Sunday, September 30, 2007

Into The Wild



I don't know where to begin with this film... I want to write a glowing review but I'd be hard pressed to to explain why I find a movie that ends the way it does is still so incredibly uplifting and not tragic. You'd think me insane.

I guess if you'd ever longed really deeply for truth and meaning... and I mean really ached and pained for it, this film is really going to hit you hard. If you've ever wanted to strip it all down to just raw experience... beauty... purity... it's going to resonate with you.

If there was a rapturous equivalent of Munch's Scream, this might be it.

Yeah... I get it. It's really cool.

I didn't know the story ahead of time. I didn't know the book. It was all fresh and new. It really shook me.

Sean Penn... always loved the guy. This does nothing to lessen that.

Special Thanks...

I don't usually get to personal with this space, but every so often I don't figure it's such a bad idea to take a moment and give a special shout out and a big up to people who've gone above and beyond...

I've been incredibly fortunate my entire life... blessed if you're inclined to believe in the divine... to have come into contact with very special people. Family, friends, teachers... whatever you want to call them... People who have kept me level when the world was off kilter. It's been an odd few months for me, as some of you have heard about at length from me. There have been some ups and downs and some situations... health issues etc. I've spent the better part of the summer of 2007 getting inspected, injected and all that other stuff... I've been tested for cancers and infections of all my nether regions inside and out. Nuff said. It's been trying. Still no diagnosis, but some heavy shit ruled out.

I guess it's probably not all that big a worry. People who have seen me recently can tell you I'm not missing too many meals. It's all good. I will will live until I don't. All good.

Just wanted to take a moment to give a special shout out... You all know who you are. The people that I piss and moan too. The people that I've dumped trailer loads of grief and exhaustion onto.

Thanks for putting up with it. I don't deserve you.

Life ain't so bad, even on the rough days. I was coming home this evening on the F train and it pulled up out of the ground at Carroll Street while the sun was setting. I've spent the day with one of my dearest friends. I'm headed back to a comfortable home and as yet another friend said to me this morning... You are not alone.

Thanks... I know that. I really do.

Friday, September 28, 2007

GUILTY GUILTY GUILTY GUILTY GUILTY







On every count.. I mean really. Just look at him.

Edvard Munch: The Scream



Why does this painting resonate so profoundly with so many people?

I credit Munch's Scream as having kicked open the door to the possibility that I could be moved by art. There was nothing that really did it for me up until that point. I was working in a remaindered book warehouse and thumbing through artbooks during a break. I turned a page and was dumbstruck... the emotional equivalent of being donkey-punched.

It was definitely an empathic response. I'd been there. I'd felt that. I knew it and it encompassed all my deepest fear and dread.

Twenty years later it strikes me just how many people have had exactly the same reaction to this tiny little painting--and it is tiny when you actually see it (which is impossible now as it was so badly damaged by thieves). In the scale it's in, it portrays an even greater sense of hopeless and despair. How is it possible that so many people feel this so deeply... this primal fear... this horror?

Awesome...

Thursday, September 27, 2007

The Modern Lovers s/t Re-issue



I'm generally very skeptical of the promises of re-issues and remastering. With the exception of a few companies, Rhino, for example, there are usually no discernable differences between the original release and the newer one. It also doesn't help that this whole remastering craze is tied mostly into schemes to eliminate budget series like Nice Price or Best Buy (not the chain store)and raise the prices... and hopefully compel fans to repurchase music that they probably already own... etc.

That being said... I held off for a long time on buying The Modern Lovers re-issue on Castle earlier this year. Yes I saw that there were alternate takes of a few songs. Yes I read that it sounded better than ever. I'm a skeptic though... see above. The other day though I went into my local store (Music Matters on 7th Avenue in Park Slope)and it was playing. There is such a marked difference on even a modest system that it nearly sounded like new songs.

