's family actually moved to the U.S. to escape the Vietnam war in the '70s. It is very interesting that this film series (started during that time and consciously aware of it and also commenting upon it with Lucas trying to compete with his friend Coppola, author of the Vietnam-themed Earth Wars movie Apocalypse Now). Politically and historically this is a very interesting choice of casting, yet imo her character is poorly written. She is a very simple avatar of the hardline war hero.

She "opens his eyes" to the abuses of the Empire and war profiteering at the casino, with a redundant and annoying scene that once again lamely attempts to top the famous and never to be bested casino scene from the first film. Why do they even try to do this? This is as strange as Halloween in Atlantic City. Why must they keep trying to poorly remake perhaps the best scene in Star Wars? That scene alone may have made the original Star Wars a legendary film. This feels like watching a car commercial. The faux rebellious pro-consumer politics of this film may as well be pulled from that faux-revolutionary Pepsi ad for a historical/political context.

She is introduced scolding the supposed hero of the last film, Finn, who is introduced unconscious and wrapped in bandages, then trying to flee as the situation got desperate. Her character takes away time that we could be spending exploring his character. She literally stops him from going off and doing what he wants as a character. They go on a side mission to "learn about the exploitation and greed" of the First Order. The thing is, Finn is an ex-stormtrooper who had PTSD and quit, and this backstory was a notably unique and new take on the standard Star Wars formula. I think if anyone could provide insight into the First Order it would be a guy that was trained by it his entire life. The last film was him liberating himself from a life of war with the help of his new friends. In this film they are all separated. He doesn't even see Rey or Poe. It adds to the general feeling that these characters aren't really friends, not best friends like Luke and Han and Chewie and Leia were. When your characters don't have a strong friendship that was central to the success of your film series, you can't be surprised that the film comes across emotionally unavailable. Later on in the film Luke and Leia have their one scene together, a good chunk of it used to pass on Han's dice, a new prop they made up to be symbolic of how important the old movies were, basically something to promote the Han Solo side movie they are making. This is a promotional item he is handing her. Were these dice ever in the movies before? At any rate this is frustratingly weak film making.

FWIW I had a problem with the idea of Rebels stopping people from going AWOL but at that point i gave the film credit, i thought, maybe this will be a more serious look, maybe this will be more nuanced and realistic. Lol. No. Later on they hint that this more nuanced take with the "weapons dealer" scene. It is implied that someone is a spy, that arms dealers are selling to both sides. Do we find out the spy? Nope. Do we learn any more about this arms dealer? Nope. The idea that stakes have been raised or things are getting serious makes no sense when Poe ends up getting nearly the entire (most? tbh the scale of the armies in these movies has never been defined) fleet killed, including Princess Leia, a character of some reknown in this series. He only gets a slight slap on the wrist and is "demoted", offscreen, with not even a dressing down by a superior officer. If the rebellion allowed people to steal spaceships and ignore orders getting people killed, they would never have lasted this long. Which is I guess 30 years now after blowing up the second Death Star, which had the Emperor in it. It is absurd. There is a scene here with a guy that helped blow up the Death Star and here he is 30 years later doing the same thing to a different spaceship, how is is the Empire just gets more and more powerful the more they get blown up? This is not war but this is not even a film fantasy approximation. This is not a serious military or army, this is cartoon thin. Hundreds of people are dead so that Poe can look like a hero and nobody cares. How come Rose is not upset at this guy? The person introduced chastising somebody for trying to go AWOL is cool with this guy. He is directly responsible for her sister's death! Apparently it is ok because he was a hero in the last film and Leia likes him. Just keep in mind that the theme of this movie is also "It doesn't matter who you are".

You will read a lot of garbage and marketing speak about this film subverting things and offering a new direction. Really the film is like if you took the OT and stirred it up in a bucket, the shame shit, just out of order.

