Sisters With Transistors

Movie theaters are back, baby!

And in a lovely display of serendipity, my two-weeks-post-vax mark just happened to coincide with the Balboa Theater’s reopening weekend. So Alex and I went to see Interstella 5555, Daft Punk’s 2003 animated film set to the album Discovery. I had never seen it before and thought it was delightful. And then, because the Roxie Theater was *also* celebrating its reopening, we went to a Memorial Weekend screening of Sisters With Transistors, a 2020 documentary about women in electronic music, which is what I’ve come back here to blab about.

If you are even just mildly interested in music, music history, and/or women’s history, you should watch this film! I’m now graced with the knowledge of so many artists I’d never heard of before, and got to learn more about those I may have been familiar with but hadn’t really explored much. The documentary website has a great rundown already, so here are just a few highlights…


I’d seen a video or two of Clara Rockmore (née Reisenberg), but didn’t know much of her backstory. She was a classically trained violinist who came to America from Russia to study music. Unfortunately, she developed tendonitis at a young age and had to give up the violin, but then shrugged it off and became a theremin virtuoso instead. (I love the tidbit that Léon Theremin was apparently so enraptured that he proposed to her—several times, according to some accounts—but she politely turned him down.) She went on to help Theremin develop the instrument into its modern day design and also created her own technique for more precise phrasing and articulation:

Daphne Oram became a sound engineer at the BBC during WWII and spent late nights in her makeshift sound studio experimenting with electronic music. She came up with Oramics, a method of producing music that involves drawing notation on blank 35mm film and running it through a wild-looking apparatus called the Oramics Machine. She called it “drawn sound” and it’s fascinating to me:

Pauline Oliveros made a lot of experimental music (a good amount of it featuring the accordion!) and she also has some crossover into the meditation world with her notion of “deep listening.” (While most of Oliveros’s stuff is a little too out-there for me, I’d totally buy this album.) I was interested to learn about her involvement with the San Francisco Tape Music Center, an experimental music studio headquartered at 321 Divisadero in the 1960s (it later moved to Mills College). I wonder how much, if any, the electronic music scene from the San Francisco Tape Music Center overlapped with the psychedelic rock scene in the Haight that was happening at the same time? Were there ever shows where you could experience artists from both? That’d be pretty wild.

Wendy Carlos doesn’t get much airtime in the film, but we have her to thank (in part) for the Moog synthesizer, this album of Moog’d Bach that I desperately want, and the soundtracks for A Clockwork Orange, The Shining, and Tron. Also, Wendy’s cat-filled Greenwich Village studio is life goals:

Suzanne Ciani was one of the early aficionados of the Buchla synthesizer (a Moog competitor). She also hung out at the San Francisco Tape Music Center and studied at both Berkeley and Stanford (then moved to NYC).

There’s a lot of good Suzanne content on YouTube and in general she is very online, so I had a hard time picking a video to share here. I chose the one below because A) part of it was featured in the documentary, and B) I just found it immensely soothing (I can guarantee it’s popped up in some ASMR community somewhere). Now, I’m sure this is partly because this video was recorded for a children’s program, and also because Suzanne seems to really enjoy sharing her knowledge of electronic music with other people, but I love how patient and generous she is with her answers. I feel like women who are experts in any field are usually more inclined to humanize the complex parts of their craft—a sort of nurturing approach, with the intention of helping someone to understand something—rather than try to impress (or mansplain, if you will). Obviously this is a generalization, but the number of times I’ve felt dumb trying to understand this stuff when men explain it is embarrassingly high, compared with my experiences watching these videos.

There are many more, like Delia Darbyshire, who arranged and performed the original Doctor Who theme; Maryanne Amacher, who created mind-bending sounds based on physical spaces; and Laurie Spiegel, who wrote a piece of music software called Music Mouse, for which the late-90s-era website still exists. I was woefully unaware of most of these women before watching the film, and am feeling grateful to have learned about their lives and work (and also more about electronic music in general!).

