Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Special Comment - On Using Movie Quotations for Commemoratory Purposes; on “ATL,” on Cyber-bullies, on Entering a “TTT” at a Time of Economic Turmoil

It has been a long time but here is the first new post on Flying Houses since August. This probably isn’t the best time to be doing it, either, as I should be taking down the notes I just wrote on Compulsory Joinder and Intervention, and transcribing them into my computer. But we can only be such machines when it comes to legal work as may be reasonably expected.
This is a not a personal check-up 9/10 of the way through the semester. This is a response to a (now not so recent) post on a popular website for the legal profession. Here is a link to that post:

For those uninitiated, Above the Law is an online legal tabloid that is basically the TMZ or Perez Hilton of the legal profession. It is something to read on a lunch break, something to laugh at, nothing to be taken seriously. However, this post in particular affected me in such a personal way that I seriously wanted to go out and kill myself, and I would entertain a claim against them for negligent infliction of emotional distress, but I know that would probably not be a very good claim (perhaps it would be protected by the first amendment? perhaps I could not prove any direct physical injury?). Why do I have such a “thin skull” you might ask?

The post itself is nothing particularly untoward. It merely claims that the Class of 2010 made a mistake in the quote they decided to put on a plaque in the library. The quote is from A League of Their Own, a film about women in the 1940’s who decided to form a baseball league to counteract the suspension of Major League Baseball and its many players signing up for service in World War II. There are many quotable moments in the film, but the one the Class of 2010 chose happened to be this: “It’s supposed to be hard. If it wasn’t hard, everyone would do it…The hard is what makes it great.” Automatically, this is turned into a sexual reference, which doesn’t really make sense given the second sentence, but this is immaterial. Should quotes from movies be plastered on the walls of law schools? Don’t we have “higher values” than those of popular culture? (Please don't let us start believing that there are better quotes to be found in film than literature--even judicial opinions would be better fodder). The class has asserted that it strove to begin a tradition, whereby students would touch the plaque as they pass under it while coming down from the second floor of the library. I have not seen anyone do this and I am afraid that if someone was seen doing this, they would be laughed at.

However, there were many comments to this post that were certainly untoward, and a source of my emotional distress (one other article on ATL, written by a psychiatrist who had also been through law school, bemoaned the opportunities of those holding J.D.’s but seeking employment apart from the legal field, which also contributed to said distress). The very first one reads “Crooklyn = TTTT.” Now I am not sure what the fourth T signifies (TTT signifies “third-tier toilet,” a derogatory term for a school not ranked in the top 50 in the nation), but the statement itself, posted by someone known as nothing more than “$$$,” certainly sends a harmful message. The next comment, posted by “Wow,” points the reader to Brooklyn’s budget planner page on its website. It reads, “Lulz at the price tag for this dump!!” Is “Lulz” some variant of LOL or is it something more nefarious? BLS is expensive, but so are most law schools. Scholarships are the only way a student can justify the enormous price tag after already having been through so much previous education. The next comment is from Kenny Powers who is a character on the HBO series Eastbound and Down and he offers the prescient wisdom (for those of us walking into final exams as an already uphill struggle), “If at first you don’t succeed then maybe you just suck.” A couple others joke about how much Kenny Powers sucks, then someone makes fun of the “living with parents” column of the budget (taking housing out of the equation) because that is what students will be doing after graduation. From here on in, the comments become more sporadic and less focused. Apparently, “Watch your head,” was another option for the quotation. This would have been sort of eloquent given the state of legal hiring patterns in 2010. Someone brings up a better quote from the same movie: “You know, if I had your job, I’d kill myself. Wait here, I’ll see if I can dig up a pistol.” This would also have been better, but dark, very dark, and law schools should not be propagating dark thoughts, though they inevitably must.

Now comes the painful part—an alum from BLS posts and sticks up for the school, and legal education in general, saying that it will pay off over time, and not amortize or depreciate like a car. They then get taken to task for failing to discern that student loans accrue interest and therefore may be considered technical amortization/depreciation. Another person says the plaque is fitting for BLS students because women baseball players ended up unemployed and broke. Other potential quotes are considered from the movie: “There’s no crying in law school” and “You’re gonna lose. You’re gonna lose.” There is then a discussion of a possible typo on the plaque in the use of the ellipsis. Blue-booking rules are debated. Someone else points out that all of the comments are cynical, and that everyone posting is an a-hole. A very dry reply read “Law students generally are not cynical. You have to graduate and realize the harsh realities of life and being unemployed/underemployed with massive student loan debt before the cynacism (sic) kicks in.” Another person named “<2012>” simply writes, “You are DOOMED.” Another person suggests the school hang a plaque saying, “See 11 U.S.C.A. 523(a)(8).” This was fairly clever as it forced me to use WestLaw to look up what it meant. Here is a quote that seemed particularly appropriate: “Let me sum up what I think of you when I hear you go to Brooklyn Law (particularly class of 2012 or 2013): (1) You weren’t smart enough to get into a better school, and (2) you’re even stupider than I would have thought otherwise because you’re paying an exorbitant amount of tuition. WTF are these people thinking, particularly those who enrolled this year in the middle of a recession?”

The other contenders for the quotation for the plaque are then listed near the end of the thread. (none of which I like very much, except for this one: "The bravest sight in the world is to see a great man struggling against adversity." -Seneca) And there we are. I luckily did not post anything myself on this thread, because then I would know the pain of a direct attack. I have had enough experiences with that on the Speakeasy at to know better.

I don’t know if a legal education is worth it or not if you go to a TTT school and this post has given me certain doubts. Of course, one can always tell themselves to buck up and give it their best effort regardless, but can you really forget you’ve seen something awful? Or does it pay to not have an “Ostrich problem?” If I am substantially certain that my education is a waste of time, but I insist on pretending that everything is going alright, aren’t I just as guilty of wasting an education? This is like whether or not I wanted to check my Torts midterm grade last week. I could have not looked, and felt better, but because I did look, I know I am in grave danger, and some drastic measures must be implemented if I am to recover and not waste this opportunity I’ve spent years putting together.

Or are cyber-bullies just out to get everyone regardless, to hide behind their computers and make acid-tongue comments in an effort to convince strangers that they are witty or intelligent, when they really just come off as mean. Or is it just a way to blow off steam? I do know one thing. I don’t feel very good about where I am or what I am doing. It’s not the website that made me feel this way, but it certainly didn’t help matters. Assumption of Risk would be their defense in an action. Law students attending less prestigious schools or with poor academic performances should enter ATL at their own risk. If you want to ride “the Flopper,” you should know that you may fall down. You may not sue ATL for NIED because it is on the internet, and the internet should not be able to hurt you physically. Also, cyber-bullies are not within the exclusive control of ATL. They are not employees—they are followers, they are fans.

I have to bring in the personal element and decide whether or not BLS is a good choice or not. There are a few frustrating elements about this school.

#1: The Bookstore. Admittedly a minor issue, but 1Ls had a rude awakening this year when they found that few of the books they ordered would be available from the bookstore until the second or third week of class, forcing us to find the people with the books, xerox assignments, and generally feel that we did not have the tools to properly comprehend the material. However, the bookstore apologized and offered to pay shipping costs incurred from books bought from outside sources.

#2: The Halls, The Claustrophobia: I always preface this complaint with the statement that, for me, the choice came down to Loyola Law School in Los Angeles, or BLS. I do not think Loyola has the same problem as BLS as their campus has nearly a dozen buildings or so and everything is very spread out and aesthetically pleasing. BLS, by contrast, slams more than 1,200 students together in a giant rectangular building, and puts most of the major classes on floors 4, 5, and 6, resulting in bottlenecks at elevators and sometimes stairwells and hallways—not to mention a generally cramped atmosphere inside the actual classrooms. This underscores the fact that we are all competing for a very limited number of positions and that all of this hard work and discipline and struggle may end up as the ultimate nightmare yet.

