Monday, April 27, 2009

Vampire Weekend and Talib Kweli

2 concerts and I'm no closer to going to a veritably exciting Vampire Weekend show. Solid set list, unenthusiastic crowd. You'd think Columbia University students would welcome one of their own with open arms. Alas, no school spirit to be found (still trying to decide whether that's a good or bad thing), inspiring lead singer Ezra Koenig to sarcastically comment, after a particularly quiet rendition of Walcott, "Thanks for singing along, guys."

Then again, maybe it wasn't sarcastic. I was also unfortunately sitting high up on the steps, the lower regions being infiltrated by blanket-wielding sorority girls. I tried to induce dancing in the higher tiers but failed miserably. Also, and I might be speaking to soon, but Vampire Weekend's new songs seem awfully similar to old ones, and even lack a certain catchy-ness... they might be doomed to the indie rock band's fate of a catastrophic sophomore album. So it goes.

Regardless, Bacchanal happened on a stroke of brilliant luck: it was a gorgeous day in the sun-- mid-80s, street fair just outside, the smell of shishkabobs. New York at its finest, procrastination at its peak. I guess I'll have to wait 'til Lollapalooza to see Vampire Weekend; this time I will most certainly push my way to the front, where I will certainly get trampled by people wearing tight purple jeans in 90+ degree weather and 99& humidity (ah, how I miss Chicago).

In other news, Talib Kweli is awesome.

P.S. the guy in the Buddy Holly glasses in the last two pictures is a douche. Let it be known.

Friday, April 24, 2009

Article About a Friend

One of my articles is in the Spec today! Here's the page.

I titled this entry "article about a friend" a bit incorrectly. It's more or less "friend I made because I interviewed him for an article... about him." In any case he's an interesting guy. And from (around) Chicago! Woo. Had to put Naperville in the article somewhere. Even though it is Naperville (cough).

[3ish weeks until I'm back in the arms of Chicagoland.]

Here's the full text:

Student filmmaker shoots movie under the Spanish sun

Victor Suarez, CC ’11, is so down-to-earth, it is almost hard to believe that he directed a $15,000 film production in Spain last summer.

Before beginning his sophomore year, Suarez managed—with relative ease—to secure funding for his short film, titled Nel Reinu. Set in a small Spanish village west of Barcelona, Nel Reinu explores the concept of families—how they change and are affected by time and separation.

Although Suarez discovered filmmaking late in his high school career after trying his hand at theater and acting, it is surprising that he is not a film student. For the moment, he is an English and Economics-Philosophy double major, and tries to keep away from film courses as much as possible. “I don’t want to do anything film-related until I graduate,” he said, although he plans to go to a graduate film program.

Regardless of his experience, Nel Reinu has the look of a true professional film—perhaps due to both great talent and a generous budget. Suarez attempted to explain the plot: “Following the death of his father, a man returns to his home in the north of Spain. It’s the first time he has visited his family in 30 years. He brings his American daughter along. It’s about family, and the whole thing is pretty... subtle. It asks a lot of questions and doesn’t give any answers. Basically it’s about how families work.”

The story is a personal one. The small village in Spain is also the home of his grandmother, and as the son of a Spanish father, he has wanted to make a film in Spain for some time. Suarez began contacting a small Spanish production company, which was enthusiastic about the film, but also needed for it to be a co-production with a U.S. company.

After two months of script-writing, Suarez pitched the idea to Project Bluelight, Columbia’s first undergraduate movie production company, as well as the Gatsby Charitable Foundation, a funding opportunity though the Columbia Arts Initiative. Both Project Bluelight and Gatsby agreed to contribute to the project. Their support combined with help from the Spanish production company made for an approximately $15,000 production—quite a large sum for a 13-minute film.

After securing funding, Suarez traveled across the Atlantic with five other current and former Columbia students to get down to business. One of the actresses was American—Nessa Norich, BC ’08—while the rest were Spanish actors hired by the production company. Suarez unfortunately lost some creative control through the filming process, and in the end, decided that writing screenplays was an easier way to shape the creative vision of a project than physically directing a movie.

After a great deal of post-production and sound editing, Suarez finished the final product a month ago. He and the Spanish producer are currently in the process of sending Nel Reinu to film festivals around the country, and so far it has won Best in Festival at Open Aperture Film Festival at Appalachian State University, as well as the Silver Palm at the Mexico International Film Festival. Victor explains, “It’s nice to sit back and see what happens. It’s just like waiting for the results after you send out college apps.”

When asked about advice he would give to fellow Columbia undergraduate filmmakers, Suarez was adamant about sticking to short films to get practice and experience on a smaller scale. In addition, outside sources, like the Spanish production company, can be a great help: “We have higher chances of getting money if we already have somebody interested, so I’d recommend that everybody do the same and find different sources.”

