Friday

the flying troutmans

while contemplating which of my miriam toews books i will bring to her reading for signing, i decided that my copy of the flying troutmans would be perfect since it's a hardcover first edition (i've got to be strategic about these things). only, i hadn't read it yet, and although her reading isn't until may, i can sometimes be a slow reader and often mull over a novel for weeks at a time. so i figured i would get a head start and hopefully be finished in the two months allotted. except, it didn't take me two months to read, it took me three days (my record for reading a whole novel is two). i ate this book up over the past weekend and got cranky if anyone suggested i put it down to join the real world. it was SO GOOD!

miriam toews is one of my favorite authors. not only is she canadian (full disclosure: i'm obsessed with canadian literature) but her stories are everything i love in a good book, dark and sad with a lot of quirky humour. it's, for me, a perfect mix. i was first introduced to her by my fellow bibliophile, natalie jean, who insited i read a complicated kindness, which quickly fell into my list of top ten favorite novels. then she sent me a link to toews' contribution on the website, open letters, which made me fall even more in love (if that was even possible). when i found some of her stories/excerpts on geist, i decided to spend all of my chapters gift cards i got at christmas on all of toews' books.

the flying troutman tells the story of hattie, a 28 year old woman, who takes her niece and nephew on a road trip when the children's mother (hattie's sister) falls ill. its one of those stories that i found myself easily embracing all of the characters; hattie, who is a little lost and suddenly overwhelmed by responsibility, logan, her fifteen-year old nephew who is full to the brim with hopeless angst, and thebes, her eleven year old niece who is happily embracing weirdom all while secretly wishing she hadn't been born. and toews nails the family dynamic, you know the one where you simultaneously love and hate your family members, especially when stuck in a vehicle crossing the country (this is something i am very familiar with having grown up a military brat).

there really is so much going on in this novel and it's so much more than just a book about a road trip. i think in essence, toews is examining the effects of mental illness on those who love and care for the person suffering, in this case, hattie's sister. it is heartbreaking, yet redemptive. trust me, you will find yourself laughing at the absurd things coming out of thebes' mouth one minute and bawling your eyes out over logan description of why he likes to play basketball the next.

yea, just read it.

Thursday

the bakery girl of monceau

i'm sure most of you are aware by now that i'm a sucker for french films. it could be the world's worst french film and i will still devour it like it's fucking godard. it's like my discerning cinematic eye goes blind from love and admiration, which, i guess, is why i'm having a hard time deciding how i really feel about eric rohmer's, the bakery girl of monceau.

i've watched a few of rohmer's other films, and have usually enjoyed them. they tend to examine the complex dynamic between men and women, relationships, and desires. the bakery girl of monceau is not that much different from the other films i've watched, in terms of theme.

filmed in 1963, the bakery girl of monceau, was rohmer's first film and the first in his series of six moral tales. the movie is about a young man who is hankering for this mysterious woman he frequently sees on the street but is too nervous to talk to. when he finally does work up the courage, she declines because of other plans. then, as cruel fate would have it, he stops seeing her around town. in the meantime, the young man begins visiting a local bakery and, everyday, stuffs himself with sweets while making eyes at the young girl who works at there. he eventually convinces the bakery girl to go out with him, however, he later bumps into mystery woman and asks her to go out the same day. now this poor man is faced with the ultimate dilemma, which woman should he choose?

this movie has a lot of things going for it. first, it's french, irresistibly french. second, it's brilliantly filmed. rohmer has a tendency to shoot his films in a similar perspective to how we, as humans, view the world. this means, he avoids close-ups, rarely uses music on the soundtrack and in this particular film, does not use sets, everything was filmed on location. and this style really lends itself to the realistic nature of this story, like, who hasn't been lucky enough to have to decide between two love interests and lord knows i've done my share of obsessing over strangers that i regularly see around town.

unfortunately, the realistic nature of the story is also what irks me a little about this film. it's difficult to discuss this aspect without spoiling the plot but i suppose i can say that by the end of the film it all seemed a little misogynistic, like the young man is simply choosing between coke or pepsi. maybe i was just feeling a little combative-feminist when i watched it but i am feeling a little put off by this film.