#3: The Competition. Brooklyn may be ranked #67 in the nation or whatever, and #4 or #5 in New York City in general, but that does not mean that its students are less intelligent. Oh sure, we scored lower on the LSATs, that is probably a given—but I’m sure there’s some of us that didn’t score that low, and are receiving a full ride. I’m guessing the majority of my classmates, however, are in the same position as me, which provides reasonable tuition assistance, with the stipulation that you must finish in the top 40% of your class (roughly a B to B+ overall GPA) to reclaim it in subsequent years. When I put in my seat deposit and signed my promissory note, I thought I’d coast through law school, I thought I’d be a star, I thought I’d get straight A’s and get offered a big law firm job at OCI and pay off my debt in no time and pay $3000 a month in rent, or even buy my own place. A few months later, and reality has given me a swift kick in the rear again. I will say this about my classmates—sometimes, it can be awkward, if you know someone by face, and you maybe even know their name, but you have not introduced yourselves, for whatever awkward reasons you have. And it may be the case at every law school, but my classmates constitute the smartest, most hardworking group of people I have ever been surrounded by, and I thought I could throw down, I thought I could keep up with anyone, but they are a tough group to be scaled against on a curve.

But maybe we aren’t that intelligent, as the one comment that seems particularly more harsh than the others states. Maybe we have truly nebulous reasons for being here in the first place. People ask me what kind of law I want to practice, or what kind of lawyer I want to be, and I have no idea. I think I am going to start saying “any area that will hire me” or “the kind that has a job.” I thought that going to law school would open up more career options, but it has really just opened up one new area—and one that is extremely competitive. I did not fully realize the gravity of this situation until a couple months into the semester, when we started discussing internship applications.

I will apply for internships starting now. My grades will be out January 15th. There is still hope that I could ace all of my exams, have an awesome GPA, get an awesome internship, get on the awesome law journal, keep my awesome scholarship (maybe even get a better one), and live an awesome life in Brooklyn Heights. [Which reminds me that I never pointed out the positive qualities of BLS. I do think it is the best area to go to law school in New York City because of its proximity to the courts in Brooklyn. I do think that the receptions, events, and other school-sponsored activities it hosts are some of the best I have ever attended (but this also has a negative effect—I have personally spread myself thin between the activities, the clubs, the job search, reading assignments, outlining, and all of the other facets that make up a law student’s life). I do think Brooklyn Heights is a great area (though not as “exciting” or “fun” as the Village may be for NYU students).] But there is also the reality that this is a pipe dream, and a dream that will end when my exams are finished and I see my grades, which, if my first midterm is any indication, will prove horribly depressing and provide material for the most difficult period of my life yet. For now, I can grind, and I can hope that I can change my approach, and I can pray that a miracle will occur, and all of my classmates will suddenly become extremely stupid the morning of the exam, and we will all do very poorly, and it will be okay. But experience knows it is not so.

So I will press on, and I will not think about how tenuous this life may be for me, and I will focus, and maybe it will all work out yet. I don’t even want to express a doubt on the matter (!) because it seems like throwing in the towel, or setting yourself up for disappointment. Let me say this: as frustrating as the whole law school thing may be, if you can’t get into a top 14 (or even top 50) school with any kind of funding, it is no more frustrating than any other technical training for any other job. The main difference comes with the price tag, and it’s the element that can cause serious breakdowns. When cyber-bullies know what is at stake, they should think before they post something harmful or injurious. I am sure there have been suicides because someone has posted something mean about someone on Facebook, and maybe this will constitute a tort action. But when the postings are anonymous, other questions of privacy may be raised. I am going to end this long and rambling post by saying that I am very proud that Flying Houses has always had positive, happy comments. If this “special comment” receives any comments, I hope they will engender a real and beneficial discussion, and not a laundry-list of urban dictionary-isms meant to make others “in the know” laugh in appreciation.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Think Tank for Human Beings in General - Jordan Castro/Richard Wehrenberg Jr

Can someone please tell me the difference between a "chapbook" and a "zine?"

Jordan Castro sent me this chapbook after I commented on his prize-winning entry into Tao Lin's contest. My entry is here His is here In it, he reviewed my essay and gave it high marks and I thanked him. I think it was the first time anyone ever reviewed anything I wrote on the internet. He sent me a chapbook for explaining that Dakota Fanning was not in The Sixth Sense.

That movie came out in 1999, and I think he was about 7 then, and perhaps its "twist" has been ruined by everyone in the intervening 11 years so now it is no longer quite the "best picture" event that it was then. Plus, M. Night Shyamalan's cultural cache drops with each new film he makes (though everyone seems to think he "may turn it around with this one..."), though I assume that NYU is still proud to have him as one of their more successful recent graduates.

This is the grand finale, the electrifying conclusion if you will. Please note that Bob Pollard broke up GBV on 12/31/04, and now, no more than 5 1/2 years later, they are already doing reunion shows. Flying Houses will be silent for a while, but this is not the end.

In my essay on Tao Lin, I began by stating how I embarrassed myself by a certain comment on his blog made perhaps 4 1/2 years ago about all of the zines I published at NYU while we were both there. I first became aware of zines my freshman year and I put out my first zine my sophomore year. It was entitled "Xenophobia," which was probably not as original as I thought. It was about 16 pages long. There was a poem in it about "almost" getting mugged. There was an essay about meeting 3 celebrities in New York City (Thurston Moore, Carson Daly, and Janeane Garafalo, though I did not technically meet her). I think there was a poem about smoking a cigarette on bleachers in an empty schoolyard near my parent's house during one of my holiday breaks. I don't remember what else was in this zine. I sold these zines for $1.00 out of a milk crate in Washington Square Park and gave out a complimentary kiss to anyone that wanted it. I gave a copy to my creative writing teacher from the summer session of 2002, Paul Gacioch, who was an instructor that I think was about 24 then and obtaining his MFA and trying to get his first novel published. I am going to Google him now and see if he accomplished that. Here is what I found: I left him a copy in his faculty mailbox and I ran into him in Bobst Library and I asked him if he got it and what he thought of it. He said it was "short."

My second zine was a collaborative effort between me and several of my friends entitled "Honey I'm a Prize and You're a Catch and We're a Perfect Match," which is a line from a song by Pavement and in honor of the date it was published, February 14, 2003. I don't remember anything in it (except for a poem called "horse shoe crabs" by my friend Emily, which I think she later published online) but more people read it due to the nature of the contribution process.

My third zine could probably be called a "chapbook." It was entitled "Autointoxication" and it was the best thing I had done up to that point. Arguably it is still the best thing I have done because it was published. I went to a printer in Greenwich Village and asked for 100 copies. I tried to sell them for $1.00 and probably sold about 3 or 4, which is about the total of "Xenophobia." Had I a blog at the time, who knows what might have come.

There were several others but none as important as those first three (except for "Uck Ar" but I played too minor a role in that for consideration). I include this autobiography because, this is a highly symbolic gesture. Jordan and Richard are young, and they probably know what they are doing way better than I did (or do, for that matter) but I am here to warn them about the dangers of literature. But a review first.

I have never reviewed poetry on Flying Houses before, which is another reason I wanted to do this as my last post. I wanted to do something audacious. Each writer contributes 9-10 poems of 1-2 pages in length. Jordan's are slightly more experimental and Richard's are slightly more typical of poems popular over the last 20 years. Both are talented, and while their chapbook may be "short," it deserves commendation.

My favorite poems of Jordan's are "a list of things I am going to do," which I didn't like that much until the last few lines; "weak," which is the first poem I have ever read about the dilemma of autofellatio, thus worthwhile; "haiku" which is certainly topical and formal; and "last poem," which is about achieving inner-peace. Four out of ten is not bad. The other ones have moments but overall seem too "cheeky" or "cute" or "silly" to fully praise.

My favorite poems of Richard's are "excuse me," which is a lament for internet culture, "dumpster dive alone," which I don't really understand but references Scottie Pippen, so I like it; "snow-people easily identify the sun as their enemy," which is pretty original and may be the single best poem in the chapbook; and the so-called title track, "think tanks for human beings in general," which, like most title tracks in music, I usually feel are better than the majority of other songs on the album--but is the best way to end the chapbook.

I like the idea of chapbooks and zines because they are not too time-consuming. They are like regular magazines except they are not filled with useless trash about celebrities and reality stars. They are filled with serious writing by mostly unknown people, reaching out and trying to establish themselves. There is something noble about them. For some reason I do not think self-publishing a novel is as noble as self-publishing a zine.

Do I really have anything else I want to add? When I was 17 I wrote a one-act play for my high school and after my classmates told me how much they liked it (though I was unsure of its quality), I made it my life's mission to write, until every MFA program I applied to rejected me in February of 2007. I did not stop writing after that, obviously, but my confidence was shot. Here is my advice to Jordan and Richard: if you are going to get your MFA eventually, apply to a safety school. I applied to U Chicago's MAPH program, UT-Austin's Michener Center for Writers, Iowa's Writer's Workshop, University of Oregon, Columbia University's esteemed program producing writers like Rick Moody and Wells Tower and James Franco and offering zero aid in general and a $50,000 price tag (and you thought law school was expensive, and didn't offer enough career security). Every single one rejected me. Apply to a safety school. Or don't. Maybe I just suck at writing, and at life.

