This man’s mind and inquisitiveness on the nature of human nature and how it shapes history. Errol Morris to me is one of the most interesting thinkers and a ridiculously entertaining film maker. His invention the intterrotron a camera he invented allows him to allow the camera to fully capture his subjects face, and in so doing capture the essence of peoples characters and foibles through the drama that occurs on peoples faces. I like him because even with popular issues Morris allows us to ask the questions that we normally wouldn’t ask.

I watched a movie this weekend: Errol Morris Unknown Known


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The reality of how much politics affects us is something I am always thinking about and i never know how much anyone else is thinking about it. Errol Morris is one of those people who understands how not just politics and history shape our times, but how the major characters and their personalities affect historical issues. On top of that Morris knows how to mine vilified and often off-kilter characters to get an idea of what lies at the heart of an issue. Which was the case in past movies like the fog of war, thin blue line and tabloid, in which characters opened the doors and represented ways of accessing these worlds through their eyes. in this particular release Errol Morris picks the brain, of divisive political figure Donald Rumsfield, whose tenure as Secretary of defense holds a legacy thats contentious among both left and right leaning americans. Rumsfield was the embodiment of a lot of what many on the left despised about american foreign policy with quotes like:

 

“If you want peace prepare for war”

I have always been a fan of complex bad characters, whose actions straddle the murky line between good and bad. Rumsfield is not as easy to pigeon hole as some might think, the genius of morris is his ability to allow us to empathize with this character. He shoots in a way that focuses on the face but also captures the free-form attorney style interviewing that Errol is often noted for. I also love this murky characters because they exist in murkier moral territory than well intentioned types and often give us the complex opportunity to actually recognize the humanity of a person we would otherwise traditionally be taught to despise. In my opinion a great and exhilarating way to spend a weekend.

 

Whats all the fuss about Outkast?


I first encountered Outkast by accident, the way a lot of great relationships occur, In a way were one never realizes just how a random encounter will impact someones life. I came upon the music of cast through a random encounter with a CD single that had Wheelz of steel on one side and the song ATliens. Both songs sounded other-wordly strange and out of some weird afro-futuristic movie directed by Jodorowsky, except the movie was populated by pimps, hustlers, pyramids and fertilized by the rich soils of Atlanta Georgia. This encounter was quick and impactful on some love at first site shit. Hearing Andre-3000′s spaced out raps accompanied by the ethereal street raps of big-boi were a game changer like no other.

In recent months since they announced they would be reuniting and headlining Coachella, it dawned on me that these cats defined a whole generation of music listeners, me in particular. Then we also got a whole generation of young’ns who know little to nothing about cast and need Kast to be re-introduced so i put it on myself to explain why these guys matter and have always mattered to me.

Man, first they were some pimps. Then they were some aliens or some genies – some shit. Then they be talkin’ ’bout that black righteous space. Man, fuck them. I ain’t fuckin’ with them no mo’.

- “Return of the G’ skit, Aquemini

The music of this duo was a pre-cursor for my forays into a lot of left of centre weirdness everything from Sun-Ra to Parliament Funkadelic, and in some cases they also opened doors for my infatuation with a shit-ton of unsung southern rap gods. If you think of rap radio and tv in the nineties and early 00′s they stood out as the most unabashedly original mutherfuckers on tv and radio. I mean who the fuck wore turbans or had the balls to wear a pimp-suite in the era of baggy jeans and timbaland boots. Visually their videos pushed my mind into tripped out psychedelic realms that recalled 60s psychedelic acid rock as well as recalling blaxploitation films. Andre-3000 a definite jazz head was swimming in the deep pools of cats like Ra & Clinton but also the whole weird left-of-centre spiritual jazz movement with its obsession with egyptology, and eastern mythology. Big – boi went down the route of Dolemite and movies like superbad, but also referenced old black ministers and the blues.

