The Carl Online


Review of Gomorrah by tatgers
December 28, 2008, 5:30 pm
Filed under: movies

 

boys and toys

boys and toys

I didn’t know anything about Gomorrah when I went to it, other than it won some big big awards in Europe and that it was on the cover of the most recent issue of the BFI’s Sight and Sound publication before I left campus. Boy am I glad that’s all I knew.  Had I seen one of the trailers, some of the most shocking moments of the film would have been spoiled.  Perhaps this is a fateful nudge for me to stop breaking down trailers and their edits.

 

Initially, the film is disorienting.  I spent the first hour wondering who all these people are and how do they fit into the the greater picture. Hierarchy is not immediately communicated, and viewers have to categorize characters of all ages and roles as we navigate their stories. My instinct to first identify the perimeter, where the mob begins and ends in relation to the rest of society, was disappointed. Unlike the The Godfather, Sopranos, Goodfellas, or The Departed there was is no seducing of innocent outsiders.  Parents aren’t encouraging their kids stay away from the big men in dark rooms and get a decent job because, well, the legitimate jobs in the fashion industry, waste removal, and who knows what else are part of the community. The system that houses the characters is so massive it can’t be seen in relation to a “non-mob” society, but as a primer on how an entirely different community from our own (or so we believe) operates. Perhaps this is one of the most unsettling, and pertinent, issues that the film points to, seemingly shrugging: we are implicitly involved with the sins of the system that we rely on survival. Yes, the film is explicitly about a mob community, but the complacency of the characters in a violent causes me to reflect on my own complacency when I hear about the bad things I think my society is responsible for. 

Like an immersive language classroom, the rules and relations of this society’s political and financial economy are slowly rendered, and every now and then, violence suddenly punctures the flow of the film. Sometimes it strikes when suspected, but more often we are reminded violence can occur at any time—suddenly and without foreboding to let us brace ourselves. On a few occasions killers and/or their victims are offscreen, and the camera whirs to capture moments just missed.  There is a heavy use of a handheld camera effect, but more than any other film I can think of, this is often has tactile effects besides “engaging the audience”**. The camera’s perspective in Gomorrah actively hides and reveals information.  I certainly don’t know all films, but I can’t think of another that uses style to embody thematic questions of violence’s “scope” in our society.

See this if you can.  IFC is distributing so it’ll be available in theatres the same time as in other formats.

**(which is what one producer in a Q&A session for another film said the intent was.  Honestly, I think an unspoken plus it that it might save time and be easier to shoot a tight shot not using a tripod or mount all the time). In general, the most common use of handheld camera shooting is to create a sense of authentic observation.  I am thinking of when conversations are shot, it is usually a series of steady shots edited together, “popping” from one perspective to the other (shot of person A from B’s side, shot of person B from A’s side).  You see this in TV talk shows as well as in fiction. It is debatably more authentic looking when the camera pans (but not quite perfectly) between two speaking characters, as though the camera is a third person’s eyeballs looking back and forth following characters to see what reactions occur, or following a character as they actively move a room.



by Alex Sciuto
December 27, 2008, 11:43 pm
Filed under: Internet | Tags: , , , , ,
Aren’t you amazed when one of your really smart friends, or really smart people on tv or in magazines throws out some idea or tidbit so obviously cool and interesting that you think “Why can’t I think of this. It’s so obvious.” I’ve noticed that lots of cool blogs usually have that same Ah Ha! moment. To showcase one of these conceptual jewels, here’s the fourth installment of Why Didn’t I Think To Make That Blog. Of course, if you find one of these great blogs, you’ll shoot them our way won’t you?

——————

http://stairporn.org/
(stairs, and nothing but)

About (from the site): stair porn is a weblog featuring cool stairs from around the world. Posting will be relatively sporadic, so we recommend subscribing to the feed for updates. >> If you came here looking for sex, you’re plumb outta luck, bub.

Why It’s Great: This site first caught my eye when a really cool staircase was posted on MAKE Magazine’s blog. The image to the left really sums up the gestalt of the blog. The images are exclusively stairs, and having flipped through the blog’s archives, all the stairs are stunningly beautiful. But the images tell a story so much more expansive than just a device for altering personal elevation. They sum up entire buildings succinctly and beautifully. I don’t know who the photographers, but they all can really spot great architectural shots. It seems sometimes a coincidence and afterthought that a stair takes center-stage in the photo.

