Tuesday, March 16, 2010

The Ludovico Technique

Classical music, the music that dinosaurs and Jesus listened to. It's incredibly old and makes me think of boring movies and commercials, stuffy brits speaking with haughty accents and boredom. Incredible boredom. I'm a crash and bang kid, if anything, I like my music loud and melodic, fun and easily quotable on Facebook. Classical music isn't my cup of tea, nope, not at all. I'd much rather just play some Ziggy Stardust or Spank Rock, the Yeah Yeah Yeahs or Nine Inch Nails. I don't know, perhaps I'm not cultured enough, perhaps my blood isn't blue enough to indulge in such sophisticated sounds and silences. Keep it away from me.

So, you could imagine my complete surprise when I was assigned an article on classical music. Not only would I have to listen to it, I'd have to write about it, great! To be honest, I was met with shock, that shock eventually turned in to horror at the fact that I was completely out of my element, alone with the sounds. Where could I begin? I decided to start from home and work my way out. I had no classical music at all on my Zune, cycling through for anything I might possibly have accidentally put on there. Disgust, anguish, surprise, wait! Depeche Mode had done a cover of something called "Moonlight Sonata" with Alan Wilder playing it on piano. A good place to start, I put it in my ears and closed my eyes. Where could it take me?

As the music played, the chaos and anarchy subsided within me and I felt this..calmness come over me out of nowhere. If I could focus hard enough my imagination could coincide with the music. It reminds me of something, something close to silence, it's hard to describe, but unlike the music I normally listened to which my brain would constantly just react to, that beat, those lyrics, that guitar solo, that sweet pronunciation of a certain word, that was all gone, just the music and me. The music was somehow forming a backdrop with my subconscious and I could feel my brain feeding off it. Maybe this is why they say classic music raises your IQ, or that it's good for babies to hear. I can't say for sure but my thoughts run freely as I write this.

Okay, so maybe it's not that bad. That was however, just one song, and Depeche Mode had covered it, so that might have something to do with it. I'd have to hear something else, something more visual. One more brainstorm and I found myself thinking of A Clockwork Orange, what was that song, that song that Alex was brainwashed into being horribly afraid of? Ludwig Von Beethoven's Ninth Sonata, enough to drive a man to jump out a window...let's hear it!

To me, the sudden bursts of energy ranging forward describe Beethoven as a loud, frantic ball of composing energy. To think about it from the writers perspective, to conduct it, to play it, so see it played and then just hear it, it's all very frantic. You can feel the emotion, the actions of it, you can feel all that unravel and build up into these intense climaxes, danger, chaos and anarchy, it's all there. It seems I've underestimated the power of music again, because as my fingers dance over these keys they react to the music. I have to keep pounding it out or I'll lose it. There is a balance, just when I think it's over, it isn't, it feels good for the brain though, I will say that.

I thought about the Ludovico Technique used in Clockwork Orange and the strong bond between songs and memories. There are certain songs, certain albums I just can't listen to because they strongly remind me of an ex, or the past. Songs can dig up old memories and feelings, just like the process in the movie. The chain reaction between triggers and memories happen all the time without people ever noticing. Lexical chunks and all that mess. So, after that I decided to research some really great classic music songs. I now fully understand the audio aesthetic and what can be done with it. Now I want to hear something that speaks to my very soul, something old and yet classic, something new and unfamiliar that I can really sink my teeth into and rest my ears on. Where would that take me? How would that feed my head?

I looked through the list, Beethoven's Ode To Joy reminded me of something I couldn't quite put my finger on. I'm tempted to say it was in the Rules of Attraction but I'm not sure. I moved on to Tchaikovsky's 1812 Overture which was famously used at the end of V for Vendetta when everyone's wearing their V Mask and everything is being blown to smithereens. Such an piece of music set to such a dramatic scene ties everything together. How wild. The Overture is always a Fourth of July favorite, the song by itself just conjures up such summer memories that it's hard to separate the song from what it represents, what it stands for. Playing it loud though, I hear the story in it unravel, new parts I've never heard that you never hear unless you make a point to really listen. Then it builds up into something epic, perfect firework music, there's an essence of time, a lot of things happening at once almost to the point where the sound is bigger than any single person, the sound is a force of nature in itself, and then BAM, the part that everyone knows! Familiar and yet distant. It's exhausting, especially to play or perform piece, I'd say.

