Most people are comfortably familiar with Albert Camus as an existentialist, and most of his writing can, to a large degree, satisfy the definitive terms of what existential philosophy is founded upon. Additionally, most of us didn’t make it out of our mid-teens without reading The Stranger, and this is a task that I would recommend anyone to undertake once more. Certainly worth it now that we are all so much more mature… high school is no place for the absurd. Point being that most of us have a working knowledge of Camus and his theories (if you don’t then The Myth of Sisyphus is a wonderfully overwhelming place to start… or possibly not. Maybe try one of the novels?). Anyway, I have been reading Exile and the Kingdom recently (I know, I should be finished with it by now, but I’ve been feeling somewhat lazy lately) and one of the stories that particularly stuck with me was The Renegade. The story of a Catholic missionary that tries to take his word and his work to a desert tribe only to be converted himself (by them), though not before losing his tongue. Deeply absurdist and questioning of the basis of religious conviction, the story also explores the notion of religious fetishism, the iconographic kind not the sexual kind. Actually… not so fast: there is a touch of sexual fetishism from the narrator who longs to be offended so that he may defend his religious faith against those who are doing the offending. This offense doesn’t explicitly exclude those of a sexual nature. Ultimately, he is cast down before the tribe’s fetish (to be clear, I mean a fetish as a physical object, a man-made religious object, not an abstract sexual desire) and engages in a sexual act with a woman presented to him, the consequence of which is the tribe cutting out his tongue. Basically he gets set up. After this he is in “love” with the ideals of his new masters. Penance or perversion? Maybe subdued submission? Oh, this confuses things. We now must wonder what Camus means to imply by the inclusion of a fetish in the tribe’s religious goings on. This, naturally, led me to revisit Freud’s ideas on paraphilia, which helped though I won’t get too much into that. Most people are familiar enough with the idea of a sexual fetish to see where this is going in relationship to The Renegade anyhow. This certainly isn’t the only inference that there is to be drawn from Camus’ story, just the one that happened to unfold slightly as I was writing this. For more, read it yourself. It’s only about 30 pages, though it will have you thinking for days.

So, as I was giving myself a refresher on existentialism I came across some writing and theories on the look and the gaze. This reminded me of a spectacularly engaging essay that I read a few years ago about the male gaze in cinema by Laura Mulvey (Visual Pleasure and Narrative Cinema – some people reading this may already be familiar with it… it’s a pretty significant piece of feminist critical work and not all that obscure). In some ways Mulvey picks up where Jacques Lacan’s Mirror Stage (included here – with notes! Good luck!) left off. Her writing deals with the male perspective of the camera, the male (often voyeuristic) eye of the camera rather. This took me back to Lacan, who was a distinct Freudian… and we begin to come full circle back to Freud and the fetish. Granted it’s is a small circle from Camus to Freud to Mulvey to Lacan and back to Freud again, but I feel a sense of completion nonetheless. In other words: I’m spent.

This week’s Sights and Sounds is going to have to end here. I haven’t been engaging in an awful lot of media this week, though I did watch W which was somewhat of a disappointment (I really expected more of a critical work rather than a biographical one). There wasn’t much in the way of new music this week, so I’ll leave that alone. We did go see Julie Doiron Sunday night, but that was so fantastic that I think it deserves its own blog entry, which may or may not be coming later today.

Oh, one more thing: If you have an interest in the gaze in cinema and want a great cinematic take on it (not to mention fodder for plenty of psychoanalytical film criticism, or just a simply great creepy movie) check out Peeping Tom. If you’ve seen it, disregard this suggestion. It was great though, right?

Good day.

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So I have decided to start keeping a weekly “column”, if you will, on this blog. Alongside the other rambling that will end up here I am excited to keep myself to a schedule and try to write something consistently, and I will be sticking to something that looks a lot like a dead line. I will put up Sights & Sounds every Wednesday… that sounds reasonable. The column will consist of just what the name implies: it will be a chronicle of the things that catch my eyes and ears throughout the week. It will focus mostly on music, film and literature. Part of the reason that I want to do this is because I am going to be out of school for a while (just finished undergrad and I’m taking a year off before grad school), and as much as I thought that I would enjoy a break from having to write about everything that I read I think that I am starting to miss it…. So I am going to write about everything that I read. I don’t have a lot to start with, as I just kind of came up with this idea, though there are a few things of note.