-Alex Sciuto



Have a Christopher Hitchens Christmas! by Greg Hunter
December 24, 2008, 3:55 pm
Filed under: Misc., Music, Politics | Tags: , , ,

gritchens

I’ve expressed my fondness for Christopher Hitchens before on this blog.  In a time when political commentators are judged largely by who among them can shout the loudest, it’s hard not to like someone who’s such an unabashed stylist.  Hitchens is maybe our greatest living polemic writer, and it’s as much because of the control he exerts over his prose as anything else.  His favorite target is probably organized religion, and in this recent Slate article -http://www.slate.com/id/2206713/ – he vows to write a fiercer anti-Christmas column every year.  Now while I think Hitchens makes a great Grinch – calling the holiday a “moral and aesthetic nightmare” is an example of the elevated purple prose no one does quite so well – I don’t really buy his argument this year, that the U.S. “turns itself into the cultural and commercial equivalent of a one-party state” at Christmastime.

I’m a lapsed Catholic who plans to celebrate Christmas for the rest of my life.  Part of why I’m at ease with this is because the holiday as it is today seems like a bright, shining triumph of the secular.  At it’s core, Christmas is indisputably Christian, but do we really see Christianity casting a shadow over all American institutions each December?  Or do we see market capitalism using the holiday for all it’s worth, with Christians and non-Christians alike buying and selling lots of junk they don’t need?  (Less cynically: when Christmas gives Americans a pretense for family gatherings and gift-giving, I’d imagine those acts of gathering and giving are more important than the pretense itself for many people.)  Organized religions aren’t going anywhere, Christianity included, but seeing one of the two most popular Christian holidays fixed in such a secularized form should be, for someone like Hitchens, a source of holiday cheer.  And speaking of cheer, I’ve had this on repeat lately:

– Greg Hunter



…Nor will it ever be a music blog, but… by Alex Sciuto
December 23, 2008, 12:47 am
Filed under: Music | Tags: , ,

Well, here’s the third music related post in a row. I apologize. I know Tom and Greg can write cogently about music, but I can’t so I’ll keep this short. Everyone loves the Beatles and everyone loves Sufjan Stevens, right? Well, I found this track of Sufjan covering What Goes On, from Rubber Soul. It’s from an anniversary album of a bunch of different artists covering all the songs from Rubber Soul. I think the track sounds pretty cool.

Sufjan/Beatles

-Alex Sciuto



’08 Favorites – A supplement by Tom

First off, I’d like to second a few of Greg’s picks – No Age, Times New Viking, Fucked Up, and Santogold. Alright. Click the links below to download individual tracks, or here for the mediafire folder.

The Magnetic Fields – California Girls

This could be the catchiest song I’ve ever heard. I don’t even listen to it that much, because every time I do, it sticks in my head for days afterward (along with fantasies of rampaging through Hollywood with a battleaxe).

Arthur Russell – I Couldn’t Say It To Your Face

Arthur Russell didn’t write many songs like this one. It’s a shame; “I Couldn’t Say it to Your Face” is as immediate and heartfelt as anything else I’ve heard of his (which, in the scheme of his monstrous output, is very little). Everything, from the stop-start chorus, to the understated horns, to Russell’s deceptively soulful vocal performance, is just right.

Big Boi – Royal Flush feat. Andre 3000 and Raekwon

Lil Wayne and his (totally awesome) nonsense are the big story in rap this year, but ‘Dre’s scattered guest appearances over the past two years, most recently on “Royal Flush,” serve as a reminder that off-kilter, virtuosic flow is nothing new. And then there’s the song’s heavy-ass beat and those other two solid verses from Big Boi and Raekwon. Wayne may be the future of rap, but the old guard is aging gracefully.

White Denim – Don’t Look That Way At It

The first song off of one of my favorite albums of the year (Exposion). Like most of the rest of the album, “Don’t Look That Way At It” sounds like three songs having a fight until about halfway through, when it pulls itself together and rocks your fucking face off.

Grizzly Bear – While You Wait For The Others

I’m not sure anyone expected Grizzly Bear to become one the tightest rock quartets playing after the meticulously arranged folk of Yellow House, but after a couple of years on the road honing their “live” sound, that’s exactly what they are. The first song to debut off of their forthcoming album, “While You Wait For the Others” is not only the best representation of the band’s new sound, it’s the best song they’ve ever written.

Deerhunter – Never Stops

I’m assuming that there are more casual Deerhunter fans than indie rock critics want us to think. Does everyone really think that Microcastle is that great? I don’t, and I’m skeptical. I do, however, think that “Never Stops” is awesome. Forget that it’s about inescapable depression; that wordless chorus slays.

Harlem – South Of France

“I hate every book I’ve ever read.” The battle cry of this compsing English major.

