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what i watched last week

We’re almost done with the Facebook Fave Fifty list, but that doesn’t mean you can’t join the group, read the essays, and add your comments.

Outside the Law (2010, Rachid Bouchareb). Sprawling film about the Algerian War of Independence that aspires to an epic quality it doesn’t quite reach. Bouchareb has a point of view, that the Algerian fight against the French was equivalent to the French resistance against the Nazis, and he effectively pounds it home. While you’d think such a film would be one-sided and didactic (well, it is, to a certain extent), the three Algerian brothers at the film’s center are not merely heroic, and their fight does not always bring out the best in them. Meanwhile, Bouchareb tosses in several homages to The Godfather, which aren’t quite as out of place as it sounds. 7/10.

Citizen Kane (Orson Welles, 1941). #7 on my Facebook list. #1 on the They Shoot Pictures, Don’t They list of the top 1000 films of all time (no surprise there). 10/10.

The Rules of the Game (Jean Renoir, 1939). #6 on my list, #3 on the TSPDT list. 10/10.

music friday: get offa my lawn

I thought I’d look at a few tracks I’ve listened too often enough lately that they turned up on my Spotify “Top List.”

On first listen, I found Watch the Throne enjoyable, i.e. I liked how it sounded. I paid no attention to the lyrics, even though most of the reviews I had read focused on that aspect of the album. I also feel more distant with each passing year from contemporary popular music. On the one hand, I know Watch the Throne is important, I listened to it as soon as I could get my hands on it, and I liked what I heard. On the other hand, I’m following a trend, not setting one, and ultimately I don’t care as much as I might have 30 years ago.

Here’s “No Church in the Wild.” I can’t figure out what the hell they’re talking about. I like the sound, though.


Next up, Bon Iver with “Calgary.” Next to this song, “No Church in the Wild” is completely lucid. I should have saved the “what the hell is this about” line for Justin Vernon. Here’s one take, from NY Mag:

Here is every physical description of the person (a woman, presumably, given the one-piece swimsuit) to whom the song is addressed: "never keep your eyelids clipped … hair, old, long along / your neck onto your shoulder blades … hip, under nothing / propped up by your other one, face … pincher with the skin inside / you pinned me with your black sphere eyes." So clearly we are dealing with a highly disfigured Canadian zombie woman. As best we can tell, she used Vernon for his sperm ("only for the father's crib"), took him to an isolated lake, willed up a storm of some sort with her zombie powers, and then set the rest of her friends on him. Luckily, he lived to tell the tale.

Finally, “Is This Hyperreal?” by Atari Teenage Riot, from the band’s first album in nine years. My friend Charlie reviewed it, so I checked it out. To be honest, I preferred reading his review. I don’t know if I’d ever heard any Atari Teenage Riot before this; they have no songs on my hard drive. AMG describes them as belonging to a “new generation of German techno artists,” and that explains why they aren’t on my computer. I’ve never heard of most of the artists AMG lists as other members of that new generation. The closest I come to knowing any of this music is probably The Prodigy. “Is This Hyperreal?” is enticing and irritating in equal measures.

The lesson to be learned from all of this? I’m behind the times. I am not the audience for any of this music. I like the Jay-Z/Kanye the best of the three. I do occasionally pump techno through my speakers, so Atari Teenage Riot might sneak up on me again some day. Bon Iver? If Lester Bangs was alive, he’d write a piece titled “Bon Iver Marked for Death” and spend the bulk of the essay talking about The Dictators.

uncle miltie’s appendage

Time for another look at the search terms that bring people to this blog. These come from the last month.

Top Five Search Keywords:

  1. grace of my heart
  2. magic trip
  3. curb
  4. marianne faithfull
  5. klee irwin

I know Jeff Pike will be glad to see #1 on that list, since he chose it at #39 on the list of 50 Favorite Films he and I and Phil Dellio are creating over on Facebook.

Klee Irwin deserves special commendation. If I combine all of the times he appears in the keyword list (for instance, “klee irwin scam” is tied for 14th on the list), he ties “grace of my heart” at the top.

Some long-time favorites are here:

  • “adebisi hat” (9 visits in last month), “how does adebisi’s hat stay on” (4 visits), “oz adebisi hat” (3), and, with one visit each, “adebisi hat oz”, “adebisi oz hat”, “adebisi’s hat”, “adebisi’s hat how to”, “buy adebisi hat”, “hat stay on adebisi’s head”, and “how did the hat stay on adebisi’s head”. (There are also searches for “adabisi” and “adibisi”.)
  • “goodbye to love guitar solo” (4), “tony peluso” (4), “tony peluso guitarist” (2), and “tony paluso” (1).
  • “fanta de limon en usa” (4), “fanta lemon” (2), “fanta limon usa” (2), and seven other fanta limon searches that were used only once.

