Friday, February 24, 2006

(Team) George Bush is a Genius

The whole George W. Bush presidency has been a series of increasingly awful things that he continues to get away with. It's so disturbing that you really have no choice but to laugh at it, and unfortunately, that's what most liberals do. As liberals laughed at the idiot president, the conservative right gradually reshaped this nation, and even though people may say he's stupid, George W. Bush was the perfect choice to be president.

Now, it's impossible for an outsider to really know what goes on behind the scenes, if Bush himself is a clueless patsy being manipulated, or someone who's so smart that he created that image precisely to create that perception.

Back in 2000, Bush was a joke, his misspoken phrases the stuff of a thousand forwarded e-mails, let right from the beginning, the ideas that would eventually cause this country so much harm were there. When the 2000 campaign was starting, Bush was seen as the frontrunner in the Republican party, at least until New Hampshire, when John McCain won the crucial first primary. Of course, in 1996, Pat Buchanan had won that primary and gone on to subsequent defeat, but McCain was a much more likely candidate than Buchanan.

McCain was campaigning as a reformer, comparing himself to the Rebel Alliance, and even using the theme from Star Wars as his theme song. At the same time, Bush was using his tagline "compassionate conservatism." After being beaten by McCain, it was pretty clear that team Bush was not happy, and thus they went to work utterly destroying him. In one of the moves that's so ridiculous it's funny, Bush decided to paint himself as an outsider, and used the tagline "A Reformer with Results," copying McCain and then attacking McCain for being part of the political establishment. Bush claimed that he was stronger on issues like the environment than McCain. This recalls stuff like his "Clear Skies" initiative, which lifted the restrictions on industry. Bush was the son of a president, he was more establishment than anyone, but he still painted himself as an outsider bringing the hammer of reform on a corrupt government, and people bought it.

In some respects, the idea of McCain winning was a bit unlikely, because of the soon to be pronounced blue state/red state divide. New Hampshire was more likely to support a reform candidate than the South, and Bush played to what would soon be firmly entrenched as his base. Bush won the primary by utterly destroying McCain in a very negative advertising campaign, by just taking what people liked about McCain and claiming it for himself.

At the time of the general election, there was still the strong perception that Bush was an idiot, not someone to be taken seriously. Rather than being a negative, this became the Republicans' greatest asset, being underestimated. What Bush combines is populism and elitism. He is simultaneously seen as one of the boys, an ordinary guy, while in actuality he is from one of the wealthiest, most powerful families in the country, and was being used as basically a frontman for conservative business interests.

So, when it came to the debates, the Republican machine created the impression that Al Gore was one of the greatest debaters in the world and Bush was an idiot who could barely string a sentence together. They put their people around saying things like "We're going to concede this one, no one can beat Gore." Then when Bush is able to coherently string a sentence together, it's seen as a moral victory for him, and the debate is ruled a draw.

One of the big things to come out of this debate was Gore's visible disgust with what Bush was saying. People said this was arrogant, ignoring the fact that the Bush campaign completely savaged McCain, and would later do much worse to Kerry. The other thing that was joked about was Gore's lockbox for the budget surplus. He called Bush's plan to give massive tax cuts to the top 1% of the country a "risky scheme," and instead proposed to put the money in a lockbox to use for social security down the line. Considering how things turned out, Bush's tax cuts were clearly more than a risky scheme, they were one of the dumbest budget decisions ever made. If the democrats weren't absoultely incompetent, they would have been able to show people that Bush is taking their money and giving it to rich people who could never spend all the money they have. People are literally buying tax cuts from him, and by today, the idea of a budget surplus is a distant memory, and with massive deficits, it's unclear how we'll support all the people going onto social security in a few years. Wouldn't it be nice to have that money in a lockbox?

And by the time we got to the general election, things got even more ridiculous. The 2000 election was one of the low points in this nation's history. Bush quite literally stole the election. Because his brother was in charge of voting in the state, could anyone honestly expect a fair assessment of things down there? The most ridiculous thing was when people said that Gore was being whiny by requesting additional vote counts. The Bush team presented the idea that just settling on him as president was what the nation needed, as if going another few weeks without the election decided would throw the nation into anarchy.

