Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Speed Racer

One day, while scrolling rather hopeless through new features on some website or another I paused at the picture of a rather charming fellow who sported on one arm a tattoo that read "Comic Sans" and on the other arm a tattoo that read "Helvetica" and while I'm fairly sure both these tattoos were in Arial font (a point of contention) it mattered not, because I spent a good five minutes laughing before I sent a message, which turned into an exchange of messages, which may have devolved into a conversation about how to torture graphic designers with bad kerning.

And so, a friendship was engaged with Calembour. Among the many benefits of this particular entanglement include learning about good cocktail bars in the city, far to many puns, understanding how twitter works, and exploring alternative facets of popular culture, literature, comics, games, and movies. During one conversation of films we had engaged in a bit of a round about concerning the film Speed Racer which I have never seen. 

"It is a beautiful film."

"It's Speed Racer the movie."

"You have to watch it."

I let that sit for awhile until somehow on a random late night trawl through the etherwebs I stumbled across a top ten list that included, among other things, Speed Racer. For some reason, it was enough to make me cave. 

"Can we watch Speed Racer when I get back?"

"We can make time for this fine film."

Considering the amount of travel and the number of shows I had scheduled for the week, you would think I'd leave this off for another time, however life and movies wait for know one so I squeezed in movie watching on Thursday night before Tori on Friday and the Femmes on Saturday. 

Thursday was a round of good drinks, a lovely home cooked meal, and the movie Speed Racer. 

A thing I had possibly known and forgotten, though it's just as possible that I had not known, is that this is a Wachowski movie. Sadly, a pair of directors that can be very hit (Bound, Matrix, Sense8) or very miss (what in the actual fuck was Jupiter Ascending?). 

This film comes somewhere in between for me and, for no readily apparent reason which I am almost certain will warm the cockles of Calembour's heart, I will most likely need to watch the film again. It was interesting to see something so visually disarming especially after having seen Loving Vincent only a few days earlier; the effects work in an entirely different way, and yet are perfect for the story as intended. 

It was an odd thing. I only vaguely remember Speed Racer from my youth (thinking it was the 90s corrected that it was in fact the 80s, recalling that I did in fact exist so far back in time) as anime that was interesting but not something I was overly fussed on. I fell into Saturday morning book reading and hiding from el Diablo Madre at some time between 86 and 88. Aside from Thundercats and Spartakus and the Sun Beneath the Sea*, and the collected Loony Toons, I only have vague interactions with many of the cartoons people recall as being important. Reading was really that big a thing. 

However, I know the theme song, was familiar with the general characters and had at least a sense of what Speed racer was so as to not be entirely out of the loop when sitting down on a couch to watch the film. 

The overall sense is, truly, it is a visual spectacle. However, it is not overdone, but somehow manages to work with the overall aesthetic of trying to be a live action anime. The colors are designed to be poppy and vibrant and work to maintain a cartoonish sense while still being somewhat mature. The story line makes sense and works with the overall plot, the acting is on point. 

It actually works very well as a film, though there are two key elements that really keep it from being a great film. First, it's over-scored. Can someone just put down the need to play some sort of orchestral tidbit over every second of every frame? Sometimes silence is a beautiful thing (see: Eyes Wide Shut, The Shining) and music can work if you manage to get it just right but don't overdo it (see: 2001, Clockwork Orange). 

The second thing, and honestly I think this is probably why as a film it was not as popular as it could have been as there is aesthetically very little to complain about, is that it's not a car race movie. The entire point of Speed Racer is, you know, the car races. Car races and car race movies are super popular (see: Fast and Furious 1-1000). 

This is not a car race movie. In fact, this is almost the antithesis of a car race movie. The Wachowski's really play up the story arc, the human element, the dark (but not to dark) features of Japanese Anime, with just the right amount of silly in the form of little brother, monkeys, and candy humor. It works perfectly as an archetypal coming of age story where they younger brother must not only emerge from the shadow of his brother, but more, salvage the family legacy from a legacy on the cusp of ruin. These things Speed Racer does very well. Car racing, really it's just a the background of the human drama. There is no linger over the perfect car, no musing on the hum of the engine or the human/car bond that becomes the car as an anthropomorphic character. Speed Racer is about the family of Speed, the trials of challenging expectations, and the potential to overcome. The car race, not so much. 

Like Loving Vincent, it is a visual feast, but differs in that the story is much stronger and the discuss of that becomes more important than how pretty it was. And this made it fascinating for me in many ways which is why I was struck at the end that I was most likely going to have to sit down at some point and watch it again. Which, for me, has always been one of the hallmarks of a quality film. 