So we have a corrupt gambling empire with shady characters that sell out our heroes from the end of ESB + child slavery used for high stakes races from TPM, the Vader-Luke-Emperor three way battle from ROTJ, we have the Luke-Yoda ESB training thing in the middle, we have the Vader-Obi Wan ANH battle/sacrifice thing + AT-AT walkers on a white planet ESB + Luke looking at twin suns ANH (+ a shitty episode of the old Star Trek where they can't get out of a space cave?) at the very end. This movie talks so much about cutting off the past and ending your legends but it is all talk, the whole thing is very fetishistic of the original Star Wars. The last thing we see is 2 homages in one: a clean faced moppet chimney sweep extra from Michael Jackson's Moonwalker does the Force with a broom (making a reference to The Star Wars Kid, one of the internet's earlier memes) and the same kid playing with a makeshit Luke action figure and a lightsaber (and then flashing his Rebel Ring (buy yours today (seriously the last scene was like a Energizer ad or something)).

The film has to do two things: kill off the original characters in a way that gives motivation for new films going forward, and have the new characters do TWIZTED(tm) takes on old Star Wars scenes. Then they can sell "This isn't your Star Wars, grandpa" to kids and old jerks like me will dutifully (we have been trained for decades now) pay multiple times even to complain (and complaining is just free promotion, Disney is not stupid enough to ignore this). Thus everything is written to serve the new characters (they are the future, literally, financially), so people like Luke Skywalker get the shaft. They get distorted and turned into monsters to serve the new stories. People that have been heroes to millions of people for 40 years. This is why people don't like this movie.

So back to the start. Finn is trying to run away. Now back in the OT our rebel heroes worked with all kinds of scoundrel and scum. This is how we met Han Solo and Chewbacca. At the end of the first Star Wars Han Solo is loading up his shit and ready to take off. It has been pre-established that the rebels (and Leia-run rebels especially) are more or less cool with deserters, cool enough to pay them a ton of money before they leave at least. They gave him a ton of money and he was a rich man and going to leave to pay his crime debts at the end of ANH. Clearly they were cool w people signing up as mercenaries and leaving whenever they wanted. It does feel weird to have Finn trying to leave and be told he can't. How come every other character can do whatever they want but he can't? He has literally no agency (as in he cannot pysically move) until he puts his life at risk for the cause (a weirdly fascistic message for this so-called subversive film about "rebellion"). This is fucked up.

The thing is, Finn was the first new Star Wars character we got to see when the new trilogy got teased. Lando (who is missing in this movie even though they basically create the perfect corrupt place for his character to run but u got to pad out those cameos for $$$) was the only black Star Wars character for a long time. Then Finn shows up, the first person to be seen in the sequel trilogy. It was cool to see a minority get a lead role in this traditionally homogeous series. Then TFA came out and he was basically a sidekick to the two heroes. He was introduced with the most interesting and unique take on Star Wars that has literally never been done (from the bad guy's point of view) and just ignored it. That was just a backstory something cool for 15 minutes to get you hooked on the new movies, we are good at making things seem interesting but not following through (JJ is good at this). We don't even know his real name, two films in. Finn was a name he took when deserting. This could have been an interesting character to learn about. Who is this guy really? Where is he from? This movie has less of him than the first. It has been very unfortunate to watch him be squandered on side stories and cowardly sidekick antics, it feels backwards and tropey (not nearly as much as Jar Jar but this isnt really my place to speak so...). So in this film we have Finn go to a casino to see very obvious cartoons of rich oligarchs in order to make a point about why a rebellion is needed. This is the character point of this roughly 1/4th of the movie. Yet the last movie he was introduced as a storm trooper with PTSD who risked his life to leave. They can't even care about narrative beats that they set up in the last movie. Either that or Finn's story was the last thing on everyone's mind (that casino sequence received far more attention). They gave him a participation trophy and it sucks cos this would have been an opportunity to take Star Wars to actually new and interesting places.