PS: If you’re interested in watching, it appears that the documentary is available here with a subscription. Or, if you’re in SF, there’s a second showing at the Roxie this month! See you at the movies. 🍿

All due respect

Hello, yes, I’m 32 years old and have finally watched The Sopranos, one of the greatest television programs of all time!

I seem to recall Alex and I floated the idea early on during the pandemic, in a “the world’s on fire, let’s do something crazy” sort of way. Organized crime shows are not my jam, but I was aware that The Sopranos is consistently recommended for fans of Mad Men (🙋🏻‍♀️) or anyone who loves a good antihero, so figured it was worth a go. And it was a good excuse for Alex to get in touch with his Italian-American roots. So after almost a year of saying we’d do it, we finally took the dive.

Screencap by @oocsopranos, from this article (which I thoroughly enjoyed)

As you might imagine, I hated the violence but loved the mundane drama, mafioso home life, and family tree of complicated, layered characters. Watching one or two episodes a night became our ritual, and we slowly let the show seep into the rest of our lives. The therapy scenes inspired me to start writing in my dream journal again. We made so much pasta and fazool. Our spectacularly botched renditions of “Con Te Partiro” echoed through the house. It was great.

But also, six years’ worth of fictional mafia tension is exhausting. Not gonna lie, I was relieved when it was over. By the end, everything on the show was spiraling into bleakness, and I was ready to just go on YouTube and watch all the fan vids (because I think I enjoy that more than watching any actual show??). We finally finished the series last week, and now I’m debating whether or not I should listen to the Talking Sopranos podcast (2+ hours for each episode, that’s even more of an investment!).

Anyway, 4 dollars a pound here’s a bunch of YouTube links, thinly veiled in a list I’ll call Nikki’s Favorite Things About The Sopranos:

  • Surreal (but not overdone) dream sequences. There’s some really great dream logic/dialogue (“Where were you? We were about to call the hospitals.”) and also an extended coma scene that was probably my favorite part of the whole series, but I won’t post any clips from that because I don’t want to spoil anything.
  • The gabagool. I’ll never eat it because “it’s all fat and nitrates”, but it’s absolutely the greatest Italian word to throw around. Alex got it on a sandwich recently in honor of the show (his review: “I’m not sure I like it.”).
  • Early 2000s ephemera. Ahh, to relive the ubiquity of AOL trial CDs and Nokia phones and Big Mouth Billy Bass.
  • Silvio Dante. I’m sure Sil being my fave had at least a tiny bit to do with a mafia man being played very convincingly by Steven Van Zandt, guitarist for the E Street Band. Mostly I just loved that Sil looks like such a caricature, yet he’s possibly the least over-the-top in terms of personality: a level-headed mediator and trusted confidant (unless you’re trying to sweep cheese from under his feet).
  • Nice-guy Finn being a Padres fan. What a fun surprise for Padres fans! (Although I know it’s because the writers needed to pick a historically bad team. 😭) When we first watched this scene and Vito goes “the Pads haven’t had a team in 20 years” (the year being 2004) I blurted at the screen “EYYY WHAT ABOUT ’98” right as Finn was saying the same thing. Maybe the most relatable character in the whole show.
  • The ohs and hos.
  • Sunday dinners. Scenes at the Soprano house are my favorites. I’d watch an entire series of Carmela Soprano doing housework and yelling at Tony. This is still my favorite 45 seconds of the show:

While I’m at it, I wanted to do a little amendment to my earlier Life During Quarantine list (seeing as quarantine life may actually be ending soon?!). Here’s an abridged version of Notable Things I’ve Consumed Since Last Time:

