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By Anna

Don’t try to understand this film because it’s not to be understood from a realistic point of view.

Just take it as a necessary 1929 gross-out precautionary tale that will make you “cooler” in the intellectual circles you run in because you know Salvador Dalí and Luis Buñuel created this in order to put on screen the stuff dreams are made of (well what their dreams are made of).

“Dream logic was always likely to interrupt the realism of his (Buñuel) films. That freedom gave them a quality so distinctive that, like those of Hitchcock and Fellini, they could be identified almost immediately,” says Ebert. This signature of being able to identify a film’s director by the first scene is a quality found in only the greatest of filmmakers.

But all I can really say is I hate watching the man slice the woman’s eye out with a razor (though it’s actually a cow eye) and I hate the near rape scene—in fact I find the entire film quite appalling and not great at all, except for its significance in pushing what is done in front of a camera.

“It is disturbing, frustrating, maddening. It seems without purpose (and yet how much purpose, really, is three in seeing most of the movies we attend?),” says Ebert. His point reinforces the significance of the film, especially for surrealist filmmakers.

I still encourage you to see it if you’ve got a spare 20 minutes and want to be in on the film students’ world of trying to understand why we watch films at all. With that I will end this column on a different note:

Avoiding any soundtracks with songs that were inspired or commissioned for a specific movie (i.e. Twilight, Spiderman, etc…); here is an entirely self-indulgent list of songs whose lyrics are based on and inspired by characters or films. And in fashion with my Ebert pick this week the first goes to Dali:

1. “Debaser”—Pixies

A debaser reduces the value of things or people, and just as the male character of Un Chien Andalou attempts to rape and pillage, the Pixies “want to grow up and be a debaser.” The song is based entirely on the film—check it out.

2. “Carlotta”—Harvey Danger

“Carlotta Valdez I will make you her … I’ll follow anywhere that is until you climb too high, cause I get VERTIGO!”  This song is also entirely about Hitchock’s Vertigo. And it’s great, but better if you’ve seen the film—which shame on you if you haven’t.

3. “Buddy Holly”—Weezer

Classic Weezer song that also mentions Mary Tyler Moore.

4. “Jude Law and a Semester Abroad”—Brand  New

Though not really about Jude Law, it’s about his sexiness and about the fear a guy should have if his girlfriend studies abroad in Great Britain.

5. “Breakfast at Tiffany’s”—Deep Blue Sea

Oh how a film can make you fall in love—and though the book is a far cry from that sentiment, this song is about how Breakfast at Tiffany’s can be the common bond for love.

6. “Clint Eastwood”—Gorillas

Also a song not really about the man, though I think you could read it that way. “I’m happy, I’m feeling glad, I’ve got sunshine in a bag,” all set to creepy circus type sounds/music, which could represent Eastwood’s persona of happy cowboy hero turned solemn cowboy hero with a conscience around 1992.

7. “Clark Gable”—The Postal Service

To take after this great actor’s suave and debonair personality is to be brilliant, and the perspective of The Postal Service is just that.

8. “Ramble On”—Led Zepplin

I’m not saying they implement Lord of the Rings well into this song, but somehow they do it, and minus the goofy lyrics it’s a great Led song. “T’was in the darkest depths of Mordor, I met a girl so fair. But Gollum, and the evil one crept up and slipped away with her, her, her.”


By Ryan

Note: This is the third in a series of columns inspired by the excellent Reality Hunger by David Shields.  You should read it.


We live in a very truth-obsessed culture. Our religions, our politics, our personal lives are governed by truth. This is not all bad; truth helps us make sense of reality. What we most want to make sense of, however, is ourselves, and here truth fails us. How can we objectify the subjective experience of lived life? The curse of the memoirist.


Every reader is always seduced by a good work of fiction. That is, by a lie. Huckleberry Finn did not happen, but if you’re reading it, you’re made to believe that it is happening. If you didn’t believe it, then it would be a lousy work of fiction. I’m trying to write about the way in which fiction takes place. I’m like a seducer, yet beneath all the acts of seduction there’s a kind of love going on, a kind of trust you’re trying to establish with the reader, saying “here’s who I am, here’s why I’m doing what I’m doing. And in fact I do truly love you, I’m not just tricking you, I’m letting you in on my game, letting you in on who I am, what I am, and why I am doing what I am doing.” All these lies are the surface of something. I have to lie to you and explain why I am lying to you, why I’m making these things up, in order to get you to know me and to know fiction, to know what art is about.