Poe. I really dislike this character. Over the course of this film he directly disobeys orders and gets hundreds of people killed. Multiple spaceships are destroyed because of him single-handedly. I can buy a "Resistance" (this is the Disney brand for SW rebels now) that is desperate and serious and won't allow deserters but this guy would be thrown in the brig in a second in any real military hierarchy. Yet they keep giving him passes. He gets tons of screen time. We have no idea who this person is beyond "brave rebel fighter". Who are his friends? What does he value? Where is he even from? I have seen two films about this guy and can't answer any of these basic questions. This is poor writing. In the next film he could turn evil and it wouldn't matter cos he has never done anything that wasn't directly benefiting himself. If he dies will it even matter? Will we be shown his family, crying, on a distant planet, and wonder why we never saw anything of them and was cut off from establishing an emotional connection over 3 films? Poor film-making. I have read interviews and the director of this decided he didn't like the last movie and basically ignored it, so it's more or less confirmed that they aren't even making this up in arcs they are just pulling all of this straight out of their ass in a stream of shit. They aren't even trying to plan it out in 3 movie arcs. They know this is an endless moneybag. There is no need to try. They can just half ass it and still make more money than God.

Luke got the worst of it though. I don't understand how watching Luke Skywalker die can be a confusing and unmoving experience. Like much of the movie, he was a casualty of poor editing and blocking. I should be sobbing uncontrollably, this is my childhood hero, played by someone who was a decent actor and has only gotten better in time: this should have been a slam dunk. Imo Mark Hamill is not happy with the role and played it as such, he played it like it was a Comic Con performance. Brushing off the shoulder is a good example of this. Not saying he did not do a great job when things got dramatic. He was quite believable given the material. Unfortunately it was mostly nonsense.

A Force Tree? Religious Jedi Texts? We have seen 6 films detailing the lives and deaths of two Jedi and haven't heard a single thing about a tree or any Bible. In fact books are never mentioned and this is taken to be an oral tradition. Obi Wan never quoted any scripture - he didn't hand Luke a pamphlet alongside his lightsaber on Tatooine. Anakin wasn't seeking out forbidden Jedi writings that hinted at the dark side. Yoda never pulls out a book in the multiple visits he has with his student. It is an oral tradition. Most of the more mystical world traditions are. The doctrine is more fluid that way, it is more open, more capable of abstract thought. The conception of spirituality is more about discovery than following rules. Yet this movie's big thing is: Luke destroyed the sacred Jedi texts.

Let's say that again: Luke destroyed the sacred Jedi texts.

What sacred Jedi texts???

This is the movie. Luke has to appear to be an old out of touch religious nut so that Rey can have her journey. The director is emphasizing how subversive he is being by taking what they did before and just doing the opposite of that. So instead of Yoda being a wise and nonviolent guy who teaches his pupil, Luke is a dumb (thus the Bibles for the Christianity reference = in our current era religion is politically seen as inherently intellectually backwards) and violent guy who doesn't teach Rey anything. She goes into a Dark Side thing (a lightly conceived copy of the tree from Empire) and has a kind of Film Art 101 experience with a hall of mirrors.

Visually it is very cool but it is not explained and doesn't make sense. In the previous film they keep showing a flashback of her and her parents leaving. This is a very important part of her character, as it is shown multiple times in the film. In this movie she sees a somewhat mirrored wall and says "My parents?" as two darkened forms in the distance start to move towards her. Immediately I thought back to Harry Potter, another fantasy franchise which featured a similar device, made ~10 years earlier. The two forms walk up and merge into one, then it turns transparent to reveal... her. She is looking in a mirror. I suppose this may be clarified in the next film, so it's hard to make a judgement on it at this point. It has been taken to be a message of self-empowerment.

What people came away from this with was that her parents "Were nobody". I was like, are you serious? Because they are not related to the OT characters you guys aren't going to tell us who they are? Rey literally has no character definition because the OT characters are too important? isn't this messing with your message of self empowerment and it doesn't matter who you are even a chimney sweep from a broom commercial can buy a Rebel Ring?

