Category Archives: other ramblings

Bob Parker’s Political Dictionary

Work together cohesively (v.) – Let the unelected bureaucrats and the totalitarian mayor do whatever they want and take whatever they want.

Dysfunctional (adj.) – Democratic.

Functional (adj.) – A situation where a control freak from Hamilton who won’t work for less than half a million dollars is ‘indispensable’ for a city’s recovery.

Indispensable (adj.) – Necessary to maintain the illusion that we cannot run workplaces, organisations and communities without a figurehead in a suit telling everyone how to do their jobs and getting paid hundreds of thousands of dollars for it.

Rebuild Christchurch (v.) – Something which we cannot do without aforementioned overpaid control freak flying down each week to run our city for us.

Tony Marryatt (n.) – The only person in the universe capable of being Christchurch’s town clerk.

Market rates (n.) – If Auckland and Wellington city councils jump off a cliff, we should too.  In fact, we should jump off a bigger one, to encourage them to jump off an even bigger one, so that WE can jump off an EVEN BIGGER ONE!

Democracy (n.) – Pick your dictator every three years.  If you don’t like what he does during those three years, crumble before the three mighty unshakeables: “indispensable”, “market rates” and “we’ve already voted on it”.

Leak (n.) the unfortunate and unforgivable dissemination of the truth that may make someone look bad, or worse inept. (from Inkspressit Inink)

… any more suggestions?

Advertisements

Exciting opportunity

Are you a sales Gun who is sick of just being a chess piece?  Are you ready for the next challenge and possess the ambition and the fire to achieve it?  Are you fed up with someone else setting the ceiling on your worth, and want to be put on the fast track to future career movement in a senior sales capacity?  Are you passionate about suckcess?  Are you aroused by being tasked with ongoing relationship management, and achieving the luxury of working with a premium product range which is sought after by the market?  Are you a fucking asshole that doesn’t care about anybody but yourself?

We are looking for hungry, vibrant, motivated, driven professionals, who thrive on playing a central role in an iconic premium world leader with a growing market share.

The right people will:

– Be confident, motivated, resourceful in sourcing for new leads, fearless in proactive marketing activities, and strive to become an expert in your chosen field by working independently or as part of a team
– Be Purpose Driven and well-presented, with a zest for life and infectious enthusiasm
– Understand that Personal Income must be linked to personal results, and back themselves to triumph in a mainly success and bonus based fee structure
– Possess oustanding communication, felatio and time management skills, a flexible schedule and a “get up and go” attitude
– Have the ability to build rapport with anyone, especially the rich
– Have experience selling their soul in the past and be excited about capitalizing on the company’s stellar name and maximising on opportunities to proactively develop new accounts in which to sell your soul again in innovative and dynamic ways.

Can you provide a resounding YES to everything above?  If so, we want to hear from you today.

While you’ve been reading the above, thousands of people all over the world have been working to put money in the pockets of a few vibrant, resourceful individuals.  They even make money while they sleep.

The prestigious opportunity is available to YOU, to make a difference in this booming industry.  You CAN change.  You can grow back your soul, a little at a time.  You can quit your job, you can quit your values, you can win back your life before it’s too late.

Don’t ever let anyone tell you that you don’t have what it takes to be unsuccessful.  You too can be a stumbling block to a fast-paced, vibrant sector, living life instead of taking your career to the next level.

What’s in it for you?  We cannot offer a competitive salary package, generous retainers, bonuses, commissions, or a company car.  You must be proactive in finding your own rewards.  We are currently only offering Part Time positions; if you are looking for fulltime work, you must rethink your expectations about what you need in life.

You will be given training in the following skills:

– Stopping to smell the roses
– Valuing inefficiency
– Relenting
– Crying and laughing as an end in itself
– Looking around you

Apply today.  Unlimited positions available.  Enquire within.


Movies that moved me last decade

I wrote these lists in late 2009-early 2010… took a while because i had to research, but it meant I discovered a whole lot of awesome music and movies.  Facebook discussion here: http://www.facebook.com/note.php?note_id=321150279796
~

I’ve been working on this for months now – I planned to release it at the same time as my albums list in December. The researching phase took a lot longer than expected, but I’m not complaining, because it meant I got to watch a whole bunch more awesome films, some of which are listed here, some didn’t quite make the cut. There are still a few I’d like to check out or revisit, so I guess this list will never be quite finished. Also, I feel that most of my paragraphs don’t really do the films justice, so don’t pay too much attention to them.

But if you just take it as 20 movie recommendations (actually 50 if you include honorable mentions and tied placings), I hope it will be interesting and informative!

By the way, despite the titles of this and the music list, both are intended to be placed somewhere between the extremes of objective and subjective… I don’t know if it’s possible to be completely one or the other. Taking a cue from Roger Ebert, these all provoke in me the feeling of “elevation” (most of them anyway).

1. Lost In Translation (Sofia Coppola, 2003)

A story that is externally similar to Chekhov’s “The Lady With The Little Dog”, in which the place where the characters meet is a parable for the place in life they are finding themselves. Lost In Translation finds hilarity in the way that nobody around the two protagonists seems to understand the pointlessness of it all; and beauty in their connection when they sense that each other does understand.

It’s Sofia Coppola’s best work; well and truly establishing her as worthy of that famous family name. It’s Scarlett Johansson’s best work, portraying one of those characters you can’t help but fall in love with and making me keep hoping she’ll be able to reach those heights again after her inconsistent work since then. It’s Giovanni Ribisi’s best work, too, and for better or worse it helped typecast Anna Faris as “annoying girl”. I’d even go so far as to say that it’s Bill Murray’s best work. It’s also the best work anyone did all decade.

