Fact #122

A duck can't walk without bobbing its head.


Jordan's got video from the Flarf Festival last weekend.


Wolf Parade, Webster Hall, 4/10/06

Next time I go to venue like Webster Hall I'm going to have try showing early and getting a seat in the balcony. We snagged the last passable standing real estate a half hour before the headliner's hit time, so we missed Holy Fuck entirely and caught the last few songs of French Kicks, who were relatively unobjectionable. The show was sold out long ago, so of course we're immobilized in a dense underbrush of nervous twenty-one-year-old white kids. Normally this would be endurable when the music is good, except for cases where someone in front of you smells like a poorly maintained kennel, as was unfortunately the case on Monday.

The band came out maybe five minutes behind schedule and Spencer Krug, singer and keyboard player, immediately apologized for being late. This pattern continued for the entire set -- they barely said anything between songs, but when they did, it was to apologize for something, that they "suck at this" for instance. No one in the group made eye contact with the audience for the entire show, favoring a space on the floor just in front of them, and the guitar player and bass player played with their backs to the audience for the first two songs. The general stage presence was shyness mixed with mild self-effacement. The vibe of the band actually got more introverted as the evening went on, but with an increasing intensity, as though there was only one direction for the drama of the performance to go, which was toward the inside of the band's overall sound, not outward toward the audience from the individual members. It worked.

Wolf Parade's strategy is to layer up thick, balanced textures and use a lot of lead synth melody. Hadji Bakara played a reverb-&-delay-drenched theremin that expanded the timboral landscape of the songs with some Mariana trench-like moments, providing a needed element of gentle menace without departing from the catchiness or late post-adolescent dramatic intensity. In the beginning of the set it felt like they were holding back a little, but it got better as it went along, with some very broad and quite pleasurable peak-outs toward to end and in the encore. There's so little energetic or tempo variation or density contrast in the song structures that it almost doesn’t read as pop music, it's almost a drone music, though the keyboard melodies are pushing Cars-level catchiness in many tunes. Krug and Dan Boeckner sing equally well, and both use a similar kind of stylized warbly cracking intensity that seems like someone politely controlling emotions that are bigger than they are. The pop music of not being able to help how you feel.


There's nothing more dangerous than a wounded mosquito.


I noticed that in David Orr's New York Times Book Review cover story on Elizabeth Bishop he complains that more people know the lyrics to Total Eclipse of the Heart than know Elizabeth Bishop's poetry. It seemed to me that it might be more interesting to combine these two writers rather than setting them up in a false binary, so below is a line by line combination of Bishop's Florida with Jim Steinman's Total Eclipse of the Heart.

The Total Eclipse of Florida

Turnaround, Every now and then I get
out among the mangrove islands,
a little bit helpless and I'm lying like a child in your arms.
They stand on the sand-bars drying their damp gold wings.
Turnaround, Every now and then I get to an un-lit evening,
a little bit angry and I know I've got to get out and cry.
Enormous turtles, helpless and mild,
turnaround. Every now and then I
die and leave their barnacled shells on the beaches,
a little bit terrified but then I see the look in your eyes
and their large white skulls with round eye-sockets.
Turnaround bright eyes, Every now and
I'm twice the size of a man then I fall apart.

And the palm trees clatter in the stiff breeze
Turnaround bright eyes, Every now and then I
like the bills of the pelicans and the tropical rain comes down.
then I fall apart,
to freshen the tide-looped strings of fading shells.
And I need you now tonight:
Job's Tear, the Chinese Alphabet, the scarce Junonia,
and I need you more than ever,
parti-colored pectins and Ladies' Ears,
and if you'll only hold me tight
arranged as on a gray rag of rotted calico,
we'll be holding on forever.

the buried Indian Princess's skirt
will only be making it right
with these the monotonous, endless, sagging coast-line
cause we'll never be wrong together.
Delicately ornamented,
we can take it to the end of the line,
Thirty or more buzzards are drifting down, down, down.
Your love is like a shadow on me all of the time,
over something they have spotted in the swamp.
I don't know what to do and I'm always in the dark
in circles like stirred-up flakes of sediment.
We're living in a powder keg and giving off sparks,
sinking through water.
I really need you tonight,
smoke from woods-fires filters fine blue solvents.
Forever's gonna start tonight,
on stumps and dead trees the charring is like black velvet.

Forever's gonna start tonight--
the mosquitoes,
once upon a time I was falling in love,
hunting to the tune of their ferocious obbligatos,
But now I'm only falling apart.

After dark, the fireflies map the heavens in the marsh.
There's nothing I can do
until the moon rises.
A total eclipse of the heart.
Cold white, not bright, the moonlight is coarse-meshed,
Once upon a time there was light in my life
and the careless, corrupt state is all black specks.
Now there's only love in the dark,
too far apart, and ugly whites; the poorest.
Nothing I can say post-card of itself.
A total eclipse of the heart
After dark, the pools seem to have slipped away.

--Jim Steinman/ Elizabeth Bishop
Watched the DVD of John Water's Pink Flamingos, last seen at a midnight showing sometime in the mid-eighties in NJ. Much of the intensely particular feel of the film comes from the spontaneous nature of the shooting, and the way the monetary constraints were handled in the production, and may explain why his later movies retain the charm but lack the poetic of this period. The use of a single, appropriated camera and rescued film stock, combined with the odd and hilarious mixtures of hand-make/thrift shop set design and wardrobe combine to form some very strange color schemes and textures. There's a particular feel for wall paper in the movie. The repeated long single-shot scenes come from the constraint of only having one (stolen) camera. The effect created successfully combines several odd elements-- especially a feeling that everything in the movie, regardless of setting, is somehow actually taking place on a high school multipurpose room stage. This coexists with a Night of the Living Dead horror/documentary realism effect, and this binary defines the film's poetic. The acting also style fuses odd but effective elements -- amateurish but absorbing, intimate but artificial, gross but somehow touching.

The famous scene of the burning trailer where the camera perversely lingers over the flames is explained away by Waters in the commentary track as "bad editing," but there's something that he's missing about his own film here. There is a dynamic of inclusively which depends upon the overall equation of rough on-the fly production, perversity, humor and pathos, and this inclusiveness allows this fire scene, which would otherwise bring everything to a screeching, incongruous halt, to actually work in the overall rhythm of the film. The flames, clearly out of control of the under-prepared filmmakers, take on a beautiful hyper reality that actually harmonizes with the angry, pre-punk rebelliously anti-social creative energy that the director and cast channel into in the project. It also harmonizes with the poetics of fixation that are so clearly a part of Waters' approach.