This is something Kylo Ren says, "They were nobody, they were junkers who sold you off" or something like that. I want an answer. I don't care if they weren't related to the Skywalkers, if they were some random people we will never see again from a planet, you could have at least showed that. People are touting this as a positive thing that sets the film apart from the past. Yet it feels to me like defining by a negative. Rey's parent's just aren't Skywalkers. That is the answer. It is again fetishistic in its way of the OT while seeming to be subversive.

The entire Dark Cave sequence is ill-defined and can be interpreted in any number of ways. Again this is hedging their bets, something they do CONSTANTLY in this film. Something will happen and then immediately after something will reverse what just happened. Our heroes get captured TWICE and they escape capture like under a minute each time. It is like watching Scooby Doo or something at this point. Nothing is of consequence (the marketing and narrative will tell you how this is about failure yet none of the new characters end up with less power than they started with in fact they have more (Finn starts a deserter in a coma and bandages and ends as a hero with a girlfriend who is the ultimate hardline rebel)).

The very end of the film was really shitty. First of all I did not like Luke's arc at all. His entire arc in the OT was about forgiving his father, for REFUSING TO FIGHT. He threw away his lightsaber in ROTJ and that is the moment he won. This was a samurai move. This was a spiritual move. This was an anti-violent move. This is why he was a hero. He put down his sword and calmed his senses and those of his fathers by refusing to fight. In this movie they drag him back, cynically. He is made to appear and actually menace the groan-worthy line "The war will never be over" while threatening his nephew, the son of his two best friends. This is the heroic moment fans of this film are cheering about.

In truth it is debased. He isn't actually even there to fight this guy in person, he sends an avatar. It is the equivalent of cowardly taunting somebody on Twitter or something. This is why people hate this movie. It basically ignores all his character growth and makes him create an animation gif meme.

This is not Luke Skywalker. This is not satisfying. Not after living with this character for 30 years.  On the Jedi island he is drinking from space aliens and living with nature. This part I liked. I actually dug the detached monk Skywalker he started out as. It was downhill from there.

Rey shows up and starts swinging her laser sword around. She cuts off a rock and it destroys the work tools of the aliens that keep up her lodgings. She is a guest on their island and she does not give a fuck. In Empire Luke was picking up little lizards and snakes, hanging out, the actor genuinely communing with nature IRL. These were real, live animals that lived with Mark Hamill on set for months as they filmed the technically baffling sequence with Frank Oz as Yoda living underneath the floor and interacting via '70s video and radio signals (at one point Hamill picked up the Stones on his earpiece while filming ESB). Rey doesn't really seem to care about anything other than her mission because everyone in this film is just a walking plot device. It's funny that she destroyed a wheelbarrow full of food. By the way rich people are bad cos of this casino.

It was cool to see Yoda again, and I am glad they gave us back the mischevous Yoda from ESB, but this is nothing that TFA didn't do, neat rehashed with the old actors. They need to come up with new shit. Yoda causing lightning was cool to see and I guess it will be nice to see all these actors show up as ghosts in future films (another reason Luke's death mattered none) but it would have meant anything at all had Yoda once talked about the Jedi Texts or the Jedi Tree in any of the movies. seriously. I want to bring up this point again because nobody is talking about it and it is driving me insane. This shit was never in the movies. It is not part of the Force and it has never been presented in any of the (now 12 counting spin offs) Star Wars films. The entire gesture is meaningless. Perhaps if these things had been set up in the last film they would have carried resonance. But no, they are just props made for this movie. They have no connection to the Jedi, no connection to 40 years of films. Luke Skywalker is just going through the motions here for a paycheck. That's cool though, don't hate the player hate the game, I love Mark Hamill.