Tonisitcs – Holding On

Off of another great release from master crate-diggers The Numero Group, Soul Messengers from Dimona, “Hold On” is the “I Want You Back” of Jewish soul. Yeah, there is a serious novelty factor in play, here (see the collection’s backstory here), but the song stands on its own as a great soul record, and ought to make contemporary Christian music fans everywhere totally jealous (not that most of them would know a good song if it punched them in the ear).

Katy Perry – My War (Black Flag Cover)

-Tom Fry



08 FAVORITES – A Carl Mix by Greg Hunter

To download mp3s, copy and paste the link provided in a new window

AC/DC – “Rock ‘N’ Roll Train”

Come on.  It’s amazing they can keep doing this.

http://www.yousendit.com/transfer.php?action=check_download&ufid=Q01FYUp5Tk05eFZMWEE9PQ&key=f0725ccfa02555503269eb0c8b84542e788747ed&bid=TTZra0ZYcHZ3NUlLSkE9PQ&rcpt=hunterg@carleton.edu

Be Your Own Pet – “Becky”

A lot of Get Awkward, BYOP’s second and last album, apparently sucked.  The lead single, “The Kelly Affair,” definitely did.  But not “Becky,” a smart, funny punk pop song that exists somewhere between Mean Girls and “Your Pretty Face Is Going To Hell.”  The song was stricken from the US version of Get Awkward because of concerns over subject matter (it’s about school violence like a Roadrunner cartoon is about animal abuse).

http://www.yousendit.com/transfer.php?action=check_download&ufid=Q01FYUp5Tk1lcEozZUE9PQ&key=242f712becc1b3a5a6e210dc96fd0a2aa881c87d&bid=TTZra0ZYcHZEa1dGa1E9PQ&rcpt=hunterg@carleton.edu

Boston Spaceships – “You Satisfy Me”

It’s a relief and surprise that Robert Pollard is aging so gracefully.  In 2008, Fantagraphics put out a book of his collages, and his album with Boston Spaceships is thought to be his best since dissolving Guided By Voices.  On “You Satisfy Me” he sings like a big shaggy dog.  How do you make “seven in the morning” sound like that?

http://www.yousendit.com/transfer.php?action=check_download&ufid=Q01FYUp5Tk0yWGZIRGc9PQ&key=1a3bdeda9d84be94b4310dc529fb867fd2d06f92&bid=TTZra0ZYcHYwMEhIRGc9PQ&rcpt=hunterg@carleton.edu

Fucked Up – “Son The Father”

People keep calling Fucked Up’s The Chemistry of Common Life a post-hardcore album, which doesn’t really mean anything (wouldn’t we at least be at post-post-hardcore by this point?).  Some reviewers are also saying it transcends the hardcore punk idiom, but didn’t half the bands on SST already do that 25 years ago?  (The only real innovation here is flutists.)  There’s nothing revolutionary about the album, contrary to the critical party line.  But that doesn’t mean it’s not really good.  Just call it a rock record?  A pretty awesome rock record?  “Son The Father,” particularly, DESTROYS.
http://www.yousendit.com/transfer.php?action=check_download&ufid=Q01FYUp5Tk1YSHlGa1E9PQ&key=1c9dcde42c34e29bc98a832ec3e1009c3eb6a309&bid=TTZra0ZSZEs5eFhIRGc9PQ&rcpt=hunterg@carleton.edu

Ghostface Killah (feat. Kid Capri) – “We Celebrate”

This one’s tricky.  The single was released in ’08, but the album came out in December ’07.  Just listen to it, though – it insists on being included.  Ghostface is not gonna be cut from the theatrical release of Iron Man and excluded from a mix on the Carl blog the same year.

http://www.yousendit.com/transfer.php?action=check_download&ufid=Q01FYUowNXY5eFZMWEE9PQ&key=811fa06d5c64ad6e38b85d7f39b5615c9a69f8e3&bid=TTZra0ZSZEtnYU4zZUE9PQ&rcpt=hunterg@carleton.edu

The Hold Steady – “Slapped Actress”

The opening riff here is the sound of a ten-story building collapsing.  “Slapped Actress” makes a bunch of John Cassavetes references, but it makes me think of Leonard Cohen – this is a tower of song.

http://www.yousendit.com/transfer.php?action=check_download&ufid=Q01FYUowNXZEbUlLSkE9PQ&key=2f4186561621ad6aa5f2e8e6a9f0295cb15d68b4&bid=TTZra0ZSZEt0d0dGa1E9PQ&rcpt=hunterg@carleton.edu

Jenny Lewis and Elvis Costello – “Carpetbaggers

Enjoying a Jenny Lewis song always makes me feel a little like a high school girl, but there’s a lot to like about “Carpetbaggers.”  The lyrics are corny, yeah, but it’s like everybody’s in on the joke.  And it sounds like someone forgot to tell Elvis Costello he was doing a faux-country duet – those vocals could be from a This Year’s Model outtake.

