Wednesday

do i miss my friends

the answer is yes and the result is me listening to edmontonian, rapper and poet laureate, cadence weapon's, do i miss my friends on repeat. so, consider this my attempt to purge my feelings of melancholy yearning (what? too dramatic?).


Tuesday

love letter to werner

dear werner herzog,

i love you, in more ways than i can articulate and finally getting the chance to watch bad lieutenant: port of call new orleans, my love has been pushed to unhealthy limits. in fact, i loved it so much i'm willing to overlook the terrible and (somewhat) misleading title, but we won't get into that.

more importantly, how were you able to elicit the best performance by nicholas cage since leaving las vegas? mr. cage's portrayal of lieutenant terrance macdonagh is hypnotizing; he makes an enduring case for watching the shit heap he builds throughout the film, pile higher and higher. lieutenant macdonagh's shit storm is discomforting, yet entertaining and without a doubt, thrilling.

i'm going to tell everyone, even if you're not into brilliant subtle nuances and commentary on the american justice system, this is a genius detective story that just doesn't stop giving. it's like christmas but a christmas fueled by cocaine, guns and terrible decisions.

ok. i'll stop swooing.

love always,
charity dawn

and now, behold the amazing:

Saturday

merry christmas and all that jazz

as promised:


photo by makito, set design by cynthia and me!

Wednesday

i really enjoy n-grams and bodily functions

i'm not sure what exactly this says about me, but i'm kind of loving google's books n-gram viewer. not only is it totally fascinating but it makes me look like i'm doing smart things when people walk by my computer. little do they know.

basically it allows you to see the frequency in which certain words or phrases have shown up in a collection of books over the years. just type in the years you want to include and the words you want to find and BAM! you've got this amazing n-gram that says a lot about society during that time span. just  look at the n-gram i made. it looks like english speaking society was obsessed with farting, starting in the mid 1650's until the trend tapers to a simmer in the early 1800's. fascinating. and the spikes in the popularity of the word, poop; it really makes a girl wonder.

(yes, i am actually a 13 year old boy)

if anything, this n-gram has taught me that the years between 1650 and the 19th century were probably really stinky and that everyone, likely, ate beans. a lot of them. more importantly, it also points to the fact that i should probably leave the house more.

anyway, i hope i'm not the only one who ends up wasting her youth on google's book n-gram now that i've shared this little secret with you. i think i'm going to take tom for a walk now.

Tuesday

freedom is my own personal hell

so i just finished reading jonathan franzen's, freedom, and if your expecting me to fawn all over franzen's fourth novel like michiko kakutani did in his new york times review, you're wrong.

some of you might be familiar with 'franzenfreude,' a term that came to fruition after franzen's novel was reviewed and highly praised by several big name literary critics. i haven't been able to find the source, but i read somewhere that one critic described franzen's book as one of the best of this century, which is an absurd idea in itself since we are only a decade in (ETA: it was the guardian who said this). franzenfreude became a popular hashtag on twitter when, best selling author, jodi picoult, criticized the current literary scene for favoring white, male writers, saying that if a woman had written freedom it would not have received the praise it had. not long after, everyone and their dog were debating the merits behind this statement and after reading freedom, i'm going to have to agree with picoult.

freedom is an epic novel about the dysfunctional lives of the berglund family. the epitome of your american suburban family, the berglunds harbor a great deal of unhappiness, discontent and sadness beneath the polished surface of their existence.

before i start on my discontent with this book, let me just say that franzen is a master with words. his writing is beautiful and each word flows effortlessly into the next, making the five-hundred plus pages pretty easy to breeze through.

unfortunately, i found the content of this book so eye-roll inducing i think i sprained my eye balls. everyone of the characters is a spoiled pathetic sad sack. not at any point throughout the novel, did i find myself routing for any of the characters. it was difficult for me to tell if franzen wanted me to like his characters because he kept them in this perpetual prison of self-pity and i know that this proverbial prison is sort of the point (har! har! the book is called freedom, oh the irony!) but when was the last time you wanted to spend any significant time with a person who was all 'oh woe me' all the time? never, right?

my second and probably biggest problem with this novel was franzen's depiction of women. every female character in this story is a whiny, selfish, thoughtless dummy (and if they're not, they are solely there for the male characters to stick their dicks in). the men, on the other hand, they have their flaws, but they are also the only people in Franzen's world that apparently have brains or are capable of rational, calculated thought. seriously, i found this aspect of the novel to be so insulting and condescending - there were several times when i walked away from that book, exasperated with franzen's female characters.

the other aspect that annoyed me about this novel was this idea of the american delusion of freedom. franzen gives his characters everything they need to be happy; most of them are white, middle class,  and college educated. his characters have the ability and the financial means to build successful, meaningful lives, unfortunately, most of them seemed so overwhelmed by the options open to them, they became debilitated hollow shells, unable to make any decisions. i get that this is franzen's commentary on capitalism and choice; how in western culture we believe that the more options you have, the more freedom you have but how in reality we are just building little prisons around ourselves made of pepsi cans and nike high tops. i get that. but i think there are way more pertinent effects of capitalism than how isolating it can be to the people who have access to those options in the first place. i feel like this book would have been more appropriately titled, white people problems.

the only thing that saved this book is franzen's writing style. like i said, it's flawless; he is an amazing word smith. however, i think that if a woman had written it, it would have quickly been banished to the chick lit shelves and probably wouldn't have ended up on several top books of 2010 lists (this is a really great article on this theory). in either case, it did not make my top books of 2010 list. so there.

so, who else has read it? what did you think?