Do I really want to be at law school, and quitting my blog, and quitting my creative endeavors? No. I intend to work on my 3rd novel whenever appropriate over these next three years. I am 28,000 words into it. It is the best thing I have done, no doubt, but still unpublishable. Too many "fatal flaws." Everybody in or associated with law school says you have no free time and if you have free time you should be studying. Well, now I am going to start doing that and stop blogging. And I have serious doubts about my career in general. I waited too long to do this.

More advice to Jordan and Richard: never move to a random city (like say Los Angeles) because it seems fun and you have enough savings in your account-----unless you have a job there waiting for you. Had I not done that, had I applied to law school 3 years ago, or now without that stint, I'd be having a blast, not pinching every penny, not failing to leave tips for take-out orders, not feeling guilty about an endless reliance upon my parents and not feeling that I have a dubious future in general. I would feel much more confident.

Finally, that is very far in the future for them. They will be at college soon and probably have the time of their lives. I would recommend NYU but I feel as if it is changing. It is expanding, somehow, despite already having been the largest private university in the country 9 years ago. John Sexton is really emphasizing how important it is to study abroad so they can get as many students as possible out of the Village and into their other, expensive international branches in Paris, Florence, Buenos Aires and other places of which I am unaware. They are putting up students in hotels, because the new dorms they have opened since I have graduated still don't provide enough space. Faculty members would complain about their salaries. Still, I wouldn't have rather been anywhere else. Except UT-Austin or maybe Oberlin if I had gotten in there. Liz Phair and I have the same birthday and she is exactly seventeen years older than me and she went there.

Thanks to Jordan for sending me this chapbook. I apologize for using this as an opportunity to explain why this blog will be slipping into a coma and writing so many other random things. I wish him and Richard the best of luck, and hope that their method of e-publishing will work out okay for them. They are on the first-wave of this stuff, and they should ride it out and see where it takes them.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Richard Yates - Tao Lin

This will be one of the last posts on Flying Houses for a long time. A friend of mine recently told me that I should spend more time studying and less time blogging since studying involves the financial investment. But I requested this book and I am not going to be negligent when it comes to following through on promises.

Yes, perhaps a bit of personal narrative is in order before this official review begins, since it is such a serious occasion. I requested a copy of Richard Yates from Tao Lin's publicist on July 6, 2010, approximately 5 weeks before I would move to Brooklyn for law school. I knew I would receive the book in my new apartment in Brooklyn, and I knew there would be law school assignments, and I knew it would appear negligent if I blogged about underground literature instead of reading and briefing cases. But I did it anyway because I knew it was the last chance I would have to do an advance review of a relatively highly-anticipated new title.

I will not be interviewing Tao as I did for previous reviews of Eeeee Eee Eeee and Shoplifting from American Apparel. Not that I don't want to, but again, time, and negligence. I received Richard Yates in my apartment foyer on Monday, August 16. There were two packages from Melville House* and I was just out of my 2nd day of "preliminary" law school classes. I was very depressed. I was thinking that there was no way I could possibly survive the next three years. It would not be sustainable. In this depressed mood, I immediately began reading Richard Yates, which is usually the best time to read books by Tao Lin. I read for an hour and made it through roughly 1/4 of the book and then decided it was time to go get drunk and watch a movie on Netflix. It was Comedians of Comedy and I laughed very much. Sometimes I would go outside and smoke a cigarette. I would put my iPod boombox by my window and play music and go outside and sit outside my window on a stoop and listen to the music and smoke. It came time to go to bed and I began having a nervous breakdown. Sometime around three or four o'clock in the morning I fell asleep. Then I woke up around 6:30 am or so and resumed having a nervous breakdown, and I opened up my word processor and did a free-write about the inevitability of my decision to suicide. This put me in a weird manic mood, and I went to shower and then went to another set of preliminary classes around 8:15 am.

Several hours later, the nervous breakdown had been quelled, and I enjoyed a calm lunch in the school cafeteria while reading Richard Yates. Then later I smoked a cigarette in the school's gated entrance and read more of Richard Yates. I was enjoying it very much.

I did not read any more of it on Tuesday night. I watched two movies on Netflix after being at a bar for a school outing--The Trials of Henry Kissinger and The Cruise (the latter of which I had seen before and should be required viewing for anyone living in New York City), also while drinking more beer and continuing to smoke cigarettes in this manner.

This morning, Wednesday, I resolved not to smoke any cigarettes or drink anything alcoholic. I went to the bookstore and waited forty-five minutes to get my books and was very frustrated but then happy it was over. I went to a pizza place for lunch and read more of Richard Yates, but only a few pages. Then I went into the school library and read a few more pages of Richard Yates. Then I went to class, and then I came home, and I resolved to finish reading the rest of Richard Yates. I also received a chapbook from Jordan Castro today and think I will try to review it as the last true blog post for a long time.

And I finished reading Richard Yates around 7:05 PM and it is now 7:35 PM. So, I suppose we can begin then?

Richard Yates is a very narrow book. It is about one thing, and one thing only: a relationship between a 16-year-old named Dakota Fanning and a 22-year-old named Haley Joel Osment. It is perhaps worth noting that Tao Lin does not attempt to seriously recreate the lives of these celebrities. Haley Joel Osment (hereafter referred to as HJO) is a graduate of New York University who spends a lot of time in Bobst Library and lives on Wall St. Dakota Fanning (hereafter referred to as DF) is a high-school student living in Secaucus, New Jersey. They meet on the internet and quickly begin dating and take buses and trains to visit one another.

It is about that one thing only, but within that, it is about many other things: self-mutilation, bulimia, health food stores, sex, lying, G-chat, movies, emo bands, and writers like Lorrie Moore and Richard Yates--in short, par for the course for a Tao Lin novel. I don't begrudge Tao for writing about the same topics. I have written enough to know that certain themes become obsessive to certain writers, and there is no shame in repetition, so long as it offers something new.

And I have been looking forward to this book for a couple years now and I predicted that it would be Tao Lin's most mainstream effort yet, and in certain regards I am right and in certain regards I am wrong. Tao does branch out into a more detailed "consistent" "straightforward" narrative than he has in the past. It is much more focused on the characters and there are no tangents that make little sense, as in Eeeee Eee Eeee. And I think technically, the rough draft of this novel was finished before Shoplifting from American Apparel was written, and then this novel was edited heavily after that novella was finished.

And perhaps that holds the key to my feelings. In a sense, I appreciate what Tao is trying to do with this book. But in another sense, I could not get into it as much as his previous two long-form prose works. Perhaps it is because I was rushing through it because I was in law school.

Here is my problem with it, essentially: it does not need to be a novel. I do not want to say that but it is the way I feel. I think it would have made an excellent short story, or a very good novella, but as the longest book he has done yet (not sure on this, but it seems longer than Eeeee Eee Eeee) it tends to drag. HJO and DF are two of the most interesting characters he has portrayed yet, but their story is too narrowly-focused.

So I went through periods where I thought the book was great, and periods where I thought it was not so great. My opinion depended on my mood, and the book could not distract me from present circumstances. Some people have been giving it bad reviews and not even reading to the end. I read to the end but I think the strongest parts are in the first 120 pages. It is in the last 80 pages that most of the "climactic" scenes occur, but I found HJO and DF's conversations becoming too repetitive, and almost too pointless. I do like how HJO wants to help DF near the end despite his weakening feelings for her. And I like the scene where they make funnel cakes at the carnival, and I like the scene where they go to Epcot, and I like the scene where they dye DF's hair black and she "turns goth." I also enjoy the references to self-mutilation and bulimia and Ernest Hemingway biographies and Nicholas Sparks for personal reasons.

There are many little moments in this book that are nice, but on the whole, I did not find it as interesting as Lin's two previous novels. Something has been made about this book being autobiographical and if that is the case then I understand why Tao felt that it needed to be published. I do not think everything in this book really happened. Or maybe everything in this book did happen, but certain details about people are skewed. I can't tell, and it doesn't really matter either way. It is fiction. And while I would love to give Tao positive reviews from here until the end of days, I can only half-heartedly recommend this novel.