So, Republicans created the idea that they had won the election, and Gore was just being a sore loser by seeking a recount. This is classic policy, deciding the truth in advance and then just using whatever's needed to make it fit. The Supreme Court decided that election and it's sad that the vote of 9 people counted for more than the rest of the people in this country.

9/11 became the iconic moment of the Bush presidency, and a lot of people who didn't initially support him, got behind him then. At the time, that pretty much nullified ill feeling about the 2000 election and put the country together. However, I don't see how Bush's response to 9/11 was particularly good. He went to the wreckage with a firehat on, there's noting courageous about that, it's not like the terrorists were going to come back and attack him there. The way the media sold it, it was like he scurried into the towers before they collapsed and rescued some people.

And in the post 9/11 period, Bush did everything he could to assist his corporate friends, and as recent memos point out, on 9/11 itself, they were already planning the invasion of Iraq, using this national tragedy as a justification for enacting their policies, and at the same time, constructing a new political paradigm for the nation.

The critical thing after 9/11 was the construction of the idea that to not support American aggression was to be anti-American, to oppose Bush's policies was to be a traitor. This was evident in the Dixie Chicks controversy, how could having a difference of opinion mean being anti-American? Isn't the whole point of freedom having the option of doing and saying whatever you want? But as constructed by Bush, it's an us vs. them, the "free world" vs. the axis of evil.

While this was happening, he put through the absurd tax cuts that led to today's major budget deficits and started the war in Iraq, a conflict based completely on lies. I can understand the desire to go to Iraq and defeat Hussein, if they had sold the war as that, then people would at least have been able to make a legitimate decision. However, they presented Iraq as an urgent threat that needed to be dealt with before they attacked our nation with their WMDs.

Now, I don't understand how a country with the largest collection of weapons in the world can honestly say that the fact that a country has chemcial weapons is justification for attacking them. If two planes flown into a building is justification for attacking multiple countries, what would having your country invaded and bombed repeatedly be justification for? Honestly, if Iraq dropped a nuclear bomb on us now, could you honestly say that they weren't justified in doing so? I wouldn't be happy about it, but considering the way we've acted in the past few years, it's impossible to play the innocent victim act.

In 2004, Bush had started a war that was fast becoming a second Vietnam, thrown the budget to hell and stripped the nation of its rights, and yet he was still elected. Why? It's because the Republicans played such a good game.

The first mistake the Democrats made was choosing the utterly lifeless John Kerry as their nominee. I didn't want to vote for him, and in choosing such a non-person, they made the election about George Bush. The Republicans ran with this, completely controlling the playing field. They put Kerry on the defensive and by controlling the terms of the debate, ensured that he couldn't define his own identity.

This election is where I have to really respect the Republican campaign team, they play the game so well, you can only wish they were working for good. From the moment they invented the "flip flop" charge, they completely handicapped Kerry because any deviation from old positions was treated as a flip flop. This ties in with the completely flawed Bush idea that changing your mind, based on new assessment of the facts, is a weakness, and that you have to charge forth, never changing course. You can never admit a mistake for to do so is weak. That's how Bush thinks, and when he said that his greatest mistake was trading Sammy Sosa, he made this crystal clear. The man either saw no mistakes or was carefully tailoring his public persona to create this idea of a decisive, sure leader, while Kerry was a flip flopping, liberal who would rather talk with the terrorists than bomb them.

The fact that they used the idea that Kerry's idea of a more sensitive war on terror as a negative says so much about their mindset. Wouldn't understanding people be more likely to win the "war on terror" than bombing people, and creating more people who hate us. First, the idea of a war on terror is ridiculous, it's like a war on death. You're not going to win, terror isn't like the Nazis, there's no central place, all it takes is one guy, and you can never be truly safe. That's a fact of life. But, the best way to stop terrorism is to get to the core of the issues that create an anti-American mentality.

Of course, Kerry didn't really help his cause with his "I voted for it before I voted it against it" comments. His greatest problem was that he didn't present a clear alternative to Bush. His view on the war was basically, we're in it already, so there's nothing we can do. The democrats needed someone who would really say "This war was a crime" and perhaps Howard Dean could have done that, but he was criticized for being too angry. When Bush is doing the stuff he's doing, people should be angry.