*I was a really weird child and 4:30 a.m. had some very strange television. 

Monday, October 30, 2017

Chelsea Wolfe at the Metro

Chelsea Wolfe is a mild obsessions. I discovered her long after Zola Jesus and it took a while for her first album to sink in, but everything about my goth sensibilities found Chelsea Wolfe to be acceptable. From the dark pulsating rhythms to the ethereal voice. What is not to love? At least once I had sat on my couch with a younger music-phile playing all the music we should be listening to each other in-between make out sessions.

"Whoa, this is really good. Have you heard of, do you know, like, Dead Can Dance and stuff."

"Darling, do stop talking."

 A few of my dates go that way.

Knowing that Chelsea Wolfe was touring I bought tickets ages in advance, which was one of the reasons. I thought Abyss was a magical album and I truly enjoyed Hiss Spun, though perhaps not as much. Either way, I was a fan and I've managed to continue to miss Zola in her latest touring this seemed like a thing.

I love a good show.

To pre-game I checked out the opening band, Youth Code.

I can see this about Youth Code. The female lead singer is on point. The music is fast and pulsating and woven together with the giddiness of not giving a fuck and also wanting to tear the motherfuckers down.

Sadly, not my kink. I do like speed metal, but it's not an easy sell for me. Since the show as later and on a Tuesday I took my sweet time getting ready for the part of the show I was most interested in and decided to show up to strategically miss most of the opening act.

Arriving at the Metro around 8:30, Youth Code was still shout singing into the microphone as I was nearly strip searched by the security at the Metro. If I didn't have to live and breathe security theater I might have been more annoyed, but as it was I sucked it up, managed not to be and managed not to be a smart ass. My favorite was when they decided to wand me.

Because you know I was going to go goth to this show. And you can best your sweet ass I was going to wear the gothest corset in my collection. In other words, steel boning, bitches cause sometimes I am goth as fuck.

Needless to say, things didn't go so well with the hand scanner.

They let me in anyway.

I caught the end of Youth Code and while this is not a band I would ever sit down and chill with while drinking some wine, this was a band that was on fucking point on stage. At one point DJ Scary lady Sarah, who was watching from the balcony while putting together mixes, look down and exclaimed "They started a mosh pit."

And so they had.

The energy in the crowd was volcanic, thrusting and pulsing; turning on the dime as the vocalist howled her rage and indignation and violence into the microphone filling the floor with that energy. It was great lead up to the main event.

Unfortunately, the main event didn't hold a candle to the opener.

I will say this for Chelsea Wolfe though, she knows how to walk onto the stage. However, I her performance was studio perfect, so much though that nothing she did on stage captured the audience or really created more of a feeling. She looked good on stage, picture perfect even, with her ethereal voice and her ten in platforms, and her goth sensibilities. I wanted her outfit.

The performance though, was utterly bland.

What was worse was it became rather obvious very shortly into the show that she was not so fussed on the Chicago audience either. Granted, I will say this, the theater did seem to be full of a rather strange collection of concert goers, very few who were half as goth as you'd think they would be. The audience interaction with the band was rude and I found offense in the constant prickish shouts of "We love you" and "I fucking love her shoes." There was a weird undercurrent of objectification that I took umbrage with. I can't blame her for finishing her set in less than an hour, including a two song encore.

Perhaps the next time, it will be better. I've heard good things, so it was a sadness that this did not live up.

Loving Vincent

After fighting for almost two months to keep the last week of October open, the last week of October arrived. This week included way to much stuff and things kept getting added to it and I don't have a complaining bone in my body as it all ended up being perfectly well timed after almost an month spent traveling for business purposes. 

I kicked off festivities with the New Yorker, who was hanging in Chicago and chilling as I got crawled back in from the west coast at 8 a.m. and promptly went to bed. Sometime in the afternoon, I woke up and we coordinated the evening. 



"When we doing this bro-face?"

"Whenever you are ready, bro-rella."

"Duck place. Let's do dinner around 5:30 and go to the show after that, bro-meo."

"5:30 is when old people eat dinner bro-ette."

"Yeah, but the movie is at 7:00 bro-dude."

Fixed on a time, we met at the "duck place" also known as Sun-Wah and chowed down while catching up over the best Chinese food in Chi-town. Life has been rolling for both of use and we are equally busy with work type things and also equally busy finding ways to work through life type things. Since art and music have always been our most common interests, going to a painted movie seemed like a great way to spend the evening. 