It is worth reading for its "experimental" aspect for Tao Lin personally. It is more straightforward, in a sense, but it is also just like his previous work in that description is totally eschewed in favor of maximum repetitive action with repetitious objects. The element I like most is its "realist bent."

This is a minutely-detailed (though not deeply descriptive) account of a relationship that rings true. You feel that you are reading about a "real relationship" that might prove educational in some way. But it is only educational if you are a 22-year-old going out with a 16-year-old and all of the weird things that come with it. Neither HJO or DF is very mature, but obviously HJO has a slightly more complete view of life. The tagline for this book is, "What constitutes illicit sex for a generation with no rules?" I am not sure I like it, and it does not seem like Tao wrote that tagline, but I may be wrong. Regardless of whether or not I like it, the implication is that this book is an exploration of that sort of "illicit sex" and one gets the impression that it will be "titillating." But it is not titillating at all, even with more than a few scenes of sexuality. There is lots of G-chat. I think maybe more than 50% of this book's content is in the form of G-chat. The rest is extremely dialogue-heavy, and most of the dialogue seems almost meaningless.

I haven't read any books by Richard Yates, but I did see the movie Revolutionary Road and that was a narrowly-focused narrative on one relationship. Perhaps his other books are like that, and this is Tao's homage to him. If so, that is fine, that is nice. Hemingway wrote The Torrents of Spring to make fun of Sherwood Anderson.

So maybe there is a deeper layer to this book that I can't quite see, but taken on its own terms, I feel that is lacking in something, or that there is too much of nothing in it. I do believe it would make a great short story, and if it were edited down to just a few essential scenes instead of an exhaustive diary of every conversation (most glaringly, the four-page paragraph where DF tells HJO every single time she has lied to him in a long e-mail, which is either the best or worst part of the book, depending on your view), I would have liked it much more. Such as it is, I am glad I read it, I am glad I reviewed it during this tumultuous time in my life, and I look forward to reading whatever else Tao Lin's next project will be. Shoplifting from American Apparel was "roughly" written after this, and it is my favorite thing by him so far, so whatever he has been working on for the last year, or whatever he will be working on for the next year, I think, will continue to improve. This does seem a bit like an object from a time-capsule despite its latter-day editing. I remember reading a blog post by Tao Lin a long time ago saying he was going to write a novel about Dakota Fanning and Haley Joel Osment and thinking that it was a joke. Imagine my surprise when I read the plot descriptions for Richard Yates.

This novel isn't a joke though. It's a serious attempt at something different, and I respect that. One can learn something from it. Sometimes exhaustive recitation of events and conversations do not automatically make for compelling literature. I have been guilty of this (and am still guilty of this, at times) so I understand the motive behind it. But without any deeper significance, or any hints of deeper significance, the reader finds themselves lost, and wonders why this information was so important to communicate.

*I received two copies of Richard Yates because I requested one from the publicist and then entered Tao's contest, which gave a copy of the novel as an award to all legitimate participants. I have an extra copy so if anyone wants it, I will send it to them, but I would prefer for them to live in Brooklyn Heights so I don't have to mail it.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Antichrist - Dir. Lars von Trier

While I had wanted to see this movie for over a year, it was very dificult to find. It is unrated. It did not play widely in theaters. But it was the most talked about film at Cannes in 2009. It is actually not out on DVD until November 2010, from the Criterion collection. Recently I signed up for Netflix again and watched it instantly. I found it last night and became ridiculously excited.

Why does it take so long to come out on DVD? Probably because it's such a difficult film. It is definitely in the top 5 "darkest" films I have ever seen, if not #1 itself. Many may know the basic plot but I will recount: Charlotte Gainsbourg and Willem Dafoe played a married couple. In the "prologue" they are having sex (which is a bit graphic) when their toddler son crawls out of his crib to play with some toys on his window ledge. This prologue is filmed in black & white and set to a beautiful score by Handel I believe. In short it is the best part of the movie. It is filmed in super-slow-motion, and the end of the scene is quite painful.

From here, the film switches to color and regular speed and contains dialogue. It is perhaps worth noting that the dialogue is quiet, and I was watching it on my laptop, which does not have the most powerful speakers, so I missed a bit. Charlotte collapses after the funeral of their baby boy and goes into the hospital. Willem is a therapist and seeks to cure his wife of her pain.

There are three chapters: Grief, Pain, and Despair. Charlotte is having a really hard time getting over the death of her baby, of course she feels responsible, she even knew that sometimes he would try to crawl out of his crib in the past. Willem decides to take her to their cabin in the woods for more alternative forms of therapy, like having her imagine lying in the grass and having it consume her.

"Grief" becomes a bit scary at times, and Antichrist is in the horror genre, I would say. It is not as scary as The Exorcist but it is very scary, for example, when a wolf talks to Willem at the end of "Pain." That is what is weird about it. "Grief" has a few scary moments, but then during "Pain," Charlotte even becomes happy and excited and claims that she is cured and there is a brief moment of bliss. But then the wolf talks to Willem at the end in a scary voice and "Despair" (Gynocide) begins.

"Gynocide" is the title of the study that Charlotte has been undertaking, about crimes committed against women in the 16th century. There are lots of weird illustrations and there is a constellation with Grief, Pain, and Despair appearing as a fox, a bird, and a deer. These animals show up in the movie having various bloody tumors or what appear to be severed appendages.

In "Despair," Charlotte drills a hole through Willem's leg, cuts off her labia with a scissors, and runs into the woods and masturbates. I have to say that I give enormous respect to both Gainsbourg and Dafoe for their performances in this film. No other actors of their station would take such risks.

I won't give away what happens at the end, but it is relatively predictable. It is a reasonable ending and I don't think most people will be horrified by it after everything that came before. However, there is still a super creepy ending, where there are like hundreds of women in white silhouette climbing through the woods as a closing shot. And then there is an "epilogue" which has the same score as the "prologue" and the same black & white and super-slow-motion, but it is much more sad because the film is over and there is nothing more to be done.

I don't think this film is meaningless, but I do think some of it may contain crackpot psychology. Gainsbourg's revelation, before going totally nuts, that women are subject to nature, is the major epiphany of the film, only to be derided by Dafoe a second later. Many say that Lars von Trier makes misogynistic films. This film may be misogynistic but I could not help but feel affection for Gainsbourg's character, up to a certain point at least.

This is the type of movie that should be shown in dive bars and indie rock clubs and put on mute. It's the type of movie that should be shown at screwed-up parties. I waited a long time to see it and I was so happy to finally have the chance last night. It's not one of the best movies I've ever seen at all, but it is an event. I actually liked The Girlfriend Experience better because it was more light-hearted.

But this is a horror film, and it's a very good horror film. It's not as good as The Shining but it's definitely similar. Even when you see the cabin in early shots, you know it's straight out of 80's slasher pics. But this isn't a "dumb horror film" (which they usually always are). Like, okay, I like both Hostel movies, but this is much more intellectual. It's intellectual and personal and psychological and horrific. I am sure few couples are going to have to go through what Gainsbourg and Dafoe do, and I am sure even if they did go through it, they wouldn't go to such extremes. That von Trier is able to make it believable and hallucinatory at the same time shows how talented he is. Now, I would like him to do something ridiculously mainstream. But I don't think that will happen anytime soon.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

The Girlfriend Experience - Dir. Steven Soderbergh

While I had wanted to see this movie for over a year, I had mixed feelings going into it. For one, I was unconvinced of Steven Soderbergh's talents as a director. I found Erin Brockovich to be overrated. I found Traffic to be overrated, but in time I began to understand some of its appeal. I consider the Oceans movies to be cashout opportunities, though not without their own (quite unique, I think) niche. I never saw The Good German but I have heard it is terrible. I have never seen Solaris or The Limey, but I have been meaning to. The Informant! was enjoyable, but no other comment on that now.

Second, Sasha Grey is (was?) a porn star. And she is younger than me, and way more fucking rich. And she manages to land her own film, basically, with Steven Soderbergh. So I was jealous, and suspicious of her talents as a "real actress."

Despite his more mainstream occupations, Soderbergh also directed Bubble and Che, (neither of which I've seen) which are not the most obvious choices for a director who can pretty much guarantee a $100 million blockbuster when he so chooses. Furthermore, he is responsible for sex, lies, and videotape, which might not be one of the best movies ever, but certainly helped to launch a genre which has been responsible for some of the best movies over the last three decades. And his cameo in Waking Life was cool. So I respect him, and I wanted to see this movie, but I was still skeptical.