http://www.yousendit.com/transfer.php?action=check_download&ufid=Q01FYUowNXZ0d0ZMWEE9PQ&key=0abbd8997b9660cff36e0a54656b5c17dd3d45d5&bid=TTZra0ZSZEs0b0RIRGc9PQ&rcpt=hunterg@carleton.edu

No Age – “Miner”

“Miner” is a great song from a great album, but No Age don’t fuck around live, either.  This show at Death By Audio was like, everything I want from a rock concert, and someone’s nicely captured it:

http://www.yousendit.com/transfer.php?action=check_download&ufid=Q01FYUo4R3MxUUFLSkE9PQ&key=edbc83ec87f98bd2ef1c99f4adf66d525eeca25d&bid=TTZra0ZheFhUME4zZUE9PQ&rcpt=hunterg@carleton.edu

Santogold – “Lights Out”

The Bud Light with Lime remix is also gorgeous.  No joke.

http://www.yousendit.com/transfer.php?action=check_download&ufid=Q01FYUo4R3MwMEZMWEE9PQ&key=eb0263af8697c3db4b5000034dbf14abaed6145d&bid=TTZra0ZkR0ZwTVYzZUE9PQ&rcpt=hunterg@carleton.edu

Someone Still Loves You Boris Yeltsin – “Glue Girls”

When Fuctape opened for SSLYBY in spring ’07, they were extremely friendly and gracious.  In spring ’08, Phillip Dickey, one of the band’s lead songwriters, agreed to an email interview with me and then never answered my questions.  It’s paradoxes like these that make such already fun power pop even more compelling.  I hope these big douchebags keep making such great songs.

http://www.yousendit.com/transfer.php?action=check_download&ufid=Q01FYUozTWNFc0xIRGc9PQ&key=ddedef82e87b4da70b1e02a932df814dcb8269e1&bid=TTZra0ZkR0ZJMHRMWEE9PQ&rcpt=hunterg@carleton.edu

Times New Viking – “The Early ‘80s”

Yep!

http://www.yousendit.com/transfer.php?action=check_download&ufid=Q01FYUozTWNRWUxIRGc9PQ&key=95cc86810c04fb2ecbc1223fd7f6b98d2cd2f18e&bid=TTZra0ZkR0ZwaFJMWEE9PQ&rcpt=hunterg@carleton.edu

Wilco – “Wilco The Song (Live on The Colbert Report

A while ago in The Carl I called Wilco’s Sky Blue Sky album “retirement rock,” and that’s still pretty much how I feel about it – don’t like it and don’t want to like it.  But this gem, played live on The Colbert Report, still makes me really curious about whatever Jeff Tweedy’s gonna put out next.  It’s Summerteeth-style pop plus Nels Cline’s weird ass jazz guitar heroics, and the sum is enough to keep me interested in Wilco The Future.

http://www.yousendit.com/transfer.php?action=check_download&ufid=Q01FYUozTWNVVGxMWEE9PQ&key=0da7af4e081bf75da2d1f42ca48d77bc54743d83&bid=TTZra0ZkR0Y4Q1FLSkE9PQ&rcpt=hunterg@carleton.edu

Wire – “One Of Us”

See: description, AC/DC’s “Rock ‘N’ Roll Train.”

http://www.yousendit.com/transfer.php?action=check_download&ufid=Q01FYUozTWNrWThLSkE9PQ&key=24aadd55f1849d3c40a593478c6171e26da2c652&bid=TTZra0ZkR0ZqV0JMWEE9PQ&rcpt=hunterg@carleton.edu

– Greg Hunter



CarlMall? SkyNorthfield? Ack. by Alex Sciuto
December 17, 2008, 11:01 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized

When I’m flying, by the time the plane begins to land and I can see the buildings or farmland, I’ve usually got whatever was keeping me entertained packed-up. Because I can’t stand to sit quietly for even the twenty minutes before the plane lands, I pull out SkyMall. Everyone knows what it is.

But maybe I was particularly bored this flight, I started trying to think about items that a college/young-people/Carleton specific SkyMall would look like. I didn’t come up with any clever enough to share. But I’m wondering if any of you can think of any comletely useless items that every college dorm can’t be complete without.

