Man in a Blizzard

Roger Ebert drew attention to this short film when the photographer emailed it to him right after an afternoon and night of shooting, followed by about a half day of editing. He filmed it during the New York blizzard on Dec. 26. Ebert trumpeted it as Academy Award potential for some fairly academic reasons, not the least of which is the artist’s stunning technical proficiency. What strikes me about it is the distilled storytelling in such a short time. The transformation of a tiresome and treacherous day into a series of fleeting, playful triumphs.

Denver’s packed in with snow and 7 degrees. It’s been a horrible few days. Nice to get under a blanket, curl up with a loved one or maybe a pet, and take in a beautiful storm and a happy ending.

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Mr. Chair’s Best Albums of 2010!

I read this post by John Roderick of The Long Winters for Seattle Weekly, and it made me rethink end of year list-making. I highly recommend the read, and he makes some fine points, especially that we don’t experience music in the way list-making would suggest or demand. That said, I think non-list-makers will never truly understand list-makers, and vice versa. We list-makers are well-aware and (usually) in command of what a list is: a framework, a guide, a tool for mapping and exploring. That, and we really have no control over whether we make them or not. So that in mind, here’s my favorite music from 2010.

If I had to project a narrative onto my favorite music this year, it would have to be the album prevailing. There are six or seven on this list that are better as a whole than parts. The other side is that many of my favorite songs aren’t on here because I didn’t like the whole album as much. So, what you will. Anyway, enough jabber. Onto the jabber.

10. Titus Andronicus, The Monitor
Song: A More Perfect Union
Self-indulgent, punk bar band rock epic with 7-14 minute songs, and a loose theme of the Civil War. That’s right, as in The Monitor and The Merrimac. This band far exceeded its last album, with an invigorating set of songs that almost lives up to its aspirations, which alone make for a pretty great release.

9. Morgan Packard, Moment Against Elsewhere
Song: Unveil
There may be better ambient releases from 2010, but this one came at me from nowhere and I think it’s really beautiful on headphones, at work or at home. The minimalist piano reminds me of some Erik Satie or even jazz. Just enough melody to keep it interesting.

8. Robyn, Body Talk
Song: Dancing On My Own
Robyn put out more good dance pop in 2010 than Katy Perry, Kesha, and Christina Aguilera combined. The subject matter isn’t pandering, and the music is complex enough to satisfy rock snobs. And there’s Dancehall Queen.

7. Pantha Du Prince, Black Noise
Song: Satellite Sniper
The number of sounds in this album or on each track would be staggering if they weren’t all so gentle and organic. Wood and metal, clicks and jingles, very pretty. That said, there’s a lot going on and plenty of moody tracks, so it’s no easy listening. A hefty minimal electronic record.

6. Kanye West, My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy
Song: All of the Lights
There are many superlatives being thrown around about this release, but that song has the best drum beat in the history of hip hop music. It’s not nice music. A lot of these songs make me very uncomfortable, as all good music should.

5. Sharon Van Etten, Epic
Song: Don’t Do It
Sharon Van Etten’s first record was beautiful, and crushingly dark. Epic is no ray of sunshine, but the range of emotions suggests someone who can see at least a bit of light in the distance. Van Etten has soft, gorgeous voice, and her second record has even better songwriting. (It’s the second record we’ve all been hoping would come from Bon Iver.)

4. The National, High Violet
Song: England
This isn’t the breakthrough that Boxer was, but more music like that 2007 tearjerking chamber rock was a pleasure to listen to this year. They continue to be among my favorite bands.

3. Grinderman 2
Song: Heathen Child
The video for Heathen Child is nightmarish, psychedelic, sexy, terrifying and funny. All can be said about Nick Cave’s second Grinderman album. It even has some tender moments, setting it apart from the first. I love everything about it.

2. LCD Soundsystem, This is Happening
Song: Dance Yrself Clean
I, along with many other aging men trying to analyze their lives while remaining somewhat cool, feel a kinship with James Murphy. Of course, none of us are like Murphy, who at 40 is now an official rock star. He remains bold, funny and insightful. And he’s cranking out dance beats that draw those losing their edge and young clubgoers alike. I hope it’s not truly the last LCD record, but if it is, “Home” is a great note to end on.