But let’s get to what everyone is apparently looking for: naked celebrities. Once again, I remind you that there are no actual pictures of naked celebrities on this site. That doesn’t stop Google from sending folks my way.

Marianne Faithfull made #4 on this list. I’ll pretend those people were interested in her music. But I also got “marianne faithfull tits”, “marianne faithfull hot”, “marianne faithfull photos”,  and “marianne faithfulls’ jugs”.

Here are some others, including many long-time faves:

“helen mirren tits”, “’60s tits”, “60s helen mirren”, “christina hendricks nude”, “christina hendricks sex”, “dirk kuyt’s curly hair” (OK, that’s not really about a naked celebrity), “eiko matsuda actress sex movie online watch full movie”, “helem mirren tits”, “helen mirren 60s”, “helen mirren body of the year”, “kristin proctor topless wire scene,” “kristin proctor video,” “kristen proctor wire scene”, “silas botwin sex”

I think it’s safe to say that Helen(m) Mirren reigns supreme.

If you’ve read this far, you know how I’ll finish this post. Here are all of the search terms that have led people to my blog looking for information on … well, you know:

“milton berle penis”, “milton berles penis”, “milton berle penis photo”, “milton berle big dick”, “milton berle cock pictures”, “milton berle nude”, “milton berle nude photos”, “milton berle penis images”, “milton berle penis pic”, “milton berle penis pic”, “milton berle penis picture”, “milton berle the legend”, “milton berle’s big cock”, “milton berles dick”, “nude pic milton berle”, “photo of milton berle’s penis”, “pic of milton burl penis,” “picture of milton burrows penis”, “pictures of milton berle’s dick”

Whew. Thanks for visiting!

a month of spotify

It’s been about a month since I posted my first impressions of Spotify, which means it’s time to revisit the latest attempt to make every song available at any time, in any place.

First, comparisons to other services. To get MOG out of the way, I like MOG a lot, I like the people involved with MOG, and I still have a subscription, but I don’t use it much. MOG surpasses other services in many ways, perhaps even in most ways. But if it’s a choice between MOG and a service that lets me mix my own MP3 collection with their cloud-based catalog, I’ll go with the latter. I want to listen to a specific Beatles or Led Zeppelin song whenever I feel like it. One day, those artists will see the light and I can re-evaluate, but for now, access to my own collection is a requirement.

Which means, based on my more recent encounters, that it comes down to Rhapsody vs. Spotify. Rhapsody’s desktop software sucks so bad, I’m always looking for an alternative, even though their catalog is strong and I can listen to them on my Squeezebox Radio or Android Phone. As I noted after only a couple of sessions, Spotify wipes the floor with that piece of crap associated with Rhapsody. Since Spotify’s catalog is at least in the same ballpark as Rhapsody’s, since the quality of the streaming is at least as good, since I can stream Spotify to the same devices Rhapsody uses, and since I can mix my library with Spotify’s catalog, the comparison comes down to the desktop software (I spend a LOT of time on my computer, so the desktop software matters more to me than it might to others). The result is that I have cancelled my Rhapsody account, and am going with Spotify, at least for the near future.

Spotify’s software is not perfect. You can’t delete songs from the play queue without jumping through too many hoops, for one thing. On the other hand, you can sort your playlists, and yes, that’s a basic function, but it is also a function Rhapsody never figured out. If, like me, you have a playlist with 3,335 tracks, it’s not easy to find a particular track within that playlist unless you can sort (or even search, which Spotify also allows).

Playlists are easy to create in Spotify, and they are easy to share, as well. Spotify is tied into Facebook … you don’t have to make that connection, but there are some nice extras if you do. But you can share playlists without the use of Facebook. And while I pay the fee for Spotify Premium, most of the necessary functions are included in the free version … a free user can share with Premium users, for instance.