i am going to say, you should watch this film. eric rohmer was a very respected filmmaker, not only in french cinema but all over the world. it's also a short film, i think around 20 minutes or so, hardly a sacrifice of time. more importantly, i want you to watch so you can tell me if all the andrea dworkin i've been reading has gone to my head. am i crazy or sane? tell me what you think.

i try not to encourage copyright infringement, so i'm not going to provide a link, but you can watch the bakery girl of monceau on youtube. if you can find it, i recommend renting/buying the criterion collection edition because it has some interesting features.

and for your previewing pleasure:

Friday

the unnamed

two thoughts occurred to me this morning after finishing joshua ferris', the unnamed:
  1. i need to take a break from sad and depressing novels
  2. when matt gets home, i am going to hug him and never let go
the unnamed is ferris' second novel and tells the story of tim farnsworth, a successful lawyer who has a seemingly uncontrollable compulsion to walk. as tim tries to define and understand his strange affliction, his wife, jane, stands by his side, unconditional in her love and support for him.

the unnamed, is heartbreaking on several levels. it takes place over, approximately, two decades and tim's affliction has a tendency to ebb and flow during this time. when an episode comes on, all deals are off and staying still becomes physically impossible. it effects tim's professional and personal life profoundly, so when the condition subsides and tim manages to put some of the pieces of his life back together, it becomes all the more heartbreaking when the compulsion resumes.

the isolation and despair that tim experiences as he moves through this life, that he suddenly seems to have little control over, is agonizing but watching his marriage to jane deteriorate despite her desperate efforts, is the worst. both, tim and jane, struggle to do what is best for each other and their marriage but, as tim's affliction worsens, any hope of living happily ever after quickly fades.

dear god, this book is so sad. david poltz, an editor at slate, accurately compared ferris' novel to, the road, by cormac mccarthy, saying, "the unnamed does for marriage what the road did for fatherhood. its depiction of a happy marriage being shattered is almost unbearable." but, like the road, ferris' novel is moving and will help you, at least momentarily, take a look at your life and appreciate the small things we often take for granted.

i definitely recommend ferris', the unnamed. i just don't recommend you read this if you are sad, depressed, going through a break-up/divorce, falling in love, or emotionally unstable. if you are curious about the tone or feel of ferris' work, watch this video from his website. it's described as, 'the unnamed trailer', and i think it gives a good sense of what this book feels like:


in other literary news, i bought my ticket yesterday for the elizabeth hay/miriam toews reading in may, which i am officially beyond excited for. now i only have two months to decide which novel to have toews sign (since i have all of her books). do you think she would be pissed if i brought all five? 

if you're in vancouver, you can find out more about the event here.

Thursday

californication and my love for marcy runkle

i'm not sure if it was the fact that my mom was so adamant that i watch it or if it was my reluctance to accept david duchovony as anyone else besides fox mulder, but i had been very resistant to giving the showtime series, californication, a chance. however, when matt suggested we watch it one night, i knew it was either that or top gear, so i relented and two seasons later, i'm totally obsessed.

for those of you unfamiliar with the show, here's the deal: duchovony plays hank moody, a well known and respected author who has not penned a novel in some time. originally from new york, he now lives in los angeles, after relocating when one of his novels is made into an insulting romcom. with him he brought his precocious daughter, becca, and his baby momma, karen, who he is separated from when we meet them in the first season. while navigating being a writer (on the verge of being washed-up), a father, and devoted ex to karen (i'm totally aware that sounds like an oxymoron), hank finds himself between the legs of many naked women, often with unsavory consequences.

we just finished the second season and so far i have to say the episodes are fairly formulaic, in that they often consist of a series of unfortunate coincidences that usually land hank in some variation of the proverbial dog house. although i find this a little exhausting, the repetition is compensated by some of the wittiest, sharpest dialogue i've come across in a tv series. the lines that come out these characters' mouths are priceless and so quote worthy. i could watch these characters sit around a dinner table for a half hour and still be adequately amused.

