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mewithoutYou, “In a Sweater Poorly Knit”

On the surface, it’s a simple song about a woman. Like most songs about God, it toes that line. It talks about all the things he’s doing to forget about her, suggesting she do the same, and finally resolving that he honestly doesn’t need a thing. It’s Aaron Weiss at his best: a lot of words being flung out very quickly but each one crafted with care toward a greater message or question or consideration.

But, to me, it’s always been a song about God. How he’s my door-without-a-key, my own field-without-a-fence. That any attempt to forget his name and His influence will lead to failing peas or to the trap catching my own leg. With this in mind, Aaron Weiss’s final line of “I do not exist, only You exist” is his act of becoming nothing and refilling with God, becoming a part of God. Which is what the songwriter Weiss has truly tried to do in his personal life. He’s never been a man of materials, and there’s rumors and stories of him living in communes and contracting lyme disease from dumpster diving. He does his best to be as ascetic as possible.

With regards to its simplicity, mewithoutYou has always been built around Aaron Weiss’s words much like Primus is built around Les Claypool’s bass. They’re the featured instruments and so their songs tend to be give those words enough room to fit and to be played with–I’ve seen this band twice and I’ve never heard him sing a song the same.

Within me, this song strikes a deep chord. It came out at just the right time in my life (2006–senior–hopeless romantic–lost poet), and managed to reach deep into my spiritual life and shake it like a misbehaving hoe. This song, combined with John 9, really changed my perspective on what it meant to be human–that I didn’t have to have everything perfectly crafted, that I too was born blind and that God’s purpose will reveal itself one day. One day.

It Comes At Night–Oh, wait, I guess not.

There’s a scene early on in the film that truly shows why it kinda sucks. After trying to break into Paul’s house, Will subsequently gets tied to a tree and left outside overnight. That’s when I started to think that the big reveal would be made–that there’s something in the woods that they’re trying to get away from.

But nothing happens to Will that night. Nothing at all came at night which is a goddamn disappointment. If nothing else, I was expecting dread-based horror set in a house in the woods. Instead, it’s a survival drama about two families at odds with their needs and their niceties. It’s about staying healthy amidst a devastating plague, not some type of monster. And, maybe if I had gone in with those expectations, I would’ve enjoyed the film more.

As it stands, though, I really didn’t enjoy It Comes at Night. The visual aspect was very paint-by-the-numbers and devoid of much of an imprint. It didn’t seem like inspired or excited filmmaking in anyway. Joel Edgerton, who’s a pretty good actor (he tore the roof off of Midnight Special) and who’s grown beyond the Sam-Worthington-Fill-in status that he started his career, phones it in while the cast of lesser-knowns lineup and follow suit.

It didn’t seem like I wasn’t the only one who felt that way: the crowd jeered at the end of the movie, with one guy shouting, “That was bullshit!” Indeed, sir, it was.

Wonder Woman Review

I’ll be the first to admit that I’m actually a fan of the DC Extended Universe thus far. The movies have been kinda crappy but I really appreciate how willing they are to hand over a film to someone and allow them to fail. I mean, they let Zack Snyder make an R-Rated, 3 hour, Batman movie so it’s definitely in my interest to see what other filmmakers do with that kind of leeway.

So far, though, none of the movies have lived up to it. Suicide Squad is damn near unwatchable and Man of Steel is pretty but rather dull. The one outlier is Batman vs. Superman. I absolutely love that film for some reason. I just think it’s got some of the best action sequences I’ve ever seen though, true, there’s not enough Batman on Superman action.

That was so far, this is now. With Wonder Woman, Warner Bros. and DC finally made a movie that wasn’t an outright clunker. The action sequences are well choreographed, the script is well written. It’s an entertaining origin story–which is incredibly tough now that we get origin stories every year (the latest being Dr. Strange).

The characters presented actually mattered and they played up the whole fish-out-of-water scenario that the fact that Diana was completely invulnerable didn’t cross my mind. She still seemed to susceptible to bad things happening to her even though she shows time and again that she can destroy the shit out of anything.

It’s also not as dark as the other films in this universe. There are quite a few laughs and there isn’t this weird gray laying over everything like a dour cloud. Instead, there’s a lot of bright reds and blues–owing a lot of that to the costume design which always found a way to make her pop into the foreground of every scene she’s in.

My hope is that this is a course correction for the studio and not a one-off really good movie from the people behind the DC films. It seems like it’ll be getting better now that Joss Whedon is stepping into the fold.

 

On Bear vs. Shark

I first heard of Bear vs. Shark from a girlfriend I had years ago. She played them for me as we drove around Barstow Community College. I was instantly hooked. They had the blend of rhythm and screams that I love so much. They’re in the same vein as At the Drive-in and Hot Water Music: super noisy but with a keen ear for solid jams and a songwriter who still crafts his lyrics in spite of the fact that they’re unintelligible most of the time.

The big fat rain cloud over all of this, though, is that they only ever released two albums. It leaves you wanting, dying, for something new while simultaneously finding newness in the work they did release.

I quit.

After coming to the conclusion that I hate cigarettes, I quit. They’re bullies, they’re gross, they inconvenience everyone, they’re expensive. The list goes on and on and on. It’s something only now I’m realizing: That my knowledge of these detriments has always had a “Yea, but…” attached to it.

But, anymore, I’m so sick of their shit and how they had overtaken my life. It’s bonkers to think that it dictated my preferences in places to go, especially. Like, any location with a smoking patio was automatically a better option than one without. I even developed a strategy for when to smoke during baseball games (on offense if they’re winning; on defense if they’re losing).