Friday

king of glory

i'm up to my armpits in christmas present making, so i'm going to let stephen colbert do the heavy lifting for me today.

stephen colbert, king of my heart, take it away:

Wednesday

do not f--k with the wrong mexican

i recently watched robert roderguiez's 2010, machete, and there are so many things that i loved about it.

first is, danny trejo. i'm sure he was just as surprised as everyone else in the world when he learned he would be playing the lead in a major motion picture. characteristically a supporting actor, trejo has no problem embracing the lead role - simultaneously repulsive, charming and ready to cut your head off if he has to, trejo plays an illegal immigrant and former mexican federale who goes by the name machete. after leaving mexico for the states three years prior, when he was double crossed by his chief in the federale, machete receives an offer to hit a corrupt senator who is trying to have all illegal immigrants deported (or shot and killed). unfortunately (mostly for the people who get in machete's way), things don't go as smoothly as planned.

second is, the right amount of camp. machete is a good example of a film that balances a contentious topic (i.e. immigration policy in the states) with the ability to not take itself seriously. despite having an obvious message on the states' approach to immigration, roderiguez compliments this subject with an absurd and over the top use of fake blood, more beheadings than i can count and lots of poking fun at common hispanic stereotypes. machete can count cheesy, fun AND thoughtful on its list of descriptors.

third is, roderiguez successfully sets out what he meant to do. in an interview, roderiquez states that he wanted to make a hispanic film that would be palatable to a broad audience and people could walk away yearning a little to be like that amazing hispanic hero you just watched save the day on the big screen (he likens this to his experience of wanting to be asian when watching john woo films). like similarly styled films, such as deathproof* or kickass, the audience find themselves routing for the underdog - and not your typical arnold schwarzenegger or matt damon underdogs, they're women, kids or illegal immigrants. it was refreshing to see a mostly hispanic/latino cast, all of who kick serious whoopie cookies.

and lastly, michelle rodriguez and jessica alba (i swear, i never thought i would say that). their acting is terrible (but whose isn't, it's a horror/action film), nonetheless, they both play interesting and smart women. and they're both total ball busters. yea, my favorite kind of character, right?

anyway, i enjoyed this film. i love the horror/exploitation genre so much and it's so great to find one of these films totally hit their mark. if you like this genre or if you just want to see lindsay lohan naked (i know, no one really does) - this movie has it. i believe it's ready for video release on january 4th and there will be an extra violent director's cut available, for those who need things a little bloodier. you should also check out the wikipedia page and read about how this movie came to fruitition; it's had some interesting incarnations that i'm too lazy to write about here.

and now the trailer:


*full disclosure: i have an unhealthy relationship with this film, as in, i love it way too much. if you ask any of my friends about me and deathproof, they would likely laugh and roll their eyes. i spent three solid months (it might be longer) talking about and forcing them all to watch this movie.

Tuesday

christmas collaboration

i'm pretty excited about my christmas cards this year. i've been making birthday cards for jesus since i was fourteen and my mom was forcing me to hand write the greetings in all the christmas cards because, as she said, i have very nice penmanship. i'm not really a christmas person. i'm not a practicing christian, i hate receiving gifts and most christmas carols (not you, brenda lee) make me want to murder. so, i guess you could say, the christmas card making is sort of a nervous tick.

anyway, this year's card is going to be the best one yet. it was a collaboration between my favorite nscad alum and photog, makito, my roommate, baker extraordinaire, cynthia and gingner bread molding specialist, me.

some of my favorite people will get hard copies in the mail, old fashion style. but for all my intertnet friends, you'll get to see it, in all it's wonderful, tasteless, christmas glory, here. december 24, 2010. seriously, if you're not marking your calendars, i don't know what's wrong with you.

here's a little taste of the hard work that went into it:

this is what i do for you people

Friday

man ray, african art and the modernist lens

last week i went to ubc's museum of anthropology. i had never been and heard that it was a pretty decent gallery (and decent it was). i love arts and culture and to have the opportunity to see some of the earliest examples of it is quite humbling. i also gained a lot of appreciation for how much influence/supression first nations culture has had, especially in the canadian north west. unfortunately, though, i found the museum dense and overwhelming. there's a billion things to see, hundreds of drawers to open and inspect, and the exhibit seemed strangely organized. so that's why i'm not raving about it, but i will say, it was worth the $15 and three hours.

i did come across something i wanted to share with you, however.