Chandi and I watched Landmarks of Early Film: Vol. 2 last night. It focused exclusively on the work of George Melies, this was great because there were a number of shorts included that I hadn’t seen before. If you are unfamiliar with Melies he was a filmmaker in the late 19th/early 20th centuries. Before he began making films he put on sideshows, illusion acts and magic shows both as promoter and performer. This is easily seen transitioning into his film work because that’s exactly what he continued to do in his newfound medium. Melies must have immediately realized the potential of the camera to aid him in his magic acts because he was one of the first to create filmed illusions and was the pioneer of many tricks of the camera that we consider old hat today. He realized that film was not simply documentary but a means of artistic creativity. Here is one of my favorites and a great example: Le Diable Noir.

Watching his films reminded me of a Film and Literature class that I took a few years ago. I was prompted to pull out a lot of my old notes and readings from that class… these will likely inhabit next weeks Sights & Sounds.

I am reading Camus’ Exile in the Kingdom. More on that to come.

I am still pretty hung up on Julie Doiron’s I Can Wonder What You Did With Your Day. I am going to see her this Sunday. It’s going to rule. I’ve also been listening to the new Bonnie “Prince” Billy a good bit as well as Woodpigeon’s Treasury Library Canada

I have been obsessively playing (replaying actually) Final Fantasy IX.

This has been my week… sorry that there isn’t more elaboration… I said there wasn’t much this week.

When I was a kid all that I can ever remember caring about was baseball. I collected baseball cards, I watched games every night, I read Baseball Weekly and I played in leagues up until high school. And that’s it. Up until high school is the key. I think that there was a crucial decision made (as is likely made by most 12-13 year olds) when I was finishing the 8th grade: I would either continue as I was or grasp the opportunity to embrace a new, likely lasting, consuming interest. It is a personality defining moment when you claim something new to you as your own and shrug of the defining elements of your earlier (preteen, I suppose) childhood. High school seems to lay the boundaries out very clearly… there are the jocks, the punks, the geeks, etc… And it was time for me to choose sides. Very dramatic I know, and it wasn’t at all a conscious decision to stake a flag in any one camp, but the turning point was the guitar that I got in 8th grade. Baseball lost its luster quickly, playing guitar easily won out. Then I discovered that there was more to music than what was churned out on the radio, and we arrive at 14-year-old Taylor sitting in his room staring in awe at a copy of Pezcore. It was all over.

So, right, after that it was official. I spent all of my time at record stores, shows, playing music with my friends and not giving a shit about baseball (I did try out for the varsity baseball team during my first few weeks at Wando, only at the coach’s urging, turns out Wando’s head coach was a friend of my last youth league coach, though I only went to three days of the tryouts and that was a wrap). This has been the way it’s been since, I still spend unusual amounts of time in record stores, at shows and playing music. Though, admittedly, the not giving a shit about baseball is starting to collapse.

I want to clear the air and say that I am writing this post because I don’t want to seem as though I am showing up and saying that I always cared about baseball, I want it to be known that I am a relative newcomer (new returner?) to the sport. I also want to offer this post of something of an apology to the friends that I made fun of for being into sports. Football is still stupid though; let’s not lose sight of that.

So where to begin? Who do I root for? When I was a kid I was a HUGE Oakland fan, though I think that since then I’ve developed a coastal prejudice/pride, meaning that I can’t really throw my entire support to a team that isn’t in the eastern division. I am avoiding the teams that have huge amounts of fair-weather support (sorry if they’re your team but I am looking at bunches of, though not all, Phillies and Red Sox Fans…). I guess that when I was a kid Oakland (along with the Braves) was that team that just couldn’t lose, that was the appeal. And, come on, what kid could resist the marketing monster that was The Bash Brothers? They were like superheroes. However, there is a fact that has been slowly illuminating itself in my memory: I was also a Mets fan back then. Let’s see… they meet the east coast/underdog criteria… The Mets it is. That’s settled.