Nel Reinu was the most involved, ambitious, and personal of Suarez’s projects to date. As Suarez explained, “I wrote myself a lot into the story. Except I made myself into a girl, which is sort of weird. I don’t know what that is about...”

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

MUSI V2010y Rock

I audited my friend Jenny's "Rock" class today. Yes, it's a music history course. Today's theme: PUNK! Awesome. I took plenty of notes. Yes, I am that geeky.

As you can tell, today we listened to the Ramones, the Sex Pistols, the Talking Heads, Blondie (?!?!), among others that I didn't recognize.

Note, of course, the "Fuck you Johnny Ramone!", my crappy little doodle of the Ramones logo, a little "Crap" sign next to songs I liked and a star with an exclamation point next to ones I did. Makes me *almost* wish I didn't save my core requirements for the last year so that I could actually take classes I enjoy, at least before entering the stifling single-department hell of graduate school...

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Publication et al.

First in news, I'm going to have a poem published in the 60th volume of Quarto (a Columbia lit journal)! Hooray! I'll be doing a short reading at 8:30 on the 30th of April, and a reception will follow at Campo at 10. It should be fun! Please come, I would love to see you all (whoever reads this damn thing) there.

Before this, my poetry has only been published in Tablet and the Spectator. I'm climbing the ranks of literary-ness! May never be classy enough for the Columbia Review, though. I'm not quite that cool. Who knows? Next semester I'm hoping to take an intermediate poetry workshop, so with any luck it'll improve. That brings my classload up to 19 credits next semester, the most i've taken so far. Daunting? Very.

I also saw Vampire Weekend AGAIN yesterday when they played at Columbia's Spring Bacchanal. Pictures/description to come shortly.

And now, another daily dose of beauty/stuff I like:

1. Chris Marker's film Sans Soleil, a documentary-type new wave film about a globetrotting filmmaker, and his reflections on each society he comes upon. It's beautifully shot, and the narration is soothing and graceful. But mostly I love it for the extremely detailed descriptions of Japanese culture, and the numerous references to modernist fiction. He compares the tendency of the Japanese to see a sort of melancholic beauty in all things-- material and immaterial, being and nonbeing, dead or alive-- to the mind of a Wandering Jew.

2. David Lynch's music video for Moby's "Shot in the Back of the Head"

3. Random art!

Saturday, April 11, 2009

The Books at Miller Theatre

It was weird at first. For one, we had to sit still. We had to keep quiet, and we had to sit down. In seats. Everybody was isolated; there was no dance floor, there was no chaos, there was no rushing to the stage after the opening bands. In fact, there wasn't an opening band at all, really, but classical music. Classical music at a rock concert. Beautiful, yes. Shostakovich. A single pianist on the stage: a boy from Yale. This was just the first of hundreds of ways in which a Books concert is truly unique, truly different from any other.

Different, yes, and magnificent. Occasionally I'm disturbed by the amount of really good reviews I put up here, but then I realize the amount of bad reviews I don't put up because I don't want to relive the experience, or bad-mouth an artist or venue. Believe me, then, when I say that the Books, this past Thursday night at Columbia's very own Miller Theatre, was unbelievable. Quite.

Then again, how could you have a standing-room concert for the Books? No, perhaps seating was even necessary. As you can see from this music video, the Books are unlike any other rock band. For one, there are only two members. One, Nick Zammuto, is a guitarist, and the other, Paul de Jong, is a cellist. Yes, in lieu of a bass guitar or drums, or even a keyboard, there is a cello.

Also unique is the use of sound clips that give the Books their distinct sound. In Take Time the sound clips are more evident: basically the bulk of each song is a selection of sounds, either completely improvised and taken from the street, from film and sound archives, from random cameras and tape recorders found on the street... really, everywhere. It is more or less sound-recycling, a "sound-gleaning," somehow even related to my last entry about freeganism and Agnes Varda. They're sound-collectioners, and spectators realize, upon going to the concert, that really everyone is a sound-collectioner. The Books reproduce the way we think in sounds, the way words and images flow together seamlessly-- really, the very fabric of memory.

There's also a visual element to the concert than I'm loath to mention. Really the effect is lessened when you know it beforehand. Instead, just believe that the Books are true artists, and reach out to other genres such as film to intensify their music. So beautiful is this "effect" (I will call it an effect to keep from giving it away) that new songs often become even more exciting than the dependable oldies. Almost half of the songs were new, and all were brilliant. I have a feeling their upcoming CD (upcoming when?? who knows!) will be the most experimental yet.

