It's been a real shitshow. Let's all have a happy new year and start this one over again.
Everybody died and Trump became president.
It's been a real shitshow. Let's all have a happy new year and start this one over again.
There was a movie in 1980 called "Midnight Madness" that featured some kind of scavenger hunt on a college campus or something. I think I saw it. Variations on the theme have persisted for years but at the very least things like Amazing Race are more modern incarnations - teams solve clues that lead them to a new location where they solve clues that lead to the next location and on and on until the final puzzle. And that was the basic theme of an event held in West Orange and surrounding locales (mostly the Livingston Mall) that I reluctantly participated in a few weeks ago. Wait -- that's not the right word. What's the word for "god I can't believe I spent a Saturday night riding around in a minivan in Livingston NJ taking pictures in front of Manhattan Bagel" -- oh, right "sadly". That's the word.
So I'm writing a novel. My "next" novel, while my agent shops my last novel -- the one featuring two boys who form a hardcore band in Pennsylvania. This novel is less hardcore but the plot does involve a band, or a concert, and a couple boys and a couple crazy families, and I'm in love with it right now, all the scenes spreading out in front of me desperate to be written. There's only one problem. Well there's only one problem that I'm writing about in this blog post... where to do all this writing without distraction. The easy answer is home, because I live alone and even when my boyfriend is around (which is at least half the time) he does give me some space to write on the balcony and get into a semi-groove with the story and the characters and the love, and I love that he does that but still, it's hard to pull away from him for the multiple hours it takes to write a first draft and a second draft (which I'm currently on) while keeping the flow going in a summer when I'm busier than I've ever been with work (which I feel like I say every time I post) and there's an endless stream of activities and parties I've committed to and it's just hard to find the time so when I finally find the time to write, I want it to be perfect and so far this summer, in the city, it's been... difficult. Like... WHY ARE YOU SHOUTING IN A COFFEE SHOP WHEN EVERY SINGLE PERSON AROUND YOU IS ON THEIR LAPTOP WORKING ON SOMETHING IMPORTANT AND COULD GIVE TWO FLYING FUCKS ABOUT THE CONVERSATION YOU'RE HAVING WITH THE GIRL 2 FEET FROM YOU. She can hear. Stop shouting!!!!!!
So I work from home when I'm not traveling and by some miracle I haven't traveled at all in July so I was home a lot and I've been working my ass off, like 10 hours days every day minimum just sitting in front of that goddamn computer doing engineering shit and data work and conference calls and I just can't -- like who can -- so I need a release, I need to get out of my place, and my very favorite coffee shop in Hoboken closed in the spring and the re-opened version is a pale imitation and it's averaged 112 degrees with 100% humidity for the past few weeks so sitting outside in Sinatra Park, while not horrible, is a bit of a sweat-and-bug-filled challenge so I inevitably head for the city to write and sadly, I encounter... people. Like this guy.
Five and a half years ago, at the close of their Expo 86 tour, Wolf Parade announced an "indefinite hiatus" and they followed through, playing a couple shows in 2011 and then effectively ending their band. Spencer moved on to multiple iterations of his Moonface alter-ego and Dan (after breaking up with his wife and bandmate in Handsome Furs) tried his hand in multiple efforts including Divine Fits (with Britt Daniel of Spoon) and Operators, his current band. In the intervening years, Spencer also announced that Sunset Rubdown was gone (his 'side project' during the Wolf Parade years that in my mind may have been the greatest band of all time) so basically five years ago, we lost Sunset Rubdown, Wolf Parade, and Handsome Furs, three of my most beloved bands of the decade. And the "Canadian indie rock revolution" also kind of died at the same time. Broken Social Scene stopped making records. Arcade Fire's 2013 release Reflektor wasn't just not good -- it was actively bad in retrospect -- and the indie rock that fueled my music love for more than a decade kind of dissipated. Even Spencer's Moonface albums, which started so promisingly, fell off a bit with his back-to-back piano based albums that felt more like leftovers than strong new entries and wasn't really anything at all like Wolf Parade. So it was with great joy that I greeted the news that Wolf Parade was coming back in 2016, for a small series of select shows, and a surprise EP release in the midst of the tour.
The shows began in New York - of course, five straight sold out nights at the Bowery Ballroom. Unfortunately they sold out in seconds and I couldn't get any tickets -- I found out too late about the pre-sale and tried all day on the actual sale date but the scalpers were active and the tickets were gone. I'm sure I would have bought tickets for every single show if I could have. Alas, I waited for a couple months for the re-sale ticket prices to go down (they didn't) and bit the bullet to buy a single ticket to their Thursday night show. Wolf Parade at the Bowery Ballroom. I mean, I pretty much would have paid anything. This was in May and it was amazing -- all the old favorites and I was right up front and Spencer and Dan were right there, in front of me on stage, taking me back to the dozens of times I've seen them both live, alone and together. By the end of the show I couldn't even speak.