Long story short, skepticism erased. This movie is hilarious, and supposedly sad, but I don't think the desperation it is seemingly meant to portray ever comes across. Here is the plot: Chelsea is an escort. She meets rich men and listens to them talk and goes out to dinner with them and sleeps with them. But she has a real boyfriend, Chris, who is a personal trainer. There is a weird time-zone for this movie where it keeps flipping back and forth to a plane trip Chris takes with one of his clients on a private jet party to Las Vegas. And there are random sub-plots where Chelsea might go to Dubai as part of a prostitution vacation, or sleep with internet messageboard administrators to get a good review and get more business.

In general, the movie is slow, quiet, talkative, and mundane. However, its greatest asset is its timing. It takes place near the November 2008 elections. There are references to the $700 billion bailout and the word "maverick" in debates and Man on Wire. Sometimes Chelsea writes journal entries about her "dates," and one of them is a dinner at Nobu, which I found funny for personal reasons.

The last shot in the movie kind of totally blew me away. And on the whole I found it surprisingly tasteful. I thought the script was good, the dialogue was very realistic, and I laughed out loud several times. Still, not for the faint of heart due to its subject matter. Also I don't think it's a very responsible film in the way I don't think "Mad Men" is a very responsible TV-show. I think they encourage bad behavior.

This film probably won't change your life, but it certainly made me think, and it certainly inspired me at moments. Otherwise I would not be blogging at 1:26 in the morning after drinking, oh, maybe 50 oz of beer. Perhaps there is more I could say about it, or more that I thought I wanted to say about it (i.e. my favorite part, the beginning of a misogynistic monologue at a bar, or alternately, a snippet of conversation about the insufficiencies of using a vaporizer) while I was watching it, but it doesn't matter. You'll either be aware of this film or not, and if you are aware of it, you should take a chance on it. Because while it may not be for everyone, it is exactly the type of film I appreciate, because it attempts to portray reality without Hollywoodization. I know that is not a word but you know what I mean.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

My Essay on Tao Lin and Our Histories Intertwining


I have been aware of Tao Lin for approximately four years. The first instance of our relationship began when I left a comment on his blog about an interview he had done for Bookslut. This comment is still on his blog and I look back on it and feel embarrassed since it is one of only 2 comments on a link still prominently displayed.

That post attempted to engage Mr. Lin for our similar educational backgrounds, similar age, and similar vocational practices. I do not think we have much in common otherwise. However, one of my best friends once shared a dorm room with him.


One of my favorite things about Tao is his generosity. After my first abortive attempt at contacting the iconoclast, I applied to MFA programs, became a reject, finished my first novel, moved to L.A., wrote 70% of a second novel, and returned to my home. Boomeranged, broken. I didn’t know what I was going to do anymore. I finished that second novel, and then I started doing NaNoWriMo. Halfway through November, I got a temp job, which was nice. Then, right as I was about to finish NaNoWriMo, call it a case of “chemically-unbalanced-writer’s-excitement/manic part of manic depression,” I decided to ask Tao if I could review his first novel, Eeeee Eee Eeee for my blog, which I had started in L.A. He said yes and sent me the book for free and I read it and asked him if I could interview him and he said yes. I finally wrote that review on Thanksgiving morning, 2008.

Later I would lend it to my friend who is a tough critic. Tao passed that test.
Later I would ask if I could do the same for Shoplifting from American Apparel. This was in August of 2009. Tao agreed again. More generosity.
A few days ago I asked if I could receive a galley copy of Richard Yates. My request was honored. Generosity again. I hope to have that review up in August 2010. And I hope to do a few more interview questions.

I am not a book critic for the Chicago Tribune or New York Times, and while I am sure Tao would love their coverage, I appreciate his ability to make this complicated job called “fiction writer in 21st century” a little more transparent for all of us. I don’t know if I want to be a writer anymore when I read his blog posts about how little money he earns from writing. I keep doing it regardless, and I don’t think clearly about prospects for my future. Perhaps I am missing the point: my blog. Flying Houses is not even HTML Giant or MOBYLIVES, but Tao gave me a chance, and I am happy with having a few more readers that could potentially find something else they like on it.


All my Dad ever talks about is networking. I hate networking. I hate going to cocktail parties, because I get too wasted, and whatever connections I might make, well, people just think I am a drunk, and therefore unstable, and therefore not worth their networking time. That’s in person. Networking on the internet is different. For one, it is scarier. If anyone wants, they can go cycle through all my old posts on this blog, or on the messageboard at and find something I said that is terribly stupid and deserving of hardcore condemnation. It happens. Cyberbullies exist. But on the other hand, networking on the internet is so easy. Add a friend on Facebook. Talk to someone about what they tweeted about. It’s all well and good and nice and fun. But what about when you want to “get serious” and meet in person? What do you have to say that is of any import? How do you not come off sounding like a total vulture?

No more ruminations on the internet, though the internet plays a huge role, I would argue, in Tao’s literature. I have not read Richard Yates but I want to because I liked both his first novel and his first novella. I have not read Bed and it would be nice to have a copy.


Here is a short story about what happened to my copies of Eeeee Eee Eeee and Shoplifting from American Apparel: I met a girl through an online dating site and we went out a few times and she seemed like one of the coolest girls I had ever met in my life. We would go out to lunch or dinner, and we would get stoned and listen to indie rock, and we would watch movies, or else walk nearby Barack Obama’s house in Kenwood. In short that is what I like to do with my time. She was cute and I was willing to look past the fact that she was a Starbuck’s barista and generally unreliable when it came to comprehensive assessments of life. As is the case with most of the girls I have dated, she broke up with me in a very passive-aggressive manner. This was not before I had leant her some CDs, and these two books by Tao Lin. She did invite me back once, so she could give me the CDs. But she had not finished both books. She loved them. She wrote on her Facebook wall that they “made her feel schizophrenic” and that she “couldn’t stop reading.” She also wrote that Tao was apparently a “friend of a friend.” Not anymore, because a couple weeks later, she de-friended me. This after I sent her random text messages asking her if she planned to give the books back. She said, in her text message, “I never intended to keep the books.” Well, she still has them. The copy of Eeeee Eee Eeee had a personal inscription from Tao to me that I cherished deeply. And now it sits in whatever sordid living room she inhabits, corrupt, wrong, inappropriate for her to own.


My feelings about this girl are roughly commensurate with my feelings about hipsters in general and Tao’s fans. That is, on the surface, they are fun, they are cool, they are the type of people I want to befriend and hang out with, but underneath, once you get to know them, you realize they are weird and mean and don’t give good reasons for the fucked-up things they do to you. I’m not trying to give them a bad name—I’m just talking from personal experience, and leaving open the opportunity for someone to prove me wrong.


Richard Yates, I believe, will be Tao’s best book yet. I don’t want to get too crazy since I haven’t read it yet, and I don’t want to say, “I was wrong!” in my upcoming review. But each of his first two novels showed a progression, and Richard Yates is a more serious title than either of the first two, and Richard Yates was a very good writer (so I’ve been told), and I know Haley Joel Osment and I share at least two things in common and I don’t know why Tao chose to use celebrity names as main character names, but I happened to do the same thing in my third novel (in progress) and I wonder if it has to do with the fact that nobody reads anymore and everybody goes to the movies (or if it is to make casting an adaptation easy).

(By nobody obviously I mean “95% of the American populace does not read, or would not recognize the name Tao Lin” and by everybody I mean “95% of the American populace will not have seen The Runaways but will know who Dakota Fanning is and everybody saw The Sixth Sense, etc.)


I have suggested that Tao visit Quimby’s book shop in Chicago so I could see him on tour. I thought that would be so cool. Then I see he has set a date there. Have fun there, Tao! If you moved from Williamsburg to Wicker Park, you’d be like, the coolest person since Stephanie Kuehnart. But now I will be unable to see that glorious moment, as I will be entrenched within new legal studies. Still, I will be in Brooklyn, and I hope I will meet Tao eventually.

He is like a legend, a ghost. But he exists. Who made that “I am Carles” t-shirt? I don’t know, but I saw one person wearing one at the Pitchfork Festival last weekend. Whatever Tao’s army is, it grows. It grows because literature, as we know it, the ability to make our voices heard, to be paid for our time spent actively opening up our worlds for strangers to inhabit and learn from experience, is dead or dying. I suffer, and wait to kill myself until I am 40 because that’s about the time most people realistically publish their first novel these days. But as I suffer, Tao’s army grows, and I attempt to join it, and do not feel like a full-fledged member, but still feel as if I am “part of something.” Tao’s detractors may say that his work is meaningless or immature or just plain stupid (all critiques are understandable, too), but they are just looking for a way to assert their dominance in literary games. They don’t break the same rules as him. They think the rules he breaks are sacred.


