...where distraction is the main attraction.

Friday, August 24, 2007

Bittersweet August

I sent my good bye email to the staff at DCTC today. Originally (as of last night) it was going to start with a bunch of jokes about how it was bittersweet -- bitter because I was pulling a late night and sweet because it was my last. But I decided against that because I know people read truth into sarcasm so instead I toned it down. Here it is:

It's 8/24 and I have now turned over my badge and weapon. The Silver Spring days draw to a close.

I want to thank all of you for helping me feel at home here. I am a much different person than I was on February 23rd, 2004. All of these responsibilities I have had forced me to grow up. Interactions with all of you helped me to think bigger, taught me how to problem solve.

The hiccups of turmoil and shining successes taught me that the heart of a company is its employees. We are more than just lines on a budget, the product comes from us. Thus this company's future is bright because it is made up of really wonderful people.

So this departure is bittersweet because I want to take you with me. Unfortunately our Civic is already full of luggage, plants, Lindsay Lohan fan club posters, and bottled water.
Be well, People! It has been an honor.
Thank you.
Michael K.

I'm turning 29 today too. My stomach's been in knots (more than usual). I'm probably a little nervous about the future. Possibly experiencing some withdrawal or separation pangs a little early from this life I've led for the past four years.

I'm not that worried about the birthdays in the 30s. My body's holding together relatively well. My most important pipes are still working, thank the Powers that Be (since the Powers that Be are always on the Blogging tip). I have hair where I shouldn't and missing it where it should be, but that's been going on for some time. Age has little meaning for me now, though I am moving to a place where the industry seems to think that it matters. But I've been too old for that industry for years, since at least 1991.

I'm going out for drinks tonight, er, in one hour. So I'm writing this post as fast as possible. No grammar or missing-word check. I've gotten generous material gifts from several people. Generous non-material gifts from so many more. I seem to get shaken out of my self-centered world when I find out that people miss me. So it's only appropriate to drink it away. Ha HA!

Going to have to finish this thought on the other side of 29.

Sunday, August 19, 2007

Review: Tender Mercies

Despite all of its "Jesus"es and "Lord"s, Tender Mercies (written by the brilliant Horton Foote) is remarkably Zen in the simplicity of its story and direction. Like one of Kurosawa's failed, drunken ronin looking for a home, Mac Sledge (Robert Duvall) is trapped by his rage. A once-popular country singer, he struggles with control over The Bottle and fights himself to lead a balanced family life. One doesn't need to enjoy country music to appreciate this movie. I've always struggled to get through an entire 3 minute modern country song, myself. But one can see the roots of the genre in Mac's old school version of country, a little blues and a little folk and a big broken heart; songs with titles like "God Learned to Forgive me, Why Can't You?" These tunes are directly contrasted with the full-band over-wrought easy-listening version of '70s country sung by his ex-wife (Betty Buckley), seemingly a pointed commentary on country music at the time.

Tess Parker is quiet and warm as Mac's new wife, Rosa Lee, who's determined to work through all of her man's darned quirks to make their family complete. One shot of her stands out: As Mac jumps into his truck, angry about his undying desire to keep writing music, she watches him leave. To the left of her stands a Coke machine with the old Coca-Cola slogan "Here is the real thing."

There's a wonderful scene at the end of the second act between Mac and his daughter (a fragile young Ellen Barkin) whom he hasn't seen in nine years. Mac is so humble and devoid of anger, that it's heartbreaking when he says he doesn't remember the lyrics to the song he sang to her when she was little. But once she's gone he quietly sings those very lyrics to himself. It's delicate and lovely.


Friday, August 17, 2007

Don't Worry, We'll All Float On Alright

This morning as I stepped out of the J2's back doors in Silver Spring, a vibrantly beautiful woman was easing out of the front door. She was easily six feet tall, appeared to be both South Asian and African with lovely dark skin. She was wearing a long loose bright teal dress. And though she was very very pregnant she walked with such a quiet grace that I couldn't help but follow her for a block. Holding her soil- and honey-tinted cornrow braids in the fingers of her right hand, she moved like leaves on calm water.

I'm moving back to Los Angeles in 12 days. And though it's exactly what I want, that doesn't mean it isn't breaking my heart.

From Modest Mouse's "The World At Large" (as it came up on my iPod playlist while waiting for the bus) --

Ice-age heat wave, can't complain.
If the world's at large, why should I remain?
Walked away to another plan.
Gonna find another place, maybe one I can stand.
I move on to another day,
to a whole new town with a whole new way.
Went to the porch to have a thought.
Got to the door and again, I couldn't stop.
You don't know where and you don't know when.
But you still got your words and you got your friends.
Walk along to another day.
Work a little harder, work another way.

Well uh-uh baby I ain't got no plan.
We'll float on maybe would you understand?
Gonna float on maybe would you understand?
Well I'll float on maybe would you understand?

