Monthly Archives: December 2008

Favorite Netflix-ed Movies of 2008

I didn’t see that many great movies in the theater this year.  Part of this was due to living in a town with a sticky, smelly theater that wouldn’t show an independent or art film if their film license depended on it.  I loved “The Dark Knight”, “Burn After Reading” (proving once and for all that even “minor” Coen is better than 95% of what usually gets released from Hollywood’s bowels), and “Wall-E”, but I felt like I missed out on a lot by living in a small town.  I spent more time having movies sent to me by Netflix, usually watching two to four a week (in between episodes of “The Wire” and “Twin Peaks”).  Because I’m lazy.  Here are 10 that I enjoyed quite a lot (mostly documentaries and older foreign films), and recommend to anyone with eyeballs.  In no particular order:


The Atomic Cafe



Man On Wire



Encounters at the End of the World



Stranger Than Paradise



Heavy Metal in Baghdad






Holy Mountain



Wild Strawberries






Burden of Dreams



Favorites: Trompe le Monde



I know I’m putting myself in the minority by picking this over “Doolittle” or “Surfer Rosa” (totally ace albums, to be sure…and probably “better”), but for some reason this has always been my favorite Pixies record.  Some say they were running out of ideas, but to me it sounds like they went out in top form.  “Alec Eiffel” is one of the most thrilling songs in their impressive canon.  I’m sure I’ve listened to this song hundreds of times and I never get tired of it.  Frank Black/Black Francis sounds absolutely bonkers on 99% of the album, as if he’s receiving schizophrenic transmissions from all those UFOs he is so fascinated with.  Seriously, his weirdness was beginning to reach Roky Erickson levels of nuttiness, where before he was maybe just on par with David Byrne (haha).  “UMass” is one of the greatest sardonic songs about “intellectual” college students ever recorded (“We’re not just kids/to say the least/We got ideas/to us that’s dear/like Capitalist/like Communist/like lots of things/you’ve heard about/and redneckers/they get us pissed/and stupid stuff/it makes us shout…”).  Their fantastic cover of The Jesus and Mary Chain’s “Head On” seems tailor made for the Pixies’ noisy melodicism.  “Letter to Memphis” has some of the catchiest guitar riffs Joey Santiago ever played, as well as one hell of a vocal melody.  Damn the band if they didn’t follow this up with the arguable highlight of the album: “Bird Dream Of The Olympus Mons”, a subtle pop song that ascends heavenwards (or to Mars, I guess).  Fool the world.

A Year in (Brief) Review

2008 went down as one of the better years in my quarter century of existence, fortunately full of more highs than lows, even if I didn’t accomplish everything I set out to conquer (Mt. Everest, Great American Novel, nirvana, fountain of youth, a basic understanding of quantum physic moonwalking—a science I’ll develop in 2009, I promise).  I got to try my hand at DJing a couple of times (thanks to Will and Nick’s equipment and charitable sharing of stage), saw Radiohead twice, lived a lifetime in the course of a few Chicago daze and nights, took part in countless impromptu dance parties, witnessed my friends make incredible music and art, spent my first full year outside of a classroom finally able to devote free time to re-educating myself, survived eleven months of weekend boozing and another month of palatable sobriety, and made cacophonous noise with friends under a starry sky in a place properly called Happyland.  I also was dumped by my girlfriend somewhere within all of that, but the fact that I was too busy having a rapturous time to get nostalgically down says something about the power of living in the now. 


If LCD Soundsystem’s “All My Friends” was the soundtrack to 2007, what was the noise of THIS year?  If I had to hang 365 days worth of feeling on less than five minutes of funk (the groovy rather than the mopey kind) I guess it would be Cut Copy’s “Strangers in the Wind”, especially the latter half of that song, when the dreams of a year are compressed and phased and shot through with enough endless onward hope to catapult me into another 8,760 hours.  Unlike “All My Friends”, “Strangers in the Wind” was not my favorite song released during the year (I’m not sure I even have one), but like “All My Friends” it was able to capture the mood of 12 months.  Five years ago a part of me questioned whether I’d burn out before I made it to my silver anniversary.  I’m pretty confident that I can easily handle the next 25.  Thank you to everyone who helped make the past year a great one.  These moments passing will be there indeed.


Stardust – Music Sounds Better With You

It’s better to bump hard and burn out.  Thomas Bangalter and Alan Braxe have gone on to wax funkadelic in other k-holes since, but even in all the Daftness and Braxe Traxing have they ever topped this shit?  Taken rhetorically or debatably, it is a question chopped into fine powder when this track plays.  And that’s the thing: this still plays without being played out.  In the headlong whoosh toward the New that is Dance Music, this is no small point to be made.  At least once a week I’m blown away by some new house or French touch or dubstep or minimal or _________ track and within a couple of months I’m usually over it.  Let me remind you that this song is ten years old, which in dance floor years is a century, and when neon blow fiends are doing the all night boogie woogie to this anthem it’s akin to someone unwrapping a Super Nintendo tomorrow and spilling their eggnog in ecstasy.  Here’s to keeping all hopped up on Stardust in 2009. 


Merry Christmas!


In the Queue

What I’ll be getting tomorrow from Netflix:

“Man on Wire”
“Captain Beefheart: Under Review”
“Monty Python’s Life of Brian” (haven’t seen this one since I was a young chap)
“The Wire: Season Four (Disc One)”

Broken Social Scene – Churches Under the Stairs (Letterman)

From 12/17/08:

A Birthday for Bly

Call and Answer

Tell me why it is we don’t lift our voices these days
And cry over what is happening. Have you noticed
The plans are made for Iraq and the ice cap is melting?

I say to myself: “Go on, cry. What’s the sense
Of being an adult and having no voice? Cry out!
See who will answer! This is Call and Answer!”

We will have to call especially loud to reach
Our angels, who are hard of hearing; they are hiding
In the jugs of silence filled during our wars.

Have we agreed to so many wars that we can’t
Escape from silence? If we don’t lift our voices, we allow
Others (who are ourselves) to rob the house.

How come we’ve listened to the great criers—Neruda,
Akhmatova, Thoreau, Frederick Douglass—and now
We’re silent as sparrows in the little bushes?

Some masters say our life lasts only seven days.
Where are we in the week? Is it Thursday yet?
Hurry, cry now! Soon Sunday night will come. 

-Robert Bly

[August 2002]