Anyway, Kerry allowed himself to get played. The whole Swift Boat Veterans for Truth business was ridiculous, Bush was discrediting a veteran, the very people he's supposed to be supporting, and people were attacking Kerry for being anti-Vietnam. Honestly, people who didn't oppose the Vietnam War are the ones who should have been under fire. Kerry saw what the war was doing and opposed it, that makes sense, and it took a lot of guts for people who did everything they could to avoid going to war to criticize John Kerry's military service.

The problem with Kerry was he never really stuck it to Bush. The man was assaulting him, calling a coward, a bastard, and Kerry just took it. Why couldn't he just go at Bush with the same furor that Bush attacked him with. Call the lead up to war a lie, say the WMDs were made up, hell, make something up, it doesn't really matter, just attack the guy with fury. Instead at the convention, Kerry drops "Saying there are weapons of mass destruction in Iraq doesn't make it so. Saying we can fight a war on the cheap doesn't make it so. And proclaiming "Mission accomplished" certainly doesn't make it so." This sums up the Democrat point of view, dropping these allusions to events. You need to say "George Bush made up weapons of mass destruction to send our country to war and thousands of people have died as a result. Every coffin that comes back from Iraq is there because of George Bush's fiction." And this would be a perfect opportunity to show the images of the coffins from Iraq, confront people with the reality of war.

Bush's genius in fighting the war in Iraq is to completely disconnect the country from the fighting. I have no clue what it's like over there because we never see it. It goes on, but we don't hear about people dying. The government learned from Vietnam, and as a result, a war is being waged in secret, with no end. Besides the lives, the cost in dollars is absurd, I don't want my tax dollars being spent to kill people.

George Bush's speech at the Republican convention tells you a lot about how he plays the game. Here's a telling excerpt:

THE PRESIDENT: "Wait a minute, wait a minute: To be fair, there are some things my opponent is for. (Laughter.) He's proposed more than two trillion dollars in new federal spending so far, and that's a lot, even for a senator from Massachusetts. (Applause.) And to pay for that spending, he's running on a platform of increasing taxes -- and that's the kind of promise a politician usually keeps. (Laughter.)

His tax -- his policies of tax and spend -- of expanding government rather than expanding opportunity -- are the policies of the past. We are on the path to the future -- and we're not turning back. "

George Bush criticizing someone for expanding government spending is where the laughter should have been. It's true that Bush isn't a tax and spend president, he's a spend and spend president, like a person maxing out his credit cards, he just doesn't care how much money's available, he's going to spend what he can and leave others to sort it out. The brilliance of this plan is that his democratic successor will get criticized for budget mismanagement, allowing the Republicans to take back the White House in the future and criticize Democratic excess.

The other telling thing is the way Bush and Conservatives completely control the word "liberal." They turned liberal into a dirty word, meaning wanton spending and government expansion, the exact thing that Bush is doing, except instead of spending on weapons, liberals spend on social programs. So, both parties spend, conservatives spend to kill people, liberals spend to help people. Right there's a soundbite Kerry should have been dropping, rather than skittering away from the liberal label, he should have reclaimed it, and redefined conservatism.

What Bush 9/11 Iraq linking tells us is that if you repeat something enough, people will believe it's true, and that's what Kerry needed to do about Bush and his crew. That's what they did with the flip flopper message, reinforce this one image of Kerry to the point that when you thought Kerry,, you thought flip flopper.

This is all aided by the "liberal media bias." By creating this perception that the media is against them, team Bush makes it difficult for any big news outlet to criticize them, because to speak out against Bush would be biased journalism. Considering how little journalistic investigation was put in to the buildup to Iraq, it's pretty clear that, if anything, there's a conservative bias in the media.

The culmination of this was the whole 60 Minutes incident, brilliantly played by the Republicans. The story here is that Bush was very negligent in his national guard service, yet the story became about how Rather didn't fully verify his evidence. So, a very valid point was nullified and turned into a positive for Bush. And then Bush gets defensive about people criticizing his military service, something that's completely ridiculous when you consider the way he attacked Kerry, someone who actually went to Vietnam, a place where you don't really have a choice whether you show up or not. And the same guy that shirked his own military service is sending thousands of people over to Iraq to die.