~

2. Before Sunset (Richard Linklater, 2004)

This is what all sequels should be like. Not only is it better than the original, it even makes the original (1994’s Before Sunrise) better, as throwaway comments from the original become important foreshadowing for this film. Not only the film, but its characters build on the original story, revising, critiquing and celebrating it.

The characters, two needles in the haystack of the world, meet again because one of them has written a book about their first meeting, which brought him to the other’s favourite bookstore (Shakespeare and Company) on a promotional tour. As they walk around Paris for 80 minutes (this comprises the entire film: if you’ve seen the original, you won’t expect any more or less), they gradually let their facade of “I’m doing great” lapse into the admission that they’ve never been able to find a connection quite like the one they shared that one night in 1995. The actors (Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy, who also co-wrote), could be saying the same thing about their careers; nothing they’d done since had been as good as Before Sunrise, until this.

This is a film I’ve watched many times, sometimes by itself and sometimes as a double feature (You can watch both in three hours: do it!), and I’ll watch it many times more. It also has one of the greatest endings of any film I’ve ever seen.

Honorable mention by same director: Waking Life (2001)

~

3. Yi Yi [A One and a Two] (Edward Yang, 2000)

When I rented this, the DVD cover had one of those outrageous claims: it said that by the end of its three hours, you’ll know the Jian family as well as your own, or you’ll feel for them as much as your own family, or something. Well, I watched it, and it almost manages to pull it off. It’s one of those movies that follows various family members over time (about a year, while their mother/grandmother is in a coma) and lets you get to know them as they live their lives and have things happen to them, etc. Sort of reminded me of The Godfather, oddly, only this is a normal middle-class Taiwanese family rather than a rich Italian-American mob family. The characters are rich, full and genuine, revealing a great knowledge of and love for people by the writer/director. In simply lifting the lid off a family and showing us their lives, this does what more ambitious drama films want to do.

~

4. Eternal Sunshine Of The Spotless Mind (Michel Gondry, 2004)

What if you could delete someone from your memory? Can human selves and human relationships survive without memories giving them context? If you’ve loved and lost, is it better to think you never loved at all, or to retain the memories, the pain and the lessons of that loss? This “romantic sci-fi” asks questions like these. Jim Carrey was my favourite actor when this decade began (I was 12): this is his best work, and he manages to hold his own against Kate Winslet, my favourite actress at the end of the decade. The story is also perfectly suited to Michel Gondry’s style.

(Fun fact in case you care: this is not the only movie on this list in which Kate Winslet acts alongside a guy called David Cross/Kross).

~

5. Adaptation (Spike Jonze, 2002)

This could be called Being Charlie Kaufman; it is an illuminating, disconcerting and highly entertaining trip into a creative mind; a mind so full of doubts, imagination, ideas, ideas within ideas, self-loathing, narcissism, mixed motives and genius that it needs two characters, a zany quest featuring Meryl Streep and orchids, a variety of cinematic techniques and even “lazy” voiceover to represent it onscreen. We end up grateful for his having let us in, and relieved that we don’t have to stay there.

Honorable mention by same writer (let’s be honest – as much as I like Spike Jonze, Charlie Kaufman is the real genius* here): Synecdoche, New York (Charlie Kaufman, 2008) (see also Eternal Sunshine above – he wrote that one too)

*Yes – that word being used twice in as many paragraphs IS warranted.

~

6. Juno (Jason Reitman, 2007)

Haven’t we all already seen this? Don’t we all already love this? Well, apart from one guy I know, whose twin desires for absolute integrity of film-making industry motives, and for not being even a weensie bit of a cliche, have consumed his heart. I don’t think I need to write a spiel about this one; on the off-chance that you haven’t seen it, drop everything and watch it now.

~

7. Spirited Away (Hayao Miyazaki, 2001)

An Alice-in-Wonderland-esque fairy tale depicting a girl’s monomythic quest to learn the requisite lessons about the good and bad sides of humanity before entering adulthood. Its depiction of humanity, played out on the spiritual plane, is often powerful – the spirit of a polluted river is particularly memorable – and never simplified. If she wants to survive, keep her true identity and save her parents, Chiharo must not simply seek protection from powerful baddies by siding with more-powerful goodies; she must try to bring out the good within complicated souls, and if she acts with integrity, determination and audacity she’ll hopefully be able to get even her oppressors on her side.

This is one of the best kids’ movies I’ve seen; it beats all of Pixar’s hands down. The Pixar/Disney people idolise its director (master animator Hayao Miyazaki), and arranged and distributed the English dubbed version, but in contrast to their films, Spirited Away‘s sense of wonder and mystery, and the subtlety of its messages, makes it intriguing, not just amusing and admirable, for viewers of all ages. If a kid has seen and enjoyed this movie, I think they’re gonna be OK.

~

8. In The Mood For Love (Wong Kar-wai, 2000) and 2046 (Wong Kar-wai, 2004)

In The Mood For Love is a very smooth and stylised film embodying the concept of mamihlapinatapai. This is the most sensual film imaginable, with or without any actual hanky-panky. Like quite a few films on this list, it depicts an unexpected bond between two characters; in this case neighbours united by a shared pain. Particularly powerful is their unusual way of coping as they try to support one another, while denying the inevitable consequence of doing so.