one of the characters that is the most reliably funny is marcy runkle, the wife of moody's agent, who is played by pamela adlon. she is that female archetype that you so often hear me swooning over - tough, loud and a little crazy. every scene she is in will guarantee you laughs and when i learned that adlon used to voice bobby from king of the hill, i fell in love a little more. this woman has the comedic chops to hold this show on her own and if they made a spin off, called the marcy runkle show, or some shit like that, i would be the most devoted fan. here's the best sample i could find on youtube, it is not her funniest moment but it gives you an idea of how amazing she is:


i guess, to make a long story short, i'm saying that even if you're tentative about watching this show, you should give it a chance. and if the comedic writing isn't enough to sell you, the frequent and very hot sex scenes should.

have you watched the show? what do you think?

Tuesday

a nos amour

if you think your family is dysfunctional, you should watch maurice pialat's 1983 film, a nos amour. it stars, sandrine bonnaire, who plays suzanne, a 15 year-old parisian whose family is nothing short of crazy; her father (who is played by pialat) is demanding and aggressive, her mother is a neurotic mess and her brother, who is not only a total polo-shirt-wearing-misogynistic-pilsbury-dough-garçon, he also has an incestuously creepy sense of possession over suzanne. so in order to cope with all of the chaos in her home life, suzanne spends most of her waking life bumping uglies with cute french randoms (and one fateful american), which results in a profound inability to connect with others.

this was the first pialat film i have watched and i will definitely be watching more (if you have any recommendations, let me know). i'm especially curious since the criterion collection referred to pialat as the french cassavetes in their synopsis of a nos amour. that can only mean good things, right?

a nos amour also sealed sandrine bonnaire's spot in my list of most beloved actresses, she is so beautiful and wonderfully detached in this film. it might be interesting to note that this film was bonnaire's debut and it was a daring one at that. it's actually hard to believe she is only 16 in this film. this only solidifies for me that she is an amazing and talented woman, who i can only aspire to be half as wonderful as. i will never get tired of watching her. (note: you should totally watch her in one of my favorite movies, agnes varda's, sans toit ni loi.)

oh. there's also lots of nudity, sordid sex and red wine consumption.

so, if family life has got you down or you're craving a little 1980's french cinema, i highly recommend maurice pialat's, a nos amour. il est très bon! (sorry for the bad french.)

Saturday

matt and kim will kick your a**

i have never really paid too much attention to the brooklyn duo, matt & kim, even though they've been around since 2004, but i am so into this song right now. cameras is off their late 2010 release, sidewalks, which i have not listened to yet, but i am so going to.

it's true that, cameras, is a really great single. the song is solid and a perfect anthem for kicking winter in the butt. the thing is, if it weren't for the amazing video, i would probably not be buyng a matt & kim album off itunes right now.

seriously, watch this video and tell me the magic of music videos isn't alive and well. i'm totally sold.

Wednesday

i have fun

it's february and most of the country in covered in snow. i've been hearing a lot of canadians yearning for the sunshine of summer lately. since i am a mere mortal, i cannot make summer come any quicker. i can, however, share this sun-shiny video with you. go ahead, put on your bathing suit, pull up a seat and torment yourself with best coast's, when i'm with you:

Sunday

just kids

i'm not even going to try and hide my love and admiration for patti smith. it's a pretty well known fact that i revere this woman. i can remember hearing her for the first time. i think my roommate, joe, had put horses on matt's computer and i inadvertently came across it one day, listening to itunes on random while cleaning the house.

so i spent the day listening to horses on repeat; eventually i moved onto her other albums. i learned that she was a poet and artist. i dragged matt to see patti smith: dream of life. since then, i have memorized her discography and often hold patti smith themed days, where i put on my best over-sized white shirt and black pegged pants and recite william blake all day long. and now that i've finished reading her latest book, just kids, i don't even know what to do with myself; i'm even more enraptured with her.