No rules are sacred when literature is dying. I will persist in saying literature is dying until an agent speaks with me personally about why my work is bad. Tao is not going to save literature. And he may not even have found a way for it to pay his own rent yet, but he updates his blog mercilessly, I know he works very hard, and one day it will have to pay off. It will have to pay off or else you have to start challenging anyone who dreams of being a writer: what do you have to say, why is it so important to say, why are you special, and can you figure out the secret combination to unlock a publishing contract?

I don’t like challenging people on their dreams. Society in general is at fault here, but Tao is doing what he can to make things right, and for that I will always read his books.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Pitchfork Music Festival - July 16-18, 2010 (Redux)

Welcome to my review of the 2010 Pitchfork Festival. I posted this yesterday, but there were many technical difficulties, so I decided to redo it with pictures of every band reviewed.
To be fair, reviews can never be authoritative. There were 54,000 other people there that all had different experiences than me. Due to my own idiosyncrasies, my experience may appear inaccurate, or incorrect, but I will attempt to maintain a subjective stance so when I diss Chicagoans or Pitchfork you will know that not everyone agrees with what I have to say.

Let us begin on Friday, with Liars, the first set I saw.

Liars played a satisfactory set, focusing heavily on material from Sisterworld. I have only seen Liars once before, during the They Were Wrong, So We Drowned tour at a free NYU show in 2004, which interestingly enough, is the only previous concert I have attempted to bootleg--and I have about thirty minutes on my camcorder from that which is so much better than the quality I was able to get out of my digital camera this weekend-- but I digress. Now, Liars are not as much of a "bait and switch" act as they used to be, but I have pretty much the same problem as before. They played material from every album except their debut--and the only songs I really wanted to hear were off their debut. This is basically the problem with every set at Pitchfork. These aren't headlining sets. They're supposed to pick their best or newest songs to play in forty-five minutes. Liars were satisfactory. I have no major complaints beyond not getting to hear "Grown Men Don't Fall in the River Just Like That" or "We Live NE of Compton."

Broken Social Scene was the next band I saw, after getting a couple beers and glancing briefly at the Comedy Stage, where someone was doing a bit about Medieval Times, as if no one had heard of it before. I read in the Tribune's review of the fest that Michael Showalter apparently abandoned his set early? I am sure it wasn't as dramatic as they made that seem---but I kind of get it. The denizens of the Pitchfork fest are notoriously snobby and sarcastic and unable to be impressed. I mean, indie rock fans in general are just moody and quiet, not given to loud, boisterous, stupid laughter. So I can understand why some comedians might have felt they were not "killing it" or getting huge audience reactions. I did hear some laughs, and it actually did look like a nice place to spend the evening, with everyone sitting down, looking relaxed. Two beers, ten bucks, a cigarette, a seat for a few minutes, a couple pages of my new book about the life of Ernest Hemingway, and then BSS.
They opened with "World Sick" and didn't play the last three minutes of that song, which was a good move. Their second song was "Stars and Sons," which had a few variations and reminded me of seeing BSS play Pitchfork in 2005, where they put in one of the best sets of the then 2-day Intonation Festival (only Les Savy Fav remains fonder in my memory). They played "Superconnected" and "Shoreline" and "Forced to Love" and "Ungrateful Little Father" and "Cause = Time" and "All to All" --but no "Chase Scene." That would have ruled. They did close with "Meet Me in the Basement" which Kevin Drew introduced by saying it was their "killer anthem." I thought they were going to play "It's All Gonna Break," but they proved my point about "Basement" being the best song on Forgiveness Rock Record--if only it had words. This definitely wasn't one of the greatest highlights of the weekend, but BSS continue to grow in popularity and people seemed very happy here.

For Modest Mouse, I went to the bathroom and then got a couple more beers. I could not get a good spot. They opened up with "Tiny Cities Made of Ashes" while I was in line for beer and I was all upset that I was missing it. They played a few new songs, which sounded okay, but I do miss Johnny Marr being in the band. They played what you would expect them to play--thankfully avoiding "Float On." A solid set, but I did not have the best spot. Much more engaging than Built to Spill, who played at the same position last year. "Dashboard" was a particular highlight, and everyone around me was dancing and getting crazy and having fun even though we weren't very close to the stage and that made it a bit more fun for me.

The next day I came around 1:3o in the afternoon and saw Free Energy from a distance and didn't really think it was worth it to try to get closer. Their set was almost over, and I decided to give Real Estate a try. Now, I love Sunny Day Real Estate, but I have never heard Real Estate before, and they are perfectly fine. They are no SDRE, that is for sure, but they don't aspire towards that. They're pretty mellow, but sometimes they get a little loud and fast. They're from New Jersey, unpretentious, and winsome. If there were any new album I would get from a band I saw, it would be theirs. Or the new Titus Andronicus.

I have never seen Titus before, but people were way into them. Like, they seemed to have more fans than a band of their years should rightfully have. It seems like they have a bright future. I have The Airing of Grievances on my iPod, and I like it fine. I've never heard The Monitor, but judging from the sound of the set, I would guess most of those songs sound similar to their previous album, whether concept or not. The set was fun for everyone. Patrick Stickles came on saying "Let's have the best afternoon of our lives!" And they tore through everything. There weren't any laid back songs. I put this in the second category of sets from this weekend. It wasn't an absolute can't miss highlight, but it was a damn good show, and I'd see them again on the basis of it.

Now we get to the depressing part of the story. Here is a picture of Raekwon.
I was waiting for Wolf Parade during Raekwon's set. I sat indian-style and dozed, leaning forward, bad posture. Raekwon started late, there was all of that endless "pumping up" prevalent at hip-hop shows, which led me to a realization: I don't like bands that force you to participate. Like, Kevin Drew, at Broken Social Scene, was like, "Everybody scream so you know you are alive!" Maybe I am being a sourpuss but I'll sing along if I like your lyrics enough. I don't know any Raekwon songs, but it was a relatively painless experience, though the weekend was about to get really depressing.
But not before getting really awesome with the Wolf Parade set!

It was difficult to wait 50 minutes in between Raekwon and Wolf Parade, and to listen to Jon Spencer Blues Explosion play at the other stage. They seemed to be going totally crazy. But the wait was worth it, the spot was worth it, and the band played a fantastic set. It was my second time seeing them and this time it was much better. I just had chills running up and down my spine the whole time--the opener "Cloud Shadow on the Mountain," the crowd-pleasing "Dear Sons and Daughters of Hungry Ghosts" and "I'll Believe in Anything" and "This Heart's on Fire." A particular note about this set: my previous post about Expo '86 asserts that Spencer Krug (and to a lesser extent Dan Boeckner) have mind-reading abilities, and Spencer set up directly in front of me with his keyboard and seemed to make eye contact with me a couple times which made me swoon. My point is this: after a few songs, I started thinking that they had read my review on this blog, and tailored their setlist to make some kind of point. I know that's not what happened---but witness the first two songs they played--"Cloud Shadow.." and "Soldier's Grin"--which I mention the opening parts of in comparison to a Sunset Rubdown album opener--and witness the argument about which is the better closing track, "This Heart's on Fire" or "Cave-O-Sapien," which they played back-to-back--and witness Boeckner choosing to play "Ghost Pressure" instead of "Pobody's Nerfect" which I would have preferred reversed, but proved to me "Ghost..." is a good song too. The only thing I would have liked to hear would have been "California Dreamer" or "Grounds for Divorce" or "You are a Runner..."--but those are all Spencer songs, and he seemed to sing more as it was.

Here is Dan Boeckner, playing "Little Golden Age," I think, which was also prescient.