The songs always stood up on their own, even at the lowest fidelity... which is the highest compliment you can bestow on any musician or music. It never mattered to me that the drums sounded like cardboard boxes, or that Jerry Harrison's organ sounded like a $50 Casio played in the next room... the flat, muffled vocals didn't bother me. But now that's all gone! We're not talking state of the art, but the difference is tremendous nonetheless. There is separation between the instruments. There is depth. There is punch that the songs never had.

The bonus tracks... all killer. Someone I Care About sounds like an entirely different song. Modern World rocks a lot harder than the original. And Roadrunner... the lyrics somewhat different, but it works up to a fierce ending. Entirely different vibe by the end, and a real showstopper.

Verdict... worth the extra money, even if like me you have two pristine copies on vinyl and the original CD release.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Testimonial



Some days you just have to cop to it...

Monday, September 24, 2007

Home is where the heart is...

Got a couple thoughtful responses on the other thread, and I've been thinking about it more. I'm still not sure I have any big answer. Then again, there are very seldom any big answers to big questions, so it's all good.

I'm leaning towards "home is where the heart is" as an answer, and that's pretty vague and broad of course.

So yes, I've felt "at home" in this filthy old city, and I've felt homesick for it when I was away. There's a specific energy, rhythm and vibe and culture that I've missed, though it has to be said that much of this has been washed out by gentrification, urban renewal, social engineering and various demographic shifts... Still, I do remember the days flying back into New York at night and seeing the skyline, anchored hard at the bottom by the World Trade Center. It gave me such a charge. And I'd look around on the plane and try to pick out the faces of the people who might be coming here for the first time for whatever reason, for a vacation, for business, to live... You could just feel the excitement...

And driving fast up the Jersey Turnpike towards home there would be this one point where all of a sudden you could start tuning in the FM stations and the music was different and the voices were different.

And there have been moments when I haven't been anywhere... just down on the front stoop talking to the neighbors, gossiping, having a few drinks... it was hard to imagine living somewhere where the houses aren't attached and you might not see your neighbor coming and going and get that Howahya... and what do people do in places where people actually use their back yards? How do they get to know their neighbors? There are times when I cannot imagine being anywhere else.

Maybe I just get too caught up in looking for the big answers when there are none. Maybe home is just another transitory notion... no less special, but not some permanent ideal spot... just a moment in time.

Adieu Marcel...

So I had this idea, and don't think I'm hung up on Marcel Marceau, because frankly mimes give me the creeps and despite a few cool moves that translate to neat dances, I don't understand the entertainment value.

BUT... I had this idea about Marcel's funeral. Instead of having him lie in state, they should put him in full mime gear and makeup and have him standing upright in a transparent lucite box, like the PopeMobile, posed so it looks like he's doing that trapped in a box thing that mimes do. Would that be disrespectful? No, I think it would be perfect.

Sunday, September 23, 2007

RIP Marcel Marceau?

MARCEL MARCEAU. Dead, or just lying there very silently?

Saturday, September 22, 2007

Define "Home," please...

I know I don't get a lot of traffic here, but this is a topic I've been thinking a lot about recently, perhaps always a nagging thought at the back of my head, or perhaps inspired by someone close who has been dealing with homesickness. It would be nice to get at least a few well thought out answers... personal anecdotes... not theory.

So what does "home" mean to you? Is it a place? What about the place makes it home? Is it a feeling or a state of mind? Could you find it anywhere?

How about homesickness? Ever felt it? Ever tried to remedy it? Ever gone home and found it wasn't the same? Anybody reclaim home successfully?

So, please... anyone, if you could...

Paula Carino Recap

In a perfect world, on a perfect morning, on one of those perfect days when I don't have to work, I'd turn on the radio in the morning and hear:

Robots Helping Robots by Paula Carino
In The Poppies by Boy With A Fish

and The Rules by The Actual Facts which is my favorite single of the week.

And of course there would be world peace, and end to hunger, a cure for AIDS etc. but that's a bit more complicated. You'd think getting really good rock/pop singles on the radio would be a lot more simple, but all evidence points to the contrary.

So I saw three of the five bands on the bill last night (sorry Mofos, but just couldn't hang). For three sets of live music, it was a perfect world, or at least a perfect corner of it.