I wasn't really that surprised that Bush won, his team has reinvented politics and taken manipulation of the facts to another level. This is not a good level, but the Democrats were just embaressing out there, it was like watching Michael Jordan walk onto a neighborhood basketball court and take on whoever was around. That's how incompetent Kerry was, a guy who stood for nothing and couldn't even beat a president who'd made a ton of impeachable mistakes.

And Bush only got worse in his second term. The most notable mistake was in dealing with Katrina. He basically let a whole bunch of people die through inaction, it's really pathetic. And now, Bush is saying "Let's not play the blame game," this is one of the dumbest things I've ever heard. It's like you discover a person's been murdered and say "Eh, he's already dead, so let's not try to find the murderer or anything, it won't bring him back." Yeah, it won't bring him back, but that's no reason to let a murderer go free. Holding someone accountable for their mistakes is not playing the blame game. This is the same tactic they pulled back with the recounts, making it sound like anyone who criticizes what they've done in the past is petty, backwards looking and missing the point. But, you've got to criticize what they've done in the past, because when it comes to future policies, they're going to make up whatever lie is needed to get things done.

It's been an awful presidency, one that's completely changed the way American politics are conducted. This is something the Democrats have to recognize when it comes time for the next election, they can't just sit back and get defined, they have to go out and control the terms of the debate.

Right now, it's looking like McCain will be running for the Republican nomination, and there'd be the temptation to say he won't be that bad, but this is a guy who was utterly destroyed by Bush in 2000, given one of the worst deconstructions I've seen, and then turned around and supported him. Most people say he was doing that to keep his status in the party, but if he's a guy who will compromise his values to do that, he's not someone who should be president. McCain is the opposite of Bush, he presents a really liberal, friendly facade, but ends up sticking with most of the conservative policies.

So, well played Bush. You've really been able to do whatever you want and get away with it. It's only going to be for history to judge the real extent of their crimes, but of course to do that would just be playing the blame game.

Head Automatica: Live!

Yesterday, I went up to Hartford to see Head Automatica in concert. I'm a big fan of their album, Decadence. I first listened to it because the album was produced by Dan the Automator, however, it's not an album masterminded by Automator in the same way that Deltron or Lovage are. But it's still a great album, with really catchy, fun songs.

We got lost a couple of times going there, so I missed the first two opening bands, and the very beginning of Morningwood's set. I got Morningwood's album when I saw they'd be playing and I enjoy it. It's one of those albums that in the future will probably be considered very mid 00s, it doesn't move too far from where the trend for rock bands is now, but that doesn't mean it's not good, and live, they were pretty impressive. Their frontwoman was a really strong presence, at times too annoyingly so, but on the whole they were really solid, fun to watch.

This concert was a great example of the unofficial age segregation at concerts. I would say it was about 2/3 high schoolers, and this was definitely the type of show that I would have went to back when I was in high school. But then when I went to see Doves or even The Polyphonic Spree, it seems to be only people around 25-30. What's the deal, are the bands so different that they produce these very segregated audiences? I don't think there's anything inherent in Head Automatica the album that makes it youth targetted, but in terms of live delivery, it was pretty clear that he was going after this younger demographic. It's not that there were no older people at the show, it's just that they were by far in the minority. I'm sure next week when I go to Belle and Sebastian, it'll be a whole different demographic. Is the music that different? Why can't we all just get along?

Anyway, as for the performance itself, it was fun, but they had a couple of things against them. On the album, the Head Automatica songs are sort of chil, they're rock, but more pop/electronica oriented than really rocking. But played live, everything gets turned up a notch, and the subtleties of the songs can get lost. This is effective for certain bands, like The Polyphonic Spree, who are all about excess, but in the case of Head Automatica, it meant that some of the more textured songs ont he record become more generic rock. The core of the song is still there, and it was a lot of fun to hear "Brooklyn is Burning" and "Beating Heart Baby," which are the most straightforward rock songs, but some of the others lost something in the live translation.