The Music

Musically these guys are artists that are constantly reinventing themselves and whose music reflects a process of introspection and societal analysis. They do not attempt to pigeon whole themselves as Conscious, Gangsta or ultra-lyrical. Their music manages to be human while also reaching for something transcendent and out of this world. On southernplayalistic they come at the microphone in the form of dope-boys, urban auteurs humbly telling their story with no overall agenda other than to move people to have fun.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CZJGMzAZkxI

They came to us in the 90s in a rap-landscape that was a sectarian war field. Neatly divided into coasts and cliched ideas like conscious, gangsta, and mainstream. Kast came out of the woods of the ATL steeped in an unusual visual style that was part De-La soul part Too Short. A sound that married Dr Dre G-Funk with Trunk rattling southern bass.

Sadly from the get go East-Coast was at its radio and TV supremacy, and full of all its timbaland boot brandishing and shiny suite wearing hubris to acknowledge let alone understand what Kast was bringing to the table. This resulted in the sad but kind of foreboding incident when the crowd booed Outkast, who won best new artist in 1994.

Their debut Southernplayalistic was an intro to a duo of southern rappers making pre-trap southern trunk rattling music that was as tough as it was socially aware. By the time we got to ATliens the music was straight X-Files meets Dolemite. Andre 3000 was weaving slanged out raps over beats that sounded like they were produced by a dream team comprising Sun-Ra, George Clinton and Uncle Luke. By the time they came to Aquemini their music hit a stratosphere that no other rappers could even imagine existing in. They were not creating rap albums any more they were creating epic scores evoking vivid imagery providing discourse on the trials, tribulations and joys of black life.

Organized Noize managed to create music steeped in G-funk, but a funk that was a lot less reliant on sample influences. Its music that was laden with heavy bass lines and intricate melodies all woven around sharp snares and spacey 808-bass sounds. Think of the spaced out nature of a joint like bombs over baghdad a song thats basically the product of throwing Prince, Kraftwerk,Egyptian lover, Eddie Hazel and Sly throwing them into a blunt-wrap and smoking that shit. By the time we get to so-fresh-so clean these boys have found a way to create music as fun as late era George Clinton and equally sonically bold as anything by Prince in the 80′s.

Aquemini

I came upon this album in a sort of were have you been all my life love at first sight moment. A friend of mine (my music dealer who through means unknown to me managed to leak hard to find american rap releases. He gave me an untitled green CD-R which he said was a random Outkast album he had never heard. I had to borrow a friends disc man and sat in the back of the common room, which was packed with pubescent shirtless african kids watching a soccer game all engaging in very passionate conversations while staring at the TV. As i watched this scene transpiring, i hit play, and i was greeted by this whisky understated churchy humming. I also heard a Kalimba playing softly accompanied by some light guitar plucking. It sounded like some kind of strange religious invocation a sort of libation introducing the listener to Outkasts strange left of centre universe. Its a moment I will never forget because its effect was immediate and i was sucked into Outkasts world. You go from Return of the G to a song that challenges listeners and artists to create art that reaches for something transcendent. Its an album that conjures up a collection of very distinctly left of centre black cultural perspectives.  Great art and artists tend to be great curators of music, because it is only through careful curation and absorption that an artist can reabsorb all the art he surrounds himself with synthesize it and create something truly authentic. Outkast are great historians in the sense they come at this art form from the stance of people with a vast library of musical influences.

On southernplayalistic they introduce us to their world on ATLiens they hint at an otherworldliness that made De-La & Tribe seem  conventional and safe. Then on Aquemini they create an album that cohesively captures the essence of black musical history in an Hour thirty minutes. On stankonia we are introduced to the first truly psychedelic hip hop experience then they have the duo album and that idlewild album.

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But lets not forget Big Boi and Andre 3000, are badass rappers. To call Andre’s style incredible doesn’t work well to capture the greatness of this artist. The act of expressing through words is itself a struggle because one has to mine a deep well of ideas in an attempt to truly capture the esccence of things, and in this case the word incredible doesn’t do justice to capturing Andre 3000′s rapping.