  • LODGE 49. Equal parts inspiring and depressing, with a good dollop of anti-capitalism thrown in. And SoCal scenery! A highly underrated show, IMO.
  • DERRY GIRLS. The 2 seasons of Derry Girls were just a delight. Beyond the spastic dialogue and teen humor, it was quite educational. Between this, The Crown, and Downton Abbey, I’ve really learned a lot about English-Irish tensions. Speaking of which….
  • DOWNTON ABBEY. I really wasn’t into watching this when it first came out, but golly it was an easy binge. It also has the distinction of being the show that occupied our lives after moving into our house(!), so I think I’ll always have fond memories of watching it in our unfinished den while sitting on camping chairs and eating takeout.
  • SKETCHY, Tune-Yards. The latest Tune-Yards slaps! So grateful to have new music and video content from Merrill and Nate. I’m a bit obsessed with the video for “nowhere, man”.
  • UNCANNY VALLEY, Anna Weiner. Seemed like a must-read for anyone adjacent to the SF tech industry in the early-to-mid-2010s. And it’s a fun little game of Guess the Proper Nouns. There wasn’t really anything new to me here, and towards the end it got a little tired, but it was a good reminder to always keep a healthy level of skepticism when it comes to tech.
  • BILL GRAHAM PRESENTS: MY LIFE INSIDE ROCK AND OUT, Bill Graham and Robert Greenfield. This was research for another piece I wrote for The San Franciscan, but even if it wasn’t, it’s still right up my alley. Bill Graham’s early life was remarkable: he was orphaned and escaped Nazi Germany by way of France and a ship to New York. Then he made a home in San Francisco and became the biggest promoter in rock. You go, Bill.
  • MOBY DICK, Herman Melville (in progress). Our friend Eugene started a virtual book club, or perhaps I should say Moby Dick book club since I’m not sure if any other books are planned after this. I’ve never read MD before, but have to say it’s been a lot more entertaining than I was expecting. Haven’t yet gotten to the extended interlude about whaling, but oddly looking forward to it.

To end, the latest new names for Coop:

Counting down the days until April 15…

Why not a space flower?

Saw Invasion of the Body Snatchers (the 1978 version) for the first time yesterday, at a drive-in at Pier 70. It was honestly the best way I can think of to spend a Halloween night in quarantine. Similar to the Bernal Heights Outdoor Cinema drive-in we attended earlier in October, the event was super well organized. It was especially impressive watching volunteers coordinate the parking logistics amongst San Franciscan drivers who aren’t the best at parking in straight lines. :P As a bonus, we got tacos from Mi Morena delivered right to our car, and a commemorative poster to take home!

This wasn’t the poster we got, I just think it looks cool.

I’m not really a horror fan, but a sci-fi horror based in 1970s San Francisco I can definitely get into. I loved all the shots featuring the Transamerica Pyramid (which was only 6 years old at the time, still probably a novelty) and various areas around Civic Center. It’s too bad we hadn’t seen this movie before our wedding; we took photos among the sycamores in front of City Hall and it would’ve been perfect for recreating that last scene (***obvious spoiler alert).

So yeah, the San Francisco setting is an obvious reason why I loved the movie. But also?! Just look at these faces:

That’s Leonard Nimoy as a psychiatrist in a tweed suit, Donald Sutherland as a Public Health Department inspector with a ‘stache and perm, and baby Jeff Goldblum as a poet with a nosebleed. I meeeeannn, you really can’t go wrong.

Some other bite-sized observations and questions:

  • Why does Donald Sutherland say “bo-dy” like that? Is that a Canadian thing? (Also, YIL Donald Sutherland is Canadian.)
  • Why doesn’t anyone have a nickname in this movie? They’re all Elizabeth, Geoffrey, Matthew, David…I guess maybe it’s more effective when the characters are constantly screaming each other’s names in terror.
  • For some reason, the dialogue in this scene tickled me just right. “Like a fetus.” “You just said it was an adult.” “I said it was an adult because it was tall.” (also, Jeff Goldblum’s last “why?” at the end.)
  • The “why not a space flower?” dialogue is excellent, too.
  • The unsettling camera angles are very effective and I loved how at one point you got that uneasy feeling for free when the camera was angled straight on a steep SF hill.
  • If only Brooke Adams hadn’t worn heels.
  • It’s 24 hours later and I still can’t get over the man-dog. The film should be rated PG-13 AT LEAST for that.
  • I’m already looking forward to watching this again. Next Halloween, perhaps?