Art is a lie that attempts to reveal the truth.


True story is an oxymoron: a story is by its very nature a lie. So too “based on…” All of our stories are informed by the reality we know. Yet we apply this either/or dichotomy to stories. We love a good work of fiction but despise a distorted reality. All fiction is distorted reality.


The roominess of the term “non-fiction.” An entire dresser labeled “non-socks.”


James Frey was crucified for a handful of inaccuracies in no way essential to the character and spirit of his book. I’m disappointed not that Frey is a liar but that he isn’t a better one. He should have said, Everyone who writes about himself is a liar. I created person meaner, funnier, more filled with life than I could ever be.


The assumption is that we should read a novel differently than we would a memoir, judge a painting differently than we would a photograph, and think about a fiction-film (terrible term) differently than we would a documentary. Why? McLuhan demonstrated long ago that the medium is the message, so let’s stop making these dichotomies more important than the art itself.


Sadly, the best example here is reality television, which is a sort of lie set in the supposedly real world. We assume that everything that happens to Kim really happened because we think we saw it. Producers, editors, and executives shape every move, yet no one cries foul the way they might were she writing a book, starring in a documentary, etc. Television networks figured out long ago that we only care what’s real when the matters concerned can be deemed “intellectual” in nature.


In The Squid and the Whale, Walt tries to pass off Pink Floyd’s “Hey You” as his own. His justification? He feels like he could have written it.


Frey could have experienced everything in his memoir but, fortunately for him and then unfortunately for him, he didn’t.  But if he imagined these experiences and wrote about them in such a way that people were shocked to find out he was lying, well…isn’t that just as well?

By Ryan

Note: This is the second in a series of columns inspired by the excellent Reality Hunger by David Shields.  You should read it.


My first real, honest-to-goodness attempt at painting took the form of recreating the cover art from Pavement’s Wowee Zowee.  On a thirty-six-inch, square canvas, I painstakingly drew the image in pencil before painting with acrylics, which I still use despite their pedestrian reputation in the painting community.  It wasn’t until after I had completed the painting and, having stared at the album cover for hours, realized that I was painting a painting.  The now-familiar postmodern tradition: art about art.


The cover art for Wowee Zowee is by Brooklyn artist Steve Keene.  Steve says, “I want buying my paintings to be like buying a CD: it’s cheap, it’s art and it changes your life, but the object has no status.  Musicians create something for the moment, something with no boundaries and that kind of expansiveness is what I want to come across in my work.”  To this end, much of Keene’s work is itself a reproduction of art, most notably album covers.


Wowee Zowee looks a lot like Guru Guru’s Känguru.


I met Keene at his workspace last winter, where I stole three pieces from him for seven dollars.  Keene recalled the Pavement piece and told me about Bryan Charles, a writer who did the 33 1/3 on Wowee Zowee. Seems Charles had contacted him about the iconic cover, and Keene had dug through his materials to find the source photo he had based it on.  He told me that it came from a magazine, but he can’t recall which one.  When I told him that I had painted his painting (of a photograph), he seemed indifferent, but nice.  Art about art is old news.


Noted postmodern theorist Jean Baudrillard developed the idea of simulacrum in four ways: a basic reflection of reality, a perversion of reality, a pretense of reality, and total simulacrum which represents no reality.  A photo, a painting, a painting of something that could exist, a painting of a photo that does not exist.  Copy of a copy.


When Richard Prince photographed cigarette ads featuring cowboys and various scenes from the American West, he challenged the notion of what constitutes consideration as art and what is merely a copyright violation.  According to U.S. Copyright law, a person may use another’s creation (i.e. photograph) without permission if he or she transforms it in some meaningful way.  So when Prince got away with copying advertisements, he opened the door for Thomas Struth to photograph people viewing art in museum, and allowed Andreas Gursky to photograph a Van Gogh painting and sell it as his own work.


By copying Struth’s museum photo and Gursky’s photo of a Van Gogh painting in his own work, artist (and friend) Alexander Bussey joins the conversation with photos that force the viewer to question whether he is just copying Crewdson, Gursky, Struth, or if he is genuinely creating his own art.


Cindy Sherman’s Untitled Film Stills are portraits of the artist that loosely resemble films.  Some are based on real films, others are vague recreations of thing Sherman might have seen in foreign films or B-movies.