Now, my oral illustration be like clitoral stimulation
To the female gender, ain’t nothing better

Let me know when it’s wet enough to enter
If not I’ll wait, because the future of the world depends on
If or if not the child we raise gon’ have that nigga syndrome
Or will it know to beat the odds regardless of the skin tone

Or will it feel that if we tune it, it just might get picked on
Or will it give a fuck about what others say and get gone
They alienate-us cause we different keep your hands to the sky
Like Sounds of Blackness when I practice what I preach ain’t no lie

I’ll be the baker and the maker of the piece of my pie
Now breaker, breaker 10-4 can I get some reply
Now everybody say

Andre has always been a rapper with a distinct tonality and versatile cadence.  Versatility in cadence often allows an emcee to relay complex emotional ideas, without having to be trapped by actual word associations. His wordplay is not steeped in cliched east coast intellectualism or street rap thuggery, yet he always straddled those worlds very effectively. His writing is solid, clear and incredibly witty, Andre 3000 literally fathered a whole generation of young rappers who were suddenly liberated from thinking great rapping was about sticking to a formula. Big Boi’s flow is often overlooked but i say that he is a monster on the mic. Big Boi’s a purified southern-slanguistics, evokes street edge while maintaining classic pimp sophistication. Big boi is unapologetically southern in his drawl, accompanied by his jerky cadence he can be undecipherable to some, which only adds to the mystic surrealism that underscores Outkast.

 

 

 

 

I watched a silly movie this weekend


So I watched a silly film this weekend, no actually I watched it a third time this weekend. I watch films and read books in snippets, in small snippets of time in between doing more constructive things, like cooking, studying or writing my weekly to-do-lists. This weekends silly film is a small indie film called “Take this Waltz” I call this movie silly because its kind of a rehashing of every other indie-rom-com/slash drama film made in the likeness of the baumbachs/Swanbergs and duplass brother films.

Take This Waltz

Films packed with witty language only people that attended an east coast prep school would ever use, and long shots of people staring at each other or being awkwardly playful, in ways no adult person I know ever does.

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Yet like a fool I get suckered into and purposefully find myself watching these films. So this weeks excursion into this often annoying territory involved me watching Sarah Polleys “Take this Waltz” a sad introspective analysis of a young woman’s life as she falls in and out of love, while trying to make sense of the ever present emptiness that haunts her and those around her.

The movie itself is so drenched in light and bright colors that I found it to be tedious to watch in some spots. It also helped to give the movie a kind of dream like quality, it made it feel like this girls expectations and demands were as unreal as all the bright joyful colors her world seemed to be awash in. I don’t really know or maybe I am just overthinking it who knows. What did get to me were all the ways Margot tried so hard to overstate her happiness and all the ways she was over thinking it or over performing her happiness.

Here are some synopsis’s of this movie:

When Margot (Michelle Williams), 28, meets Daniel (Luke Kirby), their chemistry is intense and immediate. But Margot suppresses her sudden attraction; she is happily married to Lou (Seth Rogen), a cookbook writer. When Margot learns that Daniel lives across the street from them, the certainty about her domestic life shatters. She and Daniel steal moments throughout the steaming Toronto summer, their eroticism heightened by their restraint. Swelteringly hot, bright and colorful like a bowl of fruit, Take This Waltz leads us, laughing, through the familiar, but uncharted question of what long-term relationships do to love, sex, and our images of ourselves. — (C) Official Site 

IMDB

While on a plane ride back to Toronto from a writing assignment, Margot meets Daniel, a handsome stranger. An immediate attraction is formed and Margot is able to open up and discuss some of her fears and longings. A taxi ride back home causes Daniel and Margot to realize that they are neighbours and Margot admits she’s married. The summer-time heat and her increasing fascination with the handsome artist who lives across the street starts getting to her, and Margot is no longer sure if she’s happy in her marriage or if she’d be happier with her fantasies with Daniel. Written by napierslogs

Desire is an interesting thing because of how I feel it drives us to seek ever greener pastures with the assumption that maybe this is it, that maybe we have l finally hit the jackpot, that will leads us to true happiness. This jackpot is often not all we expected, and in the act of desiring we lose sight of what we have and find ourselves lulled into something that will bring  back the very same feelings of emptiness that provoked our desires.