Life During Quarantine

A while back, out of nowhere, I got the urge to fill out one of those surveys like the ones that used to circulate in my Hotmail and Myspace inboxes back in middle school: you know, the 100-line long questionnaires with annoying font colors and *~*wRiTiNg LiKe ThIs*~*.

Mostly I wanted to have something to fill out because it’d be an interesting snapshot of Life During Quarantine. But that was back in spring when everything still felt new and weird, and by now (apocalyptic skies aside), I’m not ashamed to admit I’ve settled into the pandemic lifestyle. No fewer than 15 masks hang by our front door. Running essential errands or going on walks are pretty much the only reasons we go out. Seeing people hug on TV shows makes me uncomfortable. I’d say we’re in it for the long haul.

My personal journal (the one not on the Internet) used to be where I wrote about vacations and get-togethers; now it’s where I document the Netflix shows we’ve gone through and new recipes we’ve tried. I figured I’d pull out some of those mundane details and compile them here in a non-comprehensive list: newish and relevant movies, shows, albums, books, and other random things Alex and I have consumed since March of this year. Use it as a list of recommendations if you want, but mostly it’s just here to serve the same purpose as those middle school surveys: as a time capsule.

Movies

  • THE VAST OF NIGHT. Quirky low-budget Amazon Prime movie with surprising shifts in pace and a couple of genuinely chilling scenes. The setting is in a small New Mexico town in the atomic age, which gave me real The Return Part 8 vibes (not a bad thing).
  • DA 5 BLOODS. Hard to finish, but worth it. Chadwick Boseman plays a central role even though you only see him for about 20 minutes total.
  • STRANGERS ON A TRAIN. Watched this one as part of a virtual movie night hosted by our favorite neighborhood theater, the Balboa. A thoroughly enjoyable Hitchcock film with an insane climax. (The experience of watching with a chat room full of people—and everyone pressing play at the same time—had a very 2000s feel to it.)
  • MOONLIGHT. I regret that I didn’t see this when it first came out. It’s everything I love in a movie: the slow unfolding of a character arc, extremely aware of its setting, sad and beautiful all at once.
  • THE CONVERSATION. Paranoia in 1970s San Francisco? Say no more!
  • SHIRLEY. I just love that this movie exists. Plus, Elisabeth Moss as Shirley Jackson is a mood.

Documentaries and docuseries

  • THE BOOKSELLERS. A documentary about antiquarian booksellers, how very up our alley.
  • THE LAST DANCE. I don’t like sports and I don’t like drama, but somehow loved this docuseries about the 1990s Chicago Bulls?? A+ editing and interviews. And Alex got to relive the height of his basketball card-collecting years by naming every player who appeared on the screen and their team.
  • 13TH. An essential watch and another one I wish I’d seen sooner. Can’t recommend highly enough.
  • TAKE THIS HAMMER (DIRECTOR’S CUT). This was my proper introduction to James Baldwin, which I’m very grateful for. It’s also an important glimpse into San Francisco’s history with race. (Warning: it’s not pretty.)
  • A PEOPLE’S HISTORY OF THE UNITED STATES. I need to read this book!!!
  • REMASTERED: THE TWO KILLINGS OF SAM COOKE. I naïvely didn’t know any of the history behind Sam Cooke and his music. A fascinating and depressing story.

TV shows and limited series

  • DARK. Just a great mind-bending, post-apocalyptic German show to watch in 2020. 
  • GODLESS. A quick little miniseries featuring an intimidating Jeff Daniels, a bunch of badass women, and some excellent western scenery.
  • WATCHMEN. Perhaps the most relevant thing in this whole post, and also one of my favorites even though I was hesitant at first to watch it. (It helped that Alex could explain the nuances of the DC universe to me while we watched, but that’s not necessary to enjoy it!!)
  • RUSSIAN DOLL. V easy to binge. Relatable in the sense that every day lately feels the same.
  • MANIAC. Weird/spooky/good.
  • THE X-FILES. We’re currently on Season 6 (a very alien-heavy season so far) and it’s been a ride. Not gonna lie, I’m mostly in it for the fandom, and so I can watch supercuts on YouTube without spoilers.

