Thursday, June 25, 2009

Can't Stop the Serenity

This past Tuesday night was Joss Whedon's birthday. I was never really a fan of his earlier, vampire-centered fare, but I got hooked on Firefly shortly after Serenity came out, but never got to see Serenity in the theater, so I jumped at the chance to go to a Can't Stop the Serenity charity screening in Yellow Springs (one of only two on Joss's birthday, according to the event calendar). There had been a bigger Serenity event Saturday night with a packed house, but I had to work, and don't like packed houses. It was the first time I'd been to the Little Art Theater and was really looking forward to seeing the movie with an audience and in 35mm.

Before the show started people were slowly trickling in. (Some guy took all day in a 1-seater Men's room.) Embracing my geekiness, I wore my Blue Sun t-shirt, and I wasn't the only one. I finally got a chance to pick my seat on the aisle, relatively close to the front of the long, narrow theater. A trio of filmgoers in their late 50's came in and took the seats immediately to my left, and I staked my claim to the armrest, but claiming something only does so much good when the stomach of the other guy spills over onto it. I knew I was going to have to move or be uncomfortable. Luckily for me (not so much for the women 2 rows up) they decided to move. There had been what looked like a mother and daughter sitting there. When the daughter went to the concession stand, the trio got up and took the middle 3 seats of a 5-seat row, forcing the mother to move. They appeared to remain clueless as to why she moved even as the daughter returned.

There was a drawing and several promotional videos, the one from Joss Whedon being particularly entertaining. As the movie opened by toying with the Universal Studios logo, I began to suspect this wasn't a 35mm print at all. My suspicions were pretty much confirmed when I began to see some color seperation as a result of the digital projector whenever something bright white moved quickly on the screen (like looking at the white light of a flatbed scanner and seeing an array of colors as it moves). When the playback menu dropped into the movie at the top left of the screen it was indisputable that they had a 1080i 60 Hz playback, apparently from a Blu-ray copy of the movie. The picture looked nice for the most part, except for the distracting color seperation, the audience laughed at all the right parts, and even clapped at the end. If I had known it wasn't a 35mm print, though, I probably would have stayed home and watched it at 1080p 24fps, which is a step closer to film, and without the rainbow effect.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Set list

Isis at 20th Century Theatre, Cincinnati, OH Setlist on June 10, 2009

Hall of the Dead
20 Minutes / 40 Years
Threshold of Transformation
Ghost Key
In Fiction
Hand of the Host

The Beginning and the End

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Live in person

I haven't been to a concert since last September when I went with friends to Columbus to see The Swell Season (or Glen Harsard and Marketa Irglova from the film Once, backed by The Frames). So, I've been looking forward to tomorrow night when my friend Andy and I will be going down to Cincinnati to see Isis and Pelican. These two bands play a genre of music quite different from anything else. It's an intelligent, complex, epic, heavy, ususally slow style of music that, to the casual listener, may sound rather repetitive. But upon further listen it's evident that this is a form of minimalism where lines and progressions incorporate small changes from one iteration to the next, and the tension continues to build over an 8- (or 12-, and even one 20-) minute song. Many people will call it metal music (and there are certainly metal techniques to be found in the riffs and percussion), others will call it sludge because of the slow pace. It doesn't really matter what you call it, since words are inadequate to explain the journey through their songs, although some of the song titles begin to give some idea: Mammoth, Pulse, Bliss in Concrete, Aurora Borealis (not all the songs are heavy), Hall of the Dead, False Light, Weight, Celestial (The Tower)...

Isis uses both yelling and singing vocals, while Pelican has perfected the instrumental epic. Both bands have an ephemeral other-worldly quality to them, perhaps Isis more than Pelican (listen to any song on the album Oceanic). Both lay down a masterfully intricate and well-crafted ebb and flow of sound, and though I've lumped them together here, they certainly go about it in different ways. One of my favorite things Isis does on occasion is build up tension over the course of 5 or 6 minutes, minor chords and yelling vocals, then after a quieter bridge, build the song back up and break the tension with major chords and singing vocals, only (after 8 minutes) to leave you wanting more, as in Hall of the Dead. On the less ephemeral side, Pelican is more apt to rock for awhile, then settle into some sort of groove which feels less like music that was written and more like something that we've all known always existed and was finally discovered, as in March Into the Sea.

It's an interesting side-note that these two bands and apparently other similar bands tend to release their music on limited edition vinyl which consistently sells out in incredibly short periods of time and becomes a valuable eBay item. But the vinyl is often a work of art in itself.

I was able to pick up this 180 gram vinyl record relatively cheap :

These bands certainly aren't for everyone, but are most definitely for anyone who can appreciate truly gifted musicians playing layered, complexly intense (without being extreme) music.

Monday, June 8, 2009

Bad driver of the day, Monday edition

Brandt Pike southbound, under I-70, turning left to I-70 East:

There are 2 left turn lanes for each direction. One northbound car stops at his red light, initially ignorant of the fact that we had a left turn arrow. Nearly all the cars were in the left left-turn lane because of the semi-truck in the right left-turn lane. So northbound sees us turning left and stops, but then starts creeping into the turn, still apparently oblivious to the existence of the other left-turn lane. He continues to creep out, but never fully commits, so he ends up sitting somewhere he shouldn't be in the first place while blocking a tractor trailer, as I watch in my mirrors and shake my head in disbelief that Ohio will give a driver's license to anyone with a face and $50.

Yesterday, Executive Blvd. and Troy Pike:
There are 2 left turn lanes and one straight/right turn lane. I'm patiently awaiting the green light several cars back. When it changes, a woman from the right left-turn lane floors the gas and cuts into my lane so she can cross Troy Pike in the correct lane, only to then get into the left turn lane across the street. Since I was turning right and she had incorrectly stopped at the bottom of the hill at a place where incoming traffic is not supposed to stop, I slowed down to give her a stare and make sure she knew I knew she was clueless.