What I’m listening to/watching/reading
First episode of the new season of Damages on FX, with Glenn Close, Ted Danson and now William Hurt. Wednesday nights. We watched the first season on DVD — it’s great; very over the top with countless double-crosses, like some overheated old noir. The NY Times review complained that the new season feels like a slight let-down, and maybe so, a bit, but it’s still fun.
Man on Wire. Great documentary about French highwire-walker Philippe Petit’s attempt, with the help of a gang of co-conspirators, to cross the Twin Towers on a wire in August 1974. It takes the form of a thriller or heist movie, moving forward, minute by minute, through the events of that day, and also stepping away to fill in the backstory. The mood is often sweetly elegiac, which I think has a lot to do with a sense of lost innocence surrounding the World Trade Center in the 1970s, and a time when 5 guys with (almost literally) tons of equipment could sneak past the guards, shoot a string from one tower to the other with a bow and arrow, have one of them walk back and forth, and end up being celebrated as plucky heroes. You have to figure today the police would shoot to kill…
Watched The Man in the Gray Flannel Suit with Gregory Peck. It surprised me in several respects. One was how much Mad Man seems to reference/rip it off. There are so many parallels, so much so that I wonder if it was a bit of an in-joke among the Man Man people to slip in allusions (like the scene where he has to pick his wife up at the police station). Was also surprised by how much it’s a war movie — there are these strangely extended flashback scenes from WW2 that go on and on.
Reading Maximum City: Bombay Lost and Found by Suketo Mehta. It’s been on my shelf for a year or two and then the Mumbai bombings (and an Op-Ed Mehta published in the Times) got me to pick it up finally.
Henning Mankell’s The Pyramid.
The new short film by Blu: an ambiguous animation painted on public walls in Buenos Aires and Baden. Really amazing!
Attack (TNR article by Adam Kirsch) and counter-attack (comments section) on Slavoj Zizek.
Battlestar Galactica first season.
Pingwings, Pogles’ Wood, Noggin the Nog, Ivor the Engine, The Clangers and Bagpuss on Youtube.
Erik Davis’s Led Zeppelin IV (33 1/3; Continuum). Very smart and funny obsessive excavation of Led Zep’s occult roots. For some reason the single historical detail that most surprised me here, though, amidst all the analysis of the band’s debt to Aleister Crowley, etc., was the revelation that “before forming Led Zeppelin and playing with the Yardbirds, [Jimmy] Page spent three years as a session player, playing on an estimated 50 to 90% of all the records made in England between 1963 and 1965, including early hits by the Who and the Kinks”(48). WTF?? Very bizarre. I had no idea.
The Mekons’ Fear and Whiskey (Sin Records, 1985). An old favorite of mine that I’m thinking of trying to write something about, so have returned to. British art-school punks fall into American roots music (Hank Williams, Ernest Tubb, etc) as a conceptual wormhole out of Thatcherite England.
This is the only really old Mekons video I dug up on Youtube: “Where Were You?” on New Year’s Eve 1980, opening for the Gang of Four. ”When I was waiting in a bar, where were you?/ When I was buying you a drink, where were you? When I was crying at home in bed, where were you?…/I want to talk to you all night, do you like me?/ I want to find out about your life, do you like me?/ Could you ever be my wife, do you love me?”
Taraf de Haidouks, Musique Des Tziganes De Roumanie. The live Band of Gypsies is also great. Wild, sad, take-no-prisoners party music that I’m sure the Mekons would enjoy. They’re Romanian Roma musicians — appear in the film Gypsy Caravan which I haven’t seen. (You can get all of these on emusic.)
Art or Not? t.v. show on Ovation. See my post.
Profile of Naomi Klein in The New Yorker. Sarah is a big fan of The Shock Doctrine — I think I am going to read it over the holidays.
Anthony Trollope’s The Last Chronicle of Barset.
Care Bears dvd from public library. Celie and Iris were SO excited about this DVD. We spent the drive home discussing metaphysical puzzles raised by the show e.g. “I wonder how they get up on those rainbows?” (I refrained from giving the correct answer: the poorly-paid animator in Thailand drew them up there.) I could not bring myself to watch more than a couple minutes of this tripe.