Books

  • TRICK MIRROR, Jia Tolentino. A collection of essays that hit hard.
  • THE OX, Chris Rees. a.k.a. John Entwistle’s authorized biography. Nothing too groundbreaking, but some good stories to be told.
  • THE MADDADDAM TRILOGY, Margaret Atwood. I would highly recommend reading this in 2020.
  • THE VANISHING HALF, Brit Bennett. A character-driven story set in some of my favorite places.
  • THE FIRE NEXT TIME, James Baldwin. An important read. Baldwin discusses ugly topics more eloquently than anyone I’ve ever read.
  • LITTLE WEIRDS, Jenny Slate. An apt title, and the kind of book you can read in bite-sized pieces. Depending on my mood during each chapter, I either loved or hated it.

Albums

  • SONGS FOR PIERRE CHUVIN, the Mountain Goats. I feel like I’m not a real Mountain Goats fan because I’m not as into the early stuff, but this came out at just the right time (April 2020) and the return to lo-fi was so befitting while we all stayed cooped up in our homes.
  • FETCH THE BOLT CUTTERS, Fiona Apple. Sonically transcendent.
  • WOMEN IN MUSIC, PT. III, HAIM. Every track is just so good. Snippets of Fleetwood Mac, Joni Mitchell, Sheryl Crow, Ace of Base, and Uncle Kracker(?!). Fun fact: When it comes to Famous People of Our Generation, I’m one degree of separation away from Este Haim, who was in my classes/Bachelor’s program/graduating class at UCLA.
  • SET MY HEART ON FIRE IMMEDIATELY, Perfume Genius. So dreamy. Will probably always remind me of cooking dinner with Alex and Coop (who likes to sit on the fridge supervising us), one and a half glasses of wine in, thinking about how even though everything else in the world was a disaster, our tiny little family couldn’t be happier.

I’ve been lowkey making a pandemic playlist on Spotify, which you can find here. It’s mostly stuff that has come out since March, but also includes some older songs by artists we’ve lost since then, and some others that for whatever reason remind me of these strange times.

Recipes

  • Red pepper, potato, and peanut sabzi. Bon Appetit may be cancelled, but I’ll be forever grateful to the Test Kitchen squad for introducing us to some great recipes. This one from Priya is SO GOOD.
  • Sourdough crackers and sourdough biscuits. Thanks, King Arthur Flour! And thanks to my coworker Alysia for sharing some of her sourdough starter with me at the beginning of all this.
  • Homemade spaghetti and sauce from the excellent Pasta Grannies book. Our ultimate comfort food.
  • Char siu chicken banh mi. Ever since we learned we could pickle food, the idea of making our own banh mi has been so enticing. This was so fun to make (and eat)!
  • Turkish couscous. A refreshing dish made during the heatwave in early September.
  • Soyrizo burritos. I’ve eaten…..too many of these to count. Basically just involves cooking up some soyrizo with egg and potato, sometimes adding rice and beans, and making a burrito out of it. 

aaaand just for fun…

New names we’ve developed for Coop

The nicknames have evolved so much that it’s impossible to try and explain them.

  • Samba
  • Cross Finster
  • Crossover
  • Combination Lock
  • Congo
  • Joost

As a bonus, here’s a snapshot of the view from my desk at 9am on September 9, 2020, the day that San Francisco skies were on fire:

Lost Highway / The Straight Story

Hello again!  I’m back because there are two David Lynch movie scenes I really needed to share somewhere.

Last week we went to a late night showing of Lost Highway at the Alamo Drafthouse (they were screening it as part of their “Weird Wednesdays” series), which in retrospect was a pretty bold move on my part. Before going to the theater, when Alex asked if we should bring earplugs, I scoffed and said no, it was a movie, not a rock show. An hour later, I was white-knuckling the armrests, frantically considering whether to run to the lobby and ask if they sell Hearos, or go to the bathroom and grab a bunch of toilet paper to wad up and stick in my ears. Confession: I was not prepared for David Lynch Sound Effects at movie theater volumes.