-Alex Sciuto



Sex, Chicken and Ostensible Symbolism by Greg Hunter
December 15, 2008, 2:28 pm
Filed under: Music | Tags: , , , , , , , ,

2008_03_19-chicken

Not having a TV in my apartment means, among other things, that usually the only music videos I see are ones I actively seek out.  Recently, though, I was involuntarily exposed to “Sex On Fire,” by Kings of Leon.  It’s a terrible clip for what’s barely a song, but it does feature my favorite music video trope: the ostensible symbol, an object and/or image that’s intended to appear as if it has a codified meaning but almost certainly does not.  Chicken is a metaphorically empty visual motif in “Sex On Fire,” both in bird and food form.  (Previous examples of the ostensible symbol include the flaming trees in Jewel’s “Standing Still” and the indoor rain in Eve 6’s “Inside Out” videos – if you’re stuck on how to feign profundity, turn to the elements.)

[Video available here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HHhhcKxflMY%5D

The ostensible symbol is an indicator of laziness and pretension, granted, but videos that feature it empower viewers in a way art that’s made thoughtfully and deliberately cannot.  These objects and images signify only that they signify something, meaning we as viewers can actually decide what an ostensible symbol conveys rather than speculating on what the director intended.  We’re part of the creative process!

My top three guesses decisions on what chicken means in “Sex On Fire”:

1.  Having sex, like eating chicken, is better with napkins and family members.  (Having sex on fire is helpful in preventing salmonella.)
2.  The chicken is an answer to Freud’s male castration anxiety.  (Cut a chicken’s head off and that sucker will just keep on movin’ for a while, so don’t even worry about it.)
3.  Kings of Leon have their cocks in hand during this song.

What are your interpretations?

– Greg Hunter



The Best Chocolate Chip Cookies Ever by Alex Sciuto
December 14, 2008, 8:37 pm
Filed under: Food | Tags: , ,

Seriously the best chocolate chip cookies ever. This is for real cookie lovers. If you like your cookies gooey and boring, go buy some Toll House ready made dough and just eat it. But if your taste buds have grown beyond the kindergarten level, this is the recipe for you. These cookies are crispy yet buttery, and melt in your mouth after a satisfying crunch. It’s also the easiest baked good in the world to make, probably.

img_2568

I would rotate the image 90 degrees, but it would take 20 minutes of waiting on my computer, so use the power of imagination to rotate it yourself!

  • 1/2 stick of Crisco
  • 1 stick of butter, softened
  • 1 cup of white sugar
  • 1/2 cup of packed brown sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 tsp. of vanilla extract
  • 2 1/4 cups of flour
  • 1 tsp. baking soda
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • As many chocolate chips as you like

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Using an electric mixer, combine the Crisco and the butter.

Add the white and bown sugar. Mix some more.

Add in the 2 eggs and vanilla. Mix some more.

Add the flour, baking soda, and salt. Mix some more.

Add the chocolate chips. Mix some more. You might have to use a big spoon at this point.

Spoon little mounds of dough onto a cookie sheet. The size is up to you, but the right way to do is a moderately heaping spoonful.

Bake for 18-20 minutes or until gold brown, and closer to the brown than the golden.

-Alex Sciuto

burningcookies

Toll House Drizzle™ cookies burning in the Hell Fires.



Tokyo! film review by tatgers
December 14, 2008, 3:16 pm
Filed under: movies

Whereas ParisJe t’aime keeps true to it’s title by presenting a collection of shorts about Paris and love, Tokyo!‘s does the same by first placing each story in Tokyo, and hugging the titular exclamation mark. But this ! does not reflect a cheerful enthusiasm.  All three films embody the ! through their  surprising eccentricity and magical realism. Even when caught in one of the films’ slow burns (Merde in particular), I couldn’t help having an appreciation for what I thought was the a new brand that I couldn’t easily judge.  You’ll have to forgive me for writing in generalities, but all three of these films benefit from their individual twists, so I won’t be going into much detail on scenes and developments.

The three films are directed :

tokyo2

1 Interior Design directed by Michel Gondry (Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind and The Science of Sleep).

Usually the most natural looking of the the films in its cinematography, though Gondry does find ways (boy does he) to use his characteristic warmth and whimsy. Origami gives him an excuse to revisit arts and crafts and one character’s art films allows him to play with low budget art films. But the story’s real world is where his sleight of hand and low-tech visual trickery shines. Unlike his recent films, or the other films in this collection, Interior Design is on the sweet end of bittersweet; certainly more satisfying than The Science of Sleep in letting the characters end in conditions that, while strange and not conventionally ideal, leave them content. The story is based on a short story that I have unfortunately forgotten the name of, but it’s along the lines of “BoyNamedX and GirlNamedY in/visit New York.” If that rings any bells, post a comment.  This was in some ways my favorite of the three (the playful soundtrack didn’t hurt).

