Friday, September 25, 2009

Lemons, Lions & Lambs

“Life is like a dream, a series of meaningless movement.”

I am listening to Blonde Redhead’s masterpiece, Melody of Certain Damaged Lemons. I haven’t heard this in quite some time and I must say it sounds pretty great. I liked the follow up, Misery is a Butterfly (despite the somewhat annoying title) but have not heard their latest, which is at least a year old. What the hell? Maybe I just don’t see how Melody can be topped. After years of making Sonic Youth inspired indie rock, they soften their sound and found their collective muse in perfect form.


Yesterday, Cassandra told me of the Netflix movie she got in the mail, Lions for Lambs. Did I want to see it? She was on the fence herself. We decided that we’d give it twenty minutes and see if it was a grabber. Jesus… it grabbed me.

This movie flew under the radar, or maybe I should say it flew under my radar. It seems to have suffered from lousy marketing and the apathy of an audience eager for Borat and not interested in a film that examines our sad nation’s current political environment. But it doesn’t just examine one aspect; it fixes its eye on three levels of concern, all connected, all crucial. Leatherface Redford, who directed and plays the part of the professor/idealist/conscience of the story, bites off a lot in this movie, sometimes swallowing things whole, maybe chocking a little here and there, but definitely doing what I feel is important work. I can’t say I love every movie he’s directed, or can name them all, but between this and Quiz Show, I’m converted. It’s nice to see someone can still make riveting movies that consist largely of talking heads.

So why didn’t I give a damn about this movie when it came out? Maybe for the same reasons that the movie did so poorly and got such negative reviews: why watch a movie about the War on Terror when there’s cable news? Who wants to see a didactic movie about how rotten things are? Yeah, no one seems to have been too riled by the thing, and the critics chimed in with a lot of “dull,” “preachy,” “pompous” comments, even calling it an eye-drooper. Were they watching the same movie I saw? I thought it was pretty energetic for a talky film with mild bits of action thrown in. While far from perfect (name a perfect film), the movie at least tries to raise some fucking important questions and makes the effort (however half-hearted) to make look at both sides in our increasingly polarized United States (see the oxymoron there?).

Were I more conspiracy minded, I might suggest that a movie that attempts to confront the apathy that is swallowing our country might never have a chance of surviving less due to the indifferent public, and a lot more due to the invisible machinations of the industry. I mean, maybe I am remembering things differently, but no one seemed bent on promoting this movie. Taxi to the Dark Side, and No End in Sight (both excellent) are small films, documentaries for fuck’s sake, without the big studios and their liquid cash, but were talking about a movie with Redford, Streep, and Tom Cruise. Hell, the loopy Scientologist was behind the thing’s production and still no one cared. Jesus, where was the dough? Probably spent on something with a higher chance of return. Ironic, ain’t it?

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

If you’re like me, you gravitate to literature translated from Spanish or Russian. If you’re like me, you’ll be excited by the list of books being released in October that Chad Post highlights here.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009


Cassandra showed me The Believers last week and, subsequently, I can’t stop singing this song:

Let’s all sit back and remember a glorious time called 1997.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

The Mop-top Funny via Hipster Writer

This made me laugh.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Critics in Dubious Battle

Oh, I love (to borrow from Xtop) the literati fistfights. I found out about this from the tremendous Conversational Reading blog, which is always worth a look. But yeah, for all my own criticisms of career academics, I definitely have to side against the likes of Zak Smith.

Good fun!

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Bolaño Syllabus

For anyone who read, or tried to read, 2666 or The Savage Detectives and wondered, “What the fuck?” here’s a helpful guide to get you through the strange world of Roberto Bolaño.

Not a bad idea, for those willing to commit. I can definitely think of worse books.

Joravsky's Possible Last Word on Blago

In a city like Chicago, in a state like Illinois, there’s plenty of muck to be raked. Thankfully, there are folks like Ben Joravsky who are thrilled to rake the muck. And we need muckrakers.

The Blago thing refuses to die, what with his book and his wife’s media whoring, but let this article be the closing chapter.

Be sure to read to the end, as Joravsky has some well thought out words for our president regarding what backing Daley’s Olympic wish could mean for his future. Come on, Mr. Pres., if you were willing to sell out Cuba for those all-important Florida votes then you ought to be equally ready to fuck over Daley to protect your first-term neck.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Boo, Mr. President!

I thought he believed in change?

I especially like the following excerpt:

"The policy is indefensible on any grounds...The reality is that Cuba may be special, but you have to ask yourself why it's therefore easier to travel to or do business with the Stalinist, nuclear weapon-toting North Koreans, or whether it's more comfortable for us to be totally economically integrated with the Saudi royal family and their depredations, or if we are concerned about human rights, why are we so integrated with and why are we the sole supporter of a government in Afghanistan that has just made rape in marriage legal and denies women the right to go outside without the approval of their husbands?"

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Alejandro Murguía

Wednesday, September 09, 2009

The Hungry Inferno Court is now in session. All rise for the honorable ZombieDante.

The court recognizes Horacio Castellanos Moya, having asserted his position as the finest living writer last year with the English translation of his masterful Senselessness. This month brings two more of his books, She-Devil in the Mirror and Dance With Snakes, into English—testimonies to be reviewed by the court in order to solidify the above stated position of Mr. H.C.M. or to reassess his standing in the pantheon of greats.

In the mean time, please review the following essay from the Quarterly Conversation by Mr. Scott Esposito that shall provide an overview of Latin American literature and the so-called political novel, and the novels of Castellanos Moya, detailing their deceptive and artful nature.

Court dismissed.

Tuesday, September 08, 2009

New Q.C.

On the N.E.T.

Check it out.

Monday, September 07, 2009

Today's Lesson

From “On the Sunny Banks of the University” by drunk ol’ Bukowski:

I think good poetry should startle, shatter and,
yes, entertain while getting as close to the truth as
I can get all the comfort I need from a good

Thursday, September 03, 2009

Wrapping Up

Departing, for now, from the recent announcement that a judge is seeking the arrests of some dirty war practitioners in Chile, let me return to the would-be art criticism for a second, okay? Okay.

One of the better reviews of Inglorious Bastards cited a bad reason to not like the film, of which I am guilty: one should not criticize art for not being what it was expected to be. I wanted a movie that was promised by the trailers. I was pissed about the bait-n-switch. A legitimate complaint if I do say so myself, but, all things considered, not the best way to approach a film, book, etc. and so forth.

Having said that: the film, in my opinion, is still flabby and dull and not a masterpiece. It is ambitious, and I applaud ambition, even when it does not conform to expectations (as in the case of my much loved 2666). Still, I do ask for something more than a lot of needless dialogue stretching scenes like silly putty. On that, The Onion has summed up the movie better than anyone:,31969/

This effectively ends my week of thinking about a movie that doesn’t deserve this much thought. Stay tuned for the usual rants, raves, fake criticisms, book worship, and links to various flotsams and maybe, dare I say it, a few jetsams.

“…torture, disappearance, illegal detention”

Read this.

My favorite bit:

“Certainly those are issues we're debating in the United States right now, of how to deal with the past.”

Let the debate continue.

Wednesday, September 02, 2009

Can we add Kissinger to the list?