"Where are we watching this movie?"

"The Music Box. You'll love it."

After dinner we jumped in a car to be whisked away to the other side of town to get to the theater for the show. The Music Box has become one of my great loves this year, which is why I picked up a membership. It gets me out of the house and I check to see what is playing there before going to see another "comic book origin story big explosions good time movie" at a big box theater somewhere else. It's encouraged me to see some films I might not have otherwise seen, and for that the membership is more than worth it. I came to know about Loving Vincent because of this. 

Last time the New Yorker and I caught a film we went to see The Handmaiden, a perfectly executed Park Chan Wook film. It was a sensual visual feast for the eyes, and held to Wook's particular Korean aesthetic for both sweeping camera work, extreme realism, and perfect pacing. Loving Vincent certainly had the visuals going for it and was a perfect way to spend two hours in a movie. 

We watched as the camera swirled in an out of Van Gogh's singular painting style, moving causally from the vibrant blues to the primary and pastels or into the more hyper realistic black and whites. A familiar yellow hat and yellow jacket walking through fields that swirled in movement, bending as if on an artistic wind with stroke after stroke following the actors through the tale that is both a summary of the life of Van Gogh and an effective discussion of the mystery of his last few months on earth. 

The colors dashed across the screen and we were both lost in a whirl of stars, drifting into a space time and just letting go with the experience. After the show we hit the Music Box bar for a drink and a bit of time to chat. 

"That was exquisite."

"I just want to get a copy to play it in the background without sound on loop forever."

"Do you have any idea what the story was about?"

"Not a clue, I was too busy watching everything else."

A perfect film. 

Outside, as we rushed into a car on the way home the rain came down like pellets of black and white pain and the city seemed more like a vibrant canvas that usual. 

Sunday, October 29, 2017

Sara Progressions

Sometimes I feel like I am living in between extremes.

Too much travel and too much times spent at my job. Weeks, weekends, months, a string of time that is lost to the places in between and so much work. So much performance. So much being on.

Pendulum swing.

A week on the ground in Chicago. Let's go do a million things. A movie date, a concert, a concert, a  concert, a show, a review, lunch, dinner, dates, etc.

Filling in the downtime with a thousand things takes the pressure of the fact that I'm not on the road and balances out the uneasiness that comes from looking down the barrel of a few days without work. This year has been a lot about trying to figure out the balance between work, life, love and play.

This is not a thing I have discovered yet, but I believe that it is possible. In the heart of the space is the person that I am becoming for this next bit of time. This new one to replace the old ones that have come and gone and been retired again.

So many facets of Sara, that it's only possible to really understand me fully in the moment in which we began. I respect change, though, and the friends, lives, and lovers that have managed to weave themselves into the fabric of who I am are the most cherished because they are capable of working with a Sara at any stage.

A way of looking at oneself that can seem overdone, but it's true and I have the evidence captured in over a thousand pages of words that is the journal. In lines and spaces and the ether are all you need to know to see the bits and pieces and how different some of them can be from the now.

In the middle is the current me, centered in a maelstrom of activity, living life as if the world is no longer watching or at least like I no longer care, swing between furious work and furious play and being amused by the stories gathering.

There is much to tell. I want to try to catch up before I get pulled into living a bit too much again.

Sunday, October 22, 2017

Duck, Duck, Duck....

Randomly I was in the middle of nowhere Baltimore earlier in the year. Not even the city proper just in what would best be described as the middling suburbs of Baltimore, Maryland. Away from the ports and the ships and the sea.  I wasn't happy about it and I really wanted to get away from it and get back home again.

There was nothing around the hotel, making my isolation feel even more complete. I could get around by asking for a shuttle and I spent way to much money at a Chili's to get some food and drink before heading back to the very lonely hotel in the middle of nowhere.

Not much to write about. I do the job and decide I want to go home. I get back to the hotel and ask for a shuttle the airport, which the hotel happily provides. The driver is a jolly, plump man how is happy to take me where I am going.

He wants to chat and I'm doing my best to listen, though I'm feeling fully self absorbed in my burning desire to get away and to get back to Chicago, and to get back to my bed, and small dogs, and the infinite quiet that is home.

As we prepare to exit the parking lot a duck crosses our path.

The driver sees the duck and without asking slowly stops the car. I'm in favor of not running over ducks so I don't mind so much.

"Well, I gotta go check on my ducks."

I register this, I hear him say this. I wonder what it means to check on ones ducks, waiting in the back seat for the shuttle to accelerate.