I don't think it's so unreasonable that some radio station somewhere couldn't capture just a little bit of the fun from last night. Perhaps its safer that good rock and roll remains strictly in the moment... but it would be nice to see dedicated songwriters and musicians recognized for their contributions. They deserve a lot more than a day job and a cut of the door.

But last night was just about right in the world.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Gig Alert--Paula Carino

I think it's important to start a weekend off right and I can't think of any better way than to go downtown and see PAULA CARINO & The New Dealbreakers at the Delancey:

Friday, Sept 21 at the Delancey

8:00 Overlord
9:00 Paula Carino and her new Dealbreakers
10:00 Boy with a Fish
11:00 The Actual Facts
12:00 The Mofos

The Delancey
168 Delancey (between Clinton & Attorney)
http://www.thedelancey.com/
$8.00

Its always a treat to see Paula live... and though I don't know most of the other acts, you might want to stay for The Actual Facts as well. I've seen them twice... also a lot of fun.

O.J. vs. The Jena 6 and stuff

This is an interesting article about the so-called liberal media and race in America. It says an awful lot about how the media addresses people of color. It's just sad.

This is one of those days where the news is just dire... I mean, it always is, but some days get to me more than others. I've been told more than once in my life that I should take a hiatus, and it always sounds like a good idea, but it never happens. I wish I could sometimes but it feels like a betrayal.

The Jena 6 story is too important to ignore. The O.J. story will have no bearing on your life... ever. The link to the article above is important too.

Things that make you go.... WTF???

Last night I had recurring dreams about making brownies. Well, I should say... dreams about being unsuccessful making brownies. They were very vivid dreams and after each step I'd wake up and say to myself, "Wow, that was so vivid. It's just got to be symbolic of something."

Round one: not enough water or whatever liquid so the mix was too dry.
Wake up.... hmmmmm.

Round two: forgot to butter the pan.
Wake up.... hmmmm.

Round three: pan too big--have to find smaller pan.
Wake up.... this is getting annoying.

And so on through the night. Now, this could all really mean something. Or I could be just thinking like a fat person.

Why am I sharing this? Perhaps because I didn't get enough sleep.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Is the world more violent than it used to be?

Steven Pinker makes a damn good argument here that this simply isn't the case. Don't know if I'm convinced though. This is a damn good argument though.

***So having given this some thought on the subway home--and that's where I do some of my best thinking, aside from the bathroom and perhaps that has something to do with similar air quality: Pinker's argument definitely stands up in a semantic sense. There may even be fewer individual acts of violence, BUT perhaps the more appropriate and relevant question would be, "Is the world more dangerous than it used to be?" OR Is there more potential danger from individual acts of violence... etc. Certainly the threat of death at the hands of another human being, whether it be a random act of violence, or a vaunted WMD, or war, or just blatant, wholesale destruction of the environment (which is perhaps the most insidious act of violence of all), is great than it has ever been. That's a topic that perhaps the academics could address more honestly. People in general may be less violent, but violent individuals have become much better at what they do and there has never been more reason to be afraid.

Selah

Monday, September 17, 2007

Take a number...



I came across this map a few days ago, quite by coincidence, after being involved with a conversation in another blog hemisphere. Of course THIS blog site is #1 because it represents freedom and liberty that other blogs don't have with the censors and... But I digress.

So anybody that knows me knows I'm not big on national pride or nationalism--and I don't really see much division between the two. My entire life I've been told that I live in the best country in the world and I should be thankful that I live here and not other places... and I mean ANY other place. After a short time--like before I got out of middle school--it began to sound not a lot different than THOU SHALT HAVE NO GOD BEFORE ME, or, THE BEATLES ARE THE BEST THERE IS OR EVER WILL BE! And anybody that knows me knows how I feel on those subjects also.