We should point out that the ending as presented makes no sense. Luke's death is confusing due to editing and writing, the twists and visuals emotionally jerking around the audience. Luke at first appears to be physically there, indicated by a tender reunion with Leia. Then he gets shot with a million lasers in a scene i felt like could have been a Dragon Ball Z cosplay skit that maybe should have ended with Luke going super sayan and shooting lightning. No, his plan is to sacrifice himself life Obi Wan. This is fine, repeating the first movie is fine, and tbh the first movie didn't make a whole lot of sense, but this is absurd. The thing is Luke is not really there but he astral force projecting a kind of 3d presence that is in essence a Tulpa ("physical" thing created with your mind). His goal is to be a distraction like Obi Wan. What is stopping our heroes from escaping? They are all in a cave ("the mines") and the only exit is covered up by a bunch of rocks (just barely, like there is a hole big enough for deer-sized an animal to escape though). This is seriously the finale to the movie. The rocks are covering an opening and it's maybe 15 feet wide or so, it's not really a huge opening. So Luke is fighting Kylo and keeping the bad guys distracted while the good guys try to leave this cave that could be in an episode of The Andy Griffith Show. You guys can't have a glowing gas planet or no gravity force dual or something? This is Luke's last stand, this is the best you came up with? Eh, it's hard to hate this movie though cos I love these actors, I love Mark Hamill.

I also love Laura Dern. It was cool to see her character, and while it sucked to see her not taken seriously by the dangerous Poe, it was cool to see that gender dynamic play out on screen and everyone see what a huge ass he was making out of himself. I loved Dern's wig too. To be honest, I never liked her wigs in the new Twin Peaks but this looked really cool, like she could have been in A Clockwork Orange. I also enjoyed her speech about believing in the sun at night being the most important because you can't see it and don't know it's there. It felt very real and almost Lynchian. A shame her character is killed by an idiotic script. This is a series where Luke Skywalker has to make a conscious effort to TURN OFF HIS AUTO AIM in the climax of his first movie, you are telling me this space ship doesn't have auto pilot? We see R2 and other robots constantly driving spaceships and other machines by themselves (BB-8 hilariously controlling an AT-AT earlier in this film), clearly this is a universe where automatic pilot is a thing.

Yet Dern for some reason has to stay on the ship. Maybe she had to because light speed does not work via auto pilot. I'm not buying that and neither are most people and sadly people are right when they call her the dumbest character in the series" (not only for this but for also allowing Poe to mutiny and then just still hang around i guess, what a great way to introduce your new Admiral of the Resistance character). In the dumbest film in the series (this includes Jar Jar, the sand, all of it). David Hasslehoff and Carolyn Monroe in Starcrash had the same plan but they used auto pilot. They were geniuses compared to these tools. David Hasslehoff in a 40 year old ripoff of this movie has outsmarted these characters.

When Star Wars is ripping off a late 70's ripoff of itself, you know it's in trouble.

(Btw I highly recommend Starcrash.)

((I just realized I ranted about this movie and didn't mention it opens with a fucking cell phone commercial joke.))

03 August 2017

 

Infinite Heaven of Twin Peaks


Let's rock. To start I was an OG Twin Peaks fan. Well, I was a bit too young to watch but I do remember mom and dad watching and hearing that dreamlike music before going upstairs to go to sleep. This weekend I visited my dad who moved to the N Ga mountains and we watched 11 episodes of the new season. We watched the first two and he kept saying, "Let's watch the next one", and we would go through 4 or 5 a day. He didn't remember it very clearly - it was probably 25 years since the original - but he was laughing about certain scenes. For instance the famous 2 1/2 minutes of zen barroom sweeping with Jacques Renault in the background (who is dead???). My dad was like "That is classic David Lynch" and was just grinning the whole time. Lynch has wonderful command of time, and it is a thrill to see him play with that during the new season. The awkwardness of time. He gets it.
Episode 3 was my fast favorite for a while. The whole industrial glitch-Eraserhead intro where Cooper is traversing the purple tinted industrial/steampunk/art-deco fantastical world of wherever the fuck this is supposed to be. All the stuff between the Coopers and electrical outlets. When the white electricity started coming out of the power outlet in Episode 3 I just about lost it with how cool and weird and unexpected and bizarre and right this felt. What does it mean? Honestly I love not knowing right now. This is one of the great things about the revival, we can experience it in sequence, like a classical TV mini-series, and not as a binge-watch all at once. As we often do in modern times, a la "On your fucking phone". It would be too incoherent. We need time to breath, to sit and think. I love not knowing the characters in the 50s. I love entertaining the very real possibility that it may not even be returned to again, and entertaining the excitement and scariness of all the crazy theories and ideas and universes that could explain this video. To devote our full attention (and expectations?) towards each precious minute of time and the creation of meaning. David Lynch is at once a character and the creator of the universe and he is literalizing the creation of new worlds. He is introduced in front of a giant mushroom cloud. Is it the same one as episode 8?