1. Arcade Fire, The Suburbs
Song: We Used To Wait
“The last defender of the sprawl Said, ‘Where do you kids live?’ Well sir, if you only knew What the answer was worth Been searching every corner Of the earth”

The Suburbs explores the lives of people who don’t recognize their homes and live worlds away from friends. When I watch Arcade Fire perform, they look alien, but I know them. It’s that conflict with origin and change that makes their music so powerful. Such a concept album could have been horribly trite, but each song is sad and triumphant. It’s full of eerie, sincere, celebratory rock anthems. This made the top of my list by leaps and bounds, and Arcade Fire continues to be the most unique, intelligent and emotional band around.

So that’s it. And a bunch more, and a bunch that I’ll remember and regret not including. And several others that I’ll grow to like more and more in 2011, 2012 and 2013. Maybe even some of these I end up disliking down the road. Never know.

But for now, painful sadness at not including The XX, Suckers, Yeasayer, Mount Kimbie, Besnard Lakes, Brian Eno, Daft Punk, DEERHUNTER!, Girl Talk, Gorillaz, High On Fire, The Hold Steady, Isobel Campbell and Mark Lanegan, Neil Young, Red River, Rogue Wave, Rufus Wainright, Shout Out Louds, on and on…curse this list and you Roderick.

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Panduh Rules!

I’ve been enjoying to the new LCD Soundsystem record since it’s been streaming on his website (new AP style). Sound of Silver was so good, but I think This Is Happening may actually be better. “Dance Yrself Clean” is as good as any track. As Jason said, it “make me feel like I could rip the sky in half.” And it follows this great new enterprise of, give it away for free and people will buy it. I sure will!

Building my affection is this video for “Drunk Girls,” featuring some kind of Panda…well, just watch it.

This Is Happening

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Creamsickle

A new mix on 8Tracks, featuring Son Lux, Telekinesis!, Active Child and LCD Soundsystem.

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Bengali-Brooklynite Wedding in Cincinnati, Ohio

It’s not everyday you are invited to attend a traditional Bengali/American wedding ceremony of people you’ve never met, in Cincinnati, Ohio. It was the union of Jamie’s college roommate Fahema, and her now husband Greg. It was the first wedding I’ve ever attended as just a plus-one, and therefore had no involvement in the proceedings, but attended all of the festivities. A glorious role to play. All that aside, it was just a wonderful celebration and I made some new friends. In Ohio of all places.

This is the last photo I took at the wedding weekend, but the only photo I could possibly lead with. Greg was violently ill the day of the wedding, for completely innocent reasons. Thanks to a friend with a doctor in the family, chemotherapy anti-nausea medicine (where do I get some of that juice?!) saved the day. The bonds of matrimony were complete, beers were opened and pizza was ordered.

Rewind a few days, to the pre-bridal ceremony. This was actually on New Year’s Eve, was totally dry, but had a great selection of coffee and orange soda. And dancing. It’s the ceremony where traditionally, the bride and groom first meet. The couple’s faces are smeared with turmeric, and friends and family feed them little pieces of candied fruit. Then the inlaws steal the groom’s shoes and make him give them money to get them back. This was the first time I had met any of these people. Fahema looked like some sort of royalty, and Greg looked like Jambi the Genie from Pee Wee’s Playhouse. “Fahema looks nothing like that usually,” Jamie assured me.

As part of the bridal party, Jamie wore a Sari, which I thought looked rather fetching, but she was anxious about. She was also anxious because for the previous eight hours she had an army of 4-foot-tall Bengali women yelling at her in Bengali. Which, according to Jamie’s impression, sounded awfully like German.

New Years Eves are always so disappointing, so when you’re in Cincinnati with a bunch of people you just met, it’s a great surprise to have such a good time.

Fahema, Greg, her cousin and another bridesmaid, Brooke.

I don’t remember his name, but he had neck to toe dinosaur footie pajamas, so there you go.

The ceremony. I’m told they are screwing in lightbulbs.

I love this picture of Jamie and Fahema.

I don’t really remember this picture, but this is clearly the most fun me and any of these people have ever had.

