Wednesday, September 27, 2023

Prison Wall

I started watching Don Siegel's Riot in Cell Block 11 (1954) yesterday, but lost interest after the first 40 minutes. The film must have been shocking for some when it was first released, given that it begins with high-ranking officials admitting to flaws in the federal U.S. prison system, and a sympathetic view of both inmates and guards. Nineteen-fifties acting seems so jumpy. Maybe that was it. The prisoners got on my nerves.

A shot near the beginning (top) is a pan of an exterior prison wall, what I believe is Michigan State Penitentiary. A curious pattern, no? Why such variation in the size of the blocks? Some look like bricks, laid sidelong and end-long; a block four rows from the bottom looks much longer than it is taller.

Tuesday, September 26, 2023

Street Photography

As I approached the entrance of the Hotel Vancouver, a voice called out behind me. I spun around, semi-dramatically. It was Paul Wong.

"Do that again," he said, "but more so."

So I did. Dramatically.

"Again," he said, and I complied. Comedically.

"One more!" he insisted.

"Three takes," said the actor Callum Rennie -- "I need my third take." I'll always remember that.

Monday, September 25, 2023

Audain Prize

The Audain Prize is having its luncheon today. Like last year, we're back at the Hotel Vancouver, and we won't know who the winner is until they are seated at the table closest to the podium. I dressed in autumn colours for last year's ceremony; and because I made such a splash, this year I am dressing in blacks and dark greys.

I'm getting pretty good at guessing the winner of this award. Took a while for a pattern to establish, but I am fairly certain I know who it can't be, and who had the more recent Vancouver Art Gallery survey exhibition. Is this year's winner worthy? It hardly matters anymore. Everybody's worthy. All art feels the same.

Sunday, September 24, 2023

One and Many Films

Phase Shifting Index (2020) by Jeremy Shaw is a seven-monitor projection that carries at least as many sound sources, all of it depicting fictive, though vaguely familiar movement-based groups designed to pass for past, present and future entities, as carried in a range of old and new media. Too much of everything happens for about thirty minutes, until it becomes apparent that the groups' movements have started to speed up, and in doing so align -- both visually and in its suddenly shared soundtrack. Once aligned, the picture images further unify in an eruption of bright colours, where parts emerge from other parts, eventually ending with what looks like a neurological field map.

As someone who tired quickly of drugs or dance clubs, I get it but no longer feel it. Nor do I care for it. If our current anxiety is expected to accelerate before it's suppose to get better, I'll take my last pill now. I have seen the future, and it is Jeremy's past and present obsessions. An amazing work, currently at the Polygon Gallery. Today's the last day. Go see it!

The other moving thing I watched yesterday was from my current pile of VPL DVDs, and that was Terrance Malick's Song to Song (2017). I loved Malick's Days of Heaven (1978), and both appreciated his nineteen year hiatus from filmmaking ("There is something to be said about not making a movie") and the film that ended it, The Thin Red Line (1997). But The New World (2005) left me cold in the way some critics accuse all his films of being -- cold as in "artificial." The Tree of Life (2011) had some moments I connected with, moments delivered poetically through language and image. Song to Song even more so, I think, despite its excesses. Could he not make his film ever less than what they are? 

Here is Faye speaking:

I went through a period when sex had to be violent. I was desperate to feel something real. Nothing felt real. Every kiss felt like half of what it should be. You’re just reaching for air. 

And here too:

I thought we could just roll and tumble. Live from song to song. Kiss to kiss.

Saturday, September 23, 2023

I Am Angry With You Because You Can't See How You Caused Me This Pain

A couple months ago I learned the Rolling Stones were releasing their first album of new music in ... years. Just how many years, I forget, but long enough to have been ... ages. Speaking of time, it's almost 62 years since the band first got together. As for their last listenable album, that's debatable, but most of those I listen to say 42 years ago, when they released Tattoo You (1981).

How old is the band's singer? often gets asked when this new album is mentioned. So I looked it up. Mick Jagger was born in July, 1943, making him 80. As for the album, it's called Hackney Diamonds, and in a recent CBC interview Jagger was talking about it as if it too were old -- having been mastered in March. Judging from the album's first single, "Angry", Jagger is still capable of hitting some high notes, some of them above middle C.