Also of interest, though arguably only if you’ve seen In The Mood For Love, is its semi-sequel 2046 (actually they’re both loose sequels to 1991’s Days of Being Wild, which I haven’t seen). This one is jarringly different in mood as it shows how one of the characters reacts to what happens in In The Mood for Love. We sometimes follow this character – an author – and sometimes the characters in a sci-fi book he’s writing about a place where jilted lovers go to live in their memories. Needless to say the lines between the two are often blurred as the author puts his loss and loneliness onto paper. I’m always a sucker for that kind of thing.

~

9. Caché [aka Hidden] (Michael Haneke, 2005)

A simultaneously gripping and boring thriller about a man whose chickens might or might not be coming home to roost. Someone is messing with Daniel Auteuil, and he doesn’t know who, or why, but it might as well be a MacGuffin; it’s how he and his family react to it, and what it dredges up, that the film is really about. I wonder how we would react? I might have said too much; but please watch it, preferably before Martin Scorsese remakes it in America.

Apparently this director’s newest film The White Ribbon is really good too… it’s been winning some “Best Foreign Language” awards, which often seem to represent better films than “Best Picture” awards.

~

10. Coffee and Cigarettes (Jim Jarmusch, 2003)

Nikola Tesla perceived the world as a conductor of acoustical resonance. I don’t know what Jim Jarmusch and his friends – a veritable who’s who of leftfield musical/film talent and people Steve Coogan or Iggy Pop would like to rendezvous with – perceive the world as, but it certainly looks good in black and white… that’s white cigarettes, if they let you smoke them inside, and black coffee, if you mess with caffeine. In a sense it’s just eleven great short films with an arbitrary common theme (the first three, which were actually shot in past decades – woops! and the last five are the best – it slumps in the middle a bit). But there’s also just enough commonality between the vignettes; in conversation topics, phrases, references, songs, actors etc; to make you wonder if there’s some overarching theme. There’s not, of course. The film is just a conductor of conversational resonance.

This is actually my favourite movie on this list, despite it being the least critically acclaimed (haven’t seen it on anyone else’s best-of-decade list). I’ve seen all ten of Jarmusch’s movies, and this – the first one I saw, by accident, Philistine that I was, after winning tickets off the radio – is still my favourite. And I don’t really know why. But if we’re going for “elevation”, this gets me there by the last scene.

~

11. The Royal Tenenbaums (Wes Anderson, 2001)

At one point, absent family patriarch Royal Tenenbaum (Gene Hackman) tells of how his best friend Pagoda once saved his life by taking him to hospital he was stabbed, adding as an afterthought that it was Pagoda who had stabbed him. This is the story of Royal trying to do the same thing for his family.

Like a straightfaced version of Arrested Development, this is Wes Anderson (and co-writer/actor Owen Wilson) doing what they do best, and it is their best work apart from 1996’s Rushmore. A starstudded cast delivers a film about a family of unrealistically extreme characters, all exhibiting that trademark Wes Anderson emotional aloofness, but it somehow manages to conjur up very real emotions along with its dry laughs.

~

12. Le Fils [The Son] (Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardenne, 2002)

This movie doesn’t tell, it shows. I know, that describes all movies, and books too, but this one especially. I don’t even want to say much about it, for fear of interfering with its slow, subtle, undramatised, fly-on-wall way of unfolding itself. Hopefully it doesn’t give too much away to say that the film is sort of about redemption versus revenge; a situation that could be restorative justice or it could be something more sinister. A character’s wife asks him what he’s doing, fraternising with someone who has deeply hurt them. He replies “I don’t know.” We don’t know either.

~

13. Dogville (Lars von Trier, 2003)

Sort of the anti-Le Fils, this is a fascinating parable dealing with issues of hospitality, the other, gift and quid pro quo, grace and arrogance, and calls to mind Gerard’s theory of scapegoating as well as Derrida’s ideas about hospitality. It was criticised for a perceived anti-Americanism in its portrayal of a small American town, but I think von Trier is saying something much more universal about humanity.

The spartan stage set-up – shot on a single soundstage with alternating black and white walls for day and night, with houses and props represented by chalk marks on the ground – lays bare the overall strong acting; actors from The Big SleepThe Godfather and Good Will Hunting crop up alongside leads Nicole Kidman and Paul Bettany.

Honorable mention by same director: Dancer in the Dark (2000)

~

14. 4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days (Cristian Mungiu, 2006)

This one is sort of the anti-Juno: the same general setup – how a girl and her best friend deal with an unwanted pregnancy – but this is set in Romania in 1987, under the communist dictatorship of Nicolae Ceausescu and his natalist policy where abortion was not only outlawed, but considered treason. And because the context is so different, the mood of this film could not be more different to Juno as it follows a day in the life of two young women seeking an illegal abortion.

This is (apparently) the best of the Romanian New Wave which developed through the second half of the decade – “austere, realist and often minimalist” (cheers Wiki) films looking back at Romania’s years under the communist dictatorship of Nicolae Ceausescu, and how the nation has moved on from there.

As (apparently) in other Romanian New Wave films, the political context is shown not blatantly as (apparently) in the reactionary Romanian films of the 90s, but from an intensely personal point of view. In doing this so effectively, the film sheds light on wider issues, not so much the ethics of abortion (I think its stance is anti-abortion but anti-prohibition-of-abortion, but maybe I’m just reading my own views into it), but more on the political landscape of 1987 Romania and life under modern dictatorships. The way the characters deal with their particular plight could perhaps be universalised to the rest of the country – doing what you must to survive, and then “we’ll never speak of this again” – but this is not to discount the deeply personal nature of the story.

