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7/27/2003 08:46:07 PM

After redeeming my pass to a sneak preview of Dirty Pretty Things, I somehow stumbled into the wrong theater; when the lights went down and the film began, I discovered that I would be seeing The Magdalene Sisters instead, followed by a Q&A with its director, Peter Mullan. Since Magdalene was one of many movies on my wish list that didn’t fit into my excessively ambitious Philadelphia Film Festival schedule back in April, I sat back and breathed it in.

Set in the 1960s, The Magdalene Sisters is the true story of three young women subjected to the horrors of the Magdalene Laundries, the Irish Catholic equivalent of a labor camp, where wayward girls (generally unwed mothers) were sent to atone for their sins by “working beyond human endurance.” In many ways, this was a by-the-numbers prison flick, but thanks to the efforts of the talented cast and crew, the film is pretty remarkable. All the performances, particularly those of the principle characters, are superbly nuanced. The cinematography unfailingly describes the essence of each scene, volleying very tight and very wide shots, and employing an appropriately stark color palette. Magdalene is certainly not without flaws, occasionally overwrought dialogue and the villainous nuns’ tendency to lack dimension chief among them; all in all, though, it is really well-crafted, and even for someone as cynical and desensitized as myself, the film’s grimness is truly unsettling.

In unrelated news, the Philadelphia stop of the Dismemberment Plan farewell tour was last night at the TLA, and the band made it count, playing a setlist-free, all-request show that lasted nearly two hours. It was bittersweet, to be sure, enjoying such a great show and knowing all the while that it would be my last opportunity to see The Plan live.

7/22/2003 12:51:33 AM

There is a boy who lives across the street from us who hangs out in front of his house with his mother every night. He is probably about three years old. He makes strange, repetitive, satisfied moaning sounds for hours on end. We have nicknamed him “Zombie Kid,” because he really does sound like what one would imagine a very young zombie to sound like.

Earlier this evening, instead of moaning, Zombie Kid was crying. I wondered aloud what Zombie Kid could possibly have to be upset about. My roommate Sutter offered, “Maybe the fact that he’s the living dead.” I guess it was a pretty stupid question.

7/18/2003 01:47:55 PM

Every year, I take a trip to Chicago to visit some friends and spend some time in one of my favorite cities. Every year, my trip to Chicago is scheduled to coincide with one or many Philadelphia events that I’d really rather not miss. It’s uncanny: bands, film festivals, exhibitions, and all manner of special events all pop out of the woodwork moments after my plane tickets are booked, secure and relieved in the assurance that I will be out of town, unable to attend. This year’s Chicago trip will occur over Labor Day weekend, when I will bear witness to the wedding of my good friends Anna and Paul. The night I leave (August 29) will be the night that Atom & His Package’s many admirers gather at the Church for his final show.

Today, five of the biggest names behind the scenes in gay porn are in the office, and my digital camera is at home. For a Friday, today certainly abounds with disappointment.

But all is not lost. Tomorrow, the LEGO Challenge will arrive at Penn’s Landing to determine how well Philadelphia LEGO enthusiasts, um, stack up to the competition. I am looking forward to seeing some weird and wonderful creations.

7/14/2003 12:27:14 AM

My friends and fellow Kutztown alumni in the Table Collective opened a small exhibition with a variety of work in their co-op gallery in North Philly last night. My favorite piece was an untitled sound sculpture comprised of textures contributed by (I think) every artist in the show, which were mixed randomly through two channels. I believe the show will be up through next weekend, when a performance is scheduled for Friday night, but unfortunately I don’t have any more info at this time, since they seem to do a pretty lousy job of promoting their events. Keep an eye on their site; hopefully they’ll post some info about their next event before it happens. I also met Josh Rickenbaugh, another Kutztown grad, whose numerous drawings, paintings, and photographs can be seen over at Knewseen.

Tonight, I watched Far From Heaven and wasn’t particularly impressed. The lighting and color throughout were fantastic, the performances were generally solid, and the whole thing hinted at an interesting deconstruction of repressed ’50s Americana, but it never really went anywhere. I was glad when it was over.

7/11/2003 01:35:43 AM

I was going to begin this long-overdue post with a verbose description of the difficulties of keeping a weblog like this: the busier a person is, the less time he has to write, and the larger the pile of experiences to write about becomes. I have opted instead for the succinct description you have just read, which still has not prevented this from being my longest post to date. There’s tons to talk about, and I’ve cleverly split topics into paragraphs, so it’ll be easy to skip ahead when you get bored. I hope to someday abandon this binge-and-purge approach and just write about one thing at a time, but for now I want my readers to feel justified in having to wait over a month for new reading material, so get comfortable:

My roommates and I moved from Conshohocken to South Philadelphia. The move was unpleasant for the usual reasons, exacerbated in this case by a number of special circumstances. First, I lived in Conshohocken for two years—by far my longest residency outside my parents’ house—which, despite my best efforts to the contrary, resulted in a significant accumulation of crap. Second was the two-week lease-overlap move buffer we had, forcing my procrastinatory tendencies to extend the moving process over several days by pecking daintily at the scattered falderal rather than efficiently consolidating and transporting everything in one day. Third: we are incipient tenants in a brand-new apartment in a building that has not been inhabited in fifteen years. This apparently makes the installation of services such as telephone and broadband internet painfully difficult above and beyond the respective service-providers’ established, seemingly willful ineptitude.

We are among the pioneers in our neighborhood’s nascent gentrification process, a distinction which was initially very intimidating to me. My anxiety didn’t take long to dissipate, since our presence is not outwardly resented by (or particularly interesting to) our neighbors, and those with whom I’ve spoken have in fact been very friendly. So, while it’s advisable to always remain cautious, I don’t feel especially unsafe. How I feel about being one of the neighborhood’s gentrifying ingredients is unclear this early in the process.

Caste guilt aside, so far, I really love living in the city. I am riding my bike everywhere. For instance, tonight I rode to and from the First Unitarian Church to see Melt-Banana, whose engrossing, skin-blistering noisepunk is still ringing in my ears.

Some news in the lives of some of my closest friends: Mary Gomb has announced that she will be getting married this fall. Jason Santa Maria and Kevin Cornell were invited to lend their exceptional design skills to the Summer 2003 issue of Born Magazine, which launched last week. Kevin was also recently interviewed by the media mongrel site Tastes Like Chicken. Kimlan Nguyen recently made her Sock Monkey Drawer available to the public, where the fruits of her delightful handcraft can be purchased.

The new Mogwai album, Happy Songs for Happy People, has grown on me quite a bit since my initial, somewhat disappointed first listen. Combining the spare dynamics of their earlier efforts with the more lush arrangements of Rock Action (Happy Songs’ predecessor and my favorite Mogwai album), this record bears the odd distinction of playing like a “Best Of” album made up of entirely new material. Now, if only something could be done about the horrific album art and overtly ironic title...

Another album which has grown on me is Tomahawk’s Mit Gas, which is arguably the most compelling Mike Patton product since Mr. Bungle’s California was released four years ago. As good as Mit Gas is, though, its best elements are often reminiscent of Faith No More’s unexpected accessibility or Mr. Bungle’s genre-crossing oddity, and it seems like either of those bands would probably have made a better record with their respective pieces of the Mit Gas puzzle. In short, Mit Gas is miles beyond Tomahawk’s self-titled debut, and a solid album in its own right, but I still wish Patton would quit sowing his wild oats and get back down to business with the Mr. Bungle fellas.

Okay, that’s it for now.

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