Often times elusive and wrong things as objects of desire, can have the strongest pull, in this movie the main characters attraction to the rickshaw driver has this effect. This new desire challenges and misaligns what she already has, and I think makes bigger the vacuum of emptiness that was there to begin with. We watch her struggle frantically with these new temptations, as she tries to strengthen her connection with her current husband through akward acts of playfulness and affection, that serve to only annoy and exacerbate him. Margot is an interesting character because sometimes the act of desiring more makes as lonely because we often assume those around us are not equally conflicted. But its evident in this film that the uber-comfortable domesticity of the two lou & margot is also kinda suffocating both of them. Its making them both feel unfulfilled but often in such situations even with the deep sense of unfulfillment only one person or in some cases both begin to look outside for fulfillment, for Lou his constant cooking might be it and for Margot the rickshaw dude becomes a good distraction.

Desire is a constant source of conversation in this film and we find the sage like wisdom comes from the alcoholic played by comedienne Sarah Silverman. Who delivers some interesting punchlines, and who in a way is almost like a prophetess the way her eyes are used to hint at how Margot is going to one day run blindly towards this new source of temptation.

In this movie we can identify with the bhuddist credo which views all suffering as stemming from desire. This desire and the inability to satisfy these deep vacuums within us lead to lives lead in a state of almost zombie like melancholia, that i see a lot of the characters in this film experiencing.

A particularly poignant scene in the film occurs when after attending a swimming class for grown folks the ladies are taking a shower in a public a shower. Margots character seemed elated at the attentions of the rick shaw guy who was watching her at the swimming classes the whole time. We find the ladies showering and having a lively conversation, while there is a group of equally naked but older ladies across from margot and her friends also showering. Then in a moment of comedic sarach silverman style comedy, miss silverman asks why she even attempts to shave her legs knowing she will be with the same person. Then one of Margots friends says something to the point of “Sometimes you only want something new” then one of the older ladies from across the public shower quips in saying”Sometimes new things get old just like old things did. This was one of those slap in the face moments for me. It captured the point of the movie and made it all the more melancholic and tragic, desire all the happy sensuous colors and brightness that filled the movie.  Movies like this kinda make art worth pursuing every time you got a few minutes in our modern hectic lives. Art helps you perform a self-analysis that can be as enriching and restoring as a baptism.

Written and directed by Sarah Polley; director of photography, Luc Montpellier; edited by Christopher Donaldson; music by Jonathan Goldsmith; production design by Matthew Davies; costumes by Lea Carlson; produced by Susan Cavan and Ms. Polley; released by Magnolia Pictures. Running time: 1 hour 56 minutes.

WITH: Michelle Williams (Margot), Seth Rogen (Lou), Luke Kirby (Daniel), Sarah Silverman (Geraldine), Jennifer Podemski (Karen) and Diane D’Aquila (Harriet).

The Best of 2013


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2013 marked quite a number of significant milestones but its also a year when I watched a lot, read a bit to much and probably exhausted my ear drums listening to too much. I am a nostalgic fuck, and have very little patience and admiration for modern things. So you will find most of my listening involved me pining over obscure psychedelic bands or blasting spiritual jazz albums by relatively unknown jazz collectives from the 1960s. As far as film is concerned its been a lot of the same, more pining for the past, as though i once lived there. So in the tradition of great blogosphere antics, i concocted a list of a hodgepodge of things i heard, read and listened too over the course of 2013 that were modern and left an indelible mark on how the year ended up for me.

12 years as a slave

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I hate preachy films but then again most art films or indie films, suffer the disease of being too self aware and stylized. But something about Steve Mcqueens direction  draws me into his often dark subject matter. His characters are always amidst the turmoil of an excruciating facet of the human condition. Mcqueens films manage to beautify even the ugliest facets of the human condition, and in this case the black skins manage to look like these blue-velvet canvases upon which mcqueen tries to examine the brutality of american slavery.