The days get shorter and the nights get cold.
I like the autumn but this place is getting old.
I pack up my belongings and I head for the coast.
It might not be a lot but I feel like I'm making the most.
The days get longer and the nights smell green.
I guess it's not surprising but it's spring and I should leave.

I like songs about drifters - books about the same.
They both seem to make me feel a little less insane.
Walked on off to another spot.
I still haven't gotten anywhere that I want.
Did I want love? Did I need to know?
Why does it always feel like I'm caught in an undertow?

The moths beat themselves to death against the lights.
Adding their breeze to the summer nights.
Outside, water like air was great.
I didn't know what I had that day.
Walk a little farther to another plan.
You said that you did, but you didn't understand.

I know that starting over is not what life's about.
But my thoughts were so loud I couldn't hear my mouth.
My thoughts were so loud I couldn't hear my mouth.
My thoughts were so loud.

Thanks for the words, Mr. Brock.

If anyone ever questions the necessity of listening to music on headphones in public, he has obviously never had a good song keep him company.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Guilty Pleasures

I Get Wet - Andrew WK
Irony saturates our information intake to the point that a little upfront honesty has become very refreshing. Andrew WK's rookie album is about drinking to excess, vomiting, and fighting. In that order. He doesn't try to be profound. He doesn't try to be cute or wink through his audaciousness. He doesn't try to enunciate.

The result is Motley Crue meets Meatloaf, backed by a choral of cavemen, just after everybody's done shots of Red Bull and HGH. The result is a startlingly earnest set of minimalist lyrics. When he says "It's Time to Party", I think he's being genuine.
  • In fact, "It's Time to Party" begins the album and lasts a fuzzy minute-and-a-half. Fascinating to think that this was used in a Budweiser commercial. It seems to fit a beer commercial, with a lyric like "Party, Party, There's gonna be a party Tonight!" This line, with little variation, is repeated for the first 2/3s of the song...

    ...so far so good for Bud's image...

    ...then the third act twist sets in when he starts to say "Pounding on one, touchin' yourself", then ends with a succinct description of bukkake. If you don't know what that means, well, let's just say it involves 6-12 men and one woman, and wikipedia can tell you the rest. Maybe Bud was hoping she'll want a beer afterwards.

  • "Party Hard" (notice a trend?) is a wall of sound. Layers of guitars and keyboards. Two hundred fifty words in the song and 45 of them are "party". Really. That's what the song is about. He just does what he likes and he likes what he does.

  • "Girls Own Love" is a wall of sound. Layers of guitars and keyboards. A full na-na-na-na-na bridge. He changes his pronouns from "she" to "you" and then back again, addressing the same person.

    Or maybe not.

    Maybe he's addressing you. Maybe he's in love with you. To wit, "She gets off without you / And when you get it up / She's a puttin' you down". Apparently he's addressing you, male listener. But then at the end he says "I need your love". Um.

  • Perhaps he addresses his potential homosexual feelings with the next song, "Ready to Die". He tenders, "Cause here we come, You better get ready to die!"

  • Next follows the touching "Take it Off!" Here Andrew finds time to rhyme rack, back, and sack. Did I mention the wall of sound and the layers...?

  • "I Love NYC" seems to mean well, but his lyrics go full-on Dada: "Ride on nothin', ride your head / Got no fear, sayin' not said /We are a population / We are a factory / We don't do, but we never did anyway". I don't know what he's saying but I admire the passion.

  • He may also be the only performer who could turn a song called "She is Beautiful" (complete with a full na-na-na-na-na bridge) into a face-in-toilet-bowl-in-between-beer-bong-vomit shout. I do believe that he thinks she's beautiful, but "The girl's too young, she don't know any better." His intentions are dubious, but he admits such.

  • "Party 'till You Puke" goes no further than just that. But I'm afraid this is the one place that he's being dishonest. He expects you to party after you're done puking. Because it's a...

  • "Fun Night". The lyrics consist of the following:
    'Cos we're gonna have aFUN NIGHT!Gonna get off!(and have a) FUN NIGHT!Gonna get off!He repeats this for 3 and a half minutes, drops one F-bomb, and seems to have had a fun night.

  • "Got to Do It". Yes you do. Hauling cheesy keyboards and an inspirational message, it's the perfect song for lifting weights that are much too heavy for you. Suddenly you're in the middle of a Rocky movie (one of the first four), and you're training, "You gotta keep up / you gotta keep going", and you do, you keep up, you keep going, you grab the bar tight, you flex, you breathe deep, and you lift the bar, and you hurt your back.

  • Then you're on the floor of the weight room, pretending you're just chillin'. Chillin' to the loudest, biggest, Neanderthal stomp on the album, "I Get Wet". Don't know what the song's really about, but he's really angry, and he gets really wet a lot.