~

15. Happy-Go-Lucky (Mike Leigh, 2008) and Vera Drake (Mike Leigh, 2004)

I am very grateful for having discovered Mike Leigh. These are the only two of his I’ve seen so far, but they’re both brilliant humanistic films about good people trying to get by in a not-always-good world. These are the kinds of films whose compassion is infectious. Happy-Go-Luckyeven managed to make me consider that perhaps being happy is better than being morose or angry after all.

I know I’m using this word a lot, but the realism is striking too. This is largely due to Leigh’s casting of actors, not stars, and his directorial style. He sets out with a general story but not a script (for this reason he found it hard to get film funding for the first few decades of his career and worked mainly in television and theatre instead!), and lets the scenes unfold in a natural, improvisational way. He will sometimes shoot extra scenes never intened for the film, in order for the actors to become comfortable and natural in their roles and relationships. He also reveals the story to the actors as it goes along; in Vera Drake, the actors portraying Vera’s family were kept in the dark about the central “about” of the movie – what Vera had been up to – and the actors were as surprised as their characters when the police knocked on the door. This technique means that both films play out very naturally, which is something I seem to enjoy in a film.

With that much in common, the mood of each is very different; Vera Drake is a sad story about a poor woman who goes to jail for doing for free what the rich do legally for a fee, while Happy-Go-Lucky is a comedy about a relentless optimist whose happy-go-lucky, ever-lighthearted personality can be grating as well as charming, and disguises the serious and deeply compassionate nature underneath. So it’s hard to say which one is more deserving of a place on this list, but either one comes highly recommended by me.

~

16. Hable con Ella [Talk to Her] (Pedro Almodóvar, 2002)

“Girlfriend in a coma, I know, I know, it’s serious.” A very Spanish movie, with bullfighting, dancing, heartbreak, love, crime, art, compassion, perversion and various forms of life and death. This has no easy moral answers, which is the way I like ’em, and it whet my appetite for checking out some more of Almodóvar’s work.

~

17. My Winnipeg (Guy Maddin, 2007)

Winnipeg, Winnipeg. What a splendid imagination this man has. Guy Maddin, who was commissioned by Winnipeg’s city fathers to make a film about their town, muses on why he’s never managed to escape his home town… telling stories about it, lamenting its lack of appreciation for its architectural treasures, and even hiring his family to re-enact his childhood in case that will offer some clue. He shows no sign of acknowledging a distinction between fact and fiction. Roger Ebert stressed that this movie is great because it’s about all of our hometowns, but there’s more to it than that; if all the greatest raconteurs of my hometown got together to spin their best yarns about it, I doubt they could come up with a delight like this.

~

18. The Reader (Stephen Daldry, 2008)

This is my favourite Holocaust film, because it doesn’t just remember the horrors of the Holocaust like The Pianist, or tell a goodies-versus-Nazis story like Schindler’s List or Inglourious Basterds; it tries to show how and why atrocities like the Holocaust happen. Ordinary people respond to their specific situations and difficulties, and follow the path of least resistence (like how most of us live our lives), but because of the extreme circumstances they find themselves in, they end up performing vicious acts of cruelty that most films can only show being performed by “baddies”.

We sympathise with a war criminal, and we receive insight into those aspects of human society and human behaviour that allow such horrible things as the Holocaust to happen. We are also confronted with other questions about (I’ll quote my original review here) “shame, choice, guilt and excuse, the inadequacy and ruthlessness of law and punitive justice, hierarchy, herd mentality, power dynamics, forgiveness, and different ways of dealing with the past”. As well as all these challenging ideas – or perhaps giving them their potency – is how we are drawn into the personal stories of the two main characters; one played by up-and-comer David Kross and then Ralph Fiennes, and the other by Kate Winslet in her well-deserved first Oscar win after six nominations (Ricky Gervais was right, after all…)

~

19. You Can Count On Me (Kenneth Lonergan, 2000)

I can’t believe this isn’t more well-known. Well, maybe it was pretty well-known, just not by my friends. A very touching movie looking at the relationship of a brother and a sister, completely different in personality but bound together by having lost their parents at a young age and having to count on each other. The relationship between the brother and his nephew Rudy (“Rudy is eight years old, which is the age Terry was when he lost his parents, which is another way of saying that Terry is still eight years old” – the director) is interesting too.

Laura Linney and Mark Ruffalo are great actors, and Mack Culkin’s littlest brother, Matthew Broderick and the director in his cameo all do well too. Everything about this movie is well-done, apart from (according to some of the 5% of Rotten Tomatoes critics who didn’t like it) some technical aspects, but who cares?

20th equal… Some More Honorable Mentions

Almost Famous (Cameron Crowe, 2000)
Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy (Adam McKay, 2004)
Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan (Larry Charles, 2006)
The Diving Bell and the Butterfly (Julian Schnabel, 2007)
Far From Heaven (Todd Haynes, 2002)
Finding Nemo (Andrew Stanton and Lee Unkrich, 2003) and Wall·E(Andrew Stanton, 2008)
Garden State (Zach Braff, 2004)
The Hurt Locker (Kathryn Bigelow, 2008)
Little Miss Sunshine (Jonathan Dayton and Valerie Faris, 2006)
The Lord of the Rings (series) (Peter Jackson, 2001, 2002 and 2003)
Me and You and Everyone We Know (Miranda July, 2005)
Million Dollar Baby (Clint Eastwood, 2004) and Mystic River (Clint Eastwood, 2003)
Once (John Carney, 2007)
El Laberinto del Fauno [Pan’s Labyrinth] (Guillermo del Toro, 2006)
Requiem for a Dream (Darren Aronofsky, 2000) and The Wrestler (Darren Aronofsky, 2008)
Stellet licht [Silent Light] (Carlos Reygadas, 2007)
The Squid and the Whale (Noah Baumbach, 2005)
Spring, Summer, Autumn, Winter… and Spring (Kim Ki-duk, 2003)
Y Tu Mama Tambien (Alfonso Cuarón, 2001) and Children of Men(Alfonso Cuarón, 2006)