After that one I listened to Bach, Toccata and Fugue in D minor with the organ, classic horror stuff. It paints a picture of dark, shadow castles in Transylvania, the night, and other scary monsters and super creeps. These tunes are all subliminally familiar, just like the movies and the pictures they paint. It's wild, all over the place, it really makes me want to play an organ. I also think of Sesame Street and the Count, thinking of that makes me crave cookies, about 6 of them. One, Two, Three, Four, Five, Six Cookies, for me, all mine.

I got a text from Sabrina saying that Debussy's Claire de lune was a good one, and I like the sound of that. Why not? I don't think I know this song, some people say it was used in Twilight but I didn't care to read any of the books or see any of the movies so it's new to me. Surprise again, the slow, easy notes are full of life, they breathe and speak to me, they slow everything down. I'm looking at the sun shining out the window, writing furiously and I actually feel this wave of serene calm wash over me. The notes are played with such effortless grace, no rush, no hurry, all the time in the world. It honestly reminds me of life. Or what life should and could be, my brain is actually happy with how it's going and I wholeheartedly agree, I feel it. I had to text Sabrina back and thank her for introducing me to this song, I suddenly understand that classical music is a thing of beauty, just because I hadn't taken the time to sit down and listen, I've missed out. Now however, it's right here and it's fueling that fire, stimulating my thoughts and allowing me to really see the glory of the classic song.

I can dig it.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Bob Dylan, Rolling Stone Interview

In 1991 at the Grammy's, Jack Nicholson presented a Lifetime Achievement Award to Bob Dylan. A wise and world-weary Bob greeted this award with a little bit of suspision, "Well, we all know that they give those things out when you're old, when you're nothing, a has-been. Everybody knows that, right? So I wasn't sure whether it was a compliment or an insult." Nevertheless, with a 104 degree fever and a growing disillusionment for the music industry Bob accepted the award and made this short speech: "My daddy [once said] "Son, it's possible to become so defiled in this world that your own mother and father will abandon you. And if that happens, God will always believe in your own ability to mend your ways." An interesting statement coming from someone like Bob Dylan, more of a chameleon than David Bowie, more surreal than Salvidor Dali and just when you think you know him, you don't.

He's been called the voice of generation and he didn't like it. He's been called a social conscience and he's collected enough accolades and awards over his long and decorated career spanning several decades. His influence is far reaching and glorious, he's been drunk, hopped up sharing car rides with John Lennon, he was there when Martin Luther King made his I have a dream speech and his view on the world is something interesting to say the least. He's been through a lot, success, international fame, love, divorce, fatherhood, and just..life in the ever changing stratusfere of pop culture, the mainstream. So how does a man like Bob possibly mend his ways?

"I was thinking more in terms of, we're living in a Machiavellian world, whether we like it or we don't. Any act that's immoral as long as it succeeds, it's all right. To apply that type of meaning to the way I was feeling that night probably has more to do with it than any kind of conscious effort to bring out some religiosity, or any kind of biblical saying about God, one way or another. You hear a lot about God these days: God, the beneficent; God, the all-great; God, the Almighty; God, the most powerful; God, the giver of life; God, the creator of death. I mean, we're hearing about God all the time, so we better learn how to deal with it. But if we know anything about God, God is arbitrary. So people better be able to deal with that, too."

