A little shopping spree helps me celebrate the launch of the site, this new turn in my life.
[ View this page as it looked under the .org's original "Twisted Mystic" design ]
Now listening to: Portishead, Glory Times
Now reading: Poppy Z. Brite, The Crow: The Lazarus Heart
Now playing: Kessen (Playstation 2)
So now I have a new home on the World Wide Web. Knowing that nobody reading this would be likely to send me housewarming presents, I withdrew some cash from my E*Trade account and treated myself to a shopping spree at Media Play last weekend while finishing work on this site. Particularly after the events of this past month, I needed to treat myself to something nice, and what better way to do that than to go to my favourite store and just buy up everything that caught my eye.
After getting my Playstation 2 last month, I finally had the capability to play DVDs, and so that first weekend after getting the system I went out DVD shopping. I'd been hoping to get Björk's Volumen, but after seemingly having it in stock every week I went to Media Play, that one weekend they sold out all their copies. But this weekend somehow I lucked out as not only did they have Volumen but also the "All is Full of Love" DVD single. Two quick additions to the DVD library right there.
Just for fun, here's a quick review of the videos that comprise Volumen:
- "Human Behaviour" -- The video that started the Björk/Michel Gondry collaboration that I now almost take for granted, it seems so natural. Since my father builds models of buildings as part of his work I know a bit about the process, and Gondry has an amazing ability to take $10,000 worth of props and make them look like a million dollars. He also has a great ability to understand Björk's ideas, and in some cases take them further, as in this video. Pure genius, and a great sign of what was to come with the two.
- "Venus as a Boy" -- Unless you've read Georges Bataille's Story of the Eye you won't get what Björk was trying to do with this video. The video stands out on its own, but without the understanding of its inspiration it's nothing all that special.
- "Play Dead" -- It's a shame this song never got released stateside, because while Björk's tackled similar emotions in her later work, "Play Dead" has a certain raw sadness to it that she hasn't duplicated since. Unfortunately the video is a "movie video" for the British movie it was featured in, The Young Americans, and movie videos abuse the music video art form for crass commercialism. Still, I'd recommend The Young Americans to everyone, because the incidental music Björk created for it really makes the movie in a lot of ways.
- "Big Time Sensuality" -- Here's Björk. Here's Björk on a truck going through New York City. Here's Björk on a truck going through New York City dancing for this stationary camera. I don't like it when today's rap or pop or whatever acts just film a few minutes of themselves dancing around and partying and try to pass it off as a video, and I can't cut Björk any slack for using this technique either, because it just screams egotism run amuck. Even though the cool Fluke Minimix remix was used for the video, it doesn't change the fact that the video lacks any kind of substance.
- "Violently Happy" -- Nice attempt at a concept video, but nothing thoroughly wonderful, especially compared to some of her later work. I never got the chance to see most of the Debut videos when they first aired, so when I first picked Volumen up on video tape it was good to see them. But "Violently Happy" failed to move me; it was well-done, but it just didn't grab me.
- "Army of Me" -- Again Björk went to Michel Gondry to come up with a great video for the first track of her new album, and Gondry came through again, though I'd have to say this is the least inspired of Gondry's Björk videos. While the Metropolis-inspired visuals are nice, the underlying story isn't on the same level of his other work for Björk.
- "Isobel" -- This is perhaps the video that has grown on me the most since initially viewing it. At first I was just mesmerized by the incredible Bettie Page-esque haircut Björk had, but after repeated viewings the visuals just keep drawing me in, and the way they tie in to the song itself is just terrific. I don't even particularly understand the style this video evokes, but it makes me want to know. Probably the most underrated of Björk's videos.
- "It's Oh So Quiet" -- Then again, considering this followed "Isobel" in short order, it's no wonder people paid more attention to this one. Spike Jonze really kicked it up a notch and made this one work in ways it shouldn't have worked, though it says a lot about the music industry's disdain for Björk that even though this video was released at the peak of the Spike Jonze craze, Jonze still lost Best Director at that year's MTV Video Music Awards. Still, this is a nice, happy little romp that still ranks as one of the better music videos of all time.
- "Hyperballad" -- My favourite song from Post without question, but the video just didn't cut it. The main problem with a lot of Björk's later work is that her songs have just become a backdrop for a lot of pretty visuals that are nice, but don't really utilize the music video art form in the way it was intended to be. This is the first example of this technique as we get a lot of cool computer-generated effects but little else. And it didn't help that they used a remix featuring an inferior retake of Björk's vocals and a hideous clip job of the wonderful swell at the end of the song that was on the album version.
- "Possibly Maybe" -- Just like "Hyperballad," only without an ultra-cool song and with fluorescent effects instead of computer graphics. At least the theme of the song bleeds somewhat into the video, but not enough to save it from "pretty visual" syndrome.
- "I Miss You" -- I like Björk. I like John Kricfalusi. But I really do not like this video. John K. works best when he downplays the more extreme elements of his work, but here he seems to play them up to the max, and it's a complete turn-off. It also doesn't help that this video was shot during Björk's misjudged journey into the world of strawberry blonde hair. My least favourite Björk video, right behind "Big Time Sensuality." But for those who saw the video on MTV, you should see the original version here, without the "breast scene" cut out.
- "Joga" -- Pretty visual syndrome again, as for once Björk didn't go to Michel Gondry for the first video off a new album. In all fairness some of the effects in here were tremendous for their time, and still stand up against today's best work, but effects alone are still not what I want to see in a video. Although this video did provide the backdrop for an example of the utter cluelessness of today's youth, as during an episode of MTV's ill-fated 12 Angry Viewers show, one of the panelists scolded Björk for the white coat she was wearing, saying she was "trying to be like Mary J. Blige." I swear to you, I am not making that up.
