Archive | August, 2009

Picking Up Crumbs: Roxanne Jackson

27 Aug

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At the opening of Roxanne Jackson‘s solo show, “We Believe In Something” in the Minnesota Artists Exhibition Program galleries of the Minneapolis Institute of Arts, it was interesting to watch the crowds in the two galleries. In the first gallery, full of objects and more light, people milled around, did the opening dance and chatted, but in the second gallery with black walls a single sculpture and light, silence reigned. The tension between those two rooms served Jackson’s pieces well, underscoring her work’s intent to situate itself in the spaces between human and beast, knowing and not knowing, artifice and nature. Jackson expanded upon those themes in this interview for The A.V. Club and talked about her use of animal imagery and why the work is so jarring. “We Believe in Something” runs through November 1, appropriately ending after Halloween, on All Saints Day.

Picking Up Crumbs: Cloud Cult

26 Aug

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Taking a well-deserved break from moving and unpacking (and again, thank you thank you thank you to all those who helped us move) Cake In 15 hit up the Cabooze parking lot in time to catch the outdoor Cloud Cult show. It was the final show of 2009 for Cloud Cult, Connie Minowa, painter and wife of frontman Crag Minowa is just about 8 months pregnant and they are going to, as Craig put it, “take some time to be parents.” It was a wonderful show, and you can read more about it at Gimme Noise at the City Pages website.

While Cloud Cult are on hiatus, check out their members other projects: Bassist Shawn Neary’s outfit, The Wapsipinicon, plays Friday night at Sauce and drummer Arlen Peiffer plays with Caroline Smith & the Good Night Sleeps (a band that could very well be a “Next Big Thing” contender) at the 7th Street Entry on September 11th.

David Mamet’s Anne Frank

26 Aug

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Looking at that headline makes me feel as though I mis-typed something. Like I meant to type “In a fervent damask damn” and got an anagram instead. The news that David Mamet, he of Glengarry Glen Ross, hardboiled American men and the injustices of workaday life, foul-mouthed as he is, is taking over a DISNEY adaptation of The Diary of Anne Frank. The project has been in the works for a while and the various rumors floating make it seem as though Mamet will include a broader historical perspective beyond just the “coming of age” story.

All this has provided scribes with plenty of opportunity to work out their funny little transgressive re-imaginings, mostly focusing around Anne and Peter and either potatoes or bananas. The Onion probably pulls out the best line with “The lead is recast as Angelo, a 54-year-old longshoreman for whom the attic is a metaphor for sexual repression.” But it is not just awkward because of the difference in temperament and style, but also because Mamet has vociferously argued against The Diary as entertainment. Here are the final passages of Mamet’s essay “December 24” published in the 1999 essay collection Jafsie and John Henry:

“It is as mawkish to ascribe to the Diary literary worth as it would be to “appreciate” the pieced-together menorot of the camp as charming examples of woodcraft.
It is- one cannot even say “a truer understanding,” for it is not for us to understand- but it is, I believe, the only possible approach or relationship to these artifacts, the only permissible relationship, to them, the
Diary included, is silent, distanced respect. They are not and should not be “the possession of the world,” nor should they be pressed into the worlds service as entertainment.
I agree with Cynthia Ozick: Better the diary had been burned.”

So why would Mamet decide to take on this project? Has he gone soft? Out of his mind? Maybe he was inspired by Inglourious Basterds. More probably though, clues for the decision can be found in Mamet’s latest film, Red Belt. Red Belt follows the trials and tribulations of mixed martial arts dojo owner Mike Terry (the always amazing Chiwetel Ejiofor) as he remains faithful and dedicated to his masters’ precepts of honor in the face of all adversity. The flurry of woes- accidental gunshots, insurance failures, debt, crooked actors, fixed fights, scheming wives- are entirely out of Terry’s control. Just as Frank has no control over the invasion of the Third Reich, Terry can only stand firm against the horrors of modern day L.A., a plot structure that Mamet notes in “December 24” is the structure of the comedy and not the character-flaw driven tragedy. Mamet leveled the “comedy” charge derisively against Frank, but the honorable perseverance with which he imbues Terry would seem to indicate that he has softened on that. In Mamet’s earlier work perseverance was coupled with either with alpha-male dominance or world-weary desperation; the even-handed equanimity and fierce spark in Terry’s eye seem purer, motivated by simpler ideals like Franks’ famous epigraph, “Despite everything, I believe that people are really good at heart.”