just kids is smith's entrancing recount of her relationship with robert mapplethorpe and their co-evolution into successful artists. and if this rather haunting story of friendship isn't enough, smith's memoir is also a genuine taste of the burgeoning arts scene in new york city, during the late 1960's through to the early eighties. as you read, smith and mapplethorpe, who met on the streets of new york, barely adults, blossom from struggling, tentative amateurs into tenacious, skilled artists while bumping into jimi hendrix, babysitting janis joplin and hanging out with william burroughs.

what i loved most about this book, was smith's flawless style. she is a master of words and tells her story with simplicity and tenderness. this book is so full of love and admiration, it's like every word was carefully birthed out of smith's commitment to mapplethorpe and vice-versa. i loved it and that's my totally biased opinion but apparently i'm not the only one who appreciated its greatness, just kids won last year's national book award, which is sort of a big deal.

regardless of how you feel about smith as a musician, she is a writer first and foremost and just kids is arguably one of her best pieces of work. it's a fascinating portrait of an artist* and the apotheosis of a relationship created by destiny, with new york city at a cultural peak as its backdrop. it's a wonderful universe that few of us will ever get to experience but smith successfully recreates the experience for you here.

sure, it's the first and only book that i've read in 2011 but i'm already calling it a favorite read of this year. i feel bad for the books to follow, they have a lot of live up to.


*sorry, i couldn't help myself.

Thursday

shake it out

i feel like the only thing to say about this video is that it's directed by stephanie clattenburg, it's filmed in halifax and i seriously have been watching it on repeat all day. oh, and that wicked song that won't let you stop moving is by a.a. wallace.

Wednesday

come bust some moves with me and other copyright issues

i had never really understood the appeal of girl talk. until recently, the music purist in me perceived gregg gillis' musical act as armed robbery. known for his musical mash-ups, girl talk, uses unauthorized samples from various songs, everything from black sabbath to lil' kim, to create his music and his only instrument is his laptop. although, gillis has cited fair use as justification for his use of other artists' work, i still considered the thought of this to be blatant copyright infringement and lacking in originality.

however (yea, you saw that coming, didn't you?), a few days ago i came across a thread in my favorite internet forum where people were discussing their favorite music to work out to and there were so many people advocating the heart pumping, feet moving power of girl talk's latest album, all day. when someone noted that the album is available for free on girl talk's website, i thought i would check it out.

and holy crap! i was totally wrong about girl talk. that's right, i am going to eat my words on this one. this album is wild fun. it's like a crowded, sweaty dance floor waiting to happen. and after giving the album a listen, it became obvious to me that girl talk is less about theft and more about honoring some of the world's most notable songs and musicians. girl talk is able to portray this sense of respect for all of these artists he samples, not only by acknowledging them on his website, but in the unsuspecting and unusual mash-ups he creates (mixing aaliyah with janes addiction, for instance). it's like riding 'it's a small world' at disney; by mixing genres that are typically considered at odds with each other (metal and pop, is a good example) girl talk creates a sense of unity within the numerous genres that seems to illustrate, regardless of the type of music you prefer, we actually all listen to music for the same reasons.

i think the greatest thing about girl talk, though, is the fair pricing on his albums. as someone who believes that art should be accessible to everyone, despite your economic situation, and that the music industry's resistance to music sharing is misguided, i love seeing artists reject the traditional notions of charging fans exorbitant sums of money for their music. all of girl talk's albums are available on his website as pay what you can. so, what are you waiting for? whether you're looking for a good album to run to or you're digging for a great play list for your next party, girl talk's, all day, is your answer.

want a little taste? here you go:


in other questionable copyright news, i have been taking advantage of youtube's movie channel, that allows you to watch full length movies on youtube. granted most of the films they have listed are probably/defnitely terrible, they do have a pretty significant list of classics. or, if you're like me and have a sweet spot of campy, science fiction horror films of the 1950's, they have a lot of those too.

i recently watched the 1963 classic, charade, starring audrey hepburn, cary grant and walter matthau, which i highly recommend, as well as the surprisingly effective, carnival of souls. both films are on youtube, so if you find yourself bored one night and you've already had a little dance party with girl talk, go watch some movies on youtube!