I really do intend for this blog to be mostly about music, so please excuse this digression. There will be more music stuff soon. I just wanted to get this out while it was on my mind. I went to see The Wooden Birds a week or two ago and I suspect that there will be something about that soon.

Good day.

OK, so all I’ve done today is gone to Whole Foods and then back home. However, I do have something to say about my purchases there and the rather enjoyable walks that got me there and back. So, I went to Whole Foods partly because they always have the tofu I use for tofu wraps while the neighborhood’s Harris Teeter and Safeway aren’t always reliable on this. And, I went to Whole Foods partly because I have yet to find a place that sells the vegan Buttery Sticks (way better than it sounds). As I was preparing to go to the store I recalled a third, far superior reason to make the longer trip to whole foods… wait, let me fill in a tiny bit of back story. So, Mike Paolone was in town a few weeks ago and we went down to the Brickskeller one night. Non DCists should know that the Brickskeller is a basement of a tavern that boasts having over a thousand beers, have a look at their staggering beer list. Anyway, I had a beer there called Old Rasputin Russian Imperial Stout… it was easily the best beer I had had in a LONG time. The obvious problem with the Brickskeller is that if you find a beer that you really like you will only ever likely be able to get it there… most corner stores don’t stock even 1% of the selection that they have. Though, I though I might have luck with this one as the brewery that makes Old Rasputin is in California, so I went on a search for it in the specialty beer shops and liquor stores around DC, only to later come across a random beer aficionado’s blog that said that you could by the beer at Whole Foods. The most obvious places are the last I look it seems, perhaps I held Old Rasputin up so high that I never would have though that you could get it in a grocery store… you mean just anyone can buy this beer? I don’t know, I guess I thought that the guys at the specialty beer and wine shops would have to approve me or something. Whatever. At any rate I came home triumphant:

old-rasp
This silly little tale reminds me of the year I spent trying to find Elliott’s US Songs on vinyl in record stores and eBay before I bothered to check with Revelation Record’s website, who of course was selling it.

The walk there was especially enjoyable because the timing happened to be just right so that I was able to listen to the entirety of the Mount Eerie/Julie Doiron/Fred Squire record Lost Wisdom, which is utterly fantastic. The walk home was nearly exactly the time I needed to listen to the entirety of Julie Doiron’s I Can Wonder What You Did With Your Day, which is utterly fantastic. There is a theme here and it just might be Julie Doiron is utterly fantasic… the fact that she was a part of Herman Dune’s Not On Top certainly doesn’t hurt my opinion of her either.

It’s lunch time.

Good day.

tranzac_01
So my visit this past Saturday to The Rock and Roll Hotel reminded me of something very important: bass players are WAY overrated. The Rural Alberta Advantage are a three piece monster of a band that have an amazingly big sound, due largely in part to the overwhelming talent of its members. Paul Banwatt, Amy Cole, and Nils Edenloff (that serial comma back there is entirely for Brian Walo’s benefit… or aggravation, not sure which yet) all contribute to the songs via a number of different instruments that lend a versatility to the sound that is both refreshing and fun. My friend Andrew commented after the show that “seeing a band with only one album out is great because you know that they are going to play all the songs you want to hear”. True, they did hit all of the high points of their record, Hometowns, though realistically they could have played the whole thing (it clocks in just under 40 very enjoyable minutes)… I would have been perfectly happy to hear all of it.

The songs that inhabit the record are beautiful little tributes to the places they call home. They speak of long, cold winters and melting ice that gives way to a warm impassioned portrait of their Canadian home. It’s about the cityscapes and the countryside that make up the Alberta that they know, it’s about the people, past and present, and the things that they lived for, it’s about the grass on the bright sunlit prairies and the ghosts that inhabit the dark spaces hiding in all of it. The lyrics are gorgeously crafted into pop songs that avoid being poppy. The songs are catchy without being overbearingly hooky (this one might only make sense to me… I hope not though). It’s an album that has easily captured an early spot on my top ten list for 2009. In short, I can find no fault with this record, and I’ve been trying in the interest of offering an objective look, but no dice. Oh well.