Anyway, without me getting into why things like flag-burning laws give me hives... And without my writing an insanely long laundry list of what this country has been guilty of and is currently guilty of... I need someone to tell me: What makes us NUMBER ONE??? Why should I be grateful? And I'm sorry... comparing life in middle class whitesville to crimes committed by the Hitlers and Stalins and Pol Pots of the world is stupid. Don't even go there. It's not only intellectually dishonest. It's downright insulting and I will bite back hard. That's not a challenge, but I'd prefer this to be civil discourse. I wouldn't rule out full out arguing though. I'm not beyond getting ugly either.

So what makes us Number One? And if you're not from here and believe that someplace else is Number One, please elaborate and elucidate... Or screw it... just enjoy the little map up above. It's funny.

The conversation on the other blogs, by the way, began with a man talking about the Confederate flag, and how revisionist historians in the South have tried to distance the flag as a symbol from the issue of slavery--and that anybody who was made uncomfortable by the flag was just ignorant. It seems to me, sadly, that people speaking in defense of the U.S. and the American flag and all the good it supposedly symbolizes, are similarly trying to selectively divorce the issues of contention. Is it unreasonable to assume that many people here and around the world aren't incorrect when they say that our flag is symbolic of oppression and slavery?

And for the record... I've travelled fairly extensively across North America, and saw some incredible things and met some incredible people. There is plenty to enjoy about being here, but I'm not convinced that any of it is unique to the United States. I will list a few of these experiences at some point, but that's really another conversation altogether.

Sunday, September 16, 2007

I don't get this at all...



This just gives me the willies!!! The tail alone... It actually made me shudder when I first came upon it.

Jogging is for pussies...



I was surfing the World o' Blogs the other night and came upon a disturbing number of blogs written from the P.O.V. of pets... in this case cats. This might be more frightening than the trend of parents blogging from the P.O.V. of their infants... no, it's more frightening. I was thinking about linking to these cat blogs, but decided that might be kind of an invasion of privacy. So I figure this photo goes a long way towards explaining my feelings about pet obsessions... and hey, I love dogs and cats as much as the next guy, but am I going to do a daily narrative? No...

Has it ever occurred to me to take a pet jogging???? No... but apparently enough people do that this pet stroller has become a viable product. This, as much as anything I've seen in a long time, is evidence that some people have faaaar to much money.

Remember that hot 24 y.o. from the chat room????

Saturday, September 08, 2007

Parts & Labor: Mapmaker



Disclaimer: I'm officially OFF the terrorist video kick, at least for now... Any resemblance between BJ Warshaw of PARTS & LABOR and Allen Ginsberg or any other bearded man on the FBI/CIA watchlist is purely coincidental. That's not to say that these guys couldn't blow some shit up and jack up a few conservative asses, but it is a coincidence.

I first saw these guys a couple summers ago opening for The Evens at East River Park and totally loved them. They're like a cross between a power trio and a science fair project. I was somewhat skeptical watching them set up... guitar, bass and heavily duct taped drums... but both guitar and bass players opened up these big boards loaded with pedals, switches and mini-keyboards. You see that and figure, this could be either really bad, or really really good, and it went the latter.

I picked up their last album, Stay Afraid, last year and it was high up there on my best of 2006 list. Hard to say why I waited to get Mapmaker... I think I was afraid of being disappointed, or just having 12 more tracks of Stay Afraid. It's not the case though, so color me... happy.

So how does one describe Parts & Labor? I'm searching for words... Imagine Celtic-themed pop anthems floated above a roaring bed of guitar and bass and wicked distortion and effects, and fierce caveman drum stomps. You will, by the way, find very few drummers that are more interesting to watch than Chris Weingarten, who is unfortunately (or fortunately for him?) leaving the band. They're searching for somebody new. In any event, when I say "Celtic-themed" don't expect anything vaguely resembling the Pogues. I guess it's safest to check out their MySpace page that I linked to above. If you like huge sound, and I mean large and loud, you will like it. Still very accessible in a pop sense though. I've not heard anybody else like them. They are, by the way, high up on my list for what I'd use to break my lease, and that's about the highest compliment I can pay a rock and roll band.

Osama Gets Jiggy Wit Whitney Houston!!!!



