Wednesday, August 31, 2005

Two DVDs about the Flaming Lips
Video Overview In Deceleration
Warner Reprise Video

Track Listing:
•Mr Ambulance Driver (2005)
•Psychic Wall (2004)
•Fight Test (2002)
•Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots (2002)
•Do You Realize? (UK Version) (2002)
•Race for the Prize (1999)
•Waiting for a Superman (1999)
•This Here Giraffe (1996)
•When You Smile (1995)
•Bad Days (1995)
•Christmas at the Zoo (1995)
•Be My Head (1994)
•She Don't Use Jelly (1993)
•Turn it On (1993)
•Frogs (1992)
•Everyone Wants to Live Forever (1991)
•Phoebe Battles the Pink Robots (2002)
•Are You a Hypnotist?? (2002)
•Do You Realize?? (Extended US Version) (2002)

I've never realized it before, but the Flaming Lips are kinda obsessed with death. Not in the way that goth kids are. No, they don't wear black, and they're not really depressed all the time.
No, the Lips realize our time here is limited. And because of that, their music is truly a celebration of life. I could have told you that they were the best live band in the country today (a tremendous understatement) -- but they've been that for years. The visual dynamic of the band has always made for interesting videos, hence the collection VOID. However visually stimulating their live show is, though, what I've kind of always known in the back of my mind was I always felt happy and alive after a show.
There's a reason the Flaming Lips shower the audience with bubbles or stage fog or have giant mirrorballs and sixty people in animal costumes dancing on stage with them. It's not, as they tell you in the documentary The Fearless Freaks, to distract you from the fact that they aren't very good. They really are a great band.
It's because they want to involve the audience in the celebration. They want you to join them and have a great time and feel good. It's their mission
The VOID collection goes backwards in time, peeling back the career of this unique and special bunch of guys from Oklahoma City. You start with the present, gracefully-aged band an backpedal to their spunky days of youthful exhuberance. Then, just to screw around with your psyche, they include three more clips from recent history.
Oddly, though you watch the band members de-age on viddie, there's a remarkable continuity to the atmosphere and mission statement of the band. They might have started skinny, with long hair and wailing guitars. They might have flirted with MTV success. Hell, they might have even been nominated for a Grammy in there. But they really are the same bunch of guys...and it shows.
There's a central theme to the videos, an inherent joy in the music and visuals. Life ends. But, dammit, that's the reason why it's special. The videos really are pretty simple compared to most of the tripe you see on MTV -- even compared to what their contemporaries were doing at the time this collection was begun. They might build a totally fake as all get-out crow's nest and put on pirate costumes. Of just run around their neighborhood in OK City and turn on the camera. The props might be as simple as a hand-drawn sign. For all the weirdness that the lips throw at you, they're never really flashy. They might have done an ad for Intel a couple years back, but the Lips will never sell out. They can't. And that's great. For them, and us.
VOID is a delight, both musically and visually (and for you folks out there with home theaters, all of the videos are remixed in 5.1 surround). Sure, the FLips will probably never be as hugely popular as they deserve. But that's good for the fans, too. Because you can see them in venues where you can actually see the whites of the band's eyes without a telescope -- which makes for a more personal and immersive concert experience. People who only go to see arena and stadium shows miss out on the real point of live music: interaction with the band. It's a hallmark of truly great live shows, and I sometimes wonder if bands like Nine Inch Nails or The Rolling Stones or U2 misses being able to see their audience.
Enough with the comments about live music -- we're talking viddies here, right? Can't interact with the DVD...well, unless you bop around the room like a madman. But then you'd be a geek, and you're not one of THOSE, are you? Well, if you are, there's more to love here. Like I's remixed in surround. You get more immersive, more expansive sound to pogo to when the clip for "She Don't Use Jelly" comes on. Just close the drapes before you do it. The neighbors will think you're some kind of weirdo. God forbid the neighbors think you're a weirdo.
My one disappointment with the collection -- and it's slight -- is the censoring of the UK video for "Do You Realize??". I realize they'd have to put some kind of label on it that there was unrated, uncensored footage of naked breastesses in the video and that then they might not sell a million billion copies of the DVD. Because, of course, if you see a boob you might have a nervous breakdown. Or society could just fall apart right there. Boobs are bad. (Of course, it's legal for women to be topless in public in Ohio. But, we're a state of savages and mountain men.) Hmmm. This sounds like material I've covered here already. I'll shut up, then.