They also played a bunch of new songs, which sounded really good on the first listen, something that bodes well for the new album. However, it's tough when half of the songs they play in the show are ones that the audience hasn't played before. I think my biggest issue with the show was the fact that they basically just played the songs as on the record. There were only a few extended instrumental parts where the songs were altered to suit live playing. I much prefer when a band expands the songs from the record into something else for the live performance. So, the dueling guitars section here was great, and seemed to go over really well with the crowd, they should have brought out more of that.

So, it was a fun show, but not one of the best I've been to. I won't compare it to The Spree, that's just not fair, but a band like The Raveonettes really expanded and upped the ante on their songs for the live performance, while Head basically just played what was there.

Monday, February 20, 2006

Apocalypse Now

I watched Apocalypse Now for the first time back in 2000 or so and really liked it. It's been a fixture on my top 100 list, a really strong cinematic experience. Yesterday I watched the film for the second time, this time the Redux version, and it was an absoulte revelation. In the years since first seeing it, I've gone through a major change in the way I view films, and this is the sort of film that's definitely benefitted from it.

I'm not usually a big fan of war films, which isn't a problem here, because it's not a war film in the traditional sense. The war is a backdrop for a study in the way that extreme environments can alter a person's mind. The film has a lot going on in terms of theme, but the most striking thing is the mood. Watching this movie isn't so much observing events in a story, it's sinking into a mindset, a dreamlike trip down this river, where anything goes. What's happening on screen doesn't matter so much as the visual quality of the images, so a barrage of bullets out of the jungle is more about the lights streaking through the air than the danger our crew is in.

This surreal mood is set right from the incredible opening. It's so simple in its construction, using just dissolves and a perfectly chosen piece of music, but it creates a nearly unparalleled mood. You watch this scene and you're there in Saigon, in the drugged out haze that Willard himself is experiencing.

The film is notable in that even though there are some fairly conventional dialogue scenes, like the office meeting, there's never a sense of normality or safeness. Everything moves forward in this odd dreamlike space. Even in the lengthy dialogue scene in the French Plantation sequence, the incredibly soft lighting and Willard's confused expression makes the words being said secondary to the feeling of lost control. Willard is an almost completely passive hero, just getting carried along, be it literally on the river, in the air with Kilgore, or into bed with the French widow. Because he isn't a traditionally active hero, the film avoids the war movie cliches of the noble hero or even the frustrated GI just hoping to get home. By this point, the civilized Willard has been destroyed, he can't function at home, but at the same time, he hates life in Vietnam. He has no more hope and perhaps what intrigues him about Kurtz is that this is someone who had the same problems he did, and was able to find a solution.

It's certainly been covered enough, but the Kilgore helicopter assault sequence is a near unbelievable piece of filmmaking. It really does seem like they're fighting the war, the explosions, property being destroyed, ten helicopters flying in formation, there's no seams, it feels like you're really there in Vietnam. The sequence is brilliant in the way that it makes Kilgore and his destruction so attractive even when objectively we know that what he's doing is despicable and wrong.

The other really strong setpiece is the last US outpost. This is another scene where the scope of the destruction is astounding, creating this feeling of chaos, the dreamy journey down the river becoming nightmare. Watching the film now I was reminded a lot of what's coming out about the second Iraq war, and also the way that the government is deliberately trying to hide the truth about that war to keep cvilians from understanding just how bad it's gotten. It sounds like there's a similar chaos and uncertainty about victory. The war in Iraq, like the war here, doesn't have an easy victory. There's no army to surrender because the enemy is thousands of guerillas not one overriding entity.

Anyway, this Redux version brings a couple of new sequences that got mixed reviews. To some degree, I think people will find it impossible to adjust to changes to a classic film, no matter how well the changes work. My way of viewing films has changed, so I don't want to do a better/worse comparison. What I will say is that this is a film about a mood, about falling into this world, so criticizing a sequence for bringing the narrative to a halt is in some respects, a bit ridiculous. From a narrative point of view, the two new sequences are either unnecessary or actively harmful to the progression of the film, but in terms of building mood and feeling, I think they're both effective and I'm happy to have Redux on DVD rather than the original version.