Is this like getting one's ducks in a row?

It is ducking out?

Is it an elaborate metaphor, extended off the presence of small ducks crossing the road? Thinking about ducks, how they grow and change, perhaps and ugly duckling with the potential to be a swan. Perhaps he is pondering the internal mystery that is the cycle of life, represented by a duck crossing the road to get to the other side, to continue on some journey of its on making: live, eat, procreate, die, continue, repeat...

Then the door opens.

The man gets out and goes to check on his ducks.

The amusement breaks me out of my self serving reverie and I smile all the way to the airport.

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Don't You Fall

I fall in love easily. It’s a flaw and a feature. Sometimes this works out very well for me and sometimes it does not. Such is the nature of love, and where avoidance might reduce the amount of sorrow it would also remove the joy of experience.

This year, I’ve fallen in love at least three times. At least two of those times ended in an experience shaped like heartbreak, but there was a sweetness there that made both worth it. The frailty of human entanglement is as engaging as it is chilling. A constant series of never beginnings and never endings that should grow old. Instead each interaction is new and deja vu, if it exists, is fleeting.

When I was half the age I am now, I worked under the table in a bookstore down the street from the school. Three days a week I would walk down to the shop, open door, arrange books, create strange promotional to encourage people to come in. There was always hot coffee in the shop, a quarter a cup for a styrofoam cup full of brew. As with any bookstore, eventually you end up with regulars, coming to sit on the couches picked up off street corners, and curl into a corner with strong coffee and a book.

Only occasionally did anyone but the books. Sometimes people would come in with requests, sometimes people would come in and ask for recommendations. Sometimes I wouldn’t see another soul in the store. I’d sit on a couch, listening to the Cranes sit reading whatever philosophical text was the assignment of the day. It was a good way to pass the time and make a small amount of money on the side to make life more bearable.

It was February when the homeless boy first entered my little corner of the world. It was cold and snowing. He smelled like unwashed body that had gone too long, his hair matted, his green military issue coat pulled tight and a dirty bag.

“How much is the coffee?”

“It’s free, but we take quarter donations if you have it.”

He poured a cup and filled it with cream and sugar.

“What are you reading?”

At the time it was some obscure text by some obscure author so I just provided the easiest answer possible.

“Something for class. What are you looking for?”

“I just want to get a book. Something to read.”

“And what do you want to read about?”

“I like Kuerac. I like things that make me think, you know. Do you have something that will make me think?”

Since my undergraduate study was philosophy I had a lot of things that I could present that would make one think. A copy of Flatland may have end up being the choice, I don’t really recall. I remember I handed him a book, and we talked and he told me barely nothing about his life. I knew he’d be in town for around a month or more. I knew he liked to read.

Before I closed that night I’d given him a pile of five books and told him I’d be back again on Saturday.

“Can’t do Saturday’s. That’s when I go to the methadone clinic in Evanston. You are here on Wednesday’s though?”

“Every one.”

And so it was that he came in every Wednesday and I sat on the couch talking to him about what it was like for him to live on the streets, about what it was like for me to study and be dirt poor. He drank free coffee and kept me company. At lunchtime I’d order us greasy three dollar meals from the Chinese place down the street and we’d eat and laugh.

He asked me what was the favorite philosophy I read, and so we sat in the store one afternoon and I put on Richard Strauss and we sat back on separate couches and listened to Also Sprach Zarathustra while snow was falling in the late spring. Never touching each other, but somehow deeply connected.

“I don’t understand, you know, how people win. It’s like a constant game of manipulation. Even on the streets, when we should all just help each other, you know. I just want to love my fellow man. But we are always at odds. Sometimes I wish I knew how to push people towards good.”

“That assumes good.”

“What do you mean?”

“Have you read The Prince?”


I found a tattered copy and put it in his hands. He finished the pot of coffee and drifted out into the night as I cleaned up our lunch from that day and made a fresh pot of coffee. I stayed at the shop til almost 8 studying eventually working my way back to may campus apartment.

I’d decided that day if he came back again, I’d take ask him to stay, take him home and get him a shower. Let him sleep on my couch. Give him a break for the night from the streets. Or take him into one of the buildings I had access too at the time, so he could take a bath. I didn’t really have a plan, aside from kindness and emotion. The me that I was then at twenty-two still didn’t understand the specific feelings I had, but somewhere over the four Wednesdays I’d fallen in love. With him or with the fantasy of helping him, I cannot tell you even now. But I’d like to think it was with him.

I never saw him again.

I never forgot him either.

The feelings remained long after.