Upstream color

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The look, feel and sound of this film make it something so enjoyable I had to watch it twice. I call films like this Mind-fucks, because they haunt you once they touch you. You are changed but do not necessarily know why. The film hints at all types of post-modern things like ecology, love, violence, interconnectivity and loss, while never directly referring to those things. Shane caruth is the most original director i have seen, he manages to mix the weird with doses of science fiction without letting dialog get in the way, his movies are very atmospheric and moving in that way

Blue is the warmest

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A coming of age tale of attaining and losing love. A film thats well shot and kinda works well within the modern indie-film paradigm nothing mind blowing. But the kind of film thats so jam-packed with raw sensuality that you can’t help but be haunted by its emotional tone.

 

 

 

 

 

The grandmaster

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As a life-long Kung-fu fan, this to me was a return to the fundamental ideological premise of Kung-fu. Its a movie that using modern free flowing poetic cinematography combined with trance like acting, managed to boil down the fundamental story of what lies at the art of this age old tradition.

Blue jasmine

Woody Allen’s european excursions have been cute (meaning good but not game changing). Blue Jasmine was a sublime beauty and very dark in some spots. Held together by Cate Blanchett whose acting is flawless, we watch this delusional narcissistic lady spiral into literal madness as her world is unhinged by the financial crisis affecting the western nations. We watch her tornado spin out of control and suck in everyone around her pulling them ever deeper into her deep black hole of self-pity and narcissistic delusion.

The Act of Killing

Joshua Oppenheimer has two juggernauts in the documentary film game backing him so it was written in the stars that i would watch this movie. Once i saw it i was shook to my bones, it was equal parts disturbing, frightening and funny all rolled in one well engineered blunt. A film that explores moral complexity, murder, violence and societal decay, through one mans journey into his passed. We get to experience first hand the consequences of clandestine cold-war era politics, experienced on a human level. A must watch.

In the blogosphere lists have become a lazy mans way of expressing themselves without over-doing it. The act of list creating allows the lasseiz-faire reader to scheme through and the more intense reader to think deeply about the reasons why something is positioned somewhere on a list. So in this tradition I am sitting down legs crossed, exhausted after 2 hours of driving during a mid-western winter storm blasting, John Coltrane’s Africa Brass. Asking myself what music shook me in 2013 and was 2013 a milestone for me. I have made these lists before and often find I always leave something out, and I hope that will not be the case. The truth is 2013 was a year of jazz, jazz and more jazz, and as far as music by people that are alive and breathing the truth is not much. But I will force myself to force out 10 Albums and 10 Songs that shook me up in 2013. Albums

1. Yeezus:

What is life without Yeezus Probably one of the most discussed albums of the year, my man Lou Reed liked it . By no means is this a paradigm shifting album like My Dark Twisted or 808’s. It’s a worthy attempt but one that falls short, not because this album is not great. But I have heard far more radical ideas sonically and ideologically this year.

2. Run the jewels:

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Run the jewels EL-P & Killer Mike are a formidable tag team, match up the dissonant orweillian sounds of my man EL-P with the black sociopolitical fury of killer mike and you have a concoction necessary for Illuminati scale world take overs. These two rhyme like conjoint twins with an uncanny ability to complete as well as complement each other’s ideas. They are both paranoid-apocalyptic emcees with profoundly unnerving senses of humor, that have mastered the art of making our Orwellian world sound excitingly funny and hauntingly frightening at the same time.

3. Fuzz: Fuzz I have been on a Psych meets punk meets noisey guitar rock kick lately and this album has been a gift that has not stopped giving.

4. Earl Sweatshirt: Doris What can anyone say about this child prodigy whose father is a lion of an African poet. The kid stacks these dense pieces of esoteric wordplay delivered in a spoken word style  that is as formidable as a Coltrane jazz solo. The kids wordplay borders on sublime and ventures into fun explorations of how rap manages to reconstitute and bend the rules of language often to his own devices. The album manages to be ultra-personal and ridiculously self-effacing and honest. The sonics are a range of everything from boom-bap to strange atonal jazz vamping that sounds more like Kraut-rock than rap beats.

5. Janelle Monae: The Electric Lady Janelle Monae created an  album that is steeped in the deep mud of black tradition, while always staying true to her fascination with the afro-futurism that was at the heart of Sun-Ra, Earth Wind and Fire and cats like Outkast. The album is parts funky and immediate and in parts folksy and contemplative. It’s a multi-faceted exploration of an artist who in today’s hoochie mama era stands in stark contrast to most stereotypes about black women.

