WRLD: Time travel, ESP, giant ants, great cinema, weird cartoons, road trips, occupied Japan, sun trails, San Francisco, and free funk

Watching

Future Cops
A really weird, so-bad-it's good, early 90's Hong Kong movie based on the Street Fighter video game. Worth watching just for the opening scene. Featuring Andy Lau, Simon Yam, and Jacky Cheung.

Beyond the Black Rainbow
"The movie looks like it was lit by lava lamps, scored on Moog synthesizers, written between bong hits and acted underwater. None of this is meant as praise." - Miami Herald

Phase IV [Amazon, Netflix]
Scientists engage in a battle of wits with some super smart ants. Unfortunately this isn't currently available streaming. The Mystery Science Theater 3000 treatment of this film is fun, and sometimes available on YouTube.

Side by Side [Amazon, Netflix]
A fascinating documentary on the motion picture industry's transition from film to digital. Featuring interviews with David Fincher, David Lynch, Martin Scorsese, and Steven Soderbergh. Highly recommended.

Life Itself [Amazon, Netflix]
Most of us just would have given up and died. Watch the difficult end to Roger Ebert's interesting life in this painful, intense documentary.  The vintage footage of Siskel and Ebert arguing on and off camera is amazing. The love of cinema shines through the hubris at times. This one stayed with me for weeks after viewing.

 

The Criterion Channel on Hulu Plus

For $7.99 per month, there are 900+ Criterion Collection movies available streaming on Hulu with no commercials. Kurosawa. Fassbinder. Ozu. Fellini. Antonioni. Godard. The best entertainment and art education value that you can buy anywhere.

 

Reading

Powr Mastrs 1 - C.F.
"It reads like the dream of someone who spent all night copying art out of the Dungeons and Dragons manuals while watching Yellow Submarine over and over." Volume 1 is out of print, and due to be reprinted in December of 2015. Very unique. Worth seeking out.

Drive - Andrew Bush
Bush took the passenger seat out of his car and replaced it with a tripod. He put a flash in the back seat, and photographed people driving next to him in Southern California. I've always enjoyed seeing this work online. Seeing the whole project in book form is a treat.

The Dog of the South - Charles Portis
A young guy's wife runs off with her ex. He tracks them to Mexico in a crazy road trip in a 1963 Buick. A cast of eccentrics populates this hilarious, meandering journey. Couldn't put this one down. Great fun.

Chewing Gum and Chocolate - Shomei Tomatsu
An amazing body of work documenting occupied Japan. The essays are excellent, too. On many best photo book lists for 2014, including mine. Highly recommended.

Asylum of the Birds - Roger Ballen
Ballen keeps evolving. He started as a photographer, moved into a mix of photography and installation, and this book pushes the work even further away from straight photography. A unique, singular, dark vision.

Megahex - Simon Hanselmann
Well, this ain't Three's Company. A stoned witch, her cat boyfriend, and their often pranked owl roommate have some every day adventures. Sometimes Werewolf Jones shows up and things get really out of hand. Beneath the demented, gross, and weird situation comedy are some deeper truths about relationships that may get under your skin.

Sunburn - Chris McCaw
McCaw uses large hand-built view cameras with aerial photography lenses to take extremely long exposures of the sun on paper negatives. The results are often astonishing. If you're into long exposure photography, this book is essential.

South of Market - Janet Delaney
Large format portraits of San Francisco's South of Market neighborhood in the 70's and 80's, accompanied by short interviews. A wonderful document of a neighborhood that was about to undergo some dramatic socio-economic changes. This work is on view at the de Young in San Francisco until July 19, 2015. Highly recommended for those interested in Bay Area culture and history.

 

Listening

RPM OOP - An amazing blog that features high quality transfers of out of print jazz, free jazz, and free funk records. Don't know where to start? Check out James Blood Ulmer's Tales of Captain Black featuring Ornette Coleman. There are a lot of gems on this wonderful site.

75 Dollar Bill - What if you took Mauritanian music from the Sahara, mixed it with the raw boogie of Hound Dog Taylor, and then added a sprinkle of jazz and improv influences? Maybe some Velvets and No Wave, too. 75 Dollar Bill's Wooden Bag blends all of this stuff up into a great album that'll make you nod your head and stomp your feet.