One thing that is not arbitrary is death, and not even someone of Bob's caliber can escape it. In 1997 after recording his platinum selling, grammy winning "Time Out of Mind" album Bob was struck with a heart condition that left in the hospital for a while. The condition was painful and debilitating, one would think such a close brush with death would have a new impact on Bob's view of life. However, for someone as stubborn and steadfast as Dylan, the impact was null. "It was like I learned nothing. I wish I could say I put the time to good use or, you know, got highly educated in something or had some revelations about anything. But I can't say that any of that happened. I just laid around and then had to wait for my strength to come back." Whats left for Bob to learn? He's already written a staggering amount of songs that contain a sort of knowledge and wisdom about the world at large. "It's Alright Ma (I'm only bleeding)" from his "Bringing it All Back Home" album is a startling, lucid view of a chaotic and troubled world, and that song was written in 1965. "Isis" describes a troubled relationship that leads our narrator on a wild treasure hunting adventure in a far off land. If songs are stories than Bob Dylan is a master storyteller, and if songs are just songs than he's still amazingly good. During his long career he's had highs as well as lows, fame is an odd mistress and Bob's chameleonlike nature left a lot of people guessing. His 1970 album "Self Portrait" is surreal collection of covers and halfhearted songs, apparantly released as a joke. No song is more interesting than his cover of Simon and Garfunkel's The Boxer, where Bob does a duet with himself, one voice is his odd country singing croon, and the other voice is his classic 60's voice, to hear both on one track is...somewhat startling but nevertheless, very interesting. How does his new stuff like 2001's Love and Theft compare?

"No one should really be curious or too excited about comparing this album to any of my other albums. Compare this album to the other albums that are out there. Compare this album to other artists who make albums. You know, comparing me to myself [laughs] is really like....I mean you're talking to a person that feels like he's walking around in the ruins of Pompeii all the time. It's always been that way, for one reason or another. I deal with all the old stereotypes. The language and the identity I use is the one that I know only so well, and I'm not about to go on and keep doing this- comparing my new work to my old work. It creates a kind of Achilles' heel for myself. It isn't going to happen. "

"[Love and Theft] deals with power. If life teaches us anything, it's that there's nothing that men and women won't do to get power. The album deals with power, wealth, knowledge and salvation - the way I look at it. If it's a great album- which I hope it is- it's a great album because it deals with great themes. It speaks in a noble language. It speaks of the issues or the ideals of an age in some nation, and hopefully, it would also speak across the ages. It'd be as good tomorrow as it is today and would've been as good yesterday. That's what I was trying to make happen, because just to make another record at this point of my career...Career, by the way is a French word. It means "carrier". It's something that takes you from one place to the other. I don't feel like what I do qualifies to be called a career. It's more of a calling. "

Ironically enough, "Love and Theft" was released on September 11th 2001, the same day as Jay-Z's Blueprint album. The times were a-changin again and this time Bob was wiser, older and thoughts were with us. "One of those Rudyard Kipling poems, "Gentlemen- Rankers," comes to my mind: "We have done with Hope and Honour, we are lost to Love and Truth/ We are dropping down the ladder rung by rung/ And the measure of our torment is the measure of our youth/ God help us, for we knew the worst too young!" If anything, my mind would go to young people at a time like this. That's really the only way to put it. Art imposes order on life, but how much more art will there be? We don't really know. There's a secret sanctity of nature. How much more of that will there be? At the moment, the rational mind's way of thinking wouldn't really explain what's happened. You need something else, with a capital E, to explain it. It's going to have to be dealt with sooner or later, of course. "

Almost ten years after September 11th, and almost 20 years after winning the Lifetime Achievement Award, Bob Dylan is pretty much immortal, he's captured moments and scenes of the past century and presented them to us with a style all his own. The best advice Bob could leave us is already there in song. If ever you should feel doubt, or that apprehension or turning fear, play something of his low and pick out peices of hope. "I don't really know what I could tell you. I don't consider myself an educator or an explainer. You see what ut us that I do, and that's what I've always done. But it is time now for great men to come forward. With small men, no great thing can be accomplished at the moment. Those people in charge I'm sure they're read Sun-Tzu, who wrote The Art of War in the sixth century. In there he says, "If you know the enemy and know yourself, you need not fear the result of a hundred battles. If you know yourself and not your enemy, for every victory gained you will suffer a defeat." And he goes on to say, "If you know neither the enemy nor yourself, you will succumb in every battle." Whoever's in charge, I'm sure they would have read that. Things will have to change. And one of these things that will have to change: People will have to change their internal world."

It's alright Ma, it's life and life only.