 

And that’s mostly it. Oh, a couple other things: We stayed in a suite, which was pretty cool with a kitchen and all, but we found a used condom on our balcony. We had this poor little man from the hotel staff come and get it, and I tried to sincerely and somberly thank him. He blew right past me, “no no no it’s okay, fine, don’t worry about,” as if to suggest this never ever happened.

I also got Jamie a cool Diana F+ camera she’s been wanting for Christmas. The results have been pretty great so far. She’s a budding talent.

Oh, and on the second day there, I got the worst nosebleed I’ve ever had. We’re talking gushing blood, backing up in my sinuses, throat and both nostrils, hyperventilating from the sight of so much blood. It was crazy. I don’t have any pictures.

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A Romantic Weekend of Comic Books

Jamie and I spent a good part of the weekend on the couch reading comics we picked up at the library Saturday. The Denver Library has two comic book sections. One is upstairs above the second floor skylight. The second is a young adult section, which forces me to break the rules by entering without an accompanying teenager. If you combine the two, you get a pretty decent collection, but you never really know where anything is going to be, or in what order. That and someone who is clearly ordering fresh stock on a pretty regular basis makes it a serendipitous visit most days. You could find Lone Wolf and Cub a shelf away from Baby Blues.

I usually go for writers I like, but since Jason still ships me comics from Floating World, I usually skim through to find things I otherwise wouldn’t buy. Random DC and Marvel, but also indie stuff that missed me, like a lot of Drawn and Quarterly books by Joe Matt, Seth, Chester Brown. Point being, a trip to the public library is a good reminder that comic books (or graphic novels or comix or whatever) are full of surprises even for someone who reads a lot of them.

Or, in Jamie’s case, for someone who reads very few. She has a knack at scanning the binds and finding little treasures that are exactly what she’s looking for. This is another singular benefit of comic books — you can and should judge a book by its cover. Or more accurately, the entirety of the publication, the layout, the cover, the word balloons, the fonts, the placement of words on the page, are all part of a complete composition when done right. You can glance at it for what pleases you, like you would a framed painting. But then you can settle into that painting the way you would a short story or novel. Or in the case of autobiographical novels, as many comics are, you can make a real connection with another person.

On Sunday, I settled in with Julie Doucet’s “My New York Diary,” a grungy memoir comic of Doucet’s years gaining popularity as an artist, while living in a low rent apartment full of cheap beer and drugs with her insecure unnamed boyfriend. She’s now something of an underground legend, but I had never read any of her comics. It reminded me a lot of Bagge’s Buddy comics, but with chilling, intimate moments like a miscarriage and some frightening scares with epilepsy. And a good share of awkward sexual scenarios that make any autobiographical comic whole.

Jamie found a younger artist who also does memoir comics, Lucy Knisley. Discovering someone totally new to you is always exciting, and Jamie has an impressive obsession with finding things she likes, and hunting down related work. With the Internet being all that it is, a library book or magazine article can turn into days of exploring blogs, webcomics, flickr feeds, novels. Knisley has many of the above to explore. I knew her primarily from a couple of amazing comics she did about Twilight. Her “French Milk” graphic novel is a travel journal from when she was young, living in France for a short time with her mother. It’s a little raw, but full of tender young moments of magnified adoration and anxiety.

“I really like finding comics that I like.”

“Yeah I like it when you find them too. It’s a common interest.”

“But I only like comics like this. You like all kinds of comics.”

True, but there’s something about a good comic that when you find something you like, has an immediate and powerful connection. There’s the art theory about it, about iconic images being easy to imprint with your own feelings, more than realistic images. About the reader making the action happen between frames in his or her mind, as a complicit narrator. And along the same lines, sharing comics with people is a joy that I’ve always felt is stronger than sharing a movie, or even a book.

I also spent the weekend reading Surrogates, a sci-fi comic that was recently turned into a movie. I also, semi-coincidentally watched the Surrogates movie with Bruce Willis Sunday night. I didn’t hate the movie, thought the comic was pretty good. But there was something missing in the movie. With all of the special effects and fancy real life images, it was totally missing the real life in the rough brush stroke figures.

Harvey Pekar famously said “comics are just words and pictures. And with words and pictures, you can do anything.” Even with a bajillion dollar budget and a cool concept, a Hollywood movie can so often fall short of what one or two people can do with paper and some pens, that two other people can find on the library shelf.

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Party all the time

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