The Fearless Freaks
Director: Bradley Beesley
Shout Factory

Yeah, we're discussing the Flaming Lips again.
And yes, I know the DVD came out months ago. It seemed appropriate to discuss both of them at the same time. Don't like it? Why the hell are you reading this site, anyway?
Where VOID chronicles the Lips' history through their music and promotional clips, The Fearless Freaks literally chronicles every seminal moment of the last 15 or so odd years of their existence. Bradley Beesley was a friend of the band, and his behind the scenes footage, concert archives and interviews with the band total over 400 hours. Cutting that down to a 110 minute documentary must have been the next best thing to an impossible task.
Very few bands have ever given a documentarian that access that Beesley enjoyed. Those that have weren't always pleased with the results (Metallica: Some Kind of Monster). While the results aren't really pretty, they're nearly always interesting.
From their early days in Oklahoma City to flirting with success after the release of Transmissions from the Satellite Heart to visionary musical stunts like the Parking Lot Experiment (which mutated into the Boombox Concerts and then into the four CD set Zaireeka) to their contemporary work like The Soft Bulletin and Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots and the feature film Christmas on Mars, the audience gets a fly's-eye view of the band's journey. (Dammit, I wanna see Christmas on Mars soooooo damn bad, too. When's that coming out???)
How many bands truly deal with the fact that one of their members is an addict? How many times have you seen a musician get his works out and shoot up in a documentary? Believe it or not, Steven Drozd actually gets his gear out and prepares a shot on camera while he talks candidly about addiciton. He realizes he's an addict. He realizes it's consuming him. And he's totally honest about it. He explains the drug experience with candor that every damn anti-drug commercial has missed.
Ever wonder how to clean fake blood out of a white suit? Did you ever think a frontman for a band would teach you? Seriously? How many times have you watched a musician clean out his gutters? That's the kind of access you have into their little world. And it's why The Fearless Freaks is a great documentary. Whether you're watching Wayne Coyne's childhood home movies or watching them rehearse in the studio, you get an unvarnished view of the band's life and career almost from the very beginning right up to the present. It's a unique look at one of the more unique bands out there.
There's a second disc included with a few deleted scenes, some live clips and a photo slide show. Not necessarily crucial stuff...but it fleshes things out just enough to make the disc just as viewable as the feature itself. The live clips, of course, are the highlight, but they're just single songs from individual performances. Damned if I wouldn't like to go through Bradley Beesley's archives after watching those (And I will, too. I'm going to stalk him and track him down and feed him pancakes until he relents and gives me total access. PANCAKES, I TELL YAS!).

The FLips are weird. Yes. We get that. But, as Quentin Crisp so wisely said, "The only normal people are those you do not know very well." They might be weird, but you know something? It's tempered with a joy in what they're doing that really carries through to their audience -- be it the listening audience, the live audience, or the people watching their DVDs. Gotta love 'em.

Wednesday, August 03, 2005

Our President Believes in 'Intelligent Design' Now...


This is why I try not to pay too much attention to the news lately.
Our President, supposedly our leader and the head of our government comes out and makes a statement endorsing a scientific policy that's more hocus pocus than hard science.
Can we get Penn and Teller to call bullshit on this? Come on, people!
The concept of 'Intelligent Design' is just a blatant attempt to go back to Creationism and pushing mythology instead of fact. It's great to believe that there's something beyond this existence. I personally like the idea in DesCartes' "Discourse on Reason" that mankind's ability to think rationally and creatively proves that something beyond what we know exists.
However, beyond that, I have very little use for the whole Christian Fundamentalist point of view.
Yeah, that's right. I'm going off on the fucking Fundies again.
Let's think about this...why is it that all of the proponents of 'Intelligent Design' are all people of little or no intelligence? Does it have something to do with the fact that you have to be smart to understand science???
Can someone please explain to me how 'Intelligent Design' is different than the Norse mythology creation story? Or the stories of the Greek or Roman or Egyptian pantheons? How is replacing science and fact with fairy tales and mythological nonsense good for our country?
President Bush should not only apologize for his ignorant and short-sighted comment, he should fund some more SCIENCE. Maybe some stem cell research or the Human Genome we can maybe breed his brand of stupidity out of the gene pool.

Another site to frequent...
My buddy Art's blog

Review: A Guy Goes Into a Bar
a short film by Derek Mahr

2 minutes and 54 seconds. That's it. And fifty seconds of it is credits.
In. Out. No fucking about.
It's an old joke. A dumb joke, but one that still made me laugh, in spite of the fact that I've heard it told before (thanks to one of the local mail carriers), read it in Maxim or Stuff or one of those dopey magazines, and now have seen it rendered into pixelated videe.
Yeah, I laughed. Fuck you. Whatever. I still laugh at dick and fart jokes. I'm a guy. I'm a primitive. Eat me.
My big bitches about the film -- 1) The video encode is super shitty (but you gotta make things small to put 'em online so the poor dial-up saps can still get it in under a day -- stinking bastard dial-up users) and the flat and occasionally jerky cinematography (OK, it's only really jerky when it's walking with the titular Guy -- try a skateboard next time, dude, 'cause handheld and jerky just makes me flash back to every bad shaky-cam movie I've seen). Thankfully, there's some halfway decent editing to cover up most of that. 2) The bartender (Joel Eckman) fidgets way too much...and because of it, there are a few continuity gaffes. Most bartenders are a bit more relaxed anyway, unless they're in a rush.
Two minutes isn't a lot of time to sacrifice watching a short film. And unlike a few I've seen (fucking student films...grrrrrrrr), it had plot, made sense, and wasn't overdone.
Speaking of done, I'm done talking about it. It was only two minutes long, fer chrissakes!

PS, if you're interested in seeing the damn movie, contact him via his LJ. He has it online somewhere...