Episodes 3 and 8 are my favorite things Lynch has ever done. Episode 8 literally dumbfounded me, as much of this has, like the dead zombie kid growing out of the car seat, like the silent glass box that is a maximalist-minimalist depiction of Lynch's Zen dive into that endless ocean of ideas he is always talking about. The atomic explosion literalizes the creation, Lynch's creation of this universe, in all of its wonderful abstract Powers-of-10-meets-2001-meets-Brackhage glory. We see alternate universes being born, Big Bangs exploding, a visual Brainstorm. Then the Experimental being -gain a literalization? Of the creation? It looks asexual, both male and female. Like humankind when first created by God. It vomits bubbles and eggs and Bob, hovering in a grey and undifferentiated Zone. Then the trip to the convenience store. If you need anything you go to the convenience store. LOL. A little bit taking the piss. Taking the cosmic piss. Then the austere black and white theater where Laura's golden sphere is sent to Earth by a man and woman performing some spiritual ritual. Unlike Eve tempting Adam, he creates from his mind (faculty of imagination/prophecy) and gives her a golden orb that when kissed by the moon (the woman wears a lunar crescent and lunar imagery is throughout this place) is Laura. Laura is the golden atomic nucleus at the heart of the atomic explosion of ideas that is Twin Peaks. Then they do something crazy and show a 50s monster movie. Somehow they have boiled down the essence of Twin Peaks and are once again creating entire new worlds. It is a miracle.

30 June 2017

 

New Song From the Kiwis "We're Gonna Rob Your Bank"

I have been recording with Andrew Nicholson new music for a potential Kiwis release. There are a lot of ideas in the air and I am trying to constantly experiment. Even if I don't have a song idea in mind I will just start recording and make songs up as I record. This is one such song. I sat down to test the drums we were setting up and recorded the base track. Then I immediately added some guitars and we went from there, adding a little air organ and some synths. At that point there were no vocals so Andrew recorded some that ended up very spacey and unfocused so we reversed them and used them as backwards effect. Next I laid down some vocals and sang the first thing that came to my mind over and over again.

Later on I re-recorded the vocals and added some one-take bass. The second half was tricky and I was unsure what to do about the vocals, and at one point there were normal lyrics, but I am real self conscious about vocals and lyrics so I took them out. I wanted this to be more of a 2:40 mindfuck of abstract pop music. The perfect length for a 7" or single. It's like two songs in one. Anyways get it while it's hot I made this mix 10 minutes ago:


28 May 2017

 

Music from the Guide for the Perplexed



The Guide for the Perplexed was originally written about 1190 by Maimonides in Judeo-Arabic. It was first translated in 1204 into Hebrew by a contemporary of Maimonides, Samuel ben Judah ibn Tibbon. The work is divided into three books. According to Maimonides, he wrote the Guide:

... “to enlighten a religious man who has been trained to believe in the truth of our holy Law, who conscientiously fulfills his moral and religious duties, and at the same time has been successful in his philosophical studies”.

“This work has also a second object in view: It seeks to explain certain obscure figures which occur in the Prophets, and are not distinctly characterized as being figures. Ignorant and superficial readers take them in a literal, not in a figurative sense. Even well informed persons are bewildered if they understand these passages in their literal signification, but they are entirely relieved of their perplexity when we explain the figure, or merely suggest that the terms are figurative. For this reason I have called this book Guide for the Perplexed”.