Anyway, you’re going to have to trust me that the movie is darker than this (keywords: “psychological mindf*ck”, “murder scene on staticky VHS tape”, “Rammstein”), but I sought out this scene afterward because it was such a welcome/bewildering break from the horror in the rest of the movie, and will forever be the scene I think of when someone’s driving too close behind me:

The other scene I wanted to share comes from The Straight Story, David Lynch’s wholesome Disney movie, which we watched to soften the blow from Lost Highway. People say this movie is such a deviation for Lynch, but I see so much Twin Peaks in it: it’s a slow burn that follows an old man as he drives from Iowa to Wisconsin on a lawnmower, full of long tracking shots and dialogue with slightly offbeat characters. As you might expect, I thought it was excellent.

Here is the most Lynchian scene in The Straight Story:

Bonus: This scene, in which Alvin buys a grabber at the hardware store, is positively perfect in every way.

For those following along, here’s my list of Watched David Lynch Movies so far:

  • Fire Walk With Me
  • Mulholland Drive
  • Inland Empire
  • Blue Velvet
  • The Straight Story
  • Lost Highway

Help us decide: between Eraserhead, The Elephant Man, Dune, and Wild At Heart, which should we watch next?

Anime art appreciation: Your Name

Oh hey, just dropping in to share these beautiful screenshots from the anime Your Name (Makoto Shinkai, 2016). We watched this the other night and I couldn’t stop ogling over the artwork (the rest of it is good too, if you’re like me and love stories about fate and dreams and memory). I also enjoyed the original soundtrack by a band called RADWIMPS; it’s basically the same kind of introspective pop I liked in high school, but in Japanese.

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4 films that define you…go.

This made the rounds on Twitter earlier today, and it seemed like a fun thing to do. The challenge was to name four films that define you, in celebration of “the personal nature of cinema.” A worthy endeavor. It kind of evolved into people just posting four images or screencaps from their chosen movies, which is what I ended up doing too:

Pretty sure I’ve blabbed about each of these at some point on this blog, but here’s a summary.

Lost in Translation (2003)

The mood and music of Lost in Translation is basically my entire aesthetic. I love how Sofia Coppola captured the feeling of being anonymous in a big city, and the uncertainty of relationships caught in limbo, and the bittersweetness of not quite knowing what to do with your life. Also, Bill Murray is a national treasure.

Annie Hall (1977)

Liking Woody Allen movies is problematic these days, but that won’t stop me from considering Annie Hall one of the best films ever made. This movie assured me that being neurotic and awkward was ok, as long as I could find someone else equally neurotic and awkward to talk about it with (Annie Hall was one of the first things Alex and I bonded over when we met). Plus, it’s so packed with memorable scenes that I regularly forget that Paul Simon is in it, which is quite a feat.

Easy Rider (1969)

Easy Rider is the 1960s—my spirit decade—in movie form. It’s basically an extended road trip montage backed by an amazing soundtrack. And because the 60s weren’t all peace and love, it also gets pretty dark, a true period piece if ever there was one. Peter Fonda and Dennis Hopper are great, but Jack Nicholson most definitely steals the show. I quote this film probably once a week at minimum.

Sunset Boulevard (1950)

I was having a hard time choosing between this and a Chaplin/Keaton film, but went with Sunset Boulevard because it celebrates the silent era while also embodying the Hollywood of the 1950s, in all its noir splendor. And because glorifying the past is one of my favorite things to do. Me and Norma Desmond have a lot in common, as it turns out.


Putting this together made me realize that setting plays a huge role in all of my favorite movies. Tokyo, New York City, the American Southwest, Los Angeles…I have a personal connection with all of these places, and undoubtedly they are part of the reason I love each of these films so much.

For funsies, here are my runners-up:

A Hard Day’s Night (1964) – This movie changed my life (or more accurately, the people in it changed my life). It was a tough one to leave out of the top 4.
Mr. Holland’s Opus (1995) – Sigh. Mr. Holland’s Opus will always hold a special place in my heart for starting me on my journey to band geekdom.
Amadeus (1984) – I loooove the set design, and I looooove Mozart.
Sherlock Jr. (1924) – Ahhh, so many good visual tricks in this one. This one doesn’t really define me in any way; I wanted to include a silent film as a reminder that movies were on a completely different (and in many ways, more creative) level in the 1910s and 1920s.

