Saturday, October 3, 2020

Adapted from my comment at Locus

Lavie Tidhar - By Force Alone
Any poor soul who's followed me here knows that I'm a big fan of Lavie Tidhar, and By Force Alone, his newest novel, his postmodern interpretation of Arthurian fiction, is as readable as everything he publishes. But while he intends the book to be a descent into the muck, it descended a bit too far for me with Galahad’s initiation.

Of all the cultural references Tidhar makes, the truest one to the spirit of the novel is the one to Goodfellas–and while I can’t help but appreciate Scorsese’s ability to spin a yarn, when I watch that film I always feel a little soiled. And so it goes with this book.

With novels, you should even like the antiheroes, you know? But other than Merlin, some of the time, there’s no-one remotely sympathetic here at all.

I'm no shrinking violet, but with all the mob references, and with all the fucking profanity, with all the farts and the steaming piles of horse shit, with the complete lack of principle or virtue, never mind chivalry, you're left wondering how this could possibly be an edifying addition to the Matter of Britain, for anyone.

Tuesday, September 15, 2020

Andy Summers & Robert Fripp - I Advance Masked

This album is forever associated with a golden day in my mind. Teenagers, Mark and I, again in his shitshaker Vega, smoking a doobie, then driving through Tropical Park with the windows down, my cassette copy of I Advance cranked loud.

Beautiful sunny day, and the guitars preternaturally bright and sunny too, echoplex dripping and Fripp's solos sharp and incisive like the sunbeams you felt viscerally on your forearms.

Mark was not a prog dude--he was more Skynyrd, and if he was feeling crazy he'd listen to some REM--but the flak I expected never came, and he listened to the eccentric guitar music like I did, too chill or too stoned to care about genre, letting the gleaming guitar wash over him as it washed over me, bright, stoned and photonic at 15 mph in his orange rustbucket Chevy.

Saturday, September 12, 2020

Can't Stand Losing You: Surviving the Police

dir. Andy Grieve, Lauren Lazin

Caught this film over the last couple nights--free with Prime you know--and it's absolutely positively pretty good. It is indeed the story of The Police, but more primarily it is Andy Summers' particular version of it. Summers actually narrates, going back and forth between his own musical history and the then-somewhat recent Police reunion tour of 2007 and an opening of one of /his photographic exhibitions.

He spends some of that narration time with how he was in The New Animals with Eric Burdon, and he spends some time on Dantalian's Chariot (Flower Power Central!, as Pete Frame so pithily observed), so color me and dozens of fellow prog-rockers disappointed that Andy in this film didn't bother to mention being in The Soft Machine or making two albums with Robert Fucking Fripp.

But hey! There's lots of time spent on Summers' alternate profession of road photographer, and there's plenty of smack talk about Sting, which, let's face it, depends on how you feel about Gordon Sumner. The film sometimes descends into millionaire rock star self-pity, which definitely fuck you, you lucky and talented fuck, but overall, Summers seems candid, pulling no punches regarding the drugs he took or the groupies he slept with or the swollen ego he developed along with his bandmates at the apex of The Police's popularity. Which, good. Summers seems likeable, but his movie doesn't seem constructed to try and get you to like him.

Like I was saying, I could have stood more attention paid to the prog part of Mr. Summers' career and musical mind, and a little more time given to the absolutely distinctive guitar tone he developed with The Police--echoplex FTW-- but this was a good movie, one I willingly came back to after being interrupted in its viewing.

Monday, August 3, 2020

A Rock and Roll Clerihew


John Cale
Sang a Velvety tale
And the irascible fucker
Played rhythm with Maureen Tucker

File under: Practical Poetry

Sunday, June 28, 2020

Comments at Other Sites:
Ad Astra by James Gray

One of the few blogs I visit regularly is Approaching Pavonis Mons by Balloon, the irregularly updated blog named after a Flaming Lips song maintained by the Welsh science fiction writer Alastair Reynolds.

Back in October, he'd posted a review of the recent Brad Pitt vehicle Ad Astra, with particular attention paid to what he felt was the lousy science. Reynolds used to work for the European Space Agency, so he'd know one way or the other.

I'd been keen to see the movie--until I read his review. After having done so, it became more of a back burner thing. But I try to get to my back burner, too, and last night I finally saw Ad Astra. And I liked it quite a bit.

Because I'd never forgotten Reynold's review, I thought I'd go back to his site and comment on his review. Here's that comment:

A bit late but having finally seen it, the only thing I could think of was your excellent science-based review. The first review I read had talked about Applebee's on the moon, and I was like, kewl! But then after reading your review, I dropped the movie down a notch from 'buy when out on DVD', to 'watch when available to stream for free'.

Because I'm not a physicist, but unless persuaded to drop it for a little bit, I have an interest in, you know, the way the world really works.

But last night my gal and I found out that contrary to their ad we'd seen, Amazon was still getting six bucks for Motherless Brooklyn, but, hey, there's Ad Astra for free, and at least it will look good.

As you note, the movie immediately grabs you with the nonsensical tower/telescope, and, man, those struts don't look like fullerene to me--plus, anyway, you can make it out of steel and just put it in low orbit.

So not a good start, but sometime in the middle of movie, during another of Brad Pitt's talkovers, I thought to myself, said it to my gal, sheesh, that sounds like Willard from Apocalypse Now. Pitt--McBride--didn't say, I'd never seen a man so broken, but he might as well have. And it became clear to me as I watched from there, this movie is a conscious tribute to Coppola's masterpiece. Tommy Lee Jones was Kurtz, the best and the brightest destroyed from within, gone totally insane, and Roy's travels from the Moon to Mars, to the Mad Monkey station (!), to Neptune, mirror the travels of the gunboat up the river, progressively more atavistic, progressively more removed from the world of rationality.

Look at it that way, and suddenly the film becomes quite good, cognizant of the human issues it raises and of how film as art has dealt with these things before.

The details of Coppola's Vietnam gunboat voyage are to be sure more authentic than those of Roy McBride's segmented ellipses in Ad Astra. And Coppola's movie wasn't afraid of a dark ending, where Gray's had a sort of unbelievable reconciliation, but regardless, AA was in many ways a pretty great film. The fact that the science kind of sucked (and all the points you raise are valid, as you know better than I) doesn't take it from better than average to below average; it takes it from fully great to very good. It's a damn shame they (for example) had the main character swimming through the rings of Neptune somehow celestially guided, because this film had classic within its reach, had they just done the research.

Wednesday, May 27, 2020

Godspeed You Black Emperor! - "Blaise Bailey Finnegan III" from the EP Slow Riot For New Zero Kanada

A lot going on here.

Now, I'm left wing, but I'm not as left-wing as these Godspeed assholes. And they're radicals, but it may be that they're not as radical as plain-old Blaise Bailey Finnegan III.

Or are they?

This song is delicious because the hipper-than-thou underground rock band, who record people and situations, and like some kind of fucking underground Sacha Baron Cohen, insert these recordings as ironic commentary into their lyrical and otherwise instrumental music, were punked *big time* here.

Whoever this street dude was, whether he's really a courtroom anarchist, or just playing a part for the hipster assholes sticking the mike in his face, whether he owns eight high-power firearms, or none, he wasn't named Blaise Bailey, and he sure as fuck didn't write this 'Virus' poem he recites, 'cause all that, it turns out, was slump-period Iron Maiden.

And you know, Godspeed are up on multinational weapons manufacturers, and they're current on the deep internal rot of the American State, but it became clear they're not so up-to-date on 90's arena metal.

There's always someone smarter than you, you know?

It's good to keep that in mind as you position yourself on the political lectern.