They then did shows in Toronto and London but returned to New York last week for the Northside Festival, an amazing series of concerts on the north side of Williamsburg, playing a fully free (!) show in a parking lot near McCarren Park in Brooklyn. I waited in line on a bright sunny (but not too hot) day with my "reservation" (not a ticket) for a while but once they opened the gates, the line moved fast and there was plenty of space in the parking lot to wait for the show. Opening act Land of Talk played for about 45 minutes while I had a drink or two in the gated off drinking area before moving out toward the stage as Land of Talk left the stage. The crowd parted to use the port-a-johns (yeah, eww) and maybe grab some drinks and food and I diced through the remaining concertgoers up close to the stage. So again, I was right up front, in front of Spencer and Dan, when they came to the stage.
Their performance at Northside was something special to behold. By then they'd gotten their rhythm fully back, fully working together, and I'd had a month now to listen to the four new songs on their new EP -- they played three of them at the show. But ultimately, it was the beautiful outdoor setting, with the sun setting behind us, over the water, and the stars lighting up the sky by the end of the night as one of the greatest bands of all time lit up the stage. I can't say enough about how great they played -- ripping through perfect versions of all their greatest songs -- "You are a Runner", "Shine a Light", "This Heart's on Fire", "Dear Sons and Daughters of Hungry Ghosts" and of course, OF COURSE, "I'll Believe in Anything". I pogo-ed so much to the music, more than I have for any show in recent memory, reminding me of an earlier time (a younger time) when the energy of the music I was watching overwhelmed me during a show. I don't know how many times I've seen Spencer and Dan (apart and together) and I don't know if they are going to get back together again now that this mini-tour has ended but I do know that for one amazing night (well two, but the Northside night was really special) I got to experience a joy for music I don't think I've felt in years and retain the hope that Spencer and Dan -- in every way, with every band -- will continue to give me that joy again and again. Thanks guys. (Oh and Dante and Arlen, thank you too!)
I have a lot to say about the movies, because I see a ton of movies (it's like the main thing my boyfriend and I can agree on to do together) and I saw most of the Oscar-nominated features but only recently, in the past week, finally got to see The Revenant. So I was holding off on my "best of the year" recap and/or discussions of the Oscars, until it's probably too late to matter -- it's deep into 2016 and Deadpool was great and I just saw 10 Cloverfield Lane and I'm dying to discuss but don't want to spoil so ... here's my Oscar recap post and new movie post all in one.
There were 8 films nominated for Best Picture this year -- Brooklyn, The Big Short, Room, Spotlight, The Revenant, The Martian, Bridge of Spies, and Mad Max: Fury Road. I haven't seen Brooklyn (no appeal to me), Room (looks very difficult to watch, but I will try to catch it on TV) or Bridge of Spies (there is some appeal, I plan to catch on TV). Of the others, I liked them all, actually, but if I were to rank them in order, my least favorite was Spotlight, which not only won Best Picture but also was positively reviewed by just about every single person who saw it. It was really tough to even find a negative review, although a few mentioned that it played out a bit like a glorified TV movie, which it sort of felt like to me. Not that I didn't enjoy it, my review would have been positive too, but I wasn't quite riveted by the story (which I kind of knew all about) or at least not about the reporters uncovering the story, rather than the priests and the victims, which seems the more compelling story to me, and alas, I actually fell asleep in the theater before the ending. Which yeah, maybe that keeps it from being such a positive review. In my defense, it was a drinking theater with comfortable chairs and it was after midnight but yeah, something tells me I wouldn't have fallen asleep under those conditions in Mad Max.
My favorite movie of 2015 wasn't in the Best Picture race, though (which sets it apart from 2014, where my favorite three films -- Whiplash, Boyhood, and Citizenfour -- were all in the Best Picture or Best Documentary race). I had hopes that The Revenant would take the mantle and when I finally watched it last week in Los Angeles's amazing ArcLight Cinemas experience, I was pretty convinced 20 minutes in this would be the greatest movie I ever watched. That opening sequence, shot in just a few long continuous shots, was brilliantly executed and immediately riveting and those perfectly placed arrows zipping through the necks of the fur-trappers under attack by misplaced Indians, on a big screen with the sound to match... wow, just wow. That's the brilliance of the moviegoing experience in a nutshell. And right up to the point that - spoiler alert, but I can't imagine you haven't heard of this - Leo is attacked by the bear, it's just a perfect, momentous action flick. Sadly, it doesn't quite sustain that momentum through a bloated middle and some unnecessary dream sequences that took me out of the film and I kind of couldn't wait until the climactic battle I knew had to be coming, some 2 1/2 hours in. It's a great film, don't get me wrong, but with a few more edits (something Inarratu isn't known for) I think this could have been brilliant. Alas, it's not my favorite Best Picture nominee, nor my favorite film of the year. Read on for that list and a spoiler-free review of 10 Cloverfield Lane.