Also, he made a systematic exposition on Maaseh Bereishit and Maaseh Merkavah, works of Jewish mysticism regarding the theology of creation from Genesis and the chariot passage from Ezekiel – these being the two main mystical texts in the Tanakh (Hebrew Bible). This analysis occurs in the third book, and from this perspective, the issues raised in the first two books are there to provide background and a progression in the mystical and philosophical knowledge required to ponder the climax.

Wikipedia on The Guide for the Perplexed

20 April 2017

 

New Songs 2016


I have already wrote and recorded a bunch of music this year, and after wrapping up a song I wanted to post it to my Bandcamp. So here it is, "There Are No Words", it is made of a few usual drum loops i always use (i don't have a lot of access to my drums) and has a lot of guitar layers. I was trying to write a shoegaze song by coming up with an instrumental and trying to bend a lot of notes, blurring the thing together. The lyrics for the verse came to me and i made up the chorus on the spot. It isn't sung with real words, just vocal sounds.


Here is another song from these home sessions. "Blue Hills" is an instrumental, just some layers of multi-tracked guitar, some of it looped, some of it backwards. I may add vocals to this layer but for now i really like the mood it creates as is.

There Are No Words
Blue Hills

20 February 2017

 
My Grandpa Hank died on Saturday, February 18, 2017. I just got back from the funeral. This week is 28 years since the death of his son, my uncle Michael, who was killed while driving to our house. He was just getting out of rehab and was going to move in with my mom, his sister, to help get straight. He never made it out of Atlanta.

His ghost has many sightings and looms large in family lore. At my house he would turn on and off the TV, flick the lights on and off, make appearances throughout the house. Once my brother woke us up screaming, saying his face was coming out of the closet. One time I remember waking up to look over and see his ghostly visage watching over my brothers as they slept. He followed us when we moved to the house next door, getting more obnoxiously poltergeisty, lights going on and off. My mother yelled for him to stop it, and was able to cast him out, and he went to Florida to live with my Grandma Pat in Tampa. Whenever we visited he would turn the TV on and grandma would complain to Mike in first person.

My mom and her sister both experienced Mike once again turning on and off the TV as they visited their dad. My grandfather lying brain-damaged, struggling to breathe, was flashing his arms in the air above, trying to catch something. Mom asked if it was Mike, and that if it was, could he show them a sign. The TV went on. It went off. It apparently did this for a moment, over and over. At the end my grandpa chuckled, the final laugh of his life. The TV was silent.

It is very difficult to comprehend all of this. This is a very close loss for all of us. It is like an out of body experience. I feel a very physical loss. It was painful to see him in his final moments, but even though he could not speak or do anything but look, he looked at me with his eyes, and I looked at him. We spent our last hour together at his house just sitting, breathing, resting. He was barely conscious and sleeping a lot, my mom shaking his feet whenever someone came to visit, saying "Wake up, daddy", reverting to a primal psychic language. To lighten the mood Mom wanted to play some music so I suggest Schubert. I found a compilation of "Music for the Angels" which had Schubert on it, popped open the CD case and took out a CD that was, you guessed it, Schubert.

After that it is a haze, a little family drama, some missed connections, getting pulled over by the cops, my 6yo neice inventing anime characters. I told my brother to watch "My Neighbor Totoro" with her, that it was by the guy who did "Spirited Away" and "Princess Mononoke". She said "I've seen that!" That's a heavy movie for a kid to see. Damn. She's going to be the coolest person ever.

I met my other aunt at the airport, she flew down and is the middle sister, still living up north. The family is from Akron, Ohio, famous for Devo, who was friends with my mom growing up, before the family moved to Boston. They knew people that went to Kent State too, they went to that same Diamond Dogs Tour David Bowie show. My aunt who flew in from Boston was getting picked up at the airport, and I don't have a car so arrange to ride out with her and a new, really awesome and caring in-law. I took MARTA to the airport and went to baggage claim. I was early so I sat down near some old lady and there was a bag under one of the seats. I asked her if it was hers, she said no, and that she had just reported it! I sat down next to her and some airport security came up to me. They had this fucking attitude and asked me "Hey sir, having a good day today?" like I was up to no good. Fuck those assholes.