unbeknownst to me, moa had the man ray, african art and the modernist lens exhibit on. i had, truthfully, never heard of man ray before and the more i read about him, the more shame i feel about this. apparently this guy was very multi-talented and considerably influential; he was a painter and a photographer and gertrude stein had her picture taken by him!

anyway, the exhibit features over 50 of his photographs (as well as several other artists) that are credited as changing how the western world viewed african art. most of the photographs feature african artifacts either alone or with people and some of the actual objects were present in the exhibit. according to the moa website, these photographs questioned the idea that these objects weren't just artifacts but pieces of art. considering most of these photographs are from the 1920's-30's, i'm sure they were challenging not only the concept of african art but were also, very likely, challenging concepts of race and equality.

the only thing that doesn't sit right with me about this exhibit, is the fact that man ray, and most of the other artists featured, were white. without seeing the exhibit, it might not sound that alarming but some of the images were quite sexual (a naked black woman poses seductively with a dark wood carving) or seemingly mocking (two guys in suits, wearing african masks, exaggerating conversation). it's probably the hyper-sensitive feminist coming out in me, but i can't help but wonder: erotisization or validation of african culture? what do you think?

in anycase - the more inappropriate the better, i like to say. the exhibit is good, it's controversial and stimulating (in so many ways). if you live in vancouver, you should definitely check it out. and if you don't, visit the man ray turst site (or google images) and check out his work!

Wednesday

fish tank

so, i really want you to watch, fish tank, a 2009 british film, starring, katie jarvis. unlike a lot of films i see these days, this one has become pretty important to me. not only is it a great film, that i think a lot of people will enjoy, but it's also a really accurate and affecting portrayal of the female experience (which, i don't think is, generally, appreciated or dealt with honestly in cinema).

katie jarvis plays, mia, who is my favorite kind of character - she's fifteen years old, foul-mouthed and willing to break your nose if she doesn't like your dancing. she lives with her young, hot, single mum, joanne, and little sister, tyler. the dynamics in their small essex apartment are precarious to say the least and when joanne's delicious-looking and apparently sweet-hearted boyfriend moves in, things take an interesting turn.

what's particularly moving about this film is that it captures a particular moment, that i think a lot of women experience at some point in their lives. director and writer, andrea arnold, perfectly depicts the experience of first realizing that most of your value, as a female, is placed on your sexuality. arnold shows how women come to understand that their bodies are wanted and how that feeling can often being validating and/or violating. there are several interpretations of this throughout the film, each one is as subtle and unique to it's experiencer, as real life.

i loved this film. and so did everyone else, apparently. it won several awards including, the british independent award, for best director, as well as a cannes jury prize. so if that's not enough to convince you to watch this film, i don't know what is.

Tuesday

putting the fun back in funk

initially i was just going to post about my new favorite ear candy, sharon jones & the dap-kings, but after spending some time on their record label's website, i'm just going to have to focus on daptone records, because i simply couldn't decide which of their artists to share with you first.

so here's the deal - my friend, mike, who i consistently depend on for music recommendations, recently introduced me to sharon jones & the dap-kings. a nine piece collective from brooklyn, new york, sharon jones & the dap-kings are subtle, soulful and reflective of a musical era long since passed. if you like the sounds of james brown, the shirelles, or early gladys knight, then you will love sharon jones & the dap-kings. i highly recommend you check out their latest release, 'i learned the hard way,' which was recorded on an old ampex 8 track, giving the album an authentic anaolog sound so familiar in my old motown favorites. here's a little video sample of what you are in for:


hard to believe it was recorded in 2009, right?!

when i told mike i was going to do a blog post on sharon jones, he suggested i also look into daptone records, jones' record label. when he suggested this, i really had no idea that i would spend the following 72 hours downloading and listening to a majority of their artists. so. many. great. artists!

so let me introduce you. daptone records is an independant soul and funk record label, located in brooklyn, new york. run by gabriel roth and neal sugarman, daptone records most of their releases in their customized recording studio and only record on analog tape - maintaining that pure analog sound you heard in the sharon jones song.

aside from sharon jones, there's also naomi shelton and the gospel queens, who have quickly sung their way into my heart. they are less gospel and more soul, and naomi's gravely, deep voice (reminds me a little of nina simone) is a great juxtaposition to the gospel queens' silky smooth harmonies and back-up vocals. their album, 'what have you done, my brother,' is a solid and strong 45 minutes worth of listening. here's a sample of naomi's power:


additional favorites from daptone records include, pax nichols & the netty family and the budos band. both these bands are completely instrumental and are as fun as funk should be.

daptone also has another project, como now, that is definitely worth mentioning. in 2006, daptone went to a small rural town in mississippi and placed an ad in the newspaper, inviting singers to come down to a local church and record traditional and original gospel songs. i haven't listened to the entire album yet (only the samples in the itunes store) but it sounds like an amazing listening experience. the daptone records website also has the como now story in video format - i've just started watching the series of videos but i'm already enamored and can't wait to finish. it's a truly fascinating story.

i hope you will find something you like at daptone records and please remember that they are an independent label, so show your support and buy their music!