Terry clearly believes that no matter whatever anyone else may be, he can remain good at heart, which may be the more immediate lesson from The Diary of Anne Frank, or at least the more realistic one. Mamet, hard-nosed New England realist that he is, may be able to bring that sensibility to the story of Anne Frank’s survival, instead of some oversimplified, “mawkish” montage of good versus evil.

(P.S. There is also a cognitive dissonance in looking at the Anne Frank IMDB page and having a banner ad for Inglourious Basterds flashing above- it is a really virulent clash of superego and id. Tarantino’s Frank would wave a bayonet blade and riff on the technical advancements Leni Riefenstahl.)

Pardon Our Absence, Internet Friends…

25 Aug

…we’re moving and without internet. What will we do?funny-pictures-surprise-your-box-contains-a-lolcat

Picking Up Crumbs: After Juliet

20 Aug

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Both these characters are dead.

I’ll admit it. I spent a year in English class staring up at Claire Danes on the poster for Baz Luhrmann’s Romeo + Juliet (see, the “+” makes it hip) totally smitten. To give credit where credit is due, that film was one of the main reasons I love Shakespeare’s language and plotting- it remains eternal even after Danes’ career bottomed out.

Another starlet comes to the rescue- or her mother at least. Keira Knightley’s mother Sharman Macdonald took a basic question from her daughter- What happens next?- and turned it into After Juliet, a play about Benvolio (Romeo’s best friend) and Rosaline (the girl Romeo dumps for Juliet) and trying to pick up the pieces. 20% Theatre, a company I have long admired for their courageous and evocative work around gender and GLBTQ issues, open their interpretation tonight at the Theatre Or @ Sabes JCC. A continuation of a Shakespearean tragedy aimed at youth audiences may seem like milquetoast fare after works like The Naked I and Hot n’ Throbbing but Assistant Director Leah Adcock Starr nailed it in this interview I conducted with the principals and directors for the AV Club. Adcock Starr says, “[After Juliet is about] what happens when all your systems fall apart. Everything is up in the air, and everyone is trying to find their new balance. I think that’s very real now. I think that resonates now.” That resonance is what puts the butts in the seats. Resonance and sword fights.

Picking Up Crumbs: Reckless Ones

20 Aug

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A while back we posted up this kick-ass video for “Dead and Gone” by Twin Cities rockabilly trio Reckless Ones. These guys are all young guns, but also experienced, coming out of outfits like horror rockers Treehouse Bordello and the experimental collective Plastic Chord. They were kind enough to forward over their new disc Make Your Move, a sharp collection of tunes firmly rooted in the classic rockabilly sound but with enough quirks and flourishes to keep it from being a throwback pleasure. Check out The A.V. Club review here, and go see them tomorrow at the Nomad World Pub.

Picking Up Crumbs: Mad Men

19 Aug

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Kudos to Jake Rudh and Vita.mn for throwing a killer party. The Mad Men Season 3 Premiere at Jax Cafe last Sunday was the party of the season. Cheers to Janey Winterbauer, Jeremy Messersmith and Lucy Michelle for stepping up to the standards and crooning like they had a Cuban Missile Crisis to forget about. Thanks to AMC for giving us Don Draper and the glossy machinations of Sterling Cooper with which to feed our fetishes for clean lines, class, race and gender barriers and a time when courtesy and chivalry were expected components of social life. And well done to everyone who came dressed to the nines and let Staciaann Photography take your picture. Check out the Staciaann Photography photobooth shots here, and the full event shots via Vita.mn here.

(Oh yeah, and super well done to Blacklist Vintage for providing the necessary items for us to look the part- a black dress with pink polka-dots on Staciaann’s part, a shawl lapel smoking jacket for c.a.s. To the nines.)

Tornado

19 Aug

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It adds up to some destruction across the city, and not the usually pleasant rock and roll carnage experienced at the Electric Fetus. Seeing as how Staciaann was in the building when the tornado hit at around 2:20 this afternoon, I can understand her current desire to chill out tonight. Now is not the time to argue with her. And seeing as how she pretty much broke the fact that there was a tornado in Minneapolis (first on the Twitterverse, beating the city sirens by about 30 minutes- thanks guys- and then fielding requests from CNN) she has probably done her public service for the day. At least she gets a day off tomorrow, and thanks you for all the concern. Me, I’m glad she’s alive.