~

Special entry: Mullholland Dr. (David Lynch, 2001)

When the Velvet Underground’s song “The Murder Mystery” (consisting primarily of two simultaneous spoken word rambles, one in each speaker) came out, fans spent hours listening to one side of their headphones at a time, writing down what they thought it said and trying to figure out what it meant. Eventually Lou Reed admitted it didn’t mean anything, it was just words that sounded cool.

David Lynch has given fans no such release; he refuses to say what this movie means or if it means anything, and Mullholland Dr. is still discussed online by people who think they know what it’s all about. And some of them do a pretty good job of making relative sense of it. But at the same time I get this nagging feeling that Mullholland Dr. is the emperor’s new clothes; we’re supposed to pretend we like it or understand it or are moved by it, because it’s David Lynch and it’s arty and it does such a good job of pretending to have deep meaning; the same way its characters pretend to act or sing or be.

The fact that it is so hard to “get” seems to indicate that it’s not really meant to be “got”. There may or may not be an overall meaning (that dream theory seems to make a bit of sense, but even that doesn’t tie up all the loose ends), but you have to admit that the individual parts are pretty damn cool. Club Silencio, for example. Or the espresso scene. Or that cowboy guy.

I suppose ideas can be transmitted through fragments just as well as through a coherent overall story. If this is the case, it’s pretty safe to say that this film is about the karaoke way people live their lives: this and Hollywood are metaphors for each other. I suppose it puts these ideas forward effectively, as well as boggling the mind like it’s never been boggled before. I suppose it’s an achievement that it did make me actually WANT to do all the googling and reading and thinking afterwards. Like the Velvet Underground and their song, David Lynch andMullholland Dr. are fascinating enough to send you on a wild goose chase to find a “meaning” regardless of whether there actually is a goose (or a meaning).

I’ve watched it twice, and both times it provoked a constant feeling of “what the hell?”, as well as pissing me off, making me feel that perhaps Lynch was playing a trick on me, and – yes – fascinating me. Did I like it? I really couldn’t say. So, it’s neither on the list, nor off the list. I’m not quite willing to put it on the list, but I also feel like it shouldn’t just be ignored. I know, this is trying to have my cake and eat it too, but, I like cake. Or, I DON’T like cake.

Many thanks to everyone who recommended me any of these films:
(in rough order) Lukas, Bomber, Hadlee, Josh, Gemma, Scarlett, Steve, Kim/Belinda etc, Alex/Bex etc, Thom, Lou, James, They Shoot Pictures, Don’t They?Roger Ebertlbangs,Stylus MagazineindieWIRE, The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, Rotten TomatoesAllmovie.


The Definitive, Exhaustive, Objective, Incontestible “Top 10 Musical Albums of the Decade” List

I wrote these lists in late 2009-early 2010… took a while because i had to research, but it meant I discovered a whole lot of awesome music and movies.  Facebook discussion here: http://www.facebook.com/note.php?note_id=229413959796
~

Even if you doubt the truth of the title, I can guarantee that by listening to these “Top 10” albums (which is actually 15 albums, which is actually 17 albums) you will be listening to some excellent music. 

I’ve opted not to follow the usual pattern of counting down to number one. Everyone jumps straight to number one anyway; it seems to me that it’s about as useful as “WAY GIVE” painted on roads. So, from one to fifteen, here goes.

1. Arcade Fire – Funeral (2004)

“And if the snow buries my neighbourhood, and if my parents are crying, then I’ll dig a tunnel from my window to yours…”

This is one of the great masterpieces of the decade, but also unfortunately follows the pattern of many promising bands this decade: they released one great album, a decent one three years later and then sort of faded away. I wonder if they’ll release a third any time soon? Let’s hope so.

See also: Live clip feat. David Bowie

2. Wilco – Yankee Hotel Foxtrot (2001)

“Picking apples for the kings and queens of things I’ve never seen…”

A perfect alt-country album by a near-perfect alt-country band. As far as I’m aware, this is one of only two albums this decade that Pitchfork Media gave a perfect 10/10 score to; and unlike the-album-which-shall-not-be-named, I agree. They’re playing Wellington on the 28th of April next year, are you coming?

(Officially, this came out in 2002, but that’s because their record company refused to release it straight away… they left that label and streamed the album for free on their website in September 01. Unlike Jimmy Eat World, they didn’t change any song titles.)

See also: Live clip

3. Jay-Z – The Blueprint (2001)

“I drove by the fork in the road and went straight…”

This album paved the way for hip hop this decade, reviving sampling after it had largely given way to “the Timbaland Sound” due to copyright issues. It was an important step in the legendary Nas vs. Jay-Z feud. It made “izzle” language cool before Snoop Dogg. It was famously written entirely in two days. It features Eminem’s best work on “Renegade”, the album’s only guest rapper appearance.

This album was also the “big break” for the man who is arguably the “artist of the decade”: Kanye West, who produced four of these tracks, along with everything from Dead Prez to Beyonce to Nas to Alica Keys this decade. His own albums are good, too; not necessarily masterpieces, but good. They have excellent songs on them, but also too many skits, which wear thin after one or two listens. If nothing else, they show that Kanye is as good a rapper as he is a producer – I just wish he never discovered Autotune.

Apart from all this, The Blueprint is also one of the best rap albums of all time. The dude runs New York; check this album out and you’ll be forced to admit it.

See also: I haven’t actually watched this video, but, you might find it interesting.

4. The White Stripes – Elephant (2003)

“Acetaminophen, you see the medicine, oh! Girl, you have no faith in medicine…”

Jack White is the other main contender for “artist of the decade”; he’s probably the most consistently good artist we’ve had, with four excellent White Stripes albums in his glory years, a few other decent albums with various bands in the years since, some memorable film appearances, and of course his role in album #12 on this list. Yes, he’s insalvagably retro, but that’s partly what’s good about him; he certainly turned me onto the blues, and Brendan Benson for that matter, the way Kurt Cobain turned last decade’s young audiophiles onto the Pixies and the Velvet Underground.

He does not represent, nor claim to represent, anything new (though, it must be said, there’s nobody that’s sounded precisely like the White Stripes before: they wear their influences on their sleeve, but they combine them to make something that’s distinctly theirs – and what more could be asked?), but he is definitely one of today’s best songwriters, singers and guitarists.

See also: Jack with his other band showcasing his live intensity and his skill at covers

5. Outkast – Stankonia (2000)

“Cure for cancer, cure for AIDS…”

This is now my favourite hip hop album of this decade, although I hated them at the time (I was only a child, cut me some slack). OutKast is a collaboration between the eccentric Andre 3000 and the more straightforward rapper Big Boi, and you tend to enjoy Andre a lot more, but you also get the sense that there’s something good about the collaboration; that the whole is more the the sum of the parts and Andre is better with Big Boi as a foil. Or maybe not.

Anyway, this is about as good as sprawling hip hop epics get. It incorporates highly diverse sounds and styles, much like a couple of other albums on this list, but I reckon these guys pull it off best, because their hooks are equally hot whatever they’re doing; this album also features three of the decade’s best singles.

See also: Music video

6. The Strokes – Is This It (2001)

“We’re not enemies, we just disagree…”

I wrote the blurb for #10 before I wrote this, and a lot of what I said there could apply here as well. Except they’re less afro-pop and more New York retro garage rock, and at the moment I reckon they did what they do slightly better than Vampire Weekend do what they do – that might change with a few more years of hindsight though. You’ll notice that almost all of the albums on this list came out in the first half of the decade, so we’ll have to wait and see whether that’s more to do with nostalgic over-rating or if – as I suspect – music is just getting worse.

It’s nice to know, however, that even if you’re basically just concentrating aspects of Television and the Velvet Underground rather than doing anything new, you can still make a bloody good rock album if you have enough talent. These guys did.

See also: Live clip

7. Lou Barlow – EMOH (2005)

“I know in time I will believe, that I loved you, did you love me?”

I seem to be the only person in the world that has included this on their “best of decade” list, but I stand by its inclusion (and this high position) for two reasons:

a) Everyone likes this album. Try it. Put it on in a room. Few people will know who he is, but everyone will like it. They won’t necessarily love it, it won’t change their lives, but they’ll like it. This has probably been the 00s album that I’ve listened to the most; it’s definitely been my most successful “put on in the background when people come around for a cup of tea” album, but I’m still not sick of it, which is more than I can say for some of the other albums on this list. Now, it may sound like I’m saying it’s simply a middle-of-the-road album of nice songs that don’t push any boundaries or break any new musical ground. And to an extent this is true; Lou has influenced Coldplay and Snow Patrol after all (the latter scored a hit single by ripping off this album’s melodically superior track two).
But this fact is actually pretty significant considering that 22 years ago, Lou was coughing up blood after singing “Why don’t you like me” over and over again for five minutes and forty two seconds, in a Dinosaur Jr song that his then-frontman J Mascis wrote and made him sing. He left that band soon after and started doing his own thing, which leads into the second reason:

b) Indie-folk (or as Lou might call it: acoustic white-boy blues) is huge right now (see #11 and #14): and before that, alt-country was (see #2). But Lou’s been doing folk for twenty years. It’s easy to forget, because Simon and Garfunkel are so much cooler than Black Sabbath these days, but in the late 80s and early 90s, before Garden State, before Elliott Smith stabbed himself in the heart, before Nirvana Unplugged, the indie kids called Lou a sissy for playing acoustic guitar. Of course, he didn’t invent folk music or simple heartfelt home-recorded acoustic songs, but he brought them into indie where they now feel very much at home; and subsequently, he had a big effect on this decade’s music now that indie is one of the new mainstreams.
Oddly enough though, this is Lou’s first and only straightforward(ish) folky album: before this, his soft songs were hidden under 80s/90s lo-fi production a la Daniel Johnston or New Zealand bands (2000s lo fi has computers instead of tape hiss), and punctuated by post-hardcore pre-apocalyptic science-fiction drone-loving Renaissance punk songs. This album only includes the songs your mum would like (well, unless she’s a devout Catholic). Which means it holds together as an album better than anything else he’s done, and personally I think it’s some of his best work since Sebadoh’s III.

Beck has also been doing indie folk for a long time, indie folk hip hop psych jazz noise blues lounge funk in fact, so maybe his album Sea Change should be here instead. It’s more critically acclaimed. But I don’t care. I like Lou more.