The Playboy bunnies helicopter sequence is a bit odd in that the bunnies seem to have no problem prostituting themselves. The way I saw it is that they're completely drugged up at this point, hence the disconnect between what the men are doing to them and the things they're talking about. So, the playmate of the year going on about her loneliness and feelings of degredation while at the same time being used for sex is a result of the fact that she's numbed herself from the world as a way to get through her experience in Vietnam. I'd imagine the guys transporting them either got them the drugs or actively drugged them against their will as a way of getting the fuel. The bunnies are much like Willard in the beginning of the film, numb and detached from the world. It's not an essential sequence, but I think it's an interesting mood and feel and I'm glad it's back in the movie.

French Plantation is a longer sequence and if I were to re-edit the film, I would cut out at least half the dialogue from the owner, he talks about some interesting things, but it does grind the film to a halt. However, the scenes are beautifully shot and I feel like Willard's encounter with the widow reinforces his feelings of helplessness. He just moves along doing whatever comes to him, and his encounter with her is part of this. This is all really good looking stuff, great photography and for that reason alone, it's worth seeing.

One of the major contributors to the film's atmosphere is the excellent score by Carmine Coppola. A lot of people call the synthesizer stuff dated, but I think it's timeless, the quality of the sound creating this really odd feeling. It reminds me a lot of the synth work in Blade Runner, used right the synth can build a really alluring atmosphere. Used wrong, it's "Axel F," but that's not the case here. There's something otherworldly about the synth here and I'd love to see people bring this sound style back.

Anyway, the whole film builds up to Willard's confrontation with Kurtz. Coppola does a great job of building suspense about who this guy is and even though I'd already seen the movie, I was still really excited to finally get to Kurtz and see him again. I love Dennis Hopper's role, playing off his crazy hippie image in a really hyper performance. He's a lot of fun to watch.

Brando himself is right on the line of self parody, but I think his performance is masterful. His Kurtz is someone who's so gone from civilization, his godlike status in the village fueling his delusions about how enlightened he's become. In reality, he hasn't found the answer, he's just found a place where the questions don't matter anymore. Watching him, Willard is unsure whether Kurtz really is the messiah or whether he's just crazy. Willard is someone who's so passive that he basically waits for Kurtz to approve of his own death before he's finally ready to perform the murder.

The return of "The End" signals the beginning of an absoultely bravura sequence. Willard emerging from the swamp is one of the all time great movie images and the subsequent return to savagery during the murder sequence is all brilliant. As before, the use of "The End" transforms the sequence into something even greater than the sum of its images, it's one of the all time great uses of a song to score a film.

The ending is a bit of an anti-climax, after the superlative murder stuff. Willard just leaves, but for the character it makes perfect sense. He doesn't have the initiative to take over as king there. He waits for a mission, gets one, completes it and then returns. You could argue that he returns because he knows that if they took out Kurtz, they'll take him out too, but ultimately what matters is that he rejects Kurtz's grandiose beliefs in favor of a desire to just keep himself alive. He isn't at home in civilization or at war or at nature, he's been destroyed by the experience in Vietnam and even his own kingdom can't make up for it.

I think Kurtz's basic point, that the Vietnamese win because they're fighting for something, while everyone in the American army is just waiting to get home, makes a lot of sense, and also applies to Iraq. If you know that you're not really fighting for anything, are you going to put your life on the line, or just try not to get killed? Kurtz used to have that commitment but he recognized the futility of fighting a war that the soldiers weren't fully committed to and as a result holed himself up in the jungle.

The entire film is a movement from order and civilization to the savage chaos of the ending. That's why I could see problems with the French Plantation scene, because it breaks that flow. Intact, it would indicate Willard's detachment from the civilized world. This space feels alien now, while the jungle is home. In that respect he has become like Kurtz, even if his actions at the end indicate that he won't admit it. Everyone in the war has become like Kurtz, it's just that some of them are able to admit it and some aren't.

I've noticed that I tend to really enjoy films that are considered troubled, or excessive, films that draw criticism for their self indulgent. The most recent film that approximates the feeling of Apocalypse Now also drew criticism for a director going too far with a self indulgent, pretentious film, and that's Malick's The New World. The New World is another film that's all about atmosphere, so criticizing it for a weak narrative is completely missing the point of what the film is trying to do. 2046 is another movie that was very troubled and ended up as the synthesis of many hours of footage that were somehow put together into an amazing film. Fellow 1979 release All That Jazz also drew criticism on the same counts as Apocalypse, of self indulgent, pretentious excess.