Doing

The Valley Junkyard Night Photography and Light Painting Workshop was a lot of fun. Below is a little planet time-lapse video of the photographers who attended. About 60 360º stills were shot with a Ricoh Theta, one every 5 seconds. The resulting images were processed in Lightroom and output as TIFF files. The TIFFs were batch converted to little planets in PTGui Pro. The little planets were brought into Photoshop, where the animation was created and timing adjusted. This one looks best in HD full screen.

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WRLD: End of 2014 Art Intake Report

1959 Ford Levacar Mach 1

1959 Ford Levacar Mach 1

Watching

Los Angeles Plays Itself [Netflix, Amazon] - A documentary about movies made in Los Angeles. I don't always agree with CalArts professor Thom Andersen, and some of the sources are a bit obscure, but this documentary is a must see for any cinephile.

Marina Abramovic: The Artist Is Present [Netflix, Amazon] - I'm not typically a fan of performance art. This documentary about the godmother of the genre is very well done, and brings up a lot of interesting questions about the nature of art. Worth watching for artists working in any genre.

Frances Ha [Netflix, Amazon] - Not as dour as Baumbauch's previous work, this film explores a dancer coming to grips with not making the cut. Along the way, we get a wonderfully shot exploration of that time in your late 20's when relationships change, living situations change, and you may have to decide who you want to be when you grow up.

Inherent Vice - Paul Thomas Anderson did Thomas Pynchon proud with his screen adaptation of this hilarious novel. The Big Sleep meets the Big Lebowski is still an apt one line description. Wonderfully wild and woozy, this opens in wider release on 1/9/2015.

 

Reading

Redheaded Peckerwood / Christian Patterson - This was on a lot of best of lists in 2011, and I was just able to get a copy of the third printing. Documents Charlie Starkweather's killing spree that was the inspiration for Terence Malick's Badlands. Astonishing and essential.

How to See: A Guide to Reading Our Man-Made Environment / George Nelson - This could be titled curmudgeon with a camera insteadA 2003 reissue of a 1977 book on how designer & photographer George Nelson evaluates the man-made world.

A Criminal Investigation / Watabe Yukichi - A press photographer follows a murder investigation in 1958 Japan. The photography, editing, sequencing, and book craft are all superb. One of the best photo books that I've acquired in the last few years.

The Cage / Martin Vaughn-James - A precursor to the modern graphic novel, this 1975 cult comic from Canada was out of print for a long time. Very surreal, mysterious, and haunting. A book that I still think about long after I finished reading it. Highly recommended.

Annihilation / Jeff Vandermeer - Area X has been cut off from the rest of the continent for decades. Nature has reclaimed the last vestiges of human civilization. Many of the expeditions into this zone have not returned...this is the story of the 12th expedition. The first book in a trilogy that was universally applauded by my book club, which is unusual. 

Hard Rain Falling / Don Carpenter - A story of being down and out in Portland and San Francisco with a great cast of lowlifes and outlaws. I couldn't put this one down. A hard-boiled classic.

Nijigahara Holograph / Inio Asano - Like David Lynch's best work, something unsettling is lurking just beneath the surface. Wonderfully drawn, elegant storytelling with a dark and twisted feel.

Pikin Slee / Vivian Sassen - Pikin Slee takes the photographic language that's so familiar, and rearranges everything into a different blend. Art and documentary. Color, and black and white. Light and shadow. People and still life. Texture. Mystery. And a short 1 page essay at the end that doesn't ruin that mystery. The editing, sequencing, and printing are all superb. Highly recommended.

 

Listening

Live in Paris 28.05.1975 / Fripp & Eno - My favorite music purchase of the year. These concerts were often bootlegged, but not officially released until 2014. Eno's original loops were found and painstakingly synched to the best available bootleg. The first track has a lot of crowd noise, but beyond that the fidelity is pretty great, as is the performance. And the original loops are included on disc 3. I could listen to these discs on repeat for a long time. Highly recommended.

Fuck Off Get Free We Pour Light On Everything / Thee Silver Mt Zion Memorial Orchestra - I have mixed feelings about the evolution of this group. I'm a big fan of GYBE, but sometimes Efrim's vocals are a little bit much for me. That being said, the song What We Loved Was Not Enough really struck a chord, and seemed to nail the zeitgeist of 2014.