Spencer has long hair now and is less shy than in the past, it seems.
Now we get to the sad part.
You can see Panda Bear in the back right of that picture. He was playing his set, and we were waiting for LCD Soundsystem. It wasn't that long of a wait, really, just over an hour, but it was a very long hour. I have decided that I am going to leave my previous post up because this is taking way too long to write two reviews. You will be able to read there about the crowd-surfing annoying me, the six square inch space to stand within, the inability to move, or sit, but I did not mention the pot smoking this weekend. More than in the past, EVERYONE around me was smoking pot, smoking cigarettes, and drinking gallon water jugs. It made me jealous, and it made me realize why people have negative opinions of music festivals.
I didn't mention the girl who LOVED Panda Bear, and was standing nearby me, waiting for LCD. She screamed about how beautiful he was and how she wanted to have his babies, and she started freaking out during the second song he played. Now, I have not heard that song before, which made me think it will be something off Tomboy, and that song sounded really awesome. But that was it. If you read the other post, you will hear about the kid who said "Animal Collective was the worst experience of my life." And you will hear about how LCD was the worst experience of my life.

See! I was actually pretty close! But I was in significant trouble. Their setlist was almost perfect. "Us V Them," "Drunk Girls," "Pow Pow," "Daft Punk is Playing at My House," "All My Friends," "Trials and Tribulations," and "Movement." I lasted through all of those, and during "Yeah" I couldn't take it anymore. I left, and then heard "Someone Great" and "Losing My Edge" (which was the most crestfallen moment of the weekend for me) as I exited the grounds. They also played "New York, I Love You...." apparently, but who knows if they did the whole "Empire State of Mind" medley. James Murphy turned in an excellent performance, but he did not pay attention to the welfare of the "happy" people in front. Granted, everyone was happy, and only about three or four people in front of me left before I did. But I hated that crowd-surfing, and I hated not being able to move one way or another, and the sweat started to become too much for me tolerate. But like I said, it wasn't even the atmosphere of the set that bothered me so much, but WALKING OUT OF IT, which was like some horror-show obstacle course.
Still, by most accounts, this was highlight of the weekend.
After painful memories of Saturday, I resolved to change my approach on Sunday. I had a couple Stella Artois before leaving Old Town and hitting the El, and that may have made the earlier part of the day better.

Girls were the first band I saw Sunday, overall it was a very good time. I wasn't very close to the stage, but the sound was decent, and I got to see the cool noise jam between "Hellhole Ratrace" and "Morning Light," which was definitely an homage to MBV's "You Made Me Realise." They ended their set with "Big Bad Mean Motherfucker" which sounded good too, though I had already left for the beer line.
Note that I only spent $40 on beer this weekend. 20 tickets, twice. 8 beers. Heinekens mainly.
I also got to hear "Lust for Life," so even though I missed almost half of their set, I saw everything I wanted.

Here is a slightly-zoomed in photo of Girls.

I waited until 4:45 to see Surfer Blood. I don't think there was any other band that I was looking forward to seeing as much as them. Just because I got more into their album than any other new album this year.
They opened up with "Fast Jabroni," which ruled, but no one crowd-surfed or went crazy or anything. My thoughts of their entire set may be read in the previous post, but let me just add that they seemed, restrained in some way. Still, a great setlist, with "Floating Vibes," "Take it Easy," "Swim," "Anchorage," "Twin Peak," "Harmonix," their new song "I'm not Ready," and the one thing I forgot to mention: "Catholic Pagans." Now, this is a good song. But on the album I don't go too crazy for it. This was the only song that sounded way better live than on the album. They made it heavier and it was cooler.

Neon Indian followed Here We Go Magic, who followed Surfer Blood. I sat and dozed during Here We Go Magic. They sounded okay. But I have a negative opionion of a girl I used to know who was into Here We Go Magic like back in February, so I don't need to see them. They did sound okay, to be fair. But I was tired. Neon Indian changed that.

They played almost everything off Psychic Chasms and "Sleep Paralysis," which was my first time hearing it, but I knew what it was ("No sleep! No sleep!") and it made me dance. Overall, I have to say "Terminally Chill" and "Ephemeral Artery," the two songs they played on Late Night with Jimmy Fallon months ago, the first time I became aware of their live presence, were the highlights. But they opened up with "Local Joke" and that was cool. They suggested some audience participation for "Deadbeat Summer" and it was the only time I didn't find that sort of thing corny. This was definitely one of the can't miss highlights of the weekend, one of the best atmospheres.

Before Pavement there was Sleigh Bells.
There was this Asian kid standing with his girlfriend next to me and he just kind of annoyed me with all of his talk about how hot the singer in Sleigh Bells is and how she is a school teacher and how he wondered if maybe she was the sort of teacher to hit on her boy students--now granted, there is a lot of random eavesdropping at music festivals, but this kid, and some other kids around me, actually, were just talking about how Sleigh Bells were going to be the best set of the day, and how no one even came close, and how they had no qualms about missing a good spot for Pavement, and it just annoyed me. I like Sleigh Bells, don't get me wrong! But there's more than a little hype to them. At first I couldn't figure out who to compare them to. Then I realized they sound like a rockier version of Crystal Castles. Their singer is pretty cute, and she does have a certain presence onstage, but without all of the vocal modulation on the album, she sounds a bit pedestrian. But she does know how to stir up the crowd.

I left after two songs. Because Pavement rules.

Malkmus said something about how he lost his voice for a moment, but overall, their execution was good. There was a radio shock-jock DJ who is also on the Slow Century DVD introducing the band. It was funny to see him in person. He talked for like 15 minutes about Q101 and the "original alternative nation" and trying to "break" Pavement and all this weird crap, like you couldn't tell if he was being really sarcastic or not, but obviously he is way into the band. They opened with "Cut Your Hair" and then played, oh what can I remember, "Kennel District" second? "Silence Kit," which was nice. "Stop Breathing" and "Stereo," which were a bit altered. "Shady Lane," obviously. "Range Life" and "Unfair." I guess that's a lot of stuff off Crooked Rain. "Range Life" was a great moment, when Malkmus said, "Out on tour with Chicago's Pumpkins" and the crowd screamed. Playing "The Hexx" as the last song of the festival was also a pretty badass thing to do. But as previously mentioned, I thought an encore was coming, and it was not.

If you have never been the Pitchfork festival, I'm sorry, but now too many people go and it's kind of a claustrophobic experience. That said I still recommend it over Lollapalooza any year.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Pitchfork Music Festival 2010 - July 16-18, 2010

Welcome to what will surely be one of the longest posts ever on Flying Houses--and certainly the most technological: my review of the Pitchfork festival. To be fair, reviews themselves can never be authoritative. There were 54,000 other people there that all had different experiences than me. Due to my own idiosyncrasies, my experience may appear inaccurate, or incorrect, but I will attempt to maintain a subjective stance so when I diss Pitchfork or Chicagoans you will know that not everyone agrees with everything I have to say.

Let us begin on Friday, with the Liars, the first set I saw.

(clip review: I had a clip of "Scissor" that was longer, but I felt this was one of the most crisp video images I was able to capture, short and sweet as it is)

Liars played a satisfactory set, focusing heavily on material from Sisterworld. I have only seen Liars once before, during the They Were Wrong, So We Drowned tour at a free NYU show, which, interestingly enough, is the only previous concert that I have attempted to bootleg--and I have about 30 minutes on my camcorder from that which is so much better than the quality I was able to get out of my digital camera this weekend--but I digress. Now, Liars are not as much of a "bait and switch" act as they were in 2004, but I have pretty much the same problem with them. They played material from every album except their debut--and the only songs I really wanted to hear were off their debut. This is basically the problem with every set at Pitchfork. These aren't headlining sets. They're supposed to pick their best songs to play in 45 minutes, or newest songs, whatever. Liars were satisfactory. I have no major complaints beyond not getting to hear "Grown Men Don't Fall in the River Just Like That" or "We Live NE of Compton."

They opened with "World Sick," didn't play the last three minutes of that song, and then went into "Stars and Sons." Now, when they played this, it reminded me of seeing Broken Social Scene at the Pitchfork fest in 2005. I had a serious deja vu moment, and realized Broken Social Scene were way better back then. No offense--if you read my review of Forgiveness Rock Record, you'll know I still thought they'd be a good live band, and for the most part, they were. They played a bunch of their hits ("Cause = Time," "Superconnected," "Shoreline") which made me think they consider S/T their best work. Then they ended with "Meet Me in the Basement" which re-affirmed my belief that it would be the best song on the new album if it had words. In general, a weaker performance than I've seen in the past from them, but I'm sure no one else was disappointed.

