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One Week 20 Years Ago

BARENAKED_LADIES_ONE_WEEK

[Fran and Stephen are observing from the roof of the mall]
Francine Parker: What are they doing? Why do they come here?

Stephen: Some kind of instinct. Memory of what they used to do. This was an important place in their lives.
– Dawn of the Dead (1978)

Hard to believe it’s been 20 years since Barenaked Ladies’ One Week was a popular, chart topping hit. I remember driving around Tempe in the fall of 1998 listening to The Edge 106.3 FM, and it seemed like this song was on the radio every 5 minutes…sometime between songs such as Harvey Danger’s Flagpole Sitta and Third Eye Blind’s How’s It Gonna Be? These songs were heard many times on trips to and from Blockbuster Video (as well as Hollywood Video) to rent and return erotic thrillers, midnight outings to Denny’s, lonely drives to North Phoenix, my job at Abercrombie and all the rest.

One Week was one of those cheesy songs that I would have never admitted to liking but knew the words to and would secretly enjoy when it came on. It wasn’t passionately hated enough for me to like ironically, the way I later did with boy bands and Vitamin C, it was at least preferable to rapcore, a genre which I loathe to this day. In 1998, I would have complained about all the music on the radio sucking except the oldies station. This seems laughable in the context of today, when nearly every pop song is processed gibberish. In hindsight, we didn’t know how good we had it! One Week has the feel of a relic from a much more innocent and carefree era. It might as well be 100 years ago and a different country. The plethora of pop culture references in the lyrics are characteristic of Generation X works made at what Bret Easton Ellis refers to as the “height of the empire.”

Watchin X-Files with no lights on,
We’re dans la maison
I hope the Smoking Man’s in this one
Like Harrison Ford I’m getting Frantic
Like Sting I’m Tantric
Like Snickers, guaranteed to satisfy

I remember thinking these lyrics were so dumb, but not because I was opposed to the idea of cheesy pop culture references in songs. It’s just that the particular items referenced weren’t things that I personally was into. I did after all, write a song about Michael from Melrose Place. To revisit and paraphrase that memorable line from 1978′s Dawn of the Dead, such things had an important place in our lives.

I felt as though I owed it to Barenaked Ladies to write something about One Week, given how much enjoyment this jam gave me in 1998. 20 years later I can finally admit it.

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What’s the Score on the Man With the Moon in Taurus?

moon_in_taurus

The shopping. Oh, the shopping.

Guys with this placement LOVE to go shopping. This probably doesn’t sound like a bad thing to some people. Ok, most people. I’m a Capricorn, so I’m practically allergic to mindlessly spending my hard-earned cash on anything that isn’t a necessity.

A guy with a Moon in Taurus wants to shop to achieve a certain ~*aesthetic*~ though. What’s fascinating is that they try to achieve this at the most affordable price, which I kind of admire. This makes sense because Taurus is ruled by Venus, the planet of aesthetics and beauty.

They’re very loyal.

I tend to be flighty because my moon is in Gemini. If you have a similar placement in your chart, then you’ll find a Moon in Taurus a very reassuring presence that anchors you. They love stability and commitment. They’re not prone to erratic behavior.

They love routine.

A guy with this placement enjoys doing the same thing every day.

The same thing. Every day.

If your chart favors this, then you’re in luck. If it doesn’t, then you might find yourself restless and bored at the suggestion to go to the same four places every day. This placement loves the familiar and comfortable, so fire and air signs beware.

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I Dreamed a World and Called It Love

I_dreamed_a_world_and_called_it_love

As I walked toward the museum entrance, my eyes were drawn to a giant red sculpture of what appeared to be a caged tyrannosaurus rex. I found it interesting because it seems like something you would see at the Science Center. It isn’t the kind of highbrow, avant-garde work one expects to see outside an art museum. I briefly entertained the idea of making that piece the focus of this article and avoiding the hefty admission fee ($18 with a student ID) altogether. Ultimately, I decided against it. The museum building itself is constructed in a mid-century modern architectural style, which is fairly common in the downtown Phoenix area and consistent with the age of the building.

The lobby of the museum is a loft-like, large open room with high ceilings. Immediately upon entering, one is greeted to the sight of a 3-D “snowflake” sculpture located near the center of the room. The walls of the hallway adjacent to the lobby are decorated with thousands of black paper butterflies. I’m not sure whether the appearance of the lobby shaped my experience in any significant way, but the open, echoey ambiance and imposing decor gave off the impression that some overwhelming works of art would be in store for my visit.