They self released their Hometowns album last year. It looks like this:
122208_ruralalberta
If you haven’t heard it you owe it to yourself big time to check out the songs on their Myspace page.

If you like it, you can buy it over on their website.

And for the love of God if you ever get the chance to see them live, don’t let it pass.



Oh, I will leave you with this, because I thought it was rad. Adrian (ipickmynose) took this fantastic picture of them at SxSW. Enjoy.

That is all.

OK, I have been doing this independent study to finish up my degree, and I decided to do it on Shakespeare and popular culture.  I know the topic has been beaten to death by now but I thought it would be interesting nonetheless.

So, now I am finishing it up and I’m working on putting together a final paper.  I have been writing a number of papers on specific plays and their interactions with our present culture, but I thought that I would make the final one about the overall influence of Shakespeare in the early 21st century.  I have been recording any references to Shakespeare that I see throughout my daily doings and I have a fair number at this point.

Why do you care?  Well, I am hoping that I can get some people doing some fieldwork here.  If you come across anything that you know or think is a reference to our friend Will, then I would love it if you could put them up as a comment to this post.

mountaingoats_darnielle

Two weeks ago I went to see John Vanderslice and John Darnielle on their Gone Primitive tour when they hit the Sixth and I Synagogue here in DC. It was my fourth (I think… maybe third) time seeing Vanderslice and the first time seeing Darnielle. Even though Darnielle was short a few goats I couldn’t help but think that this was the best possible way to see him perform: headlining, solo, and full of stories. I don’t have a frame of reference for his other shows, though I have been a fan of The Mountain Goats for many, many years, but I really found myself completely taken in by John Darnielle. So much so that I have listened to little other than the Mountain Goats since the show. Seeing him live reminded me of how much I truly love his songwriting and his records. It was a reawakening if you will. It also reminded me that I need to get it together and finish up the pile of songs that I have in the works if I am ever going to get another My Brother, the Welder album out there.

I am going to see The Rural Alberta Advantage this weekend and Wooden Birds next weekend, so there will be plenty more to report on this page soon. Incidentally, if you haven’t heard either of these bands you owe it to yourself to do so. Wooden Birds is Andrew Kenny’s ( of American Analog Set) new band and The Rural Alberta Advantage is an amazingly fantastic band from, you guessed it, Alberta.

Oh, I thought I would post the setlist from the Synagogue show here and realized that I can’t really remember all of the songs that Vanderslice played. Though I can say certainly that he played:

– My Old Flame
– Numbered Lithograph
– Pale Horse
– Me and My 424
– Trance Manual
– Dead Slate Pacific
– Nikki Oh Nikki
– Scorpio Rising
– Too Much Time

john-vanderslice_bp1

Speaking of Too Much Time, here is a great video of Vanderslice doing it with the Magik*Magik Orchestra in San Francisco.

& John Darnielle’s setlist went like this:

01 – Island Garden Song
02 – The Day the Aliens Came
03 – Mole
Then Darnielle kind of ranted about why you should make all efforts to download his old songs rather than pay hundreds for the tapes on eBay
04 – Going to Mexico
05 – ? (Sorry)
06 – You Or Your Memory.
07 – Cobscook Bay
08 – Sign of the Crow 2
09 – Ox Baker Triumphant (with a hilarious intro story… I’ll try to get it up here soon)
10 – Woke Up New
11 – The Recognition Scene
12 – Alpha Desperation March
13 – Hello, Old Rabbit
14 – ? (Sorry… again)
15 – Surrounded
16 – ? (Yet again)
17 – This Year
18 – No Children
19 – International Small Arms Traffic Blues
20 – Dance Music
21 – Sept 15 1983
Then a great little rant about why you can’t say “Hail Satan” in a synagogue, but it’s fine to do so in a church…
22 – Broom People

good day