IAO Chant from the Cosmic Inferno / Acid Mothers Temple - A 51 minute album length tribute to the band Gong for 99 cents, and a nice entry point into the rather prolific catalog of Acid Mothers Temple.

Unrest / Henry Cow - I recently digitized my old LP of this 1974 album, and the music continues to amaze after all of these years. More on this classic album on The Quietus.

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WRLD: Japanese gangsters, heavy fiction, weird comics, demented prog, and even some references to photography

Hello, faithful readers. I'm sure all 2-3 of you are wondering when I was going to talk about weird things to watch and read and listen to again. Well, wonder no more. It's time for another installment of WRLD.

Watching

Nikkatsu Studios in Japan produced some of the coolest gangster films of the 60's. I noticed that Seijun Suzuki's Detective Bureau 2-3 was available streaming on Amazon, and always enjoy watching Jo Shishido in action. ***

I went back and watched Tokyo Drifter, and this film is still one of Suzuki's best. *****

Branded to Kill is Seijun Suzuki at peak weirdness. John Zorn's essay on this film for the Criterion Collection is what got me into Suzuki. Highly recommended. *****

For No Good Reason is a documentary that profiles the artist Ralph Steadman, best known for his collaborations with Hunter S. Thompson. Watching Steadman paint and draw is cool, and there is a little bit of great HST footage. The talking head style interviews are a bit dry at times, and the film is marred by crappy, invasive graphic overlays. Worth watching if you're a big fan. **

Terry Gilliam's new film The Zero Theorem was released on streaming at the same time as the theatrical release. The plot and cast sounded promising. Unfortunately, the writing is not great, and neither is the CGI. Tilda Swinton's bit part as a virtual shrink is hilarious. The look of the film is wonderful, but when that thrill wears off the story and characters just don't feel cohesive. Worth watching, but not worth buying. **

A few people have recommended the film Frank, starring Michael Fassbender as a musician who never removes his giant fake head. Planning to watch this one in the next few days.

Happy People: A Year in the Taiga is a documentary co-directed by Werner Herzog that profiles a hunting community in remote Siberia. Seeing how other cultures live can be a nice reminder that our day-to-day worries are definitely first world problems. ***

To the Wonder is Terence Malick's latest film and the only good things I can say about it are that I enjoyed the cinematography at times, and that I was really happy that Ben Affleck barely has any lines. A disappointing mess, and that's coming from a huge fan of his other films. *

Reading

Yuichi Yokoyama's Color Engineering is an amazing mix of abstract comic book narrative, paintings, drawings, and photographs. Wilder in stylistic scope than his also quite enjoyable book Garden, Color Engineering touches the abstract edges of how we comprehend and digest art and storytelling. Reading this book requires simultaneously decoding 4-5 art forms at the same time, which is very stimulating. Highly recommended. *****

Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki is Haruki Murakami's latest novel, and everyone in my book club thought it was sub-par when compared to the rest of his work. **

Gringos is a hilarious 1991 novel by Charles Portis involving a cult, some UFO freaks, and archaelogical hustlers. Highly entertaining. ****

Robert C. Jones writes ghost town books they way they oughta be. How to get there, a little bit of history, and most importantly - what kind of ruins are left to see. The Mojave Preserve is a beautiful, underrated place to explore, and Ghost Towns of the Mojave National Preserve is an excellent resource. ****

Fine Art Printing for Photographers is the third edition of Uwe Steinmuller's highly technical book on inkjet printing. If you want to make better inkjet prints, this book is an excellent resource. While I didn't know him personally, I followed Uwe's site outbackphoto.net, and was saddened to hear that he passed away last month. He will be missed. ****

Every year I try to read a big, challenging book. This year, I finally read The Recognitions by William Gaddis. A huge, complex story that centers around art forgery, The Recognitions is the literary bridge between James Joyce and Thomas Pynchon. At times difficult, erudite, hilarious, complicated, and astonishing. **** 

The Wes Anderson Collection features an essay on each of his films through Moonrise Kingdom, combined with extensive interviews, and behind the scenes photos. The supporting artwork is fun, too. The discussions about Anderson's influences and working methods are really interesting. Essential reading for fans of his work. ****

Chester Brown's review of Ant Colony nails it: "Michael DeForge is that rare sort of cartoonist, a genuine artist with a unique vision and a teeming imagination. He’s not trying to create sentimental pap for a mass audience. I love his work, but I do wonder why any sensible, profit-minded publisher would release this crazy book." ****