This is gonna be really difficult but I know this new attitude will definitely help. Because, before, I had such a love affair with smoking. I’ve dealt with suicidal ideation quite a bit and the idea was always that I was taking days off the back end end in order to soften the blow of today. But then I’ll go and spend time with my family and I’ll realize that I want to live so badly. I want as much time with them as possible. And so the blow of today is already softened by being around great people. It’s different now. It all matters more somehow and I’m desperate to experience it.

So this is gonna suck. It’s gonna be a longform fight against the urge to give in to the addiction. I have the patch, I have gum, I may or not get a vape at some point. More than anything, I have the Words–I’m gonna try my best to write my way through this. But I think it’ll finally stick somehow. There’s only one way to find out, I guess.

Bleeding Edge Review

What I love most about Thomas Pynchon is that everything he writes revolves around stuffing everything he knows about life into one work. David Foster Wallace and Infinite Jest. Don DeLillo and Underworld. PT Anderson and magnolia. David Lynch and Inland Empire. For most creatives, this type of work is a one off. For Pynchon, it’s a recurring theme.

While being a Pynchon fan, I must admit that I haven’t been able to finish Gravity’s Rainbow (by about page 632, the book had exhausted me to the point that I didn’t read anything for another six months) and Against the Day (I simply got lost in the book somewhere and, after re-reading 200 pages trying to re-orient myself, got lost again. Basically, the book is really goddamn difficult.). I intend to start them over and finish them one day but they’re definitely a lot to handle.

Bleeding Edge is not that type of Pynchon. Bleeding Edge Pynchon is far more lucid with far fewer characters. Like with all of his works, you’re along for the ride. But, unlike the aforementioned where you’re usually just tear-assing from character to character and scene to scene, in this iteration of Pynchon you know where you’re headed, who’s driving, and who’s in the car with you. They do have this in common: You never quite get there. More than anything, Bleeding Edge is a companion piece to the Crying of Lot 49. They’re both about, as the tagline for Inland Empire says, “A Woman in Trouble.”

Pynchon stuffed all he knew about 9/11 and the dotcom crash and New York (this book almost exclusively takes place in one city which, against his other works, is really fucking weird) of the time into this book. It starts in the spring of ’01 and ends in the spring of ’02 in a fairly linear fashion (again, weird). Quite frankly, I had been led to believe that it ended in the moments leading up to the attack. If that were the case, he could’ve ended it with “A screaming comes across the sky.” Regardless, it winds up being that I really enjoyed what he had to say about the whole ordeal and living in Manhattan at the time and the way it affected people’s lives. If it had ended any other way, it would’ve felt off-putting and forced.

“But do you love it?” Isn’t that the eternal, burning, question. And, honestly, yes I did. It’s my second favorite book of Pynchon’s behind Vineland. Part of the reason why is that I was alive to witness and experience this whole period of time. Granted, I was only 12 or 13 but that’s old enough to know where I was when the towers fell (awoken by my mom, seeing it on her bedroom TV, being outright confused, having my hope shaken for the first time in my life) and cognizant of the fallout and conspiracies. That is to say, I understood a whole hell of a lot more of this book than I typically do of his works.

The setting and references were also the biggest thing holding me back from reading it. I was deeply worried it’d come off as an old man riffing on young culture. Instead, it’s Pynchon at his best. He touches on all the milestones and hits and media and oddities of the time. The protagonist, Maxine, has two young boys which allowed him to revel in it.

My Pleasure, It’s Guilty: “Thumbs” by Sabrina Carpenter

[Sometimes, there are songs that are so deeply infectious and fun that you just can’t say no to them despite what your judgment screaming out “This is Christawful! What are you thinking!” This is one of them]

If you’ve ever listened to a Dodgers game on the radio, you’ll know they play some weird-ass shit sometimes coming back from commercial breaks. It’s fun getting to hear Charley Steiner transition back into the game over some heavy-thumping rap, really, but sometimes they like to tie the theme of the song into the goings-on of the game.

In this case, the Dodgers were playing pretty bad baseball on the offensive side, having left what felt like 30 men on base through the first few innings. And so when they came back from break, with the Dodgers coming up, I got my first taste of Selena Carpenter’s ridiculous-ass “Thumbs.” Because, obviously, leaving scoring opportunities all over the field like dog shit in the backyard is very much a form of twiddlin’ them thumbs (skiddly dee dum dum).

And the song straight-up stuck with me. Its ridiculous hook and bouncy beat had worked their way through my porous membrane of musical cynicism and proceeded to sit on my face and wriggle for the next few days–through which I resisted the urge to further discover just what the hell this “Thumbs” song was all about until I finally threw up my hands and said, “Okay, let’s get down with this.”

From reading the lyrics, which usually isn’t a good idea when it comes to guilty pleasure songs, it’s apparently, ostensibly, about complacency and the onset of ennui that comes thereof and fighting back against it. Or something. It’s kinda also muddled nonsense.

My favorite part of the song is the 6/8 breakdown toward the middle where she really drives home the whole “Don’t believe everything you hear, you do you boo boo” theme of the song. It’s a nice few seconds before she gets back into repeating the chorus.

It’s a fun-as-fuck song but it definitely has a short half-life for me as with most guilty pleasures (except for HOFers like Cherub’s “Doses and Mimosas” that just went ahead and became a part of my playlist). I’m sure I’ll be sick of it shortly but, for now, it’s a fun song to dance around in my panties to screamin’, “I’m a liberated motherfucker!!”