Friday, April 28, 2006

In concert

Let's just say that it's been a busy and tumultuous month around here and that alone explains away my lack of new postings. But I'm back in the saddle for now.

So, lately all I've been thinking about is my innate desire to see live music. Where to begin? Ahh yes...
The Austin City Limits Music Festival will officially announce its 2006 lineup on May 11th. The anticipation is driving me nuts but thankfully, many acts have already been confirmed through various sources. To date the list includes:

Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers
The Flaming Lips
Ben Harper
John Mayer
Los Lonely Boys
Massive Attack
The Shins
Iron and Wine
The New Pornographers
Ben Kweller
Son Volt
Thievery Corporation

Doesn't really blow you away, but it's a promising start. So far, I am most excited to see Petty and the Lips but I'm anxiously awaiting the full line-up. After being screwed out of $35 early-bird tickets, I had to fork over $90 for my 3-day passes and the cost has been on the rise ever since. In fact, the only available price range remaining for 3-day passes is now at $115. After those sell-out, that is it. Single day tickets will go on sale at a later time.

I've pretty much ruled out Bonnaroo but I'm still mulling over one of the three Chicago fests this summer: Intonation, Pitchfork or Lollapalooza. Or I may skip all three because Radiohead's US tour is slowly coming together. Thom and co. are reportedly headed to Chicago for two shows on June 19th and 20th! Best of all, the rumor is they'll be playing smaller venues than usual. Tickets go on sale on May 6th and I'll need a small miracle to snatch 'em up.

Local shows on my radar include Tapes 'n Tapes (May 5, The Entry), Secret Machines (May 12, 1st Ave.), Mogwai (May 20, 1st Ave.), The Fall (May 29, Varsity), The Walkmen (June 3, 400 Bar) and Wilco (July 2, Duluth). Probably many more I am neglecting to mention, but either way, hope to see you all at one or more of the shows.

I'm curious how people will be responding to the first Hollywood 9/11 film United 93, which was released nation-wide today. The reviews from critics have been incredible but of course there is a vocal cross-section of the media and public saying 'too soon, too soon.' I don't know a single person who has even hinted at an interest in seeing the film. But as you'd expect, I'll be catching it in the next few days, more than anything because I admire the work of director Paul Greengrass. I will say that I'm relieved to hear it doesn't play as a sentimental, patriotic memorial which would not interest me in the slightest. It'll surely be a harrowing experience but I'm a willing masochist. If anyone has an opinion on the film, I'd be curious to hear it.

Friday, April 07, 2006

Act 2

I have a friend who is currently facing a sizable decision in life. Not life-altering, but significant nonetheless. Minus any additional details, I'll say that that it involved a relationship. Doesn't it always? So being the helpful friend I am, I provided advice to this person that was practical, rational and completely realistic. It was obvious to me how the situation would end (i.e. in disaster and pain for all parties); therefore, I discouraged this person from proceeding further down this treacherous path. No ambiguity. It was all crystal clear to me. I could foresee impending disaster (as could my friend), so it certainly made good sense to help him/her avoid it. But after carefully advising my friend that there was but one logical way to proceed, I had a startling realization: that I am full of shit and completely void of the qualities I strive to achieve in life. This is all a bit vague, I know. Bare with me here. So upon recognizing the hypocrisy of my advice, I abruptly made a dramatic 180-degree turn and offered my friend new and conflicting advice. Pretty much the polar opposite of what I had so confidently told him/her in prior conversations. I said this...
To use a screenwriting analogy, everyone comes to many 1st-act breaks throughout their life. By this I mean, a key moment of decision will be seemingly put upon us much like a hero in a film. This moment is significant enough that what is decided will lead us down very different paths. To simplify things, let's say you have only two paths, two options. Everybody can relate to that...the whole 'fork-in-the-road' scenario. One option is to turn away from this tough decision and take the easy way out, perhaps due to fear, anxiety or simply good-ol' rational logic. We could be talking relationships, careers, anything really. And this is what we all choose probably 97% of the time. It makes sense, right? No one gets hurt. Risk is minimized. Insurance premiums are lowered.

Returning to the screenplay analogy, if a hero in a film were to take this route at the end of Act 1, there would simply be no Act 2. Who would want to watch that? The film would end, the curtains would close, the show would be over. And that is what we do most of our lives, we face the 1st-act break dead-on and turn away, ending the story right there. I'd venture to say that a majority of people live their entire lives without ever having a 2nd act. But what makes movies and stories so appealing to us rational folk is that we are able to live through a character who makes the tough decision, the often irrational choice and dives into the 2nd act that is both unknown and frightening.

So that's it. That is what I told my friend to do, to just fuck it and leap head-first into Act 2. It may end up in disaster, we already acknowledge that. But he/she may also end up much better off than where they began (see diagram). Now just like nearly everyone else in the real world, when I face a 1st-act break, I usually turn the other way. It kills me, though. It is usually fear alone that stands in my way and I wish terribly I had courage to overcome it. That's a real goal of mine. But in any case, I don't always practice what I preach. But damnit, if I am going to give advice to a close friend, I don't want to be the one to encourage the easy way out, especially when it could mean passing up something incredible, something worth experiencing even if it ends up in pain and suffering. I have to believe Act 2 is worth it on its own. So we'll see. It is all very romantic and exciting to consider, however, doing it is another story. But I gave my friend this advice, and I'm sticking to it.

Sunday, April 02, 2006

Much to everyone's surprise, Snakes on a Plane has become the most unexpected cultural event of the year and it won't even be in theaters until August. I imagine most of you by now have heard of this too-ridiculous-to-be-true movie starring Samuel L. Jackson. And yes, Snakes on a Plane, I repeat, Snakes on a Plane is the actual title of the film, no joke. That says it all. But if the title alone doesn't do it for you, just take a long look at this poster and read this succinct description to understand the mounting anticipation.

On board a flight over the Pacific Ocean, an assassin, bent on killing a passenger who's a witness in protective custody, lets loose a crate full of deadly snakes.

Give it all a chance to sink in, and then go to Snakes on a Blog for an impressive array of songs, videos, posters, artwork, t-shirts, hats, etc. all created by excited (and mocking) fans of the upcoming release. Click here for one hilarious example of songwriting inspired by the film posted on Hollywood Elsewhere. The camp-factor on Snakes is incredible, so much so that you have to wonder about the original intent of the filmmakers. Is Snakes the epitome of vacant, Hollywood machinery taken to an absurd extreme or rather a brilliant and deliberate maneuver by Samuel L. and company to mock Hollywood and build a huge groundswell of buzz via the internet? The answer doesn't matter, of course. By now everyone involved with the production, including Samuel L. Jackson himself, is in on the joke and will rake in the cash regardless of how it actually plays. But I do know this, there are Snakes on a motherfuckin' Plane and I'm gonna be there opening day to see 'em.