HA!!!! SO THIS IS WHAT IT'S ALL ABOUT!!!

Well, no... this is, of course, Allen Ginsberg getting jiggy wit Buddha or something like that. And Allen Ginsberg is, of course, dead for a long time now. And though there is some speculation that the same is true of Osama, AND, Allen and Osama were never spotted together... we're pretty sure that they're not the same person. This picture though... hmmmmmmmmm.

Anyway, I was just sitting here drinking coffee and pretending I'm an intellectual when I ran across this article about "The Beats," and how they are too stylistically different to all be labelled as part of the same "movement." The fellow makes some really good points here and I've often wondered myself exactly what defining criteria make up any "movement" or "generation" an literature, art or music. With music, I can't even comprehend the subtleties that go into defining specific genres or sub-genres. This is a good little essay, in any case... and that's a great picture of Osama... er.... Allen. Osama and Allen, by the way, despite being as different as two men can be (ignoring the awful beards and horrific fashion sense), do have one major thing in common, that is they were both considered dangerous by the FBI and the CIA. The cool thing is that Allen didn't even have to kill anybody! All he did was write poetry... and that is very, very cool.

Friday, September 07, 2007

Before They Were Famous, Part 1



Many people don't know that before he was an international terrorist, Osama Bin Laden played guitar with Andrew WK!!!

I'll have five tubs o' creamy slaw, please!!!



Sorry sir, only one per customer...

Okay, make that just one tub o' creamy slaw!



Okay please drive around to the window.

Video Killed The AP Newswire Star

Ya know... you wake up in the morning and switch on the computer and browse news headlines whilst sipping that first cup of whatever drug gets your ass in gear. The first headline I see this morning is:

BIN LADEN PLANS TO RELEASE NEW VIDEO
(I'm not linking to the story because I don't care.)

The first thing that goes through my head is NOT, "Oooooh, I wonder what this terrible man has to say now," but rather, "Cool, I wonder if Spike Jonze has directed this one." Then I double check to see if I'm looking at the entertainment headlines. Apparently I'm not, but still, once the ball is rolling.... It certainly LOOKS like an entertainment headline. I'm going to assume that it is because I can't imagine the Mad Mogul of World Destruction calling his PR guy and saying, "Psssst, leak this to our boy at Al Jazeera: New Bin Laden video forthcoming." I mean really... think about it. Is there really a buzz in the terror network about a new video about to be released?

"Yo, check it out, son... Osama is about to bust out with a brand new video. Directed by Spike Jonze, guest appearances by Diddy, Foxy Brown, Satan and 72 virginal Elvis imitators!!!" Seriously... wouldn't they just drop it on the news outlets? Do they call them ahead of time and say, "Hey yo, this next package isn't a bomb. It's a new Osama video, so don't blow it up before you watch it."

I'm not saying there's not a new video... just saying the whole presentation in the news is kind of suspect. If for no other reason than our government's conflicting claims that Al Qaeda is either in disarray, or reorganizing, or in disarray again, and that they now purportedly have a "Media Arm."

I'm far too simple for all this... I want my MTV.

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

Oh really...

I never would have guessed that the rock and roll lifestyle is hazardous to your health. So glad a university professor sorted out this burning question for me.

ATTENTION PARENTS

If you have children you have to READ THIS STORY NOW. Read it even if you don't have children. It's pretty much a no-brainer, isn't it? How could there not be a connection?

Okay, so I'm not trying to be an alarmist here. We have certainly made advances in nutrition and medicine and such and longevity continues to inch forward. It was fairly well established long ago though that quality of life on the back end of the increased life span was seriously diminished. More and more though it seems the quality of life, at least in regards to health, is seriously diminished on the front end. Obesity, childhood diabetes, asthma and a load of other afflictions, autism and assorted neurological issues. Studies have connected many of these afflictions to manmade stimuli in the environment and food supply. Rather than do further study, our government tries to slander the studies. This shit has got to stop.