 

2 Merde directed by Leos Carax (another French director, but one who’s other work I’m entirely unfamiliar with)

Oh, merde

Oh, merde

Merde was the most puzzling and unsettling. Consequently it is the one I’ve thought about the most. The concept of a creature from the sewers (Man? Beast? Something in-between?) coming to the surface to disrupt the everyday operations initially made me think of Jackass hijinks, partly because of the first scene’s being shot in a way that looks like it could either be planned or improvised with unsuspecting citizens. The absurdity of the dominant character is consistent, even as the film dips in and out of  issues including racism, celebrity, and repressed(or suppressed) history.  I find the last issue the most heavily weighted, and the signs are legible and evident, but unspoken.  This perspective may be skewed, however, because I was preoccupied by the distinct use of music from a film I am studying for my comps, Army of Shadows, which discusses the existential  rolls of those resisting and supporting the social fabric of Vichy France.  There are a few scenes that share the 1968 film’s stark grey–blue color palate, but aside from the recurring use of the colors and the  dark and dramatic musical theme (to open a Japanese news program, oddly enough [how appropriately kinky]), there were plenty of other familiar audio cues that I was unable to pinpoint, so the importance of Army of Shadows may be entirely aesthetic rather than thematic. More than the other two films, there were scenes that felt obnoxious and longer than required for the film to be conventionally effective, which I am certain is not an objective of this film. Even if it were, the film is unpredictable and weird enough that the (anti)hero is worth continued observation, even when destructive or annoying.

3 Shaking Tokyo directed by Bong Joon-ho (The Korean director of The Host)

Recluse protagonist

Recluse pro

The plot centers around a recluse, or hikikomori,  that hasn’t left his home in 10 years. This felt like the most tightly controlled and meticulous of the three films. The camera movement is steady and measured, without the unpredictable free wheeling Gondry or Carax’s films, and the cinematography looks unnaturally beautiful, reminding me of Chan-wook Park films (most famous in the US for Oldboy, though there seems to be a possible reference to Park’s I’m a Cyborg, but it’s OK), even though they have different cinematographers and production designers.  A some sequences of the protagonist by his front door (receiving pizza orders, debating whether to step outside) are edited witha warmth reminiscent of Amelie, aside from the lighting, that same warmth is otherwise often missing it in addressing isolation and escaping it.



Book Review: Tales of Beedle the Bard by Alex Sciuto
December 13, 2008, 11:07 pm
Filed under: Literature | Tags: , , , , ,

Tales of Beedle the Bard

Tales of Beedle the Bard

J.K. Rowling’s seventy-page third supplement to the HP series took me an hour to read, and a good part of that hour included checking updates on my Google Reader. With shockingly large margins, even knowing the proceeds are going to some European charity, I still felt kind of ripped off at having to pay thirteen dollars for it (Alright, my dad, a true Harry Potter lover, actually bought it, but still).

If you can get over the physical lightness of the book, Rowling presents five short fairy tales followed by commentary by Albus Dumbledore. The stories are straight out of Aesop’s fables, and like in the rest of the series, magic instead of helping to solve problems only obfuscates and makes the solutions harder to come by. Dumbledore, whose end notes’ primary purpose is to make the morals even more obvious, often quotes his signature final speeches from multiple endings of the seven books. Love, sacrifice, and the concupiscence of the human spirit dominate his interpretations.

But if the lessons learned from the stories are neither surprising nor novel, the stories themselves have the stamp of Rowling’s imagination. From pots that have feet to Babbity Rabbity the wash-witch, each story is wonderfully imagined and concisely told. Remember the opening of the fourth book when Harry goes to the Quiditch World Cup and how interminably long her narrative is? She’s learned her lesson, or maybe just gotten lazy.

My favorite parts of the book are the rare new insights that we gain into both Dumbledore’s thinking months before his death and insights into the immediate myth of the Deathly Hallows and their relationship with the seventh book. While the stories themselves have no relation to the seven books, Rowling pretty deftly weaves the series’ events into Dumbledore’s analysis of the stories. There’s nothing essential in this short book, but the added information enriches the experience. While much of it is rehashing what we already learn from the books, I gained a little bit from the new retelling.

So, overall. A good waste of forty-five minutes.

-Alex Sciuto



Muh-mmhuh-mmy Kennedy Center Honor by Greg Hunter

Earlier in the week, the Washington Post ran this article – http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/story/2008/12/05/ST2008120502765.html – about Kennedy Center honors for Pete Townshend and Roger Daltrey, of mod proto-punks-turned-area giants The Who. I’m not hating here, really – in a situation like this, the appropriate response is probably, ‘Eh, why not?’ – but reading about the honor took me by surprise.