Someone pointed me to a 2013 Slate article on Mike Mandel's Making Good Time. Mandel covers an early 20th century industrial photography team called the Gilbreths who put pulsing lights on workers and took long exposures. The photographs were then analyzed in order to improve worker efficiency. Mandel then provides his own modern update on this style of photography. A wonderful intersection of industrial photographic history, light painting, and humor. ****

Listening

Matthew Young's 1982 album Recurring Dreams was reissued by Drag City earlier this year. Subtle, wonderful headphone listening. ****

Some how Van Der Graaf Generator's Pawn Hearts has escaped me all of these years. Wow. This album hurts my head, but tickles a little bit at the same time. ***

Doing

I'll have some news soon on an exciting new commercial photography project. Until then, you can always follow the latest photos, news, and antics on FacebookTwitter, or G+.

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Weird, dark, and awkward: The best British comedy shows

Rich Fulcher and Matt Berry in Snuff Box
Rich Fulcher and Matt Berry in Snuff Box

The first time I saw an episode of Monty Python on television I was hooked on British comedy. As a teenager in the mid-80's I loved watching The Young Ones on MTV. And now, the last 10 years has been a golden age of British comedy. What follows is not a comprehensive list of every British comedy show -- just a selection of shows that I've watched or re-watched over the last decade. Feel free to add your favorites in the comments. I've loosely organized the list by genre, or by groups of actors who've worked together on multiple shows.

 

Matt Berry, Richard Ayoade, and The Mighty Boosh

Snuff Box

Snuff Box [Amazon | Netflix] - Matt Berry and Rich Fulcher play two hangmen who spend most of their time in a lounge drinking whiskey. The show is interspersed with Python-esque sketches. Snuff Box is only six episodes, and aired once on BBC 3 back in 2006. A DVD was released in 2011, and the show recently became available for streaming on Netflix.  You might recognize Matt Berry as the big boss Douglas Reynholm on the IT Crowd. Both Berry and Fulcher also appeared on The Mighty Boosh.

  • Garth Marenghi's Darkplace [Amazon | YouTube] - A hilarious faux 80's haunted hospital drama starring Matthew Holness and Richard Ayoade.
  • Man to Man with Dean Learner [YouTube] - A spin-off of Darkplace, Man to Man is a talk show that's a must see for Richard Ayoade fans.
  • AD/BC: A Rock Opera [Amazon] - A 30-minute 70's style rock opera show from 2004 starring Matt Berry, Julian Barratt, and Richard Ayoade. Noel Fielding and Rich Fulcher have bit parts, too.
  • Toast of London [YouTube] - Matt Berry plays Steven Toast, an eccentric failed actor.
The Mighty Boosh

The Mighty Boosh [Amazon | Netflix] - Noel Fielding and Julian Barratt are out there. The show also features Rich Fulcher, who Noel once described as "the weirdest person I've ever met."

  • Noel Fielding's Luxury Comedy [YouTube] - A British Pee Wee's Playhouse set in the 70's on a bunch of psychedelic drugs. Surreal and bizarre.
  • The 2011 offbeat comedy The Bunny and the Bull [Amazon | Netflix] was directed by Paul King, who also directed The Mighty Boosh.
  • Julian Barratt from The Mighty Boosh was in the 1996 show Asylum alongside Simon Pegg. This show is a bit difficult to track down.
The IT Crowd

The IT Crowd [Amazon | Netflix] - Yes, the infamous "have you tried turning it off and on again" show. Written by Graham Linehan (Father Ted, Black Books), and featuring Richard Ayoade, and Matt Berry.

 

The Legacy of Monty Python

Monty Python's Flying Circus

Monty Python's Flying Circus [Amazon | Netflix] - The movies are fantastic, but the Flying Circus is what originally got me going on British comedy. The box set is indispensable.

The Young Ones

The Young Ones [Amazon | Netflix] - As a teenager, The Young Ones left a lasting impression on me. 30 years later and it's still weird and funny.

  • Bottom [Amazon | Netflix] - Can't get enough? Rik Mayall and Adrian Edmonson of The Young Ones are bickering roommates in Bottom.
Little Britain

Little Britain [Amazon | Netflix] - Matt Lucas and David Walliams are two strange lads who play almost all of characters in this fun sketch comedy. Some bits are better than others, but when it's good it's fantastic.