The galleries are laid out like themed rooms in a multi-level labyrinth maze. The pieces in each gallery tend to fit with the distinct style of each particular collection or exhibition. A gallery will usually feature works from a variety of artists within the particular movement which is being showcased or which the curator specializes in. For example, one of the exhibitions displayed prints by Jasper Johns and Robert Rauschenberg, two iconic “pop” artists who worked together and were involved in a personal relationship with one another for a period of time. I think the galleries are presented this way to organize different styles and emphasize what is unique or distinctive in each of them. It also gives the visitor a more complete exposure and makes the exhibitions themselves seem more thorough. The maze-like floor plan allows the visitor to seemingly “get lost” in all the artwork. It gives guests the opportunity to peer around corners and discover new rooms filled with art, just when they thought they had seen everything the museum had to offer.

Since it was early in the afternoon on a weekday, guests were few and far between during my visit. If I had to guess I would say there were maybe thirty or forty visitors, sparsely spread out in the building. I did notice an elderly couple being chided by an employee for touching a large concrete art installation. I found this mildly amusing, imagining that the couple probably thought the art piece was simply a weirdly decorated bench for them to sit on.

For practical purposes, I had made up my mind ahead of time to select a work of art that was a representational painting that depicted some kind of elaborate scene. Regardless of whether I liked or disliked the piece at all, this would assure that I would have sufficient material to talk about for an entire article without having to resort to over-intellectualizing trivial observations or reaching for contrived meaning. Of course, once I arrived at the museum, that plan went completely out the window, and I ended up selecting a work that I was actually interested in and felt extremely drawn to.

My first impression of Jim Hodges’ I Dreamed a World and Called It Love was that it was shiny and made attractive use of color. From a distance it appeared to be a large, abstract painting which was created utilizing either metallic-colored acrylic paints or perhaps a collage made with colored translucent paper. Upon closer inspection, it appeared to have the consistency of colored tinfoil (is there even such a thing?) or cellophane. Upon reading the label, I discovered that most of my assumptions had been incorrect. The material used for this piece was actually stained glass that was cut and meticulously placed on a thick canvas (Lindsay). I was also grossly errant in assuming this was intended to be a “stand alone” work. It turns out that this is just a single panel in what was originally a larger and much more ambitious installation. The full installation apparently included 38 panels in total. It was exhibited at The Gladstone Gallery in 2016 (“I Dreamed a World and Called It Love”). The mistaken assumption that this was a stand-alone work was significant in this case. Unlike trivial observations like what kind of paint was used or whether the canvas was primed, this actually relates to the content of the work. If a visitor had been presented with the entire installation they might have come away with a completely different reading of the piece. Similarly, if an alternate single panel had been selected from a different section, one which featured a substantially different array of colors, this might provoke alternate interpretations of the overall mood or tone of the work. Some artists might even be annoyed at having their work partially displayed in this manner, but it seems that Jim Hodges has opted to be a good sport.

What’s most notable about this panel of I Dreamed a World and Called It Love is the usage of bright, vibrant color. The colors are not sharply divided but are intricately intertwined like crawling vines. There are solid primary colors, secondary colors, tertiary colors and just about everything in between. Various shades of orange, red and maroon near the bottom give the area a volcanic presence. Turquoise blues, grayish whites and purple globs project an image of partially cloudy skies.

The lines are not rugged or chiseled in their appearance. They seem to flow and curve effortlessly to create soft, peaceful separations for the floating splotches of color. This phenomenon also gives the work a sense of motion, as though we’re visualizing the brain activity of someone in the middle of a dream. If we’re someday able to actually record dreams, I would imagine the earliest successful attempts to do so would produce an image like this (before the technology is perfected.) It’s as if someone freeze-framed a psychedelic animation film at one of the most visually pleasing points.

As I hinted at in my initial impressions, the texture here is shiny and metallic. It reminds me of sheet metal (even though it’s actually glass.) The piece is reflective but not with the same clarity as a mirror. In the museum lighting, reflections are visible, but appear distorted and difficult to make out. It’s similar to seeing one’s reflection in a car window or metal pole. There are also small bubbles visible, which are situated between the glass and the canvas. These bubbles are more likely to be a side effect of the process of attaching the glass to the canvas. I don’t believe they were consciously included as a creative choice. However, these bubbles inadvertently create a sense of physical depth to the work. They contribute to the sense of flotation and are consistent with the dreamlike ambiance of the piece. The bubbles create a liquid or aquatic texture for those fortunate enough to notice them.

