Tuesday, January 22, 2008


I have a fever, and the only prescription is...


I cannot stop watching the last scene of There Will Be Blood. Once a day I'll be sitting here, minding my own business, when suddenly I'll think: "drainage." Then "drainage" becomes "DRAINAGE," "DRAINAGE" becomes "DRAIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIINAGGGGGGGGE," and I'm cracking up. What an insane ending. It just grows and grows and grows. It's set up shop in my brain like a tumor.

(Do not watch unless you wish to be moderately spoiled.)


Friday, January 18, 2008

There Will Be Milkshakes

[here there be mild spoilers me hearties, yarrr]

After a couple days of deliberation, I've made up my mind: There Will Be Blood is an awesome, awesome movie. Complicated and muddled, but awesome. I will need to see it again, I think, to make sure, but for now you can count me on the pro-milkshake side of things.

There cannot be any discussion about the beginning of the story. It's just phenomenal. From the brilliantly dialogue-free opening through the midpoint, we are talking about a perfect, colorful, and unarguably ingenious look into the early workings of oil industry, with the amoral Daniel Plainview as our guide and storytelling proxy.

Where opinion hinges is the story's subsequent change in focus. Once the oil is flowing with no end in sight, the film stares unendingly at Plainview himself. We move away from Plainview's tete-a-tete with minister Eli Sunday, and his increasingly odd relationship with his adopted son, towards a non-sequitur sidebar involving his half-brother. Guns and violence enter the equation. An embarrassing run-in with Sunday is played as comedy. Plainview, like the film, flails back and forth, around and around, until the inevitable devastating finale... all the while touching upon the business of oil only tangentially.

Then again, once the problem of getting at Little Boston's oil is laid to rest, the story's conundrum becomes that of Plainview: now what? And appropriately, each mirrors the other as they descend into madness and loss. Logic and reason disappear, but Plainview remains a force to be reckoned with.

And therein lies the problem. For some, that curveball represented a loss of focus, and a lack of purpose, on the part of P.T. Anderson. His conclusion leaves the oil industry behind, leaving nothing said about the after-effects of the industry on Little Boston, which seems to have been interpreted as laying up, copping out. We were promised an oil movie, and it became a tale about what we're supposed to do after reaching our goals.

What's wrong with that?

So the movie's not really about oil. Blood has more to say about wealth and success than it has to say about oil. The oil's a nice metaphor for human spirit and soul being sold off and sucked up, but Anderson clearly isn't as concerned with the further workings of the oil industry's upper echelon as he is with the question of what a bull like Plainview is supposed to do once he's reached the top. Concentrate on family? Rediscover old friendships? Let bygones be bygones? Enjoy the little things?

His run-in with Standard Oil lays out the problem very nicely: not only does Plainview see retirement, cashing in his chips, as acquiescence, but the argument over family's role in Plainview's life asks the question of of what else Plainview wants. Except he's just an oil man. He wants oil. And he's got it. And that's that. What happens then?

There's also the question of class and class mobility. It takes a force of nature to pull oneself from nothing up to the upper class. It requires ruthless struggle for survival, and blinding focus on vocation and purpose. All of that is certainly the case with Daniel Plainview, who begins as a solo, broken-legged dirt dog and becomes a millionaire. When that person reaches the top, does that attitude change? Why would it? Why should it? Why would someone so fixated upon competition ever just stop and rest?

I know this: those questions are a lot more interesting than seeing the oil industry develop for another hour.

I'll have to see it again to know just how good There Will Be Blood really is. But I do know that Anderson has answered, demonstrably, all the questions raised by his uneven work in Magnolia and Punch-Drunk Love. It's a rich, mature work of genius. And a hell of a movie.

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Friday, January 11, 2008

Easiest Post Ever

If a picture is worth a thousand words, then this video is worth Infinite Jest by David Foster Wallace. Also, this is hilarious.

(hat tip)

Tuesday, January 08, 2008

The Black President

Now that people are FINALLY coming around on Barack Obama, it's time to nip a future journalistic trope in the bud: he would not be the first black president.

That honor goes to the late Fela Kuti, co-inventor of Afrobeat and all-around kicker of Nigerian military government ass. He's the Black President.

The second Obama releases anything as scorching hot as Zombie or Expensive Shit, then we can talk about maybe sharing the title. Until then, Fela's the president, and Tony Allen is vice. (Vice Black President, or Black Vice President? Hmm.)

Thursday, January 03, 2008

Best Albums Addendum

A few leftover thoughts and reflections, following up on my best-of list.

* Best songs of the year:

Bloc Party - "I Still Remember"
Song of the year. I watched the video again as research, and got goosebumps. Almost a full year after the fact. Stunning. There is no excuse, whatsoever, for this song to have made no inroads on the American charts. It's not even hip!