  • Come Fly with Me [Amazon | Netflix] The lads play just about every character in this airport comedy. More hit and miss than Little Britain.
The League of Gentlemen

The League of Gentlemen [Amazon | Netflix] - What if you crossed Little Britain with Delicatessen [Amazon | Netflix]? This is a local show for local people. Definitely the darker side of British Comedy.

  • Psychoville [Amazon] - If you're a League of Gentlemen fan, you'll probably like Psychoville.
 

Simon Pegg, Dylan Moran & Friends

Black Books

Black Books [Amazon | Netflix] - Clerks [Amazon | Netflix] may be the ultimate movie about working retail in the U.S., but thankfully there's Black Books for the U.K. Dylan Moran is perfect as the grouchy, nihilistic book store owner, and Bill Bailey is his wacky foil. Simon Pegg's bit role as the chain bookstore manager is hilarious.

Spaced

Spaced [Amazon | Netflix] - Simon Pegg stars in this roommate comedy that's laced with cultural references, weirdness, and inside jokes.

  • Green Wing [Amazon] - More of a dramedy - I know British comedy fans on both sides of the fence about this show.
  • There are 2 or 3 wonderful, full length Dylan Moran standup shows on YouTube
  • A Film with Me In It [Amazon | Netflix] - Dylan Moran stars in this dark comedy where everyone keeps freakishly dying.
  • Burke and Hare [Amazon | Netflix] - I suppose selling cadavers for science counts as dark comedy. Starring Simon Pegg.
 

Awkwardness: The cringe humour of The Office UK, and Mitchell and Webb

The Office UK

The Office UK [Amazon | Netflix] - Ricky Gervais is an acquired taste for some, and funny beyond belief to others. This depends on how comfortable you are being uncomfortable.

Peep Show

Peep Show [Amazon | Netflix] - If you enjoyed cringing your way through the awkwardness of The Office, Mitchell and Webb will test your cringe reflexes to the limit.

  • That Mitchell and Webb Look [Amazon | Netflix] - Highly recommended sketch comedy from Mitchell and Webb with less cringing than Peep Show.
 

Further Explorations

Some additional shows that have been recommended to me that I haven't investigated yet.

  • Big Train
  • Nighty Night
  • Jam
  • Brass Eye
  • Monkey Dust
  • Human Remains
  • Rising Damp

So, Anglophiles, what other shows am I missing? I look forward to hearing about your favorite weird U.K. comedies in the comments.

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WRLD: Grandmaster, Magic, Big Star, Townes, Creation, Cutie, 1-800-MICE, H Day, Abandoned Futures, Coin Locker Babies, Satellites, Mogwai, Exploding Star Orchestra

Watching

The Grandmaster

Last month Martin Scorsese interviewed Wong Kar-Wai about his 2013 film, The Grandmaster. The cinematography is amazing, and overall the film is pretty good [Amazon]. ★★★

Deceptive Practice

The best documentary I've seen in ages is Deceptive Practice: The Mysteries and Mentors of Ricky Jay [Netflix, Amazon]. Ricky Jay's dedication and artistry are inspiring, and the film is riveting from start to finish. Highly recommended. ★★★★★

Big Star

This documentary profiles the Memphis rock band Big Star from their early years to post-breakup. Essential viewing if you're a fan [Netflix, Amazon]. ★★★

Be Here To Love Me

Be Here To Love Me is a portrait of singer songwriter Townes Van Zandt. A haunting look at a tortured artist [Netflix, Amazon]. ★★★★

Upside Down

Upside Down is an uneven documentary about the UK label Creation Records. Selling records and partying with Scottish accents, it's half entertaining and half annoying [Netflix, Amazon]. ★★

Cutie and the Boxer

Cutie and the Boxer profiles an 80 year old Japanese artist and his wife who are living in New York and barely making ends meet. I had high hopes for this one after the preview, but the film focuses too much on the antagonistic wife [Netflix, Amazon]. ★★

 

Reading

1-800-MICE

1-800-MICE is bonkers. Blurbed by Daniel Clowes and Matt Groening among others, but none of them get it quite right. Surreal, absurd, extraordinary, and utterly unique. Highly recommended.