Reality Hunger, by David Shields, is a call to arms for writers (and other artists) to work more like hip-hop artists: make it short, snappy, concise, and steal most of the good stuff from someone else.  Most (over half) of Reality Hunger is comprised of quotes and other written work by other writers.  Shields credits them only by force of his publisher, though he does instruct the reader to take a pair of scissors to the purposely-hard-to-read citations.


If all we do is copy, won’t we run out of original work?  Ah, but hasn’t this already happened?


Marcus Aurelius said, “There is nothing new under the sun.”  This was in the 100’s.


Variously attributed to both T.S. Elliot as “Good poets borrow, great poets steal,” and Picasso as “Good artists copy, great artists steal,” it is unlikely that either ever said those words, and the source of the original quote remains, a bit ironically, unknown.

By Ashlee

When in a rage for being criticized about your poetry just write a poem about it.

“Written Advice”

He tells me my writing is ideal

But it’s too sweet

Making him sick like after eating

His mother’s rhubarb crisp

That we can smell now

Warming the house

Tart and deep red

While my mouth waters

And the buttery aroma

Makes my teeth tingle


He tells me I need to be specific

With concrete examples

Rock solid stairs

Like the steps and sidewalk

In front of the house

That he can walk on and trust

That it will hold his weight

Even when there’s a corner crumbling

Or a crack and only there

Can a sweet flower blossom


Companion Song: The Elected’s “I’ll Be Your Man”

You’ve got to learn to lie to make everyone happy
and you’re going to have to cry to make it on your own

but I can’t see you now, put down your hands
no, I can’t feel you now, give me your hands
cause I’ve been waiting as long as I can stand
so if you ever need someone, I’ll be your man
yeah, I’ll be your man
yeah, I’ll be your man

you don’t have to go and die
to show people you’re hurting
and you’re going to have to try
put out the fire if you’re burning

but I can’t see you now, put down your hands
no, I can’t feel you now, give me your hands
cause we’ve been waiting as long as we can stand
and should you ever need anyone, I’ll be your man
yeah, I’ll be your man
yeah, I’ll be your man

now, I read through your poetry
yeah, every last one
felt like I ate too much butter
and drank too much rum
cause it made me feel sweet inside
warm, proud, and young
I’ve been sick inside
and angry at everyone

and I wish I could touch you
if I wasn’t miles away
we could talk it all out
in your clean white place

now I’ve done all the waiting I think I can stand
and I want you to know
yeah, I want you to know
I want you to know
I think you’ve found your man
yeah, I’ll be your man
yeah, you’ve found your man
come home to him

Compiled by Ryan

The links:

-Some White Stripes news: Meg’s getting married, and Jack says things with the band are back on track, and that a new album may be out next year.

-Check out the poster for the Woody Allen-directed Whatever Works, starring perhaps the best personality in the world, Larry David:


This Slate piece on the politics of 30 Rock was well-written, well-argued, and very interesting; a must-read for fans of the show.

A Will Forte interview is always a treat.

-Is Mindy Kaling (The Office) a big enough talent to carry her own show?  We’ll soon find out.

-Total dork pieces are the best: this Guardian article explores the possibility that Van Gogh’s ear was cut off by fellow artist Paul Gauguin rather than by VVG himself.

New music spotlight:

Akron/FamilySet ’em Wild, Set ’em Free

Akron/Family are an experimental type of group, so describing them is somewhat of a tricky task.  I liken them to a more rootsy Cloud Cult, a more-acoustic Animal Collective, or a sort of backwoods version of The Flaming Lips.  Either way, good stuff.  You can pick up any of their albums, know it’s them, but not have any idea where the music is going, which is a pretty nifty trick to pull off with any degree of success.  I really like this song from their new one:

Akron/Family – “River” from Set ’em Wild, Set ’em Free, out now on Dead Oceans

Conor Oberst & The Mystic Valley BandOuter South

No matter what he does, Conor Oberst will always sound like Bright Eyes: that trademark warble just isn’t going anywhere.  Since he’s abandoned that moniker, Oberst has tried to move in a new direction:  less squeamish lyrics, an increased emphasis on music, but, ultimately, a more generic sound.  Here’s the opening cut from the new album:

Conor Oberst & The Mystic Valley Band – “Slowly (Oh So Slowly)” from Outer South, out now on Merge