As for songwriting, listeners familiar with the Stones will recognize "Angry" as a pastiche of past licks (the video visually supports that). It's not unusual for bands that have been around long enough to write songs like this, especially those conscious of a come-back (yes, the Stones have been away long enough for those under 50 to have forgotten them), but something about "Angry" had me wondering if they used AI to make it? And if so, what instructions were added? You can hear the drum intros that signal past hits like "Get Off My Cloud" (1965) and Tattoo You's "Start Me Up" (1981). So a combination of the two? Certainly a nice way to say goodbye to the band's nice guy drummer,  Charlie Watts, whose died a couple years back of natural causes.

What is "new" about this song is its lyric, which very much speaks to our moment -- and just how difficult it is for some of us to converse with it. This is not a lyric designed to produce a memorable chorus (the world spins too quickly for that now, and besides, where this song might have a chorus, it has a bridge instead), but a refrain based on an emotion ("anger") and to whom it is directed (the singing "me"). Indeed, this refrain ("Angry/ Don't be angry with me") is a refinement of past "angry"s and "me"s and comes in the last 1:30 minutes of a 3:46 minute song that essentially runs out of itself at the end of the second minute.

Here's the lyric:

One, two
One, two, three, go

Don't get angry with me
I never caused you no pain
I won't be angry with you
But I can't see straight (Yeah)
It hasn't rained for a month, the river's run dry
We haven't made love and I wanna know why
Why you angry with me?
Why you angry?

Please just forget about me
Cancel out my name
Please never write to me
I love you just the same
I hear a melody ringing in my brain
Just keep the memories
Don't have to be ashamed

Don't get angry with me
I'm in a dеsperate state
I'm not angry with you
Don't you spit in my facе
The wolf's at the door with the teeth and the claws
My mouth's getting sore, I can't take anymore
Ah, why you angry with me?
Why you angry?

Voices keep echoing
Calling out my name
Hear the rain keep beating
On my window pane
I hear a melody ringing in my brain
You can keep the memories
Don't have to be ashamed

Don't get angry with me

(Angry, angry)
Yeah, yeah (Angry, don't be angry with me)
If we go separate ways
(Angry) Yeah, don't be angry with me
Let's go out in a blaze
(Angry, don't be angry with me) Yeah
Don't you spit in my face
(Angry) Oh
Don't be angry with me
Don't get, don't get
(Angry, don't be angry with me)
I'm still taking the pills and I'm off to Brazil
(Angry, don't be angry with me)
Please, don't be angry with me (Angry, don't be angry with me)
Come on
Don't, don't, don't, not (Angry, don't be angry with me)
Not, not, not, not, not, not, not

Friday, September 22, 2023

"Mom, look!"

My neighbour is done with lawns. His last stretch of lawn was the boulevard, which he covered last year in an effort to kill the sod's root system. This spring the tarp came off and mission accomplished -- with grass on only my side of the property line. Not that I blame him, because when he asked if I was committed to my lawn, I never gave him a definitive answer, and he is not the kind of person who asks twice when given anything less than an affirmative. 

Last week he asked to borrow my metal rake so that he might break up the hard packed soil and get the rocks out before seeding. The seed will be a cereal grass of some kind, like the magnificent sliver, green and blue rye he planted last year on what was once his front lawn. Can't say I wasn't a little sad for not having said No to lawns when he asked me, because I like the idea of our boulevard being unified, and not divided.

While tempted to bust my sod and join him, I decided instead to preserve the lawn, shine a light on it. I began by giving it a wide edging. From there, I pulled up everything that wasn't from grass seed. Because the ground is hard with tree roots, I highlighted one of the knuckles from the Japanese cherry trees the City planted some 70 years ago. I even took it further, roping it off and hanging from it a sign. Well, that sure got the kids stopping on their way home from school!

Thursday, September 21, 2023

VAG Announcement

The Vancouver Art Gallery announced another announcement about its new site inside the Chan Centre for the Visual Arts after its "ground awakening" ceremony at Larwill Park last week. Because I didn't go to the "awakening" I thought I should go to the next announcement -- this one under the VAG's canopied patio and hosted by the new Deputy Director and Director of Curatorial Programs, who, for five minutes, spoke as if what she was scheduled to announce was pulled by the development office at the last minute.

The announcement was at 10.00 a.m. and of course I was early. Never too early for a sunny day, I thought as I wandered Granville and Robson, shocked at how far the downtown shops have fallen, yet at the same time not surprised given that people are doing without "new" clothes and books and jewelry. Sad to see the souvenier shops go. Everything in them was a meeting between someone insisting the buyer could sell it and the buyer settling on a price that balanced the risk.

On the way back I visited the Holt Renfrew portion of the Pacific Centre Mall. What's Prada going with this fall? Ah, black and brown.