H Day

I've been a fan of Renee French since 90's comic books Grit Bath and The Ninth Gland. H Day tells parallel stories on facing pages without words. One side is about migraines, and the other is about an ant invasion. Mysterious, weird, and quite enjoyable.

Abandoned Futures

With a cover photo from the Pearsonville Junkyard, night photography workshop alum Tong Lam presents well crafted photos of some world class ruins. Tong doesn't like the term ruin porn, and instead makes a case for the history of ruin lust. Abandoned Futures contains some of the best writing on the symbology of ruins in recent years, and is highly recommended.

Coin Locker Babies

I've read quite a bit of Haruki Murakami's work, but hadn't read Ryu Murakami until my book club selected Coin Locker Babies. This novel is the story of two orphans who are abandoned at birth in a coin-locker, and are raised in the shadows of a ruined factory town. While the violence was a bit graphic for my taste, there were some hypnotizing sections that gave me new insight into why I photograph abandoned places.

Satellites

Satellites is the result of an amazing 7 year journey exploring the forgotten outposts of the former Soviet Union. Unfortunately this book is out of print, but it's definitely worth seeking out at your local library.

 

Listening

Hardcore Will Never Die, But You Will

Mogwai's Hardcore Will Never Die, But You Will has been in heavy rotation during January. Maybe because it's good workout music? The Drowned in Sound review of the album is right on target.

Exploding Star Orchestra

The Exploding Star Orchestra takes a wild journey through large ensemble jazz improv with a wide array of field recordings. A wild but engaging sonic ride. Here's a nice review on Dusted.

 

Doing

  • A wonderful English artist is producing a marquetry version of one of my photos. I'm excited to see how this turns out, and will share photos when it's done.
  • I've switched from using a Really Right Stuff pano-head to a Nodal Ninja Ultimate M2. More on this decision later.
  • My office is loud. I tried a lot of noise-cancelling headphones. All marketing hype aside, the Bose QC 15 really do work the best. Audiophile magazine Sound & Vision nails it in this Bose review. If you need to shut out the world, this is 300 bucks well spent.
  • I'm shooting video at work. It's way harder than shooting stills. But fun. I'm learning Premiere, too.
  • A couple of my Holga images are in a recently released color grading book. More info when I get a copy.
  • I'm online less and less these days. I still like looking at pictures on Tumblr. That's about it. You wanna talk? Send me an email. And don't be surprised if my online presence becomes a bit more sporadic this year.
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Stalker, Zona, Roadside Picnic, and down the Tarkovsky wormhole

Tarkovsky on the set of Stalker
Tarkovsky on the set of Stalker

Since discovering Stalker in early 2012, I've taken a much deeper dive into the world of Andrei Tarkovsky, and have now seen 6 of his 7 films. If you enjoy exploring abandoned places, and are open to taking a meditative look into what it all means, then Stalker is essential viewing.

In the near future, an unseen alien force has taken possession of an area of Russian wilderness that authorities have dubbed The Zone. The only thing known for sure about the region is that few who enter it ever return. Led by a Stalker, one of a small group of outlaws able to safely navigate the Zone, a renegade scientist and a cynical, burnt-out writer penetrate the dangers outside in search of the power and transcendence rumored to exist inside. The Stalker longs to un-do a mysterious physical transformation the Zone has performed on his young daughter. The scientist will risk anything to see that reason triumphs over faith. The writer seeks a germ of inspiration that the crumbling and corrupt world beyond the Zone no longer provides.
Together, these three men become desperate pilgrims walking a desolate trail leading to one of the most enigmatic and tantalizing endings in the history of cinema. A haunting and honest meditation on the intersection of science, feeling, and faith, Stalker is both profoundly unsettling and deeply moving. - Kino Video

Stalker becomes more rewarding with multiple viewings. Tarkovsky is a master of the long take, and many of his films are light on traditional narrative. This isn't easy viewing. That's OK. Like a lot of great art, the viewer needs to do a little bit of work to get the most out of the experience. The four books and two documentaries below will help you explore the world of Tarkovsky:

Geoff Dyer's Zona is theoretically about Stalker, but it's also about how our relationship with art changes over time. Wonderful, light hearted ramblings on a difficult, heavy film.