Formal, mainstream recognition of The Who is nothing new, nor is the corresponding irony of it all.  (Jackie O reportedly went to see them play after Tommy was a hit.)  And yet there’s still, to me, something a little mystifying about it.  It’s a cliché, sure, that Townshend and Daltrey, who wrote and sang “I hope I die befor I get old,” are now, um, old. For as long as I’ve been a fan, “too old to give a fuck/too young to rest” (from “Dreaming From The Waist Down”) always seemed more appropriate.  But the songs we’ll remember the band for were nonetheless fueled anger, confusion and alienation, even into the concept double album phase.  (Hell, the Sex Pistols covered “Substitute.”)

It’s been a long time since The Who did something new or transgressive, and just as long since they’ve made a good album, but whoever Pete Townshend is now, he was also once a dude who would destroy his guitar while on Quaaludes.  Observe the footage below: Townshend, more punk than most punk was, anticipating Richard Hell, Thurston Moore, Kurt Cobain, and almost every other meaningful figure in alternative music for the next several decades.  I can’t be the only one who still finds it kind of incredible that such (fundamentally) aggressive music can be received so comfortably, by so many peopple, with enough time.

Bonus video!

– Greg Hunter



Seven Lessons from the Public Policy Scholars Program by Alex Sciuto
December 7, 2008, 10:28 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: , , , ,

This past Tuesday morning at 8am, myself and fifteen or sixteen other Carleton students were sitting down bleary in Washington D.C. about to listen to a Carleton alum and two friends talk about their experiences working for Save the Children and talk about how they ended up working there. It was the first of about 20 organizations we would visit in the next three days in a blitz of information gathering about careers in public policy. I won’t bother you with the details or specifics of the different agencies, but there were some cool jobs for the aspiring James Bonds and some not so cool ones for the aspiring professional term-paper writers. I also won’t bother you with the specifics of how to get a top-notch job at the Treasury or State Department, but there were a number of very generalizable lessons the sixty or so people’s lives had in the common that we had the chance to learn about.

Here they are:

Follow Your Love. Yep, college romances are usually short, bittersweet, and end with the conferring of an undergraduate degree, but many of those who were successful got their start in Washington simply because they had a significant other who was heading there themself. It seems like it’s the combination of having no set plans mixed with the safety of a relationship that allowed these people to find jobs fields they had no previous interest. Most of the time, the jobs were short, but anchored to a place by another warm body, they kept finding new jobs until one stuck.

Leave the Country. It really doesn’t matter where you go, but get out of the country for at least a year or two. And Canada/Mexico doesn’t count. Whether it’s getting a reporting job in Rome, graduate school in Australia, or wandering around Asia finding yourself, the people we talked to traveled far and wide. Most of the time they planned ahead and got fellowships or jobs, but quite a few also just showed up in country and found a way to make ends meet. The traveling had two great benefits for their post-traveling Washington jobs. First, they knew a foreign culture the way an expert does. They spoke the language, knew the customs, and knew who to talk to in the country to get information if they needed it later. Secondly, the experience made them smarter and more adaptable. Without the benefit of the security of a permanent residence or job, these travelers were more open to suddenly moving again if the opportunity arose.

Don’t Immediately Go to Graduate School. Not a single person argued that after college, they were happy immediately returning to grad school. Only one man argued to attend grad school as early as possible, but that was predicated on knowing, and I mean knowing, what you wanted to do with your life. After four years of college, Law school or Public Policy school is three more years of the same critical thinking and improving of writing. You’re burnt out now, seniors, why do you expect that when August rolls around you’ll want a fifth, sixth, or even seventh year of this? See the two above lessons, make some mistakes, go to Alaska if you want. Find what you want to do, then go back to school to really learn to do it.

Is grad school useful? Opinions varied from a minority saying it was harmful to most saying they learned a lot, but they could have done without it. Grad school exists to prove you went to grad school. It’s the credentials. Maybe physicists and economists need graduate schooling, but it seems like lawyers and public policy experts learn most of what they need to know doing their jobs and experiencing new places and difficulties.

Never Waste an Opportunity to Make Friends. This applies to all people, but it especially applies to Washington, where we were told over and over, it matters more who you know than who you are. The people we talked to got their jobs because they were in the right place, knew the right stuff, and knew the right people. No one asked for GRE or LSAT scores or all those numbers. If you were an intern, you would get the job the next year. If you showed up in NPR’s offices every day touting your journalistic skills and experiences, you’d eventually get a job. In D.C., there’s a lot of turnover, and while college grads may think that hiring takes place only once a year, every year, the reality is that often times, whomever is there to fill the interim will end up staying if they like the job and are liked themselves.