See also: Interview with him and Elliott Smith
By the way, this video reminds me of a sad fact: Lou Barlow, Jeff Buckley and Elliott Smith used to be friends. Then Jeff Buckley drowned and Elliott Smith – did that thing that he did. Poor Lou. I’m glad he’s reconciled with J and Murph now.

8. Modest Mouse – The Moon And Antarctica (2000)

“Well, the universe is shaped exactly like the earth, if you go straight long enough you’ll end up where you were…”

Remember when Modest Mouse’s song “Float On” came on the radio at about the same time as Steve left Blue’s Clues to form a music career, and everyone got confused and thought Steve was the singer of this band? Man, those were stupid times. Well, this is the album that came out before that one (Good News for People Who Love Bad News). It’s the best album by the best band of the best genre this decade (arguably hip hop was a better genre this decade, but I liked how that sounded). I can’t be bothered saying much more about it at this stage, but it is highly recommendable. One thing of note: I wikied this to see if there was anything more interesting I should say about it, and apparently “The title is taken from a newspaper headline seen in the film “Blade Runner” reading ‘Farming the Oceans, the Moon and Antarctica'”. Cool.

See also: Later music video directed by Heath Ledger

9. M.I.A. – Kala (2007)

“I hate money coz it makes me numb…”

Maybe M.I.A. is actually the artist of the decade? She is certainly more of a product of these times than most other artists, who are all harking back to the sixties or the nineties or the eighties. She represents everything that’s good about globalisation, including a critique of what’s bad about globalisation (and that does make sense). There are songs about Africa, Bollywood-sampling songs, and a remix of a song by a hip hop group of Australian Aboriginal children. When she sings about “putting people on the map that never seen a map” on “20 Dollar” (the price of an AK-47 in Africa, if you wanted to know), she swipes a verse from the Pixies for her chorus. She even features Timbaland on one track.

To quote Wiki, “Songs were recorded using her laptop, in unconventional environments such as on balconies, in cupboards, in rooms with cockroaches, and next to fields of cheering festival-goers to capture different sounds.[18][19][20] She likened the process to “making a big old marble cake with lots of different countries and influences. Then you slice it up and call each slice a song”.” Now that’s 2000s.

Her first album was good, both in its self-released bootleg form Piracy Funds Terrorism, Volume 1 and its eventual “official” version Arular, but in those days she was basically a female version of Dizzy Rascal – it’s on this album that she really became herself. And it’s awesome.

See also: her awesome website

10. Vampire Weekend – Vampire Weekend (2008)

“Lobster’s claw is sharp as knives, evil feasts on human lives, the Holy Roman Empire roots for you…”

Preppy New York rich boys make a quirky poppy indie album that despite taking influence from African music, was named “the world’s whitest band” by that guy from that Stuff White People Like website that white people like. They namedrop all of the right bands as influences and some of the artfully wrong ones, and there was a huge amount of hype about them which was almost over by the time their album came out. It may sound like I don’t like them, and I certainly resisted for a while (Sorry Josht!) but I have since swallowed my pride and realised that this is actually a damn fine album consisting of eleven delicious indie pop ditties.

See also: Is it a Wes Anderson film? No! It’s a Vampire Weekend music video.

11. Sufjan Stevens – Illinois (2005)

“I fell in love again, all things go, all things go…”

I’m sure we all got a little sick of this a few years ago through overplaying. But let’s not forget that we all loved it. We all hoped “Suffy” really would record one album about each of the 50 states, or at least try. But four and a half years have past and his tally still sits at just two. And we sort of forgot about him. He was really good though. I’m pretty sure.

See also: his friend, Danielson

12. Loretta Lynn – Van Lear Rose (2004)

“If this old house could talk, what a story it would tell, it would tell about the good times, and the bad times as well…”

This is one of the most critically-acclaimed albums of the decade according to Metacritic, but it hasn’t appeared very high on most critics’ “best of decade” lists. Pitchfork, for example, gave it an impressive 9.3 when it first came out, but didn’t include it anywhere on their decade’s top 200. Of course, rethinks like this aren’t unheard of on Pitchfork’s list: they gave Daft Punk’s Discovery a mere 6.1 when it came out, but classed it as the third best album of the decade eight and a half years later. I digress. The point is, I suspect this album hasn’t been very popular on lists of the great albums of the 2000s because Loretta Lynn is not an artist of the 00s, but a relic of a former time, come out of retirement to surprise us with another great release. When artists do this (see also: Bob Dylan, Joe Strummer, Dinosaur Jr) we’re grateful, but we don’t really consider it an album of this decade. Fair enough.

However, even though Lynn had 69 years and about as many albums under her belt when this came out, Van Lear Rose is a product of this decade just as much as most of the others on this list; it would have been unheard of until the 90s or 00s for a crew of garage punkers to get together with a country music godmother to release an album loved by indie kids and the Grammy people alike; in 2004 it happened quite naturally. This is also one of the first albums Lynn has released where she was allowed to write all the songs herself. Muchos kudos to Jack White for making this happen, as well as producing, singing, playing guitar and gathering his friends (future Raconteurs) to play backup… But the most kudos must go Loretta herself for one of the best collections of songs of her career.