It will also be the most funny. There's another element often unseen in rock shows, especially indie rock (and emo, the wretched perversion of indie rock): humor. The Books don't take themselves too seriously. Sure, they have a cellist and are soft-spoken and intelligent, but they're also funny. The audience erupted into laughter every few minutes-- genuine laughter, good-natured laughter.

Strange, though, the effect a Books concert produces. Rather than feeling a general sense of communion and exuberance (the way a punk show does, for example), this concert drew everyone apart and into themselves. The Books is day-dreaming music, so while rapt with attention, everyone was breathless and silent. There was no commenting, no sneezing, no shouting (except for the end of every song). Everyone became an introvert. In this way I suppose a Books concert is a strange blend of classical and rock (what rock concert has a standing ovation at the end? what rock concert has required seating? what rock concert has no beer?). It might explain all the bizarre venues they have chosen to play at, including the Museum of Contemporary Art in Chicago (rock concerts in a musuem?)

If these statements might seem pejorative to you, they are wrong. It was somehow cleansing to be comfortable and separated during a concert. Cozy, almost. Like relaxing before a warm fireplace, or daydreaming while splayed out on your bed. Glorious.

Saturday, April 4, 2009


Eveything lately has gotten me thinking about freeganism. Even Questionable Content, which I have been reading on and off for the past few days in between even worse procrastination:

If you didn't get it from the comic, Raven dated an "intellectual" hobo (ex-college kid who turned to freeganism as a social statement). It's a pretty hilarious strip, I really recommend it.

A few weeks ago I was walking around Morningside Heights (Mo-Hi, if you will) at night and saw a group of white people, in "normal-people" clothing, sifting through trash outside of Morton Williams. I couldn't figure out what they were doing for the life of me. A group of elderly people had gathered to watch. I asked one relatively non-senile looking woman what was going on, who described it like a performance art piece and left with a bit of disgust. I was intrigued and yet repelled, the same feeling I get when walking into a social gathering and feeling it overtaken by pod-people sporting ironic sideburns and Buddy Holly glasses. I smell hipster culture!

But then I saw the Agnes Varda (a member of the original French New Wave movement) documentary "The Gleaners and I," which I instantly 5-starred on Netflix. Gleaners are basically like freegans, albeit without the bobo implication (I apologize for using the word, but it's so damn catchy! Even IF I hate David Brooks with an undying passion! And almost all NYT columnists that aren't Paul Krugman!). What Varda does is equate her own need to collect things, like random bits of stuff on the street, in order to compile a complete memory, with the act of literal trash picking. I'm currently writing this all out in 500-word essay form for my New Wave course, but it's quite fascinating. Until now only Godard movies have gotten me so riled up, and this time I'm not even angry!

It almost makes me want to become a freegan, especially after having my practically freegan friend Kirsten visiting for a week. I've accumulated more than my fair share of trash-picking stories, including North Park university dumpster-diving, eating a whole pizza found outside of Famiglia's, and sharing vegan muffins found in the trash can of McBain 5. It would be completely impossible for me, though. For one, I love meat. I love cheeseburgers. I love all things fatty and wonderful that you'd never find in a garbage dump. I also secretly really like ordering food from restaurants, and take great pleasure in ordering things for everybody, even if I mispronounce words. Perhaps this is the reason why freeganism and veganism go hand-in-hand. Regardless, it's a good idea, and a solid part of the DIY aesthetic, and punk culture in general, I suppose.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Karen O

Here's a confession: I really like the Yeah Yeah Yeahs. No, I reeeeally like the Yeah Yeah Yeahs. I might just love them. Karen O especially. So I was quite tickled to find a recent interview with Karen O online:

What I love about Karen O is her seemingly complete lack of irony. She actually loves those crazy outfits she puts on. It's so simple and endearing, something somehow violent and vicious about the things she does, and I really like that.

A tidbit I thought was funny:

How did you celebrate your 21st birthday?

I had a party in my apartment on Tompkins Square Park in the East Village. I had just moved in, and had somehow convinced the owner of the building that I was a really reserved and responsible young lady. But all my friends came and everyone was super wasted and hanging off the fire escape. And the landlord came up and was just like, "Oh my god, I just made the biggest mistake of my life letting this girl live here."

At the end she talks about her favorite socks, and I really connected with something so trivial. Nobody really does that anymore; it seems so infantile. Yet she's not too cool to talk about ladybug socks, and that's pretty damn fantastic.

Also, I recently listened to "It's Blitz!" and thought it was superb. Definitely better than their sophomore attempt. My favorite? "Dull Life," which I believe is track 5, showing a more intense and intellectual side of YYY. Strange that the CD rarely, if ever, used guitars, but it's perhaps a welcome change. Go New Yorkey art rockers, go!