Monday, February 22, 2010

The Bruce Campbell

Bruce Campbell is a cult film star and counterculture icon. He may be best known for portraying "Ash", the chainsaw weilding, one liner spewing lovable goofball facing the grotesque hordes of the damned in Ted Raimi's "the Evil Dead" and it's subsequent sequals Evil Dead 2 and The Army Of Darkness. Those three roles alone would've cemented his place in horror history but those were just the beginning, from there Bruce forged his own path through cinema and television starring in such 80's films like Maniac Cop, Crimewave and Mindwarp along with the appearances on shows like "American Gothic", "Law and Order", "Homicide", and "Weird Science." His choice of roles and performances have always been fascinating to me. "Brisco County Jr" was the short lived sci-fi western that perfectly seemed to express the whole Bruce Campbell vibe.

He's played a geriatric Elvis in "Bubba Ho-Tep", a film about demon mummy terrorizing an old folks home, and also made cameo appearances in all three of Sam Raimi's Spiderman flicks. He's been on Xena and Hercules and even directed the series finale. He's written an autobiography about his career titled "If Chins Could Kill; Confessions of a B- Movie actor" and a second book entitled "Make Love the Bruce Campbell Way". Bruce's own filmmaking is also pretty kooky, "The Man With The Screaming Brain" was filmed in Bulgaria and features gypsies, murder and brain surgery. He's even been immortalized in comic book form in the ultra mashup "Freddy Vs Jason Vs Ash" and the "Marvel Zombies Vs Army of Darkness". You can currently see him on USA Networks sexy spy drama Burn Notice where he plays Sam Axe.

Another notable release was "Fanalysis", a documentary about those obsessive and eccentric Bruce Campbell fans and conventions. The film is a great window into that world of fandom and cosplay, with great cameos from revered characters like Mewtwo, Omega Red, Boba Fett, Darth Maul, Stormtroopers and one very dedicated Xena clone. One section showed the "Bruce Booth" where fans would buy photos, high quality glossy headshots, of Bruce, with or without a mustache, a little something for everyone. Meeting so many dedicated fans has left a profound impact on Bruce, "I have learned that fans come in every shape, size and disposition. Fans are rich, poor, young, old - it's all over the map. My fans mostly have taught me where and where NOT to get a tattoo."

So, when it finally came down to hit up Bruce about the interview I was suprised to hear that not only would the interview by email, but it would only be ten questions. No big deal I thought, I'll ask him ten really good questions and just be happy to have the experience. But what experience? Trading email vollys with a legend for an end product that absolutely fails to inform or move me to do anything. I felt like a kid finding out Santa Claus had just shit in his cereal, but Bruce isn't Santa Claus, he's just a man, and probably really busy. I begrudgingly accepted this and typed up my ten questions. Dang.

One thing I'd always wondered about Bruce was what he did in his free time, was he a swashbuckling hero? Did he run around fighting real life zombies and saving damsels in distress? Of course not, but I always find it interesting to know what people are really like when I interview them. I don't like to play by the rules, self expression is key and the message is the medium, ten brief questions or not, there was definitely a story there. "I'm an avid hiker, so I explored many parts of my home state of Oregon this past fall." Bruce replyed, "There is nothing quite like swimming in a wilderness lake. Aside from that, I had the privilege of visiting troops in Iraq and seeing the wounded at Walter Reed hospital. That was a special trip along with Jeffrey Donovan, the star of Burn Notice. I also had a wicked road trip through northwest Nevada and joined the Elks last week! It's been a great break from filming and I get back to work on season 4 mid March in Miami."

Recently on an episode of Saturday Night Live, Ashton Kutcher hosted and appeared in a sketch was about how despite Burn Notice received great reviews and was in it's fourth season, nobody knew what the show was about. I thought the sketch was random as hell, but interesting to note, I was waiting for someone to go "Bruce Campbell's on that show!" Alas. Next I asked him what his future goals were. "At this point, it's all about doing stuff that's enjoyable and creatively fulfilling. I'm hoping to finish a long run of Burn Notice, then settle into Oregon filmmaking on a long term basis, and crank out a film out every couple years."