Anyone else? Share your 4 films with meeeeee.

Wakanda to Tokyo in 24 hours

This past weekend we went to see two movies at our neighborhood theater, the first being Black Panther, of course. I’ll leave it to the reviewers to talk about the cultural impact; I’m just here to say I’m really really into the soundtrack (both Ludwig Göransson’s and Kendrick Lamar’s). So much talking drum! And mbira! I’m just waiting for this music to pop up in a drum corps show.

The second movie we saw was Paprika, a glorious piece of eye candy from 2006. I had no idea what to expect, but what I got was basically Inception in anime form (except way trippier. Also, Paprika came out four years before Inception). It’s late and I don’t have much to say except I’d highly recommend watching it if you get a chance. I’ll just leave the trailer here:

(I also loved the music from Paprika, although as you can see from the trailer, it sometimes creates a weird combination of catchy pop and disturbing imagery.)

July sampler

Some things I’ve been digging lately, in no particular order:

Harry Nilsson’s Son of Schmilsson. I knew a lot about Nilsson way before ever listening to him, mainly because all of my favorite musicians loved hanging out with him in the 70s (seriously, look at this picture). A few weeks ago when I was at home in Vista, I pulled out Son of Schmilsson from my dad’s collection and immediately understood why all these guys loved him. Aside from being laugh-out-loud funny, the songs on this album are incredibly well-crafted and just straight up good. Fatefully, I happened to find a copy of the album at the latest Alameda Antiques Faire, and it’s been sitting on the record player ever since.

Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb. Ok, I finally watched this movie (seriously, what took me so long?) and now I am obsessed with it. It’s one of the most brilliant films I’ve ever seen…outrageous and hilarious and quite terrifying all at the same time. Can you imagine what watching this in early 1964 was like?

George C. Scott is amazing (we also recently saw him in The Hustler, the 1961 Paul Newman film, and I’m quickly becoming a fan), but no one can top the genius of Peter Sellers in this film.

For me, Sellers falls into the same bucket as Nilsson: someone I first became aware of because of his associations with the Beatles (let’s face it, everything I become interested in somehow stems from the Beatles). But I hadn’t really seen/heard much of his work until recently. After this, I can’t help but feel like I have lots of treasure to uncover.

Trivia: Sellers was one of the only people that Kubrick let improvise in one of his movies; as a result, most of his scenes are ad-libbed. Notably, this one, where you can see Peter Bull trying to hold back laughter around 3:10.

New music! Another shoutout to A Song A Day (and also Alex) for keeping me in touch with all the excellent music of today. Lately I’ve been enjoying:

The General: Fury Road

First of all, I’m super late to the game, but Mad Max: Fury Road = BIG OL’ THUMBS UP. Fiery dystopian car chases and an inexplicable flamethrowing guitar? I can’t believe it took me this long to see it.

Actually, the perceived violence/intensity of Mad Max is what kept me from watching it in theaters, because I’m a huge scaredy cat when it comes to that stuff. But while watching it at home (with my parents), I quickly realized that the point of the movie isn’t to overwhelm with gore or violence. Instead, it overwhelms in a totally different way, with ridiculous action and punk rock characters and nonstop visual eye candy.

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I mean, honestly. Tell me you don’t want to see this.

On a related note, a while back I saw a very cool video of Buster Keaton’s The General set to the music of Mad Max: Fury Road. (Quick reminder: I <3 Buster Keaton, so needless to say, I geeked out really hard at this video.) It’s actually really interesting to draw comparisons between the two. Mad Max is not unlike a silent film, with its minimal dialogue and reliance on physical spectacle. Both films center around extended chases (one in tricked-out war vehicles and the other in Civil War-era locomotives) and crazy stunts, although George Miller’s production has the luxury of CGI whereas The General (made in 1926) is 100% raw Buster.

Check out the video below; it’s one of the more awesome things I’ve seen this year: