My long weekend spent in Savannah and Charleston was divine, full of moss-laden trees, haunted hotels, and fried chicken to die for. I don't think I could ever live Down South permanently, but it's a swell place to get lost in for a few days.

I have a lot of ideas for posts/reviews festering about, but I need to complete two other writing assignments first. In the meantime, enjoy this review of Tegan and Sara's So Jealous by one of my favorite blog-sters (author of the first blog I ever read). The album made my top twenty last year and it's definitely proven to be a keeper (and a grower).



...which is why there haven't been any posts lately. Also to blame: a lot of work, socializing, and basking in unseasonably warm weather after the cruelest winter I can remember. Tomorrow, I'm heading Down South for a few days of rest with the folks. Check back in another week (or two) for all the drama you've been craving.

In the meantime, click here for an alternate way to remember our last Pope.



I’m still frequenting a handful of used-music haunts all over the city, but now I’m also rummaging through their cheap, last-chance vinyl bins. As a child of the CD age (and the desire to be a mock-hip rebellious young adult), old 33 RPM records suddenly seem pretty cool to me after I see one fetishized in The Crow, of all places. I spend $50 on a gloriously trashy boombox from Best Buy that actually comes with a turntable. The sound’s shit, and you have to control the needle arm by hand, but it works.

Within a year, I amass about fifty used records, most of them purchased for a buck or less--the most I spend on a single album is $5.00 for a pristine copy of Morrissey’s first solo record, Viva Hate (which I’ve probably only listened to in its entirety once). Whenever my friend Agnes comes home from college, I inevitably steer her towards an afternoon of thumbing through bins of decaying vinyl at Prospect Music or Half Price Books (a great Midwestern chain that sold much more than books). We have a blast sifting our way through piles of crap and kitsch for elusive, hidden gold, fighting over stuff like a copy of David Bowie’s out-of-print, first greatest hits album, Changesonebowie.

I start attending concerts semi-regularly, even going so far as to stand in a long, long line for R.E.M. tickets on a chilly January Saturday morning. The concert, part of the infamous Monster tour (where drummer Bill Berry suffered his brain aneurysm), didn’t even occur for another four months. While I’m glad I saw R.E.M. before they sadly began to really suck, the loud, corporate-tinged experience epitomized everything I detest about live shows (and for that matter, the Monster album, the band’s disappointing, misguided follow-up to my beloved Automatic For the People).

That spring, I also take the bus to Madison to catch They Might Be Giants (whose shtick is already starting to wear thin on me); their opening act, alt-beat-rock combo Soul Coughing puts on the best live show I’ll see in years. It’s certainly a more fulfilling experience than New Rock Fest on Memorial Day. Cashing in on the alt-rock zeitgeist, New Rock 102.1 presents their own day-long Lollapalooza at the Lakefront, and of course my friends and I all go. Violent Femmes, the most important band to ever come out of Milwaukee, are naturally the headliners. The rest of the line-up is decidedly a mish-mash of whomever the suits could get: has-beens like Faith No More and Duran Duran (the latter's offerings at the time were laughable renditions of “White Lines” and “911 is a Joke”), supposedly hot newcomers that went nowhere (the Caulfields) and one-hit wonders (Letters to Cleo, The Flaming Lips back when “She Don’t Use Jelly” was naggingly fresh in everyone’s memory). Weeks later, in a letter to a friend I described it all as a “pretty soulless experience”. In retrospect, it was worth it to see, on the pithy second stage, the Ramones in one of their final performances.

I eventually get a job working part-time as a desk receptionist for graduate student housing at Marquette--one of those cushy work-study gigs where you basically get to study while you "work". At first, I ask for mostly graveyard shifts (11:00 PM - 3:00 AM or 3:00 - 7:00 AM) because they pay a little more. The building (called The Biltmore) used to be a hotel, and the lobby is quiet and cavernous. Having just purchased a new, shinier boombox (with a CD player built in), I donate my old one to the front desk. I usually bring a handful of cassettes with me to every shift, listening to the Cowboy Junkies, Fumbling Towards Ecstasy, the Rocky Horror Picture Show soundtrack and lots of cool jazz deep into the night.