Bruce's contributions to filmmaking extend even further, his book If Chins Could Kill shared a bevy of knowledge on the side of Hollywood that most people don't care to notice. On Bruce's website he shares his wisdom with articles like "Shun Society, Be a Screenwriter" and "So You Wanna Be A Filmmaker Eh?" Bruce gives priceless advice like "Getting 40 set-ups in a day isn't always the goal. It isn't a contest - 40 shots of what? And how rushed do you have to be to get that? How about 20, really good, planned out shots? making the film shouldn't be a zoo, unless your producers are idiots."

During a 2006 appearance on IFC's Dinner For Five featuring Bruce, Rob Zombie, Roger Corman, Faizon Love and Jon Favreau, Bruce shares some important info on the business and legal sides of filmmaking that were really refreshing to hear address. On that show, sitting there with his contempories Bruce discusses investors and some things aspiring filmmakers would have to handle besides just making a movie. His opinion hasn't changed, "It's still the same. You often still have to deal with banks and investors - not to mention lawyers and studio execs - when you make professional films, so a little business background wouldn't kill you."

Finally nearing the end of the interview, I asked Bruce one last question about how he feels about the state of horror films and the future of 3D movies. "Hey, as long as the movie is good, the format is irrelevant. But if the movie sucks, you can put all the lipstick you want on that pig. Horror needs to abandon torture porn and get back to being a fun thrill ride. I think Sam Raimi's Drag Me to Hell was a good example of where horror needs to be."

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

"What does the A stand for?"


"Lyndsey with a Y"

"Last Name?"

"Sturkey, like turkey with an S"

Eleven years ago, a ten year old turkey with an S met death, but did not die.

While carelessly crossing the street one day, a speeding car struck Lyndsey, sending her flying several feet in the air and landing her in the h. The damages wheren't too extensive, she only ended up with a broken leg and some severe road burns, she wasn't even in the hospital for that long, after five days she returned home. Like all of us, she is lucky to be alive, and today I was lucky enough to have a conversation with her about various things that may or may not ever matter. This conversation was important becase it's our first one, this was our first instance meeting and I most definitely wanted to get to know this stranger better. This is what I learned about Lyndsey A Sturkey.

Well, for one thing, the A is a mystery. She wouldn't tell me her middle name now matter how I tried to finagle it out of her. It didn't work. She appartantly believes that not every detail is necessary, there are some questions she won't answer, and there are some facts she prefers to keep to herself, like her middle name. As an English and Journalism major at Millersville, she is a writer, but more than that, to see her calm stare behind those very cool 50s style glasses, she's also a watcher. I could see her wheels turning as she absorbed sights and sounds, math and science and thought about it, actually thought about things before she spoke. Her calm and mysterious nature, plus the fact that well aware of several of my favorite authors made her instantly more fascinating to me.

It's true, she keeps a journal and writes a lot, she wants to be a book editor but her dream job is to write for the New Yorker. Her high school years were filled with fun and good times and memories of wylin out with her cool nerd friends. She grew up Levittown, a boring town near Philly where not too much ever happened. As a kid, she had a Sega Genesis instead of a Super Nintendo. Her Millersville years went by too fast and she's graduating soon, she picked a major she actually likes and might one day end up living in a box.

To my complete surprise, she would not let me take her picture, upon further finagling we made a bargain. She would make a sign that said "DON'T TAKE MY PICTURE" and of course I would take a picture of her holding it. If she was an animal she'd be a tiger, and she has a bad temper if you cross her and like a true writer she can break you down with words. She's opinionated and more introverted than extroverted, she doesn't party much and never seen a ghost or UFO. Her favorite articles of clothing are her cardigans and sweaters and her three favorite bands are Fanfarlo, Neutral Milk Hotel and The Pixies. She now lives in Lancaster City with her roommate and frequents Senorita Burrita, which reportedly has the best nachos in the world. She is also a big fan of soup, or liquid foods in general.

She does not like sushi, but respects Johnny Depp for his ability to disappear into his roles, as opposed to Brad Pitt who's just...Brad Pitt in every movie. She was a bumblebee for Halloween, and when I asked her what the most beautiful thing she's seen recently was, she couldn't think of an answer.

Last by most certainly not least, her favorite cussword is f**k.