January 21, 2008


Some bits and bobs from the last two weeks:

Brother, I'm Dying by Edwidge Danticat - Danticat's memoir of two brothers, her father Andre and her uncle Joseph, serves as a beautiful tribute to these two brave men. Joseph raised young Edwidge in Haiti after her parents were able to leave for America, and uncle and niece remained close after she went to the States herself as a pre-teen. Danticat's account of what happened to Joseph when he sought asylum in Miami after barely escaping Haiti with his life is so horrifying I was crying on the bus while reading it. The bureaucracy in place in post-9/11 America seems intent on denying individuals their very humanity, and my heart can hardly bear it when I think how many immigrant stories have a similar ending.

The Entrance Band / Mariee Sioux / Little Wings / Lee Bob Watson / DJ Andy Cabic at the Great American Music Hall - This was a co-announce KALX did with Grass Roots Record Co., (((folkYEAH!))), and Arthur Magazine, and the freak folk fans were definitely in attendance. The sets were fairly short, with Andy Cabic of Vetiver spinning old-timey records in between bands. Lee Bob Watson and The Entrance Band didn't do a lot for me, but Little Wings was an absolute revelation live, all dreamy country in the manner of My Morning Jacket. Mariee Sioux was similarly wonderful, performing alone on stage accompanied only by her acoustic guitar, but she had trouble being heard over the rumble of the conversing hipsters. I was irate at their complete inability to shut the fuck up.

Point of Order / Charge and Countercharge - Two films by American documentary filmmaker Emile de Antonio, the first entries in a series SFMOMA is presenting of his work. These both dealt with the 1954 Army-McCarthy hearings, and de Antonio does a masterful job of distilling the acres of available television footage down to a series of jaw-dropping moments. McCarthy's paranoia and wretched tactics have to be seen to be believed.

Jandek at the Swedish American Hall - Famously reclusive musician Jandek played his first-ever show in San Francisco, and Dave and I were there to witness it. Accompanied by local experimental music superstars Ches Smith on drums and Tom Carter on bass, Jandek played for two hours straight, never once acknowledging or interacting with his appreciative audience despite the perfect intimacy of the venue. His music sounds nothing like anything else you've ever heard, and I sat hypnotized throughout.

St. Lucy's Home for Girls Raised by Wolves by Karen Russell - Russell's strength lies in sketching out eerie alternate realities for her young protagonists in just a few pages, and her stories also mercifully lack the streak of cruelty present in so much contemporary magical realism. There is always sadness, however, and it is sometimes physically tangible as you read, as in the title story that closes out the collection in which a group of human children attempt to overcome the lessons learned from their werewolf parents. Civilization is sometimes not so civil at all, Russell seems to be saying.

A Real Young Girl - Infamous French director Catherine Breillat's 1976 film about the sexual awakening of Alice, the young girl of the title. Alice is simultaneously naive and self-aware, testing her boundaries and indulging herself in some genuinely disturbing fantasies. Breillat aggressively thrust me way out of my comfort zone, but she also mixes in beautiful camerawork and a healthy dose of dark humor, hinting at the perversion that lurks just below the surface of any idyllic scene.

Sweet! - SwapSF's clothing exchanges have quickly become the stuff of local legend, and I made my way to CELLspace to experience one for myself this last weekend. I've attended many awesome events in that Potrero warehouse, and this one was right up there for sheer fun. A DJ spun vintage reggae tunes while attendees politely pawed through tables of clothes organized by type, with runners constantly adding fresh stock from new arrivals. I left with fewer items than I walked in with, and I very much consider that a successful swap.

Rush to Judgment / In the Year of the Pig - Two more fantastic films in SFMOMA's Emile de Antonio series. Rush to Judgment takes on the entire Warren Commission and their assertion that Lee Harvey Oswald acted alone in assassinating President Kennedy, featuring copious eye-witness interviews that I'm sure Oliver Stone studied carefully before making JFK. In the Year of the Pig is more of a collage film than a straightforward documentary, but still artfully lays out the origins of the conflict in Vietnam and begs for an end to U.S. involvement. If the term "search and destroy" doesn't already chill you to the bone, it will after you see this film.


Brother, I'm Dying
The Entrance Band
Mariee Sioux
Little Wings
Lee Bob Watson
DJ Andy Cabic (Vetiver)
Point of Order
St. Lucy's Home for Girls Raised by Wolves
A Real Young Girl
Rush to Judgment
In the Year of the Pig

Posted by nightfall at January 21, 2008 09:10 PM