Today, the folks at Spotify pointed out that I can access “Top Lists” broken down into worldwide, U.S. only, other countries only, or just my own top list, based on what I’m playing. It’s this list that interests me. O.V. Wright is at the top of the list. Watch the Throne has four tracks in the top 20. And the Rolling Stones have three tracks, probably because I was creating a Stones playlist. I can’t tell what the time frame is for this Top 20, so I’ll check this again down the road. But in the meantime, if you have Spotify (and if you don’t, I have invites if you need one), here is a playlist based on my current Top List. I removed a few tracks so there are only one from each artist, leaving me with 15 songs, 48 minutes of what I’ve been listening to. Here’s the list:

Steven’s Top List: 8-17-11

what i watched last week

13 Assassins (Takashi Miike, 2010). Lives up to its hype. I think this is the first Takaski Miike film I’ve ever seen, and it’s funny … I really liked this one and thought the direction was exemplary, but I don’t feel like rushing out and watching others of his movies. The structure of 13 Assassins works primarily because Miike knows what he is doing. The first 2/3 establishes the characters of the various assassins (along with the villain, and holy moly, is he a villain). It’s a slower, even reflective beginning to an action film, but by letting us know the characters as separate entities, Miike allows for a more emotional finale. That finale, a 40+ minute battle scene, is as good as it gets. You always know what is happening (it’s not just a bunch of camera movement and explosions), you care about what is happening (because of the first 80 minutes), and the entire affair is choreographed with detailed excellence. 13 Assassins is also one of the more gory movies you’ll see, if that bothers you (you don’t always see everything, but you know it’s happening, which can be just as bad). Reminiscent of The Seven Samurai, of course, but also of The Wild Bunch, another movie about outsiders watching the world change. 9/10.

A Streetcar Named Desire (Elia Kazan, 1951). #9 on my Facebook Fave Fifty list. #394 on the They Shoot Pictures, Don’t They list of the top 1000 films of all time. 10/10.

The Wild Bunch (Sam Peckinpah, 1969). #8 on my Facebook list. #48 on the TSPDT list. 10/10.

music friday: the rolling stones

As a companion piece to my post from earlier this week, some Stones videos.

First they cover Chuck Berry, from the legendary 1964 TAMI show:

When they covered “Down the Road Apiece,” they were working off another Chuck Berry track. But in this case, the song dated back to 1940. There were many versions before Berry got ahold of it … in 1946 alone, Glenn Miller’s band and Amos Milburn laid down tracks.

In 1968, the Stones covered a fairly obscure bluesman, Robert Wilkins, with “Prodigal Son.” Jagger’s imitation of an old blues guy is exemplary.

“Stray Cat Blues” is from the same year. The lyrics offer an over-the-top Mick Is After Your Daughter scenario. The age of the daughter changed over time. They were still playing it in the 21st century, by which time the girl had made it all the way to 16 years old. Of course, by the time this version was recorded, Mick was 59.

“Tumbling Dice” comes from the last album of the classic Stones era, Exile on Main St. It’s in the great tradition of songs where you can’t understand a word Mick is singing but it doesn’t matter (Linda Ronstadt’s version was more clearly enunciated). This video is from the film Ladies and Gentleman: The Rolling Stones. This movie was put together after the Stones objected to another film they had commissioned about the same tour, Cocksucker Blues. The Stones have kept that one buried ever since (it can only be shown in the presence of director Robert Frank, although I have a copy, if you want to come over some time and be bored).

I was going to close with one last Chuck Berry cover, but why not let the master play this one himself. “You Can’t Catch Me”.

anna deavere smith, let me down easy

Tonight we saw Anna Deavere Smith’s solo show at the Berkeley Rep. It consists of Smith performing as real-life interview subjects, a format she has used in several plays.

It’s Studs Terkel brought to life, with a couple of important differences. First and foremost, Smith conducted the interviews, but on stage, she plays the various interviewees, which is an impressive achievement, one that seems a bit exhausting (it doesn’t seem like the kind of performance where the actor would want to talk to folks immediately following the play). Smith does a fine job of delineating the characters, who range from Lance Armstrong and Lauren Hutton and Ann Richards to hospital workers and patients and religious leaders.

At the beginning, it’s not clear how these stories will connect, and Smith is never obvious. But by the end, you feel like you’ve seen a coherent work.

The more problematic difference between this play and any random Studs Terkel book is that Smith occasionally falls into a bit of snobbery. I’m sure she is quoting the exact words of supermodel Lauren Hutton, for instance, and for all I know the mimicry in that scene is accurate. But Hutton comes across as spacey and unconnected to the realities of life. Smith doesn’t do this for most of her characters, so it stands out when a less-than-positive portrait is painted. Studs always respected people, even ones he disagreed with.

Still, Smith’s performance overall is amazing, moving, funny, and effective. I’m glad we saw Let Me Down Easy.

spotify, my brother, and me

When I was a kid, my music tastes were influenced by those of my older brother. He had six years on me, so he was a teenager in the early 60s, when I was under ten years old. He had a record player, and the records he played stuck in my mind. Lots of them were 45s.