6. Spiritual Jazz 4 Jazzman Gerald compiles these records in a way that allows them to carefully reflect music created at a certain geography and by a certain people in a specific time period. In this record he returns to Europe and this time returns to black musicians creating avant-garde jazz in Europe in the 1960s. He hits on big names like Albert Ayler, Eric Dolphy and also touches on smaller artists like Sahib Shahib. Black artists who found the refreshing ears of europeans to be liberating to their music.

7. Albert Einstein: Prodigy of Mobb Deep has managed to remain relevant in an era of one hit wonders and clichéd backpackers. In this album he and my man alchemist create a cold New York album that’s murderously beautiful.  Built on beautiful boom-bap samples that are not steeped in nostalgia but are forward pushing in the shear brilliance that alchemist gives the production. Alchemists soundscapes are equal parts polished and dusty, creating a soundscape that allows prodigies grating vocals to remain front and center. Prodigy’s cold monotone is colder than ever, yet is embibbed with a youthful buoyancy that makes him sound almost like a new rapper.

8. Pusha –T: Pusha T literally pushes a brand of street music, which makes no apologies and is uncompromising in how it’s unaware of itself. What makes Pusha stand out is his precise no-holds bar delivery accompanied by a penchant for eerie metaphors that could easily push the most moralistic person to abandon all sanity and start selling drugs.

9. Mac Miller: Were was I when this annoying backpack romantaciser evolved into a self-aware and interesting rapper. His new style and delivery is dense like sweatshirts but has a wit that makes it all his own. His album navigates the modern rap sounds by alluding to everything from the trap sound to the more esoteric spaced-out sounds of flying lotus. Its a pure exercise in carelessly arranged lose wordplay thats as far-out as any Sun-Ra jam i ever heard.

10. Disclosure: Fun fun and more fun, easy to listen to but still jam-packed with enough little hints at UK-garage, disco, soul, and hip hop to keep it sounding inventive.

11. Danny Brown: Old was his return to pre-xxx form but also him pushing his post-xxx schizophrenic drug fueled agenda. Its a darker more mature album, steeped in street paranoia and far less stoner-druggy hipster crap.

That was my 2013 in a nut-shell scared of what 2014 has in store for me

Things that I am watching: Adam Curtis the living dead 3 hours of analyzing the consequences of our memories on our society


Adam Curtis the genius responsible for the documentary century of the self, entertained and frightened me yet again with this dark analysis of the human propensity to rehash history in a way that is distorted. History is by far a subject that has always enthralled me and understanding why we are what we are is often a process that also involves confronting dark and frightening components if the self. The documentary title living dead points to the zombie like state of modern human beings when it comes to analyzing their past.in episode 1) he looks at the western nations and their attempts to grapple with the Second World War and it’s consequences. In episode two we look again at modern states and their attempt to use science to control how we react to our past. In episode 3 Curtis delves into the nostalgia heavy period of Maggie thatcher and Reagan. He analyzes how these politicians garnered support by using a certain notion of history. This is a watch that is long, cerebral and full of informed historic footage and wonderful interviews. In my opinion great watching for  history buffs.

 

Why the stupid think they’re smart


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Woke up chewing my breakfast reading this highly insightful article

Originally posted on Mind Hacks:

Psychologists have shown humans are poor judges of their own abilities, from sense of humour to grammar. Those worst at it are the worst judges of all.

You’re pretty smart right? Clever, and funny too. Of course you are, just like me. But wouldn’t it be terrible if we were mistaken? Psychologists have shown that we are more likely to be blind to our own failings than perhaps we realise. This could explain why some incompetent people are so annoying, and also inject a healthy dose of humility into our own sense of self-regard.

In 1999, Justin Kruger and David Dunning, from Cornell University, New York, tested whether people who lack the skills or abilities for something are also more likely to lack awareness of their lack of ability. At the start of their research paper they cite a Pittsburgh bank robber called McArthur Wheeler as an example, who was…

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