Roadside Picnic - Stalker is based on the Russian science fiction novel Roadside Picnic. Beyond being a big fan of Philip K. Dick, I don't usually read a lot of sci-fi. Roadside Picnic was a fast, fun read. Reading the book before seeing Stalker won't ruin the movie for you. Tarkovsky's film jettisons the narrative in favor of spiritual and philosophical explorations.

 

The Films of Andrei Tarkovsky: A Visual Fugue - After watching Stalker, I watched Solaris again, and then saw Andrei Rublev, Mirror, Nostalghia, and The Sacrifice. Johnson and Petrie's book was a really helpful guide to understanding Tarkovsky's history, themes, influences, cultural context, working methods, and critical reception. I was initially concerned that this book might be too academic, but it's got an easy to read style, and is very insightful.

Sculpting in Time - I haven't finished Tarkovsky's essays on filmmaking yet. I'm taking this book a little bit at a time, but it's certainly essential reading for understanding Tarkovsky's universe.

 

One Day in the Life of Andrei Arsenevich - Chris Marker's (La Jetée) documentary has a mix of clips from all 7 films, Tarkovsky directing, and Tarkovsky re-united with his family during his final illness. Recommended.

Voyage in Time - If you're going down the rabbit hole (or perhaps wormhole), the documentary Voyage in Time follows an exiled Tarkovsky scouting locations in Italy with Antonioni's screenwriter Tonino Guerra. This one is slow going, and for the completist only. Probably works best if you've seen Nostalghia.

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WRLD: Stanhope, Motorcycles, Yakuza, Cults, Pynchon, Aerial Photos, Feral Teens, Origami, and Prog-Folk

Watching

Beer Hall Putsch

Stand-up comedy is like dance for me -- I can't watch 98% of what's out there, but the 2% that's good is really good. Doug Stanhope is in that 2%. His most recent 1-hour special is called Beer Hall Putsch [Netflix only], and it's over the top. The Occupy Wall Street and NFL fantasy bits are nuts.

Long Way Down

In 2004, Ewan McGregor and his friend Charley Boorman went on a 20,000 mile adventure on motorcycles in Long Way Round [Netflix | Amazon]. The series starts a bit slowly, but the hard travel segments in Russia and Mongolia are amazing. In 2007 they rode from Scotland to South Africa in Long Way Down [Netflix | Amazon].

Pale Flower

I recently watched the nihilistic 60's Japanese yakuza film Pale Flower again, and it's still astonishing. Now on Blu-Ray from Criterion [Netflix | Amazon].

The Source Family

The Source Family is a really great documentary about a 70's cult led by Father Yod, who had 14 wives, a health food restaurant, a Rolls Royce, and a psychedelic band [Netflix | Amazon].

 

Reading

Bleeding Edge

The new Thomas Pynchon novel Bleeding Edge will be released on Tuesday, 9/17. The extensive 7,000 word piece on Pynchon published last month on Vulture is a must-read for fans of his work. And Jonathan Lethem's review in today's New York Times really nails what's great about Pynchon.

Around the Bay

The new CLUI publication Around the Bay: Man-Made Sites of Interest in the San Francisco Bay Region is essential if you live in the Bay Area. The book pairs aerial photographs with a short history of the industrial sites around the Bay. The companion exhibit, Above and Below, runs at the Oakland Museum runs through February 23, 2014. The big, projected fly-over video of the Bay is fantastic.

Mira Corpora

Jeff Jackson's debut novel Mira Corpora is a dark, surreal coming-of-age story that I could not put down. Featuring a section with feral kids living in the woods on the edge of an abandoned amusement park which is down the way from a crumbling house inhabited by a teenage oracle.


Ametsuchi

I'm really surprised Rinko Kawauchi's new book Ametsuchi isn't getting more attention. I picked this up in a book store and was blown away. Images of controlled burns, constellations, Buddhist rituals, and a unique design with inverted versions of the images behind the pages. Here's a video interview with Kawauchi with a look at the book. Highly recommended.

 

Listening

The Master Musicians of Bukkake are back with a new album called Far West which delves into prog-folk and Morricone inspired soundtrack music.

 

Ghost Capital is still blowin' up the spot with a great selection of hard-to-find world, African, and electronic music.

 

Doing

Despite the crowds, riding a bike on the new Eastern span of the Bay Bridge is a lot of fun. Here's how to get to the path.

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