LCD Soundsystem - "All My Friends"
Simple, bouncy, pithy, heartbreaking. James Murphy is living proof of David Byrne's theory that a deeply imperfect vocalist will connect with his audience better than a good one will. "All My Friends" and "Someone Great" are classic examples.

Jens Lekman - "Your Arms Around Me"
Another tune so perfect and classic that it couldn't possibly have come from the modern day. This song floors me.

Battles - "Tonto"
Absolutely epic. Any prog fan should shit a brick over the midsection of this one.

Spoon - "You Got Yr Cherry Bomb"
Incredible in any era. Totally timeless. White Texan geeks should not get the Motown sound so right.

The Twilight Sad - "Cold Days From The Birdhouse"
I'm a sucker for thick Scottish accents. They turn a great turn of phrase into something epic and authoritative. Not that the build up from slide-twang to heavy electric fuzz wouldn't have rocked the shit on its own. Boot raead thes fookin paeragraph agaen en a Scoattish accant, aen taell me ye disnae prefaer it thet wae. (Ye coont, ye.)

Honorable mention:
Band of Horses - "Is There A Ghost"
of Montreal - "The Past Is A Grotesque Animal"
Holy Fuck - "Lovely Allen"
Klaxons - "Golden Skans"
!!! - "Heart of Hearts"
Feist - "1 2 3 4"
Noisettes - "Sister Rosetta (Capture The Spirit)"

* I should have made it clearer how much I like The Field and Burial's respective work. Sticking it in the "overrated" ghetto doesn't really convey how good I think they are, or how much enjoyment I've gotten. Untrue in particular makes me wish I was drunk at 3AM with an hour's walk home ahead of me.

* The more I listen to Boxer by The National, the more I like it. I've had it in steady rotation for almost six months now, and it's still revealing new shit to me. Much as it's missing that one standout song to tie the record together, it keeps getting better and better nonetheless.

* Since posting the video for Simian Mobile Disco's "Hustler," I discovered that a new video was made for the track's inclusion on Attack Decay Sustain Release. It's messed up, clearly owing a debt of gratitude to Aphex Twin. (I'm not even a Richard D. James kinda guy, and I knew it was all about Aphex Twin freaking us all the fuck out. Though to be fair, if you encounter some seriously WTF messed-up shit in any context, chalking it up to James and Chris Cunningham is a safe bet. Come to daddy!!!)

Anyway, here's the new version... just as sleazy, but this time way funnier, and with a brand-new ending: punishment for being shallow! LOLOLOLOL!

* A few more albums that I should have mentioned:

Andrew Bird - Armchair Apocrypha
If you can write a hook around the phrase "thank God it's fatal," you're a champ.

Sharon Jones and the Dap-Kings - 100 Days, 100 Nights
Nicole Willis and the Soul Investigators - Keep Reachin' Up
Poster children for retro soul, along with The Budos Band. Jones and Willis aren't bringing anything "new," but when it's this good, who cares? It's not as if the Stax/Motown sound is so revolting to our ears that we can't take a little bit more, right?

Manu Chao - La Radiolina
Mad genius. He gets docked points for reusing material from his work with Amadou & Mariam a couple years back. But as above, it's Manu Chao. It's not tired and repetitive... it's leftovers.

* Look, I'm a reasonable guy. Pitchfork thinks a lot of itself as a symbol/torchbearer, and acts accordingly, but when it comes to rating albums, they're usually a reliable source. I may not agree that last year's choice, The Knife's Silent Shout, was the best record of 2006, but it's defensible. I may not be a huge fan of love/hate acts like Clap Your Hands Say Yeah or Joanna Newsom, but I do acknowledge that they have something to offer and understand if people are deeply moved by their work. I may disagree when they champion a crappy band like Grizzly Bear, but if they want to stick their neck out and be totally wrong every now and then, that's their prerogative. I know where that comes from.

But don't hold up a piece of shit as the best album of the year. You're insulting everyone who actually made music over the last twelve months.

I can neither defend nor respect their selection. I truly believe that fans of Panda Bear have been punk'd; that enjoyment of this album represents an intellectual failure on the part of the listener; that the folks who call it a work of beauty, or a deeply moving blah blah blah or whatever, are fooling themselves; and that certain people want to call a piece of pretentious, non-musical shit like Person Pitch a work of genius, simply in order to look superior, to look like they see something you don't.

It is a sucker's bet. Someone smart enough to know better gets fooled by all the precision and hard work required to bring it to "life"... and in doing so looks past how boring, meandering and pointless it is.

Hey, I can look at a blank white wall and call it a work of artistic genius too. Doesn't mean there's something there.

It takes precision and hard work to scribble onto a wall with your own feces. That alone doesn't make the end result worthy of my time, let alone artistic.

Bottom line: if Person Pitch is where music is headed, I'm throwing myself into Verdi and Maria Callas and calling it a life.