The British government missed a fantastic opportunity here, as state in the article, to take control of an identified problem. Here in the United States our Senators and Congressman are shooting down one bill after another just to get proper labeling on packaged food... labeling that is honest about what all the ingredients are, how and where the food is packaged, nutritional information. We voted for these people and who are they protecting?

Anyway... that's my daily rant.

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

School Days

Nah... not the Stanley Clarke album, though it is a great one and if you don't own it, you should... Glossophagia edict.

No, this is the deal. Today is the day that school resumes for umpteen billion NYC school children. And stuff goes back into full grind for umpteen billion NYC parents. I know that there are a few regular readers who are or have been parents of school age kids here in the city, so you know what I'm talking about.

It's not just the added morning hassle of making sure your sons and daughters are up and there on time. Or even the dread of coming home from a long day of work to check homework and make sure everything is prepared for the next day, everybody clean, clothes laid out, lunches made etc. etc. The routines are the lesser part of it.

There is something more profoundly irksome and sometimes stultifying about the whole process. When I was growing up, granted in a very small town, the community was smaller and the people you dealt with during the school year, other adults, children etc., were pretty much the same as you dealt with on weekends and in the summer. Life was sort of consistent. Your kids walked to school and played with kids on the block. You knew their parents and everything and everybody knew each others ins and outs and getting along was no big deal. It seems to me though, that now, once the school year starts, you're often thrown into a sphere of interaction that you would probably not choose to be in if you didn't have children of similar ages. You're cast into a new level of social politicking, etc... relationships are much more complex. Not that there's no good that can come out of this! There's always the possibility of meeting people you wouldn't otherwise etc. Perhaps the problem is that it just requires a greater level of emotional and spiritual energy that you may or may not have.

And then of course there's the schools themselves. In a broad sense, the NYC school system has done well by my children. We were never zoned for the "IT" elementary schools (the schools where people who are privileged but not quite rich enough to afford expensive private schools scam their kids into no matter where they're zoned) so my knuckleheads went to the closest neighborhood schools. No horror stories really. Both could read coming out of kindergarten and I credit that as much to the schools as to anything their mother or I did. They've continued to prosper academically and we've been fortunate enough to have encountered some truly enlightened teachers and administrators. You do have to stay on top of things though, and again... so much energy and concentration.

I'm running out of time and space here, but if you really want to see the bizarre side of a neighborhood gentrifying, watch it play out in public schools. Go to the community board meetings, the PTA meetings, the planning committees... The language is a special brand of Orwellian Newspeak. One issue in particular that I could write a book on is the many nuances (some subtle and some not so much) of the word DIVERSITY. Social engineering... it's a strange new world. And if you're an astute observer of human/tribal behavior, you get to see some other weird shit too. Anyway... to all parents... here we go again. Best of luck.

Monday, September 03, 2007

The Mugs: Here Tomorrow/Best of 2007 So Far



This has been a strange year for music for me. I've probably listened to less new music than any year since I was 12 or so. It's hard to say why. I don't want to believe that I've become burned out or jaded like one of those classic rock geeks combing out his ponytail and lamenting the demise of Led Zeppelin and his hairline. It's true though that I've heard very little that has gotten me off.

I've still probably heard more new stuff than the average middle-aged guy who doesn't work in the music industry and was putting together my Best of 2007 So Far list when I picked up The Mugs' Here Tomorrow last week. Everybody knows about me and superlatives so I'll just cut to the chase--IT'S FRIGGIN' AMAZING--easily the best album I've heard all year. There isn't even any competition. A couple of tracks on the new Ben Harper are really really good, but they don't come close. It's just beautiful... I guess I'd put it up there for fans of Spoon, or The Shins, but I think The Mugs might just be better. You can LISTEN TO THE ALBUM here on their website and check it out for yourself.

To quote my Great Uncle Johnny, "It makes me so happy I could shite!"

Note: It's occurred to me somewhat later on that saying you haven't heard much but this is the best of the lot is rather faint praise. Let me rephrase that... It's the best album I've heard in a long time, and not just in the lot of 2007 releases. There's so much in it. Every time I listen I hear something new. It's so cool.