- "Bachelorette" -- So when Björk finally went to Gondry, she made it count. Homogenic should have been the Bat out of Hell of my generation, the album that made people forget how fat, or weird, or whatever, the singer was, and just made you go, "Oh my god, you mean you can do this with music?" "Bachelorette" was the epitome of what Homogenic was all about, combining the most classical and modern of musical stylings in a song as epic as The Iliad. I was worried when I learned this song was going to get the video treatment because I didn't think anything could match the genius of the song, but somehow Gondry did it, creating the template of what music videos should be about. The greatest music video of all time, without question, for one of the greatest songs of all time.
- "Hunter" -- Unfortunately the compilation closes with another pretty visual video, again featuring great computer effects but no story. I like looking at Björk for minutes on end, but if I wanted to do that I'd look at a picture of her; when I watch a music video, I want something more than that. "Hunter" fails to give me that, and in truth I don't think the song is one of the better tracks from Homogenic.
Volumen is still a must-buy, there's no question about it. And just in case you hadn't deduced it by now, all the links you see here go to amazon.com or cdnow.com pages where you can buy the work in question. And not only can you buy it, but when you buy it through the link from this site, you also put a little money in my pocket thanks to the affiliate deals I have with both sites. Even if you're not interested in my selections, you can still shop through the links on my front page and help finance my various entertainment-based habits.
To get back to the Media Play trip, I also picked up Poppy Z. Brite's Wormwood while I was out. Horror hadn't ever particularly been my thing, but I'm finding that reading it is a lot easier than trying to watch a scary movie, because it usually allows me to dull the scenes to my own thresholds for blood and guts and all that other nasty stuff. Although as I read Poppy Z. Brite's work I'm finding those thresholds are becoming greater and greater. Perhaps it's because Brite is such a great writer, I don't know. I'm a child of the cable TV age so I've never really been into recreational reading, but since being turned on to Brite's work I've been more interested in curling up with a good book. Just like with movies, which I don't watch that often, I find it easier to become immersed in a book than with other forms of entertainment. At least now I have something to pick up after finishing The Crow: The Lazarus Heart.
I rounded off my Media Play trip with a Powerpuff Girls t-shirt (picking up the last style they had that I didn't already own) and three CDs. First off was Portishead's Glory Times, which I kind of liked but didn't change my initial skepticism about the set, that "Sour Times" and "Glory Box" were two songs that had been perfected and didn't need remixes. At least now I have a copy of "Theme from To Kill a Dead Man," which I've been dying for since I first saw the video for it on Amp.
I also picked up Smashing Pumpkins' Gish, because MTV2 has had the videos for "Siva" and "Rhinoceros" in regular rotation recently and I've begun to realize I prefer the Pumpkins' earlier work, before side projects and break-ups and drugs basically destroyed the group. I don't own the last few Pumpkins CDs but even among their earlier work I'm really liking the sound here; the Chicago influence is perhaps stronger here than in their later work, and it has that whole "alternative before alternative was cool" flow going for it.
Finally I got Recoil's Liquid, just because I had Recoil recommended to me by the same friend who turned me on to Poppy Z. Brite. That friend has really been expanding my horizons, and for that I must thank her. I wouldn't say as I'm totally unfamiliar with Recoil's sound, because I have similar CDs in my collection. But Recoil adds a layer of sensuality to the primitive sounds that's like a fog machine in my brain, clouding my previous perceptions and forcing me to focus on a single beacon of sexual charge to find my way.
Going back to my Playstation 2 for a moment, you have to get Kessen. I'd never played a real-time strategy game before, but I picked this one up real quick and I can jam on this thing forever. The battle scenes kick so much ass that I can keep viewing them over and over again and never get tired of them. The level of detail in the game is just unbelievable, and the only real problem I have with it is that sometimes the general swing their spears through the decorations on their headdresses. Other than the fact that I missed an episode of Powerpuff Girls because I got caught in the middle of a two-hour battle, though, the only fault I can find with the game is that there aren't enough hours in the day to play it. I completed the game in less than a week, although it felt like the final battle playing as the West damn near took a week, and my victory was hardly Napoleonic.
And Jeff finally came over to see the Playstation 2 and, of course, test the DVD features. He brought over some of his DVD collection so he could run my system "through the paces," and he seemed to leave plenty jealous. The only real problem we ran into was with the special commentary on Men in Black, as the silhouettes and telestrating on the screen seemed to flicker on and off at odd times. Given some of the subtitling problems I've run into on some of my anime DVDs, I'm guessing the subtitling part of the DVD software isn't quite up to snuff, perhaps limited by the system's video RAM. But it's not too much of a problem for me, at least not for now.
Geez, here I go with these grand plans for the new site, and I spend my whole first journal update talking about all this petty stuff. I'd been hoping to do something more profound than just talk about CDs and DVDs and music videos and stuff, but oh well. This is a work in progress, and I need to allow myself to experiment here, see where these forays will take me. And if I don't like where I end up, I can always go someplace else, try something new. No biggie.
Anyway, I hope you all check out the poetry, and hopefully I should have some fiction cooked up for the site shortly. I should get back to some of my songs shortly, but I wanna keep updating here, because I'm really having fun with this. Everyone be sure to join the mailing list to receive e-mails whenever I have something new for you here, or else just keep checking in to the site. I'll be around.
Until then, let my tonbogiri be your passage TO HELL!!!