Write Write Write Write and Learn to Speak Speak Speak. You might have the best ideas in the world, deep ideas that would progress humanity to the next epoch of evolution, but if you can’t write out or speak your thoughts, they’ll go nowhere. Look what I’m doing now. Hopefully someone reads this and see my name, and says, “That Alex, he can sure reflect and generalize from his experiences. And not only that, he can write an article about it!” The more you write, the better you get and the more likely people will read your work. The more stuff you put out, the more likely you’ll find an audience. So if your dream is to work in development, start a blog about development, submit your comps paper to journals, turn it into an article for a magazine. It won’t be the New York Times or Newsweek, but you’ll eventually find an audience. The same goes for speaking. Learn to speak well and succinctly. People can skim an article, but they’ll quickly get bored listening to you ramble about all the great lessons you learned while visiting Washington D.C. Make it brief, to the point.

Seriously though, we met more than a few people who got jobs because of their amateur blogging. It’s not completely without precedent.

Be a Problem Solver. A journalist mentioned that 90% of people out there are mediocre and cause more problems than they solve. Don’t be these people. If you dependably make your boss’s life easier, he’ll love you for it. The fewer questions and micromanagement decisions the boss has to make, the better you’ll look.

Find Your Love. Bouncing from job to job is fine. Some of the people we talked to haven’t held a job for longer than two years, but the jobs just slowly get better. But through all that bouncing, you’ll eventually discover what you love to do and everything else. The task then is to find the jobs and tasks that are that narrow column of love and avoid the rest. But you need to know what you love before you can know what to go after.

Whew. I didn’t expect this to be so long. Sorry dudes, but it was a crazy three days jam packed with meeting really interesting people.

-Alex Sciuto



Reporting from the Santa Fe Film Festival. by tatgers
December 7, 2008, 7:16 pm
Filed under: movies | Tags:

picture-1I’ve been at the Santa Fe Film Festival since Wednesday (the official opening night, though there were screenings as early as Monday) and it has been a hectic…5 days? I’ve spent a lot of time darting between venues for films and panels to the point where the my recollection of films approaches a the arrangement of a jigsaw puzzle. But that might be how memory works in the first place. I’ll leave that to the science majors (not that they care).

Picking out what films and panels to attend is a small ordeal. I’ve tried to balance and mix my attendance of independent films that are less likely to screen off the festival circuit (2:22, Poundcake, Speed of Life, Em, The Brothers Warner, A collection of Iranian shorts) with films that have won awards at other festivals and are bound hit art house cinemas around the country(Gomorra, Waltz With Bashir, Tokyo!). My middle class guilt kicks in every time I skip over a socially conscious film, but I managed to squeeze in Kassim the Dream, which I think will find some kind of distribution, if it hasn’t already, even if it doesn’t hit many theatres.In general, the festival has a very eclectic and balanced selection of big and small, regional and international features. Detracting from the number of films that I can review were the number of panels, which I’ll also do a post on. Consider this a forecast of posts to come…

In the meantime, I’d like to point you in the direction of 2008 alumnus Martha Polk who is the festival’s official blogger/reviewer.
Her blog is something top notch. The Santa Fe Film Festival blog has some more immediate reviews of her’s if you simply can’t wait for the copy paste, but you’ll need to wade through dozens of shameless self promotions (or simply pay attention posts written by Martha). I’m particularly anxious to get to her Synecdoche, New York discussion.  I suspect a number of you might be interested in her coverage of Soderbergh’s Che films, which I wasn’t able to get tickets to when the four hour, two screening beast  showed Wednesday and Thursday night.

-Andrew “Movie-Man” Tatge



Carl Christmas Present #1 by Greg Hunter

A few nights ago, I sat down to watch Santa’s Slay, a pirated DVD of my younger brother’s. The film, from 2005, stars former pro-wrestler Bill Goldberg as a murderous Santa Claus. Santa’s Slay belongs to the vast body of the direct-to-DVD horror-comedies that are neither scary nor funny, which manage to suggest self-awareness while basically lacking it. What distinguishes Slay from the rest is its baffling opening scene. There are few familiar faces throughout the movie (an unfortunate exception is SCTV alum Dave Thomas, who’s too talented to be in it). For the most part, they’re concentrated in the first three minutes, where Fran Drescher, Chris Kattan and James Caan are seated together at Christmas dinner, the most bizarre collection of cameos I’ve ever seen. Now Caan’s track record isn’t perfect, granted – for every Godfather, there are 88 episodes of Las Vegas – but hearing Sonny Corleone call Mango a “half-a-fag” is still something kind of incredible.

– Greg Hunter