See also: Music video

13. Animal Collective – Merriweather Post Pavilion (2009)

“I don’t mean to seem like I care about material things, like a social status, I just want four walls and adobe slabs for my girls…”

This is definitely the most difficult-to-spell album on this list – How many Rs and how many Ls? I simply don’t know. Anyway, the story of this album is great. Their guitarist took a break from the band “for undisclosed personal reasons” (thanks Wiki), so they wrote songs that could be played without guitar. How? By using samplers as their primary instrument. So they end up making this bizzare music that is sort of electronic, but not annoying, or sort of like indie pop but all the normal central sounds are gone so that only the cool background noises are left. The vocals float in and out of pop melodies and the music sounds like a robot factory trying to sing. But are they good songs? I don’t know. “Bluish” is a good song.

I think this is an aquired taste that I haven’t fully acquired yet (I’ve never listened to them until researching for this list), but it makes this list for these reasons: a) it’s unique, b) everyone else seems to think it’s really good c) it sounds like the future, unlike most music this retro-obsessed decade – the-album-that-must-not-be-named is another exception but it’s also frightfully boring, d) Animal Collective are apparently something of a Wu Tang Clan of indie, releasing lots of good albums all decade from the band or its various members, e) again unlike most bands, they’re apparently getting better. So that’s cool.

See also: Music video

14. Iron and Wine – Our Endless Numbered Days (2004)
and Cat Power – You Are Free (2003)
and Antony and the Johnsons – I Am A Bird Now (2005)

“Hope there’s someone who’ll take care of me when I die…”

These are all great albums, but this is a symbolic entry: it represents all of those indie singer-songwriters who sing soft sad songs, with distinctive voices, who take a bit of getting into but are worth the effort, who like using pseudonyms, who do great covers (often covers of people like Bob Dylan or the Velvet Underground), and whom I stubbornly wrote off until relatively recently. Sometimes they play acoustic guitars, sometimes pianos, sometimes banjos, sometimes autoharps, sometimes accordions, sometimes they have strings arrangements. They’re today’s Nick Drakes, Joni Mitchells and Lou Reeds (it’s not hard to guess which is which in the above examples).

And they’re everywhere. There is at least one good male version and one good female version in every country, every city, every suburb. So: here are their representatives: one male, one female, and one in between (I just added Antony in for a laugh, but he’s good too). These aren’t necessarily their best albums: these artists always have some diehard fans who like them in their earlier days when they’re more retro, and some who prefer them later on when they forge their own modern identity a bit more.

See also:
Iron and Wine’s cover of “Such Great Heights” from Garden Statesoundtrack.
Cat Power’s cover of “Sea of Love” from Juno soundtrack, or cover of “I Found a Reason” from V for Vendetta soundtrack.
Antony and the Johnsons’ cover of “Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door” from I’m Not There soundtrack.
You couldn’t hope for more beautiful covers.

15. Broken Social Scene – You Forgot It In People (2002)

“Park that car, drop that phone, sleep on the floor, dream about me…”

Finishing the list as we started it with a Canadian band, this is supposedly the best album from this nineteen-person musical collective. I say supposedly; it’s the only one I’ve heard so far.

I first heard of these guys when someone told me my short-lived band The Kilns sounded like them, back in 2005. Of course, that could mean just about anything, because they’re very stylistically diverse. One of them said “I was scared to see if people were going to embrace the idea of a whole shitload of sounds on one album.” He needn’t’ve worried; I think it holds together really well as an album; taking you on a journey to lots of places but never making you feel like you’ve jumped the tracks.

Apparently all the members are part of other bands too, but the only one I’ve heard of is Feist. I think I need to do some more research.

See also: Live clip
Sorry about all the screaming, but I think there’s something really nice in how the song stays defiantly lovely despite the crowd doing their best to lovingly ruin it.


The Bible© – Goodies, Baddies and “Unknown”

This one isn’t a uni essay (It would be great if it was).  It’s something I did in January 2009 with my flatmate Josh and friend Ben.  We enjoyed ourselves.  Hilarious conversation ensued on Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/note.php?note_id=46101099796

~~~

by Joshua (Goody), Caleb (Unknown) and Benjamin (Baddy).

The Bible can be a confusing book, so here’s a guide to the most important characters, listed in their respective allegiances so you can know who to root for and who to root out. The Bible’s pretty noir, so there aren’t that many goodies.

 

Goodies

Esther

Jesus

Stephen

Mary

Ishmael

King Josiah

Abel

The Good Judas

Rahab

“Noah”

The Poor, and Aliens

Samson

Ehud (The Dagger Man)

The disciple Jesus loved

The (good) revolutionary on the cross

Maui

John the Anabaptist

Tax collectors ‘n’ prostitutes

Melchizedek

Fish

Certain Astrologers

Certain Eunuchs

Charlton Heston

Sadducees

Nathan

Mary

 

Baddies

Satan

Jezebel

Pharaoh

Mary

Eve/the snake

Goliath

Isaac

Elisha

Cain

King Herod(s)

All Kings not otherwise mentioned

Ham

Delilah

Job (obviously)

Doubting Thom

Jael (uppity)

Joseph (f***ing tall poppy)

Legion

Lot’s daughters

Charging interest

Esau

Moabites

Habakkuk

Goats

Most Dragons, and the little foxes that ruin the vineyards.

Mammon

Foreskins

Pharisees

Uriah the Hittite

Martha

 

“Unknown”

Judas Iscariot (Who betrayed Our Lord)

King Solomon

Paul

Nebuchadnezzar

Barnabus

Ezekiel

Pontius Pilate

The Holy Spirit

Nephilim

Potiphar

Jonah (not Lomu)

Possessed Swine

The Accuser

Women

The Uncircumcised

The Rich

Jonathon (may have been G.A.Y.)

Mose

Slavery

Various Simons

Jews

Zealots

Bathsheba the Hottie

Lazarus