I seem to be having a difficult time adding pictures to this post. So I will stop with them. Only videos from here on in. Here are the two last pictures that were such a pain in the ass to move.
One is of Real Estate and the other is of Titus Andronicus. Both are from New Jersey

I would add a video of Titus Andronicus, but the Broken Social Scene one is taking forever. I guess I am learning lessons about utilizing technology, massive file sizes for upload. Real Estate was the first band I saw on Saturday. I did not know any of their songs. And I still do not know any of their songs, but they won me over. They were unpretentious, vaguely interesting, and skilled. Titus Andronicus, however, definitely won me over. I have not heard The Monitor (only The Airing of Grievances) but from the sound of their set, most of their songs sound the same. They always get bombastic, and Patrick Stickles always loses it. I was surprised by how dedicated their fan base is. They are a relatively new band, and for so many people to be so into them, well I think they have a bright future.

Then I had my horrible idea about camping out for a good spot for Wolf Parade. The camp out in this moment was not that bad, when I was sitting down indian-style during the Raekwon set, dozing. It was brutal when Raekwon ended, and it was time to get up, and it was time to stake out a position close to the stage for Wolf Parade, and it was time to wait the entire 50 minutes of the Jon Spencer Blues Explosion set, which sounded awesome and which I regret missing in retrospect. Then, Wolf Parade started.

I had a cool video of "Cloud Shadow on the Mountain" which was their opening song, but this video upload is not cool. Of all the sets I saw all weekend, I have to say Wolf Parade was my single favorite. It was probably because the spot in the crowd was pretty good, and because they just brought it. I only saw Wolf Parade once before, but this was a much better show. Their setlist was impeccable. The only thing that hampered my enjoyment was the crowd-surfing, which made "Cave-O-Sapien" more nerve-wracking than blissful.

Then we get to the reason why Saturday was so bad for me, which was LCD Soundsystem. Now, I love LCD Soundsystem. But so do a whole lot of other people. I planned to stand in place to wait for them, while Panda Bear played at the other stage. I heard some kid say, "Don't go see Panda Bear. I saw Animal Collective last year and it was the worst experience of my life." Well kid, what happened to me at LCD Soundsystem was probably not the worst experience of my life, but one of them.

It was the crowd dispersal after Wolf Parade, which did not happen. Everybody who was close for Wolf Parade had the same idea as me. Wait for LCD, and have a good spot. What a mistake! I should have known when Panda Bear started, and everyone around me sat down, except for the people that didn't have room to sit down, one of which was me. I stood on my tiptoes to try to see some of Panda Bear, and I felt wobbly and felt like I might fall on someone. It was terrible. There were six square inches within which I could stand, and I could not change my position, and I panicked and eventually, someone behind me stood up, which allowed me to sit down briefly. Panda Bear's set did not sound that exciting, but I still expect Tomboy to be really awesome.

LCD came on, after much anticipation from everyone around me, since we were all so miserably packed together. Something else happened that annoyed me: during Wolf Parade, someone had moved the garbage can close to the stage, and people were jumping off it to crowd-surf, which made me have to keep glancing back to make sure I wasn't about to be kicked in the head. Someone sat on the garbage can to wait for LCD, and it seemed like a very nice spot to have. Later, people would get up on it and dance during the set, also causing nervousness from me. At one point my calves were brushing up against the plastic bag attached to the front of it, and there was no way to get away from it, and I thought, wow, this is really a terrible spot to have. Later there was a bit of pushing and I did get away. I did not have fun at LCD. I wanted to have fun, but I did not. "US v Them," "Drunk Girls," "Pow Pow," "All My Friends..." --the performance was fantastic. I have no complaints about the performance. Only my experience. "All My Friends" was particularly ironic, as everyone seemed to think this was the apex of the weekend, and it was the point at which I broke and decided I couldn't stay. "Daft Punk is Playing at My House" caused crowd-surfing again, and the only time I got kicked in the head, it was incredibly gentle. But I was sweating horribly. I had to leave.

And leaving, was one of the worst experiences of my life. Because everyone was there. And packed deep. Once I thought I was out of the woods, there were more people to get around. And it would absolutely amaze me how stupid people were, they they wouldn't move aside to let me leave--and that even some of them would look at me like I was getting in their way and make a face at me like I was so disgusting for sweating that much. They played "Someone Great" and I was like, "Wow, I'm glad that I left!" and then they played "Losing My Edge" later, which I could hear from the El platform, and I was very upset because it's one of my favorite songs ever.

The next day I resolved to not be so crazy about getting the best possible spot. I saw Girls first, and they were excellent. I had a cool video that showed the noise jam as a segue between "Hellhole Ratrace" and "Morning Light," but now I think I'm even going to cancel the BSS video because it's still uploading! Girls were excellent and I should have bought their t-shirt, but I only saw the last twenty or thirty minutes of their set.

I was very excited for Surfer Blood. I had to wait through some of Local Natives, which marked my first stop at the Connector Stage, which was probably the place to be all weekend. I had a good time Sunday hanging out there most of the day. Surfer Blood played an excellent set, including a new song called "I'm Not Ready," which was similar to stuff off Astro Coast. I did feel vaguely disappointed, as if it could have been louder, or angrier, or something. Basically, let me say this: I still love Surfer Blood, but on record, their execution is so flawless that in person, they inevitably could not live up to themselves. They did change the line "You and me/could it be meant to be?" to "You and me/it's fucking anarchy," but I still felt they were too nice and seemed a bit more like Vampire Weekend Jr. than the Dinosaur one.

Neon Indian is probably the opposite of Surfer Blood. Psychic Chasms may be a very good album, but I prefer Astro Coast for air-guitar purposes. But, while Surfer Blood could not quite match the sound of their album (it is perhaps worth noting that Liars could not do that with Sisterworld either), Neon Indian exceeded all expectations. Their live show is better than their album. They have so many gadgets. And Alan Palomo is a magnetic performer. They had a great spot on the schedule, warming up the crowd for the big finale, and they did an almost perfect job.

Sleigh Bells came after, and they were okay. I like them. But I only stayed for two songs and then went to Pavement.

Pavement was everything I hoped it would be, but no more. If you look at the tracklist of Quarantine the Past you can pretty much guess their setlist. There were maybe three surprises ("Debris Slide" and "Kennel District" and "The Hexx"). "Stereo" and "Stop Breathing" featured some variations that made it more interesting. I had a spot very far back, and I wished I could have been at the front for "Conduit for Sale!" (definitely the best moment of the set), and I feel I belonged at the front where everyone knows every lyric and sings every lyric and you don't feel like a loser if you're singing along, but I learned this weekend that sometimes the dedication required to have that sort of concert experience isn't always worth it. Pavement was good, but I would have liked to hear "Carrot Rope" or "Speak, See, Remember" or "AT&T" or "Flux = Rad" or "Fight this Generation." But we can't have sets tailored to our specifications.

I did want to say this, before the final rankings: I saw Superchunk on June 20, 2010 at the Taste of Randolph. I had ten times more fun during Superchunk than I did during any single set at Pitchfork, with Wolf Parade the only one even coming close. Pitchfork is too crowded now. It's been happening slowly, but they finally reach their critical mass this year. They did do a good job with the water. They handed it out for free, thinking of the people that camped, and they cut the price drastically as the weekend went on. They need to work on crowd control though. If everyone at LCD had taken two or three steps back, I probably could have stayed. But James Murphy is not Ian Mackaye. The people there were still cool in general, but it just seemed more unbearable for me this time.

How about we end the story with the way it ended, when I left Pavement, after waiting for an encore that looked like it would happen and then didn't (no "Summer Babe?"), and when I tried to get home. The El had a line down the stairs, out the exit, and the platforms were jam-packed. I was not going to wait 15 minutes to move inside the staircase. I kept walking north, at 300 N needing to get to 1600 N, with a huge group of concert-goers. The bus came, but I could not get on it because it did not stop because it was too full. I finally got a cab coming off one of the sidestreets, and I felt like he took an indirect route. When it was over, I was glad. However, I was looking forward to my totally awesome blog post with all those videos in it, and now it won't happen.

I still recommend anyone go to Pitchfork over Lollapalooza. But I don't recommend camping out for a good spot, and I don't recommend going alone.

Liars: 7/10
Broken Social Scene: 7/10
Modest Mouse: 7/10 (not written, but not worth describing said experience)
Real Estate: 7/10
Titus Andronicus: 8/10
Wolf Parade: 9/10
LCD Soundsystem: (Performance: 9/10; Experience: 1/10)
Girls: 8/10
Surfer Blood: 7.5/10
Neon Indian: 9/10
Sleigh Bells: 8/10
Pavement: 8.8/10