WORKS OF ART WITH A MINIMUM OF STEEL
Thoughts have been scattered all week. I eventually had to leave my house on Wednesday and work through the evening just to get some writing done. Time is on the march. I am a mini mogul.
Quick bullets of things enjoyed this week:
READ: The Extended Dream of Mr. D by Max (Drawn & Quarterly). I've been sitting on this one for a while. It was all the rage several years ago, won an Ignatz, etc. Going in, I could see why. The line work and cartooning are wonderfully fluid, a style that lends itself well to the free-form dream images that the book is built on. Going out, however, I was absolutely annoyed with the way the book ended up. If you're going to do a story that is an entire dream, you don't finish it off by having the characters all stop and explain exactly what happened, and they each tell us what they were meant to represent. It defeats the purpose of giving the audience something to puzzle over. The decoder ring should be the text itself, there for the reader to ponder, but never explained. Straight to the sale pile for you, Mr. D.
WATCHED: Something of Value starring Rock Hudson & Sidney Poitier; written & directed by Richard Brooks, based on the novel by Robert C. Ruark (1957). This was a movie mentioned in the Z Channel documentary, one of the gems the cable network resurrected. I was pleased to find a video of it, especially since it was the complete version with the Winston Churchill intro intact. Something of Value is quite a film. Hudson plays the son of a white land owner in East Africa who was raised by one of the African families that worked for his father. Poitier portrays the birth son of that worker, and he and Hudson are like brothers thanks to the young life they shared. Unfortunately, age brings social pressures, and their inequality is readily apparent. Poitier ends up joining the Mau Mau uprising, and the ensuing war ends up testing the limits of both men, forcing them to question what they will and will not do, and whether or not they can regain their common ground before it's too late. It's a bold film--not just for 1957, it still feels bold today. The performances are great (including the always charming Wendy Hiller in a downbeat role), the action tense, and the photography gorgeous. But it's also smartly written. My favorite scene is when Hudson's family is imitating the marital engagement deals that are customary in the region. It's a subtle scene, revealing the various levels of prejudice that can be hidden in even the most noble of people. It's all the more effective because it's offered without comment, and the characters are given no self-reflection. They are completely unaware of how crass they are being, and Brooks uses it to keep his family from being the stellar, progressive white family of other Hollywood stories about race.
SAW: Bauhaus at the Paramount Theatre in Seattle. I think the last Bauhaus tour was in 1998, and I saw them in San Francisco after Comic Con (there was a cock-up with our tickets and Landry Walker did a last minute hail mary for Joe Nozemack and I). It was awesome.
Last night was almost better.
The show seemed a little perfunctory at first. The opening song, "Burning From the Inside," was well chosen for how it allowed each band member to come out on stage at different times, slowly building to their complete sound, but they played the full version and it went on too long. As things progressed and we got past some of the usual suspects, the energy started to pick up with amazing versions of "Swing the Heartache," "Hair of the Dog," and a totally revamped "Rose Garden Funeral of Sores." There was a couple standing in front of us for part of the show who were seeing how close they could get to having sex right there on the concert floor, and she got particularly excited during "Rose Garden" (she was the only who seemed to care about the music; the guy just stood there most of the time, like he was getting a lapdance and was not allowed to touch). She backed into him and was grinding her ass in his crotch, and I want to know, is there a less sexy song out there? Or is there something about a man shouting "screaming whore" that I don't understand?
Beyond those two (and I should note that twice she got down on her knees and I believe was fellating him through his pants), I was disappointed in the sheer absence of freaks. I had dressed up as a sort of 1950s car salesman/Mormon missionary thinking I'd stand out, but the Seattle Bauhaus fans of 2005 show a severe lack of commitment. When as hardcore as you get is a 300 lb., pony-tailed dude who won't take off his leather jacket through the entire show, instead choosing to share his sweaty stink with those around him, it's hard not to feel a movement has died. (He also hit me in face with that ponytail. I should have given him a kidney punch.)
Peter Murphy may be part of the problem, not the solution. That picture above dates back to the previous tour. He doesn't look like that. He's trying to be a cavalier, and he's grown this little pointy chin thing and silent-movie villain moustache. But the true grievous decision is his hair. We've seen a blonde Peter Murphy before, but he's now styling it like Dennis the Menace--cowlick in back, triangle bangs up front, all the while not succeeding with the reverse comb-over he's working in the back. The bald spot still shows through, Pete. During "Bela Lugosi's Dead," I urge you all to chant, "Bad hair! Bad hair! Bad hair!"
But, you know, I'm being flip. It really was a good show. In fact, my only real complaint is there wasn't enough of it. It was billed as "An Evening with Bauhaus," and mercifully, there was no opening act. However, was 90 minutes really all they could muster? Come on, guys! I know you're getting on in years, but you still have all of your original hips (I think). Put some muscle into it.
HEARD: As I've noted here before, this year has been a little disappointing music-wise, with several bands I really like delivering up tepid new offerings. This week, I heard the new Starsailor and Robbie Williams albums, and on initial reaction, they go on the pile. Thankfully, we have Depeche Mode to save the day.
I wasn't actually expecting them to. For a first single, I thought "Precious" was pretty unremarkable, and even worse, not that memorable the first time I heard it (my mind has since changed, it just took a few listens). The opening sounds of Playing the Angel, the high-pitched scraping shriek of "A Pain That I'm Used To" (a reassuring rallying-of-the-troops kind of title), let me know I was in for something different. That track and the next, "John the Revelator," are scorchers. It's an elevated mood that the band manages to maintain throughout, making adventurous noise. Even the Dave Gahan-penned tracks manage to fit, a difficult thing to do after years of having one primary songwriter (only "I Want It All" ends up sounding like a Paper Monsters session, but it's stronger than anything on that album thanks to the added collaboration). Interestingly, it's the tracks Martin Gore sings that seem to be getting the critical beating in the few reviews I've read, and I can't say that they're wrong. "Macro" and "Damaged People" aren't terrible, they're just a little by-the-numbers. It's a weird twist, since most often, Martin's tracks are my favorites.
I'd actually posit that Depeche Mode has yet to really stumble. Exciter wasn't as strong as it could have been, but only because it stands in the shadow of the supreme Ultra. Divorced from that, it's a good collection of soul-tinged songs about love. Those two albums were the building blocks for the new version of the band, absent of Alan Wilder and moving on from some years of turmoil. If we look back at the earlier albums, at how A Broken Frame and Construction Time Again picked up the charge after Vince Clarke moved to Yaz, then Playing the Angel is the new era's Some Great Reward--meaning that the true championship laps begin soon.
WROTE: Made some good progress on Have You Seen the Horizon Lately?, though I keep getting hung-up on making sure I understand where everything is in the house. I have even drawn a map, but sometimes I get it all mixed up. My goal next week is to really get the story moving. I've noticed I love to chronicle the first day of my stories and will spend a lot of time on those twenty-four hours. I've got to flip the calendar.
In reference to the mini-mogul assertion above, those couple of answers I am waiting on, one is in and I am very excited about it. But more has happened this week and upped the ante by one more. Hopefully in early November I can start leaking the gas.
Current Mood: coy
[to leave comments, click on the time-stamp below, then scroll down on the new page] – All text (c) 2005 Jamie S. Rich