  • The album finishes with "Don't Stop Living in the Red". Sounds like it should be the new American anthem, right? Musically, it's really tight. Only a minute and a half of the same lyric over and over. Simplicity. And it's the one song that won't leave your head.
Nor will the buzzing sound that follows when the music stops. Check to make sure your ears and eyes have stopped bleeding. To say that this music is stupid is insulting. And true. And completely missing the point.
Though the goal of this blog is to be a wit machine. I'm leading with the events that originally inspired me to start bloggin'. I promise to follow up with something lighter...


In the span of 24 hours Ingmar Bergman, Michelangelo Antonioni, Bill Walsh, and Tom Snyder left this life. If one is a particularly spiritual person, how does that sit? These four were taken away, but gems like this fellow remain. I can’t imagine that bodes well for those of us still living, if you believe there are reasons for these sorts of things. To me they were people to whom I've associated images from memories and moments.

I can’t say that I’m Bergman freak. Viewing his films proves difficult for me. Nine years ago, I thought I’d start somewhere near the beginning and end of his career and work my way to the middle.

Smiles of a Summer Night was interesting, but I found it much too unhappy (and not funny enough) to be called a “comedy” as it often is. With this distance now, I see it as a comedy in the more old fashioned, almost Shakespearean sense – a comedy of errors, and scheming, between the sexes. Though, I think, Rules of the Game annihilates it (and every other such comedy, past or present), it wasn’t bad and it was surprisingly sexy. There’s a particular undressing sequence that remains in memory.

From there I rented Fanny and Alexander. Thought I was starting with the easy stuff, the lighter things. And perhaps I was. But I only got about one hour into F&A when I had to shut it off, gripped by my first taste of full blown adult melancholy. And it didn’t go away, for 48 hours. This I cannot explain. But I can remember it, like a flavor. Once our California move is complete I’ll rent the Criterion Collection version of F&A and try it again. That melancholy has since become rather familiar to me, so I have no fear of that movie anymore. But it did take 7 years before I watched another Bergman film.

Persona proved perversely pleasurable. I finally couldn’t resist those two lovely Nordic blondes on the poster/DVD cover. And I’m a big fan of duality stories. The avant-garde freakout in the beginning of the movie is spectacular. I don’t gasp often, but I think I gasped at the beginning of the sequence, the middle (is that a flash frame of a big erection in a 1966 film?), and the end…when the story actually begins. Then later the film literally (actual definition of the word literally) melts down, then it propels back to the story which itself seems to have been pushed into a different dimension. And I was riveted by the xtended erotic monologue, which kept going and going and pushing cinema into a more mature place from which it could never return. So, yes, I’m a fan of that one.

Antonioni has proven more elusive to me. L’Aventtura is lovely, in a depressed empty-soul sort of way. The cinematography is fantastic. The acting, in Italian terms, restrained and subtle. And the mice-en-scene does all of the storytelling. It’s a very visual film. Very quiet. Barren of people. From what I can tell, this is a theme that Michelangelo A. returns to in most of his films. I’d describe Red Desert, but it would be in almost the same terms as L’Aventtura. The main differences are that Desert is in color and wide-screen, 1.85:1. The color (per the title) is actually the most memorable part of the film. And Monica Vitta is easy on the eyes. I saw the film (on film, not video) during film school. I remember the movie to be almost hypnotic in its rhythms, or maybe I was hungover at the time and just fell asleep. More to the point, Antonioni created visual stories of emptiness, loss, and wandering better than anyone else – though many have tried. A completely separate memory of Antonioni: Syd Field used to hang out with him, called him Il Maestro. Would have loved to have been there for those conversations.

Bill Walsh, Mr. West-Coast-Offense-that-later-became-the-offense-every-NFL-team-used Guy. His name is like a radio ad jingle from my pre-pubescent years. I don’t know much about him personally, aside from the fact that he was one of the first true intellectual coaches, too bad he used it to help the 49ers rather than say, the Jets. It’s safe to say that he changed coaching and strategy in this country’s leading sport mostly on his own, and then lost the battle with leukemia…

…as did Tom Snyder. Tom was a full generation ahead of his time. His informal, but directly challenging approach to televised interviews brought more artists and fringe figures than any other journalist at the time. He interviewed Kiss, Ayn Rand, and Johnny Rotten when the networks were searching out British royalty. He gave the final John Lennon interview. Like Mr. Walsh he’s also a distant memory figure from my childhood, as my parents used to watch him on ABC and (the young) CNBC in the late ‘80s and early ‘90s. I remember him to be much more fun than Larry King (whom we also watched, unfortunately). I remember his habit of talking to his off-camera crew, which was both funny and engaging since no one else did that back then. And I like his opening line from his Tomorrow show, "Fire up a colortini, sit back, relax, and watch the pictures, now, as they fly through the air."

New artists, journalists, and sports leaders will ascend, establish their imprint in our consciousness, and later fade away. But no one replaces Bergman, Antonioni, Walsh, and Snyder. For all of us, July 29th was a better day than the next because these four men were alive. But for them, all in pain, July 29th was not a better day. The next day was the better day. And somehow, some of us will have to learn that the next day will be a better day as well.