Geoff just joined Spotify, and as I type this I’m listening to his Rolling Stones playlist. His selections are from the classic period, through Exile … the album with the most tracks is The Rolling Stones, Now!. He was the biggest Stones fan I knew back then, and when I listen to those songs today, I often think of him. Having his name on the playlist makes that feeling stronger, as if we were kids living at home, and he was playing me the Stones on his record player (playlists as a concept hadn’t really been invented yet).

Except … once again, memory is playing tricks on me. Some things are certain. Yes, he was six years older than me, yes, he had records, yes, he liked the Rolling Stones, but the time frame of my memories doesn’t make sense. He left for college in the fall of 1964. The Rolling Stones, Now!, which was their third American LP, didn’t come out until the spring of 1965. The only one of their albums that came out before he left home was their debut, and I don’t remember that being one he played that often (nothing from that album appears on his playlist). So when, exactly, did he play those Rolling Stones albums in my presence? We lived together in 1970-1, but that was after we’d both left home.

He did return to live at home for, I don’t know, a year, year-and-a-half, when our dad was having his legal problems and Geoff got a job to help keep the family afloat (an action he never gets enough credit or thanks for). Maybe he played his records then. When I listen to him on Spotify (and that’s how it sounds, like I’m listening to him playing Stones’ records), I can mix and match my memories. I may not get the facts right, but the feeling is on target.

He inspired me to create my own “Classic Stones” playlist. He seems to have been more time-efficient: he gets 34 tracks in around an hour, I get 27 in around two hours. (The most appearances-by-album for me are from Beggars Banquet and Let It Bleed.) Here are the songs that appear on both of our lists … think of it as a momentary crème de la crème.

  • “Around and Around”
  • “Down the Road Apiece”
  • “Prodigal Son”
  • “Stray Cat Blues”
  • “Tumbling Dice”
  • “You Can’t Catch Me”

what i watched last week

Cedar Rapids (Miguel Arteta, 2011). Yet another film that gets praised for what it isn’t, Cedar Rapids is a modern comedy that manages to downplay the stupidity at the center of many similar films. Although its running time is under 90 minutes, time is taken to create a central character that is more than just an easy stereotype. John C. Reilly plays the kind of overbearing, obnoxious lout he could pull off in his sleep, but in this case, he also has a heart of gold, a stereotype itself but one that fits nicely here. Throw in Anne Heche showing her usual goofy sexiness, and the immortal Isiah Whitlock, Jr., and you have an amiable comedy/character study that is a notch above the norm. 7/10.

Straight Time (Ulu Grosbard, 1978). Phil had this at #34 on his Facebook list, and I caught up with it this week. Dustin Hoffman deserves the accolades for his performance, although I don’t know how many accolades he actually received … no one saw the film, and it’s forgotten now. Phil called it a near-perfect film, and if I can’t go that far, I agree that it’s a fine, unjustly neglected movie. The biggest problem is the character Jenny, played by Theresa Russell. Russell is OK, but the character doesn’t work. It needs a bit of lunacy. We can see why the various ex-cons have trouble integrating themselves into the straight life; they get antsy for a return to the thrill of crime. But Jenny never seems to have a good reason to leap into the convict’s life. Still, the film is very unsettling. You never think anything good is going to happen, and you’re right. 8/10.

The Other Guys (Adam McKay, 2010). My son kept telling me to watch this one, saying I’d like it more than I like most modern comedies, and he was right. Silly without being stoopid, blending dumb humor with 30 Rock/Naked Gun-style jokes, The Other Guys lets Mark Wahlberg get loose, and he’s simultaneously hilarious and a bit scary. The film is filled with cameos by everyone from Derek Jeter to Rosie Perez, and the supporting roles are well-filled by the likes of Michael Keaton (who plays a character named Gene Mauch) and Titus Pullo. It goes on a bit too long, but that’s not a deal-breaker. The story involves corporate shenanigans, which seems largely irrelevant during the movie. But in the closing credits, we get a presentation detailing real-life corporate malfeasance. It’s rather like when Big Steve Seagal ended On Deadly Ground with a long speech about the environment. 7/10.

King Kong (Merian C. Cooper and Ernest B. Schoedsack, 1933). #11 on my Facebook Fave Fifty list. #108 on the They Shoot Pictures, Don’t They list of the top 1000 films of all time. 10/10.

Performance (Donald Cammell and Nicolas Roeg, 1970). #10 on my Facebook list, #191 on the TSPDT list. 10/10.