Saturday, September 01, 2007

This Is England, or This is England?



Was feeling a somewhat anti-social today and what better place to go when you're feeling like you don't want to talk to people or even see people than a darkened movie theater? Especially when you live in a crowded city... but nuff said. Who cares?

So speaking of anti-social, I went to IFC to see a film about skinheads during the Thatcher era in England, and it doesn't get much more anti-social than skinheads. I'm not quite sure what I expected with this, but perhaps something along the lines of Alan Clarke's Made in Britain a film released about the time This is England is set (1982 vs. 1983). There are similarities, as there are also to Romper Stomper. I'm still processing a lot of This is England. It was incomplete as a film, IMHO, but had some very, very good bits. Thomas Turgoose in the lead role is one of the best child actors I've seen in a long time. Stephen Graham (Snatch) put in a complex and very realistic performance as the thuggish Combo. Casting was great, costume was great... the script was stellar--there was a really fantastic bit at a National Front rally--absolutely chilling as it could have been pulled word for word from any right wing politico anywhere in North America or Europe in 2007. It was a good reminder that I've been hearing these same racist, anti-immigrant tirades my entire life. It's like one speech was written back in the day and nobody ever diverges from the script... but now I digress.

It's hard to address the reasons kids turn to hate groups without sounding sympathetic to the members. This Is England covered this with a fair amount of success. You have a bunch of unhappy kids with unhappy lives and no positive role models and no visible direction and opportunities... no real sense of self... something will jump in and fill the void and it's not often good. You can't force the shit from your society onto the least fortunate and then throw up your hands in disbelief when they do something "anti-social." So all that was covered.

What I thought was lacking was character development--they brought in all these fantastic characters with a ton of potential, and then just sort of leave you hanging. Perhaps they were too ambitious and there were just too many--you could have pulled a half dozen of them out and centered the story on them and it would have been as good. 5 of this half dozen just sort of disappeared at the end... gone. No closure in the slightest, which I'm normally okay with. I don't need a giftwrapped ending usually. This was somewhat disappointing. Very interesting also was extensive footage of the Falklands War which for some reason director Shane Meadows seems to make the definitive action of the Thatcher years. It's great footage and the war is connected in some respects to the movie, but perhaps more footage showing conditions in England at the time would have fit better... hard call.

So on the topic of skinheads and the Thatcher years I'd have to give the nod to Made In Britain with Tim Roth as Trevor, as the definitive film on the subject/era. This Is England is good though... and the soundtrack which is heavy on Toots & the Maytals and the Specials is very very good. Would be a good stand-alone collection if you don't already own it all.

Ben Harper & The Innocent Criminals: Lifeline



The sticker on the cello-wrap on this disc featured a pull-quote from Drooling Stone that called this album "an acoustic soul stunner." That's rather a misrepresentation as only a couple of these tracks are entirely acoustic. Perhaps they meant "analog soul stunner" as it was, according to the liner notes, recorded on a 16 track analog deck. Ben, in his own words, also stresses that no protools or computers were used on the recording. Liner notes also stress heavily that it was recorded over the course of 7 days. I don't know if that's supposed to be bragging or apologetic, but nothing suffers either way so it's all good. My apologies on all the thoughts about the packaging... just all struck me as curious. This is a really good album, the mellower and/or acoustic tracks sounding like the Ben Harper everyone is familiar with, and the more rocking tracks sounding a lot like The Faces. Good stuff. My favorite cut is called Fool For a Lonesome Train, and I knew it would be just from the title because I'm a fool for songs about trains. Can't think of a song about a train I don't like. This is no exception. So yes... this is really good if you like Ben Harper... two people I've run into today don't though. Can't please everyone.

Odd side note on this one though--says it was engineered and mixed by Danny Kalb. Could this be the Danny Kalb of Blues Project fame? Suppose I'll have to Google that but what's he doing in Paris? (Note: Not the same Danny Kalb. Not even related.)

Ugly-Politick

Legislation doesn't get much MORE UGLY THAN THIS. Some mornings it's easier to read the news than others.