What all these films have in common is that they represent singular directorial visions and also exist outside the traditional comfort zone for what a film should be. A lot of critics write about film from a narrative point of view, because frequently what's best about a film can't be put into words, it's something uniquely cinematic. And while these films may have a lack of narrative clarity, they have a singular emotional vision, they drop you into a world, they don't tell you about it, they make you experience it.

And in Apocalypse Now that experience can be harrowing and it can be exhilirating, but it all feels unique and unlike any other film out there. I love Kubrick, but to think that he could capture the feeling of Vietnam in England is folly, as Coppola said "This film isn't about Vietnam. It is Vietnam." It's a 200 minute film, but I'd have loved to say in that world for a while longer, and that's one of the best things a film can do, make a world you don't want to leave.

Notable News

So, we've had a few interesting developments in the past few weeks. For me personally, I've bought tickets to a bunch of concerts. This shall be quite the month for shows.

On Thursday I'm headed up to Hartford to see Head Automatica. This is a fantastic electrodancepop band, and their first album was produced by music god Dan the Automator. All their songs are anthemtic sing and dance along compositions, so it should be a fun concert. This will most likely be a younger crowd, more reminiscent of my early concertgoing days, seeing ska bands like Goldfinger and Catch 22. The very first concert I went to was Goldfinger at Irving Plaza in the Spring of 2002, it's still one of my most memorable shows, the crowd was so into it and the whole concert experience was completely new to me. So, hopefully this crowd will be like that and not the stand around too cool for this bunch you run into at a lot of shows.

A week later, on March 3rd, I'll be going to New York City to see Belle and Sebastian and The New Pornographers. These are two of my favorite bands, both featured in the soundtrack to my film Ricky Frost. I saw Belle back in October at the Across the Narrows Festival and it was a great show. I've gotten more into their music since then, and they've got a fantastic new album to draw tracks from. However, I think I'm even more excited for the New Pornos. Their stuff is so fun, high energy, it should be great live. I really want to hear "Testament to Youth in Verse."

And two weeks after that, I'll be going to Irving Plaza to see Jenny Lewis with the Watson Twins. She's the frontwoman of Rilo Kiley, and she's out supporting her solo album. It's a great gospel/country/rock piece with some great harmonies courtsey of the twins. You can download the whole album here, legally. Definitely check out "Rise Up With Fists," that's the highlight of the album.

So, this should be a fun bunch of weeks. I'll have reviews of all the shows as they happen.

In other news out there, I was really excited to hear Grant Morrison talk about his plans for a potential Invisibles catchup book, along the lines of Sandman: Endless Nights. The Invisibles is the greatest work of fiction of all time, a work overwhelming in its scope, idea and character. I think it ends perfectly and is pretty much complete as is, however, I'd love to see Grant go back to the universe, even if only for a series of not particularly important short stories, just to fill in some of the undiscussed time periods, more stuff with Edie, or with what the characters do between 2000 and the last issue in 2012.

Grant has never let me down before, and I'm sure if he chose to go back to The Invisibles, it's for good reason.

In other exciting news, Mike Patton talked about plans for a new Lovage album. The original album is one of my top five albums all time, a perfect blend of 60s lounge stylings with modern hip hop to create a unique timeless album. It's completely unique and features astonishing performances from Patton and Jennifer Charles.

So, I would be thrilled to see a new Lovage album. I really regret not getting to see their live show the first time, so a new tour would be cool, but more importantly, there's still a lot of potential territory to cover with the concept. Apparently, Jennifer Charles has not yet committed to the follow up, I'd consider her essential to the album, and I'm assuming she'll get picked up eventually. Though I imagine there will be some changes, along the lines of the shifts between the first and second Handsome Boy Modeling School albums.

Still, just to get new Lovage material would be worth it. Automator hasn't done an album in a while, so I'd be happy to see anything from him. Patton's Peeping Tom album sounds pretty cool as well, I'll definitely check that out when it's available.

I have a feeling that I'll be waiting a while for both the new Invisibles stuff and the new Lovage album, but when it does arrive, that will be a glorious day.