The inferno of the living is not something that will be; if there is one, it is what is already here, the inferno where we live every day, that we form by being together. There are two ways to escape suffering it. The first is easy for many: accept the inferno and become such a part of it that you can no longer see it. The second is risky and demands constant vigilance and apprehension: seek and learn to recognize who and what, in the midst of inferno, are not inferno, then make them endure, give them space.
One of my favorite Radiohead obscurities, Kinetic initially only appeared on CD singles of Pyramid Song released in Europe. These days, however, it’s easily obtainable in the US on the collector’s edition of Amnesiac (or on Spotify).
Sad Days, Lonely Nights Spiritualized (from Sunday Nights: The Songs of Junior Kimbrough)
Last night, on the subway ride home from a screening of Rockshow (which I plan to write about here soon), I listened to SpaceLines (strange contrast, to be sure). That’s the collection of music that influenced Pete “Sonic Boom” Kember of Spacemen 3, heavy on great gospel and blues records. That reminded me of this record by another former member of Spacemen 3 (not on my iPod last night, unfortunately); I hadn’t heard it in a long while. Spiritualized rarely records songs by others, but when they do, the result is always excellent.
This doesn’t apply to me, but with Mayor Bloomberg’s obnoxious policies regarding New York City libraries, it probably applies (or will apply) to many city librarians here. I hope the mayor hears this, not that I think it would do any good.
Lush and Green Grandpaboy (from Grandpaboy EP, 1997)
A short folk-pop song with a beautiful melody, from Paul Westerberg’s first record as his occasional side identity, Grandpaboy. After ten years of working for major labels, Westerberg returned to indie rock with this EP, in as low a key as possible (the identity of Grandpaboy was initially a secret, though word spread quickly enough - that voice is unmistakeable). This song, which both reflects Westerberg’s more contemplative side and stylistically was somewhat new territory (almost lo-fi in the ballpark of Sebadoh), is a nice hidden gem in his large catalog. Possibly tossed off, but it sounds fresher than a lot of the songs on his three major label solo records.
Last night’s viewing. Rebecca Hall plays a researcher and popular author who exposes fraudulent mediums in England shortly after World War I. She’s invited by schoolmaster Dominic West (best known here as McNulty in The Wire) to find the ghost of a young child that has been haunting the school grounds, or (she presumes) expose the non-ghostly culprit who is the real source.
This is a damned good, psychologically-driven ghost story of the kind Hollywood doesn’t really make any longer, not often, though in keeping with the times, there are a few visual nods to contemporary American horror films like the Ring remakes (and The Sixth Sense, for better or worse). The story works both on the themes of the modern horrors of the first War, and the legacies of violence and abuse with the emotional damage they cause.
Hall is, essentially, dashing the hopes of bereaved survivors of the war dead, even for the purpose of truth (the grieving are being taken by con artists, although willingly so). This theme becomes more complicated as the film progresses; traumas both personal and cultural intertwine in unexpected ways, and Hall learns she may have unconscious reasons for taking her line of work. The title, like any good one, carries more than one meaning for the story; ghosts from the past can haunt the living in more than one way.
Most of the best horror films I’ve seen in the past decade have been produced outside of the U.S., and this British film is a great example (it was not released in theaters here, but went straight to video). We’re too busy churning out shitty Saw and “found footage” garbage, unfortunately, aside from interesting movies on the margins, away from Hollywood.The Awakening is beautifully shot, with strong screen compositions which demonstrates the care and thought that the filmmakers brought to the production. There are lyrical overhead shots and slow camera pans that visually construct an atmosphere of mystery - these impressed me much more than a few quick jump-cuts, also in the film, that nod to a different type of contemporary horror film.
It’s also worth noting that Hall is playing a female character not common enough in horror films (especially now). She’s not a victim, or, in spite of the setting, a governess or teacher (though the story calls to Henry James’ The Turn of the Screw). She’s chasing the ghost, after all. The story isn’t particularly Gothic, either, as Hall commands modern science (of the time) in her research, and the WWI theme brings something different (and horrifying in a different sense) to the story.