I’m inclined to label this piece as non-representational rather than merely abstract. It doesn’t appear to depict any tangible object in the physical world. However, if one looks closely enough (and long enough) at the blobs of color, outlines vaguely resembling animals and human shapes in varying stages of motion can be spotted. I’m almost positive this is just a case of pareidolia though. One can drive themselves bonkers believing they’re seeing faces on Mars or the Virgin Mary in a piece of toast. At the end of the day, one doesn’t need to reach for things that aren’t there in order to recognize the impressive substance in what is plainly visible.

What this work means is anybody’s guess. Other than the title, the artist himself offers few clues. It’s worth noting though that the original gargantuan installation reflected color onto the floor (“I Dreamed a World and Called It Love”). This made the floor an additional part of the artwork. The plethora of different panels allowed visitors to see their reflections in different color combinations. On some level, maybe the artist was trying to help us empathize with all different types of people by having us view so many divergent images of ourselves. These reflections allow us to step into the shoes of others and perhaps into the art itself. Just as the light reflects onto the floor, it illuminates the visitor as well. We become part of the whole of the work.

Besides the fact that I found the color and composition of I Dreamed a World and Called It Love appealing, one of the main reasons I selected this work was that it seemed to stand out among the works by much more famous artists which were hanging nearby. This panel was located in a section of the museum which included paintings by icons like Andy Warhol and Keith Haring. Though Jim Hodges may have received substantial critical acclaim over the years and has probably had an illustrious career, he is by no means a household name. The fact that his panel (which turned out to be only a component of the actual work) managed to outshine (literally in this case) the adjacently displayed artwork of legendary figures made me relate to him as a relative underdog. People will go to the museum specifically just to see Warhol’s soup cans, but maybe someday they will make the trip just so they can see this.

Works Cited:

“I Dreamed a World and Called It Love.” Gladstone Gallery, 2016,
www.gladstonegallery.com/exhibition/11992/installation-view#&panel1-1.
Lindsay, Taylor. “Dozens of Cut-Up Mirrors Get Rearranged into a Magnificent
Glass Room.” Creators, VICE, 29 Dec. 2016,
www.creators.vice.com/en_us/article/9anxy8/cut-up-mirrors-get-rearranged-into-magnificent-glass-room.

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Thoroughbreds

thoroughbreds

Watching eccentric low-budget films is a gamble. The writer and director, one and the same in this case, is at liberty to avoid using formulae in his creative process, the result of which is about as likely for the viewer to be either rewarding or punishing.

Wikipedia says Thoroughbreds is a thriller. It does have faint echoes of something like Rear Window thematically, but thriller is still not the word I would use. It also says comedy, but I remember laughing on only a couple of occasions while watching it. Despite this, I still found it enjoyable, and odd in a positive way.

The film is about two teenagers from a rich area of Connecticut. One of them, Amanda, appears to be psychopathic. Lily, Amanda’s friend, is not, but Amanda’s personality gradually impresses itself upon Lily throughout the film, eventually culminating in their plan to kill Lily’s obnoxious stepfather Mark. First they intend to blackmail a third party into doing it for them. When that fails, they speak of doing it together, and finally Lily just kills him herself.

From the outset, the soundtrack is remarkably good at setting a tone, particularly those parts that were ambient or just sounds rather than songs, e.g. discordant violins and what sounded like a guitar string snapping, along with odd jungle-music percussion, which was appropriately unnerving during tense moments, or character-establishing moments such as Amanda’s arrival at Lily’s house near the beginning as she explores all the bizarre, quaint finery within; Roman busts, a katana, etc, which gives an impression of Mark as an obsessive of some sort who likes to enrich himself with various aspects of Eastern and Western culture. This goes alongside the camerawork, the most striking example of which, and recurrent all through the film, involves following the subject just behind and above the head, with an attendant unsettling effect.

The only song I remember enjoying greatly was one made by an obscure French singer, and it plays while Lily experiences doubts about going through with the plan. This uncertainty later dissolves.

One will find that the aforementioned house, although aesthetically pleasing, is irrelevant to the plot. It is not, as far as I recall, made clear whether it belongs to Lily’s stepfather or to her biological family, but I would not think too much of it since it just serves as a backdrop and as a vessel for the eccentric outward expressions of Mark’s personality. That and the noisy contraption he keeps upstairs, on which he is killed by Lily near the end of the film. Similarly, the various shenanigans of Lily’s school life are barely worth paying attention to and only come up fleetingly, although it is implicit that she too has psychological problems.