But the actual event demands some retelling, in some hard-boiled form, like a Raymond Chandler bit.

The room was quiet as she turned back to the register, leaving the docile customers grazing through the bins of used vinyl and DVD boxsets. Little girls in matching twin sets hanging on their mother in the gift department threatening to get their sticky fingers on all the pristine merchandise, the old guy with the fistful of jazz records looking lost before regaining his bearings and looking ornery again. Everyone was looking for something, something good and cheap, the herd on the daily grind, nothing new. People ask questions they know don’t have an answer, or they think already know the answer to and get surprised when they hear the right information back. If you’re working, you are everything. The pressure of staying a head of it all, moving in and out of styles and trends, trying to know everything all at once, that pressure almost too much.

It is too much, this pressure is actual swelling of the air, pushing her ears to a ring, a pop. She opens her mouth, about to utter the old familiar demand. What the f- and then the drumbeat.

Not a light bossa nova tap or a Gene Krupa solo. No cymbals or highhat. A single Wagnerian timpani blast. Glass comes flying in the windows. The girls in their twinsets bawl out in terror. The roof lifts, does a shimmy and sticks the landing.

-uck? The room has stopped in a stuck pause, a self-assessing moment and glances all around, dazed as the mother comforts the girls and the tears subside. It is still raining. Two windows are out and the there are two movements of people, each as incomprehensible as the other. Half the room walks towards the shattered glass, as if to touch, the other half carries on up to the register to make their purchases. She thinks, We should probably close.

And close they will. The Fetus remains closed Thursday in anticipation of a building inspection to OK the roof, side of the building and plate glass. Fortunately, none of the damage seems to be situated near the music nor in the warehouse, so those parts of the store should be safe. We all just hope for a quick and safe re-opening.

Of course, we are also waiting for the first arguments that the tornado touched down because the Lutherans are talking about the gays. And when they do make that argument, I will refuse to debate that dining room table, in the words of the Honorable Barney Frank (D-MA).

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Update: Staciaann’s tornado damage photos at The AV Club.

Update Update:
Lutherans + Gays + Tornado = God is mad, says Minneapolis pastor with direct line to the will of the Creator. And the pastor isn’t even a Lutheran, he’s the pastor of Bethlehem BAPTIST. John Piper, I dub thee Dining Room Table.

Barney Frank

19 Aug

Proves why mumble-mouthed, rumple-suited openly gay Massachusetts Congressman Barney Frank is one of the most respected debate opponents in the House of Representatives. The last barb gives Winston Churchill a good run for his money. And perfectly articulates how I feel every time I am confronted with a 9/11 conspiracy theorist, a Ron Paul supporter (an overlapping demographic) or a street preacher of whatever ilk. Also underscores the blithering, blistering, blind racism and misunderstanding of history that is feeding those frothy leads for cable news. Maybe Rachel Maddow can help out there.

Picking Up Crumbs: Drummers

18 Aug

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Late night under the stars in Los Angeles a friend of mine, a talented guitar player, leaned over and told me joke-

You know the Beatles?

Umm, yeah.

You know what was great about the Beatles? John was the brain, Paul was the heart, George was the soul and Ringo- Ringo was the drummer.

Which is, of course, true, but not necessarily a knock on Ringo, who managed to keep steady time in fairly exalted company (and it would seem that rhythmic steadiness led to a love of trains, which paid off in his gig as Mr. Conductor of Shining Time Station. Or that may have been paying down debts, but that is neither here nor there- exalted company…) which is admirable, if not maybe all the respect one deserves.

So, in an effort to get drummers some more respect (except all the drummers I spoke with seemed to feel like they got appropriate respect, not mistreated at all, and well cared for) I spoke to a quartet of local drummers who make the best faces and play with the great energy- JT Bates, Anthony Poretti, Jeremy Hanson and Arlen Peiffer- to get the skinny on why they do it. It’s pure bias, my pitch was “I like watching drummers and someone should write something about them.” Turns out that someone was me. Turns out this is the article for City Pages.