My aunt's father died while she was on the airplane down to see him, and I was told not to tell her so that her sister could. I had these big purple sunglasses on so I could just cry whenever I wanted and it didn't matter. For most of the weekend I would slip into these half-hour long Slow Cries. So she was getting baggage and in her New England way throwing f-bombs and very pragmatically complaining and saying things like "I hope dad isn't mad at me for... etc" cos she didn't know. And I knew. It fucking sucked. She found out very soon, in the car. Our driver, my new uncle-in-law, was listening to Lithium radio, and it was playing Nirvana "Sappy" and Janes Addiction. This was very comforting.

While Grandpa was a awake, on Friday, we had planned on Sunday to have a "Celebration of His Life". He died Saturday around noon, so by the time I arrived, I realized it was a funeral. Only with no religion (in Grandpa's poems he wrote about God but our family is mostly ex-Catholic), just people talking in a room, a conference area we borrowed at the old folks home where he lived, and it filled up with people just sitting and hearing us talk about him. Grandpa Hank was a living legend, a walking saint upon the Earth, for us and for most everyone he knew. Born in Brooklyn, he soon moved to Akron where he lived most of his life, going into the Navy (decoding messages and playing basketball), then advertising (OG Mad Men), then through a divorce, married a 2nd time to the love of his life, into retirement and a good 20+ years of travel and charity work visiting inner city schools twice a week, giving book talks and lectures, and working to give back and help the underprivileged in one of Ohio's poorest and most troubled cities. He was an open-minded individual, a man of love, the most open-hearted person I know (next to mom). The world is a poorer place for not having him in it.

Still, he was slipping, and we watched him slip. He moved down south to be closer to us as this happened, and for that, I am incredibly thankful to have had all that additional time with him. But it was very painful in the end, and he is now given mercy. Amen. At the funeral there was a piano, so I sat down and played. I did ragtime versions of Super Mario Bros. music, some Slim Whitman, some Amazing Grace, When I'm 64, Velvet Underground, but all of it hitting wrong notes from time to time cos I am extremely out of practice, which was fine bc I was not in any frame of mind, and it was a background performance. Truth be told, I was hiding behind the piano, and didn't speak a word the whole service. The piano was a good place to cry.

That morning mom and I were crying in the kitchen and I suggested we make collages so we stopped that and started cutting out pictures of Grandpa and friends & family, remedying our afflicting with Art Therapy. These were displayed alongside a legendary cartoon of him drawn decades ago at the funeral in lieu of a body. It was a very informal, very humble affair, and I bet he would have loved it, if he wasn't actually there. He did die in that building, and if there are spirits, they tend to attach themselves to places most of all. My aunt and mom were remembering him conducting songs from the H.M.S. Pinafore as he drove them around, "What never! No never!" and nobody had set up a sound system so they were looking it up on the phone, the entire room just waiting. Mom dialed it up on youtube and put the mic up next to the phone, and we all strained to hear this crackly, distorted, electronic version of the song. It was kind of spooky tbh. It felt like she literally dialed into sound from the past and we were listening to that memory, all living that reality together, for a brief moment.

We talked about all of his famous in-jokes. Whenever we went out to eat he would always compliment the waitress on her looks (he was a ladies man from an older more elegant era) and when they asked him what they could get him he would say "A date with Sofia Loren". The man had taste. He was also a terrible flirt. Many women at the old folks home that spoke said that he made them feel beautiful and that it made them feel happy. In a very simple way, this is a good summation of what kind of person he was: he wanted to make people happy.

He will always be with me, forever and ever, amen.

Rest In Peace.

19 November 2016

 

Dust Bunnies "Femme Fatale" Velvet Underground Lou Reed cover


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