The film depicts, in a way that reminds me somewhat of The Crush, a particular, unusually modern instantiation of WASP culture, which is as fascinating as it is charming even though it seems quite divorced from present reality. The most clear and obvious common thread is the convention of horse-riding in prestigious schools, which comes up at the start of Thoroughbreds when Amanda gets in trouble for gruesomely killing her horse. This is apparently what the title refers to.

The handling of Amanda’s psychopathic personality was fun; it becomes the subject of a lot of talk between the two protagonists, and Amanda remarks at some point that her diagnosis consisted of the psychiatrist’s “throwing random pages of the DSM-V at her”, briefly mentioning schizoid symptoms and other illnesses. She acts out her “feelinglessness” in an engaging manner, such as winning £300 (or whatever) in an online game and having no reaction whatsoever. This is what leads to, arguably, the climax of the film when Amanda allows Lily to drug her and then land her in a situation most people would obviously not willingly submit themselves to. Amanda does not care, because she lives, as she says, a “meaningless life”.

The division of the film into chapter headings, what would normally be called “acts” I think, seemed superfluous even if they did not noticeably detract from the experience; this was an effort to appear quirky that the film could easily have waived. Do most books have 4-5 chapters? The runtime I definitely appreciated, however. It is exactly as long as it needs to be; I normally have to go looking for pre-Code films  to find stuff shorter than two hours, and Thoroughbreds is 90 minutes, so I at no point felt bored.

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Life in Plastic, It’s Fantastic.

aquabarbiegirl2

Ahh yes, I’m driving down Scottsdale Rd in the fall of 1998 in my ’93 Saturn (soon to be totaled while parked in Santa Monica less than 2 years later.) I’m wearing a yellow button down shirt from The Gap and sporting frosted tips. Or maybe I’m wearing a blue Tommy Hilfiger windbreaker semi-ironically. What song is playing on the radio? Well, it could be one of many songs actually. Perhaps it’s Harvey Danger’s Flagpole Sitta. Maybe it’s Barenaked Ladies’ One Week or if I’m lucky, Aqua’s Barbie Girl.

barbiegirllene

Yes I admit it, I loved this song. I was first alerted to it by friends that said it reminded them of my recordings, not that I ever made anything remotely as good as this, but I used to increase the pitch on my cassettes on 4 track to make my voice sound more indie and alternative, which my friends jokingly said made it sound like “that Barbie Girl song.” It brings back so many memories from a great time in the 90s. I used to think pop music was so shitty at the time, but we didn’t know how good we had it! Aqua’s Barbie Girl is actually a masterpiece, artistically, cinematically, aesthetically, musically, you name it.

seahorse

One of my favorite parts of the video is when Lene is getting her hair done and reading a cool looking (but fake) book titled My Little Sea Horse. Whenever I watch the video, I always think about how I wish that book actually existed and I could read it.

Life in plastic, it’s fantastic! Yes it was.

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5 Rad Christmas Jams

1. The Waitresses – Christmas Wrapping

I used to always hear this song in department stores and never realized who sang it, though I recognized the singer’s voice as being similar to the girl who sang the “I Know What Boys Like” song, (which I hated and would instantly flee the dance floor when it would be played at mid 00′s hipster DJ nights.) Well, turns out it is the same singer and band, and I just couldn’t compute that a band that played a song I despised so much could have created one that is an absolute masterpiece. Christmas Wrapping is an amazing song, maybe the best Christmas song ever. Patty Donahue unfortunately died at a young age (only 40.) RIP

2. Taylor Swift – Last Christmas

I know I know, but seriously I prefer this version to the Wham! version. This song is just better with a female voice and preferably one that doesn’t morph it into some kind of excessive adlib R&B monstrosity with all kinds of extra eeee’s and aaaaaah’s (like what is commonly done to the national anthem when singers get unnecessarily creative.) Anyway, the first time I really began to appreciate this song was in 2012. I was in Las Vegas alone and miserable on Christmas that year in what I look back on as my favorite vacation of my life, and there was a band on Fremont St called “Candy and the Canes” which was playing this song in the Taylor Swift style. Now whenever I hear it, it takes me back.

3. Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers – Christmas All Over Again

Admittedly, I have never been much of a Tom Petty fan. His songs typically remind me of a really horrible era in the early 90′s where kids in my class would randomly belt out lyrics to Free Fallin’ in phony southern accents. It was a dark time period. Christmas All Over Again on the other hand conjurs up an entirely different memory. In the winter of 1996, I was living on my own in Phoenix, coming into my (now long gone) prime as a young man. This song would play in a jam packed, Paradise Valley mall (now almost literally a shadow of its former self.) Melrose place reruns aired daily on the E! Channel, and most of the people in my family were still alive back then. What an exciting time it was. Also, RIP Tom Petty.