I don’t have a new favorite band by year’s end; I couldn’t even tell you what my favorite new album of that year was (I start keeping tabs on this in ’96.) But I’m buying more music than I really should, even picking up around ten or twelve discs at Christmas break alone. In addition to Rocky Horror (which I play ad nauseam in my dorm room until it becomes glaringly obvious to everyone but myself that I’m gay), over the year I pick up stuff that I’m still fond of a decade later: PJ Harvey’s To Bring You My Love, Jill Sobule, Sam Phillips’ Martinis and Bikinis, and Bjork’s Post, just to name a few.



I've been a busy worker bee with the 2nd Annual Coolidge Award this week. We honored Italian Cinematographer Vittorio Storaro. If his name doesn't hold the cache of last year's honoree, Zhang Yimou, consider this: Storaro has shot THE CONFORMIST, LAST TANGO IN PARIS, APOCALYPSE NOW, REDS, THE LAST EMPEROR, DICK TRACY and, um, ISHTAR. Impressive, no?

Wednesday's Award Ceremony featured testimonials from the likes of former New York Times critic Elvis Mitchell and ASC president Richard Crudo. Thursday afternoon, we had a cinematographer's discussion panel with Storaro, Crudo, Stefan Czapsky (who shot one of the best films of the '90s), and Albert Maysles, who needs no introduction if you've seen this or that. (Ellen Kuras, Ed Lachmann and Maryse Alberti were also originally scheduled to appear but couldn't make it).

For me, however, the highlight was last night's screening of REDS, with an archival print from Warren Beatty's own collection. I'd been wanting to see this film for years, and it was worth the wait to see it this way. Beatty's masterpiece is a passionate, political epic about Jack Reed, an American journalist-turned-socialist who participated in the 1917 Russian Revolution, and his relationship with Louise Bryant (a rarely better, rarely less "la di da" Diane Keaton). Ingenuously framed by interviews with real "witnesses" from the era, this has an energy, drive and scope that seems all but lost in today's comparatively anonymous, box office, CGI-driven Hollywood. The film's dizzying montage of the Revolution itself, set to a grand, thundering rendition of "The Internationale", is as powerful as anything in CASABLANCA or GONE WITH THE WIND.


Earlier in the week, I also watched MILLIONS. No junkies or zombies in Danny Boyle's first family film, which asks, "What would happen if two young boys found a duffel bag stacked with cash that seemingly just fell from out of the sky?" MILLIONS sort of re-imagines SHALLOW GRAVE as a gentle kid's film where the hero faces an age-old moral crisis: what to do with money that doesn't belong to him. It's an amusing premise fleshed out with melodrama (the boys' mother is recently deceased), religious allusions, and a little satire (the story is set at the time of Pound-to-Euro conversion). On the whole, it's cute but slight; unfortunately, it can't resist adding an unnecessary villain that tampers with the tone. It ultimately has little of the weight of TRAINSPOTTING or even 28 DAYS LATER, but it's encouraging to see Boyle attempting something different.

Finally, I also saw IKIRU, a 1952 film from Akira Kurosawa--a director chiefly known for historical, epic, samurai-heavy fare. This is one of his few contemporary films, a melodrama about Watanabe, a man who finds out he has inoperable stomach cancer. Having wasted most of his life as a civil servant drone, he slowly learns how to make the most of the time he has left, and what he can leave to the world without leaving it feeling useless or unfulfilled. It's a simple, leisurely told tale, fairly straightforward until Watanabe has his epiphany. Then, the film jumps ahead, constructing a modern-day, mini-RASHOMON of itself.

I admit action-oriented epics aren't my thing and most of Kurosawa rarely resonates with me on the same level as, say, Ozu or even Zhang Yimou; perhaps that's why I really enjoyed IKIRU (whereas I merely appreciated THE SEVEN SAMURAI). Although you wish it could be more economically paced at times, IKIRU works because it's essential for the viewer to take that journey and arrive at that conclusion with its protagonist. It is a loving portrait and a societal critique intertwined, equal parts celebration of life and wake-up call to live it fully.