4. Captain Sensible – One Christmas Catalogue

Not much to say about this one. Another department store classic. I don’t have any personal anecdote that colors my perception of this song. It is just a really great song, and just has that “1980′s lost in thought on a drive in the middle of the night through the city” feel to it. If you know, then you know.

5. Bing Crosby and The Andrews Sisters – Mele Kalikimaka

Of course, this song always reminds me of the diving board scene in Christmas Vacation. That is reason to like it in and of itself. It’s also one of those songs where everyone butchers the lyrics and just mumbles something random at the “mele kalikimaka” part. What most people don’t realize though, is that this is a great tune to repeatedly sing when you want to annoy your girlfriend (perhaps second only to pretty much any song by Edd “Kookie” Byrnes.) I only say the main part correctly about 3% of the time, but she rolls her eyes, and pleads for me to stop (in an exasperated tone) no matter what kind of gibberish I try to pass off as the chorus.

Brandon Adamson is the author of Skytrain to Nowhere

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Ambervision and The Amber Age of Infomercials

ambervision

If you grew up in the 80′s and 90′s chances are you sat through a zillion infomercials: featuring everything from Don Lapre’s “Tiny Classified Ads” to Corey Haim and Corey Feldman’s 900 number hotline. Looking back at these, I have a certain nostalgia for the aesthetic of all these old infomercials. It’s just one of those things that you don’t really appreciate or recognize as an artform until it’s gone. On a subconscious level part of the appeal is probably my mind associating these ads with positive memories of whatever I was doing in those much simpler times, when my biggest concerns were getting every card in the 4th Series of Garbage Pail Kids, whether the Los Angeles Rams would make the playoffs and what was on HBO that night.

Anyway, here’s a (1987?) commercial for Ambervision sunglasses. I sometimes imagine things like this as if they were part of some kind of science fiction fantasy story. Like, if I were to buy a vintage, new old stock pair of these Ambervision sunglasses off Etsy or Ebay and put them on, would I be transported back to another time? Would simply looking through them awaken some kind of old feeling within me, even artificially? I suppose on some level, it would.

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Pauline Frechette – Come Away With Me

Pauline-Frechette-Come-Away-680

Pauline Frechette has a magnificent new single out, titled “Come Away With Me.” It’s an incredibly polished, professionally performed and expertly composed. Others have positively described the sound as “haunting.” Stylistically, the track does have a bit of a “darker” tone and melody, which the song content itself in fact delightfully romantic. This isn’t a contradiction though, as there is more mystery, longing and certainly much more at stake emotionally in any genuine love experience.

It is interesting that the cover art features innocent child-like imagery, because my first impression of this song was that it seemed like it would fit right in on the soundtrack to a Disney film, to be featured in one of the more serious or poignant scenes. This is another testament to the quality of the music, which is in every way top of the line, to the extent that it wouldn’t seem out of place in a big budget, award nominated movie. Even the line “come away with me” appeals to the state of innocence and spontaneity we revert to when we fall in love with someone. We want the person to wake up and come along with us on the journey, and we want to let them know how much we want them with us.

With this track, Pauline has proven once again that she is capable not only of creating musical masterpieces (a difficult achievement enough,) but also of conjuring content which is personally inspiring.

For more info:
https://soundcloud.com/paulinefrechette/come-away-with-me
http://www.paulinefrechette.com/

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Coreena – She Myself and I

An alumni of the Berklee College of Music, Coreena proves herself to be a more than capable performer and songwriter as well. Her upcoming EP, “She, Myself and I,” is set to be released on August 24th. Though she writes and produces her own material, the finished product sounds remarkably professional. Her new EP aspires to be a “conceptual album of her different musical personalities.” The song “Sugar Love Glow” has kind of a mellow, ambient dance quality to it. “Apocalyptic” can be described as a unique mix of 1950s lounge singer vocals with a tribal techno beat backing. I was blown away by all the songs on the EP, but my favorite has to be “Ex-girlfriend.” It is energetic and upbeat, with a synth driven chorus that really carries the song. When it kicks in, you get that feeling like “Yes! I’m way into this.” I recommend you buy this EP when it comes out. This music is much better than anything you’ll hear on the radio. Pure class.

http://www.coreenamusic.com/

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