Sunday, April 29, 2012

Film: The Clock (UK, 2010)

At the Museum of Contemporary Art one rainy afternoon, I encountered one of the more unusual films I've ever seen.

Made by British-based video artist Christian Marclay,  the premise of The Clock is very simple: it's a montage of a large number of segments from various films (mainly Hollywood) where someone looks at a clock (or watch).  Moreover, it's been edited to show the time in real time - and it covers a full 24 hours.  Yes, that's how long it is, and you will normally find it scheduled to show the time in real time.  Which means over time, you'll carry an awareness of the current time.  This is a unique  breach of the fourth wall - that is, the film is constantly reminding you you're in real life.

The concept iself is quite neat.  But in fact, it's more than that, because the editing is good, and there is a certain coherency to it.  In some ways, it's the coherency of an mp3 player on shuffle, where the music gradually assumes a kind of sameness, a melding.  Yet in other ways, there is a feeling of something happening - or, often enough, something on the verge of happening.

And then the action moves on.  Another act in the "narrative" takes over.

As such, it maintains a rhythm: a steady rhythm, a post-modern one, which can perhaps get somewhat monotonous over time.  If you watch it long enough.  Or does it become meditative?  After a while, would you settle into the rhythm, find the constant time-check irritating, or be frustrasted by the "almost" nature of the action, or the lack of real continuity?  As it stands, I had to go after 35 minutes, but that wasn't quite enough to lose faith, and I was left wanting more.

Unsurprisingly, it looks like the most popular venue for this film is art galleries.  An experience more than entertainment, still escapism - but only to a point.  Because there's the steady tick ticking of the clock...

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Discovered 70s gems 10: Honey Cone - The Day I That I Found Myself

(A continuing series on music recently discovered that I never heard the first time around.)

Yet more from the Holland-Dozier-Holland stable, and we've finally reached Honey Cone.  Theirs was probably the high water mark for Hot Wax/Invictus when they hit the top of the US charts in 1971 with Want Ads (which I'm not sure was a hit outside the US).  But that's not what we're here for today.  Abrogating what I said yesterday, The Day That I Found Myself is a song that grew on me over a long period of time in the last six months or so.  Another spoken-word intro, with words that might sound a little basic, but this was after all early days for feminism.  It's catchy, but it was the harmonies that finally tipped the balance for me.

Their US chart trajectory was fairly typical for an act without a sustained career and, at #23, this was at the back end of that chart run.

Honey Cone 1970s singles

1970 Take Me with You (Hot Wax, US#108)
1970 When Will It End  (Hot Wax, US#117)
1971 Want Ads (Hot Wax, US#1, Wgtn #39)
1971 Stick-Up  (Hot Wax, US#11)
1971 One Monkey Don't Stop No Show Part I (Hot Wax, US#15, Wgtn #38)
1972 The Day I Found Myself  (Hot Wax, US#23, Wgtn #36)
1972 Sittin' on a Time Bomb (Waitin' for the Hurt to Come) (Hot Wax, US#96)
1972 Innocent Til Proven Guilty (Hot Wax, US#101, Wgtn #44)
1972 Ace in the Hole (Hot Wax)
1973 If I Can't Fly (Hot Wax)
1976 Somebody Is Always Messing Up a Good Thing

Friday, April 20, 2012

Discovered 70s gems 9: Glass House - Playing Games

(another in the continuing series on songs I've recently discovered that I never heard the first time around.)

Here's another one from the Holland-Dozier-Holland team.  I've never heard of Glass House, don't know anything about them, don't think they had any hits.  I don't actually know what H-D-H contributed beyond their record label, Invictus, but from the distinctive sound of the record, it's plausible the team produced and wrote it.

It didn't take long for this song to ensnare me, which meet my criteria for this series.

Glass House 1970s singles:

1970 I Can't Be You (You Can't Be Me)/ He's In My Life (Invictus 9076)
1970 Stealing Moments From Another Woman's Life/ If It Ain't Love (It Don't Matter) (Invictus 9082)
1971 Touch Me Jesus/ If It Ain't Love (It Don't Matter) (Invictus 9090)
1971 Look What We've Done To Love/ Heaven Is There To Guide Us (Invictus 9097)
1972 Playing Games/ Let It Flow (Invictus 9111)
1972 Thanks I Needed That/ I Don't See Me In Your Eyes Anymore (Invictus 9129)

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Chomsky's trajectory of complexity

I read today an interview with Noam Chomsky in New Scientist.

I have a lot of respect for Chomsky.  Although the interview started on a scientific footing with his academic speciality (language), it was nearly as wide ranging as he is.  What he said was all eminently sensible albeit not especially novel, but there was one comment that was more memorable than the others.

It's rather a throwaway line, but it struck a chord with me, because it coincides with a trajectory that I've been more or less following.  Bar the psychology (which, incidentally, my wife is currently studying).

In your new book, you suggest that many components of human nature are just too complicated to be really researchable.

That’s a pretty normal phenomenon. Take, say, physics, which restricts itself to extremely simple questions. If a molecule becomes too complex, they hand it over to the chemists. If it becomes too complex for them, they hand it to biologists. And if the system is too complex for them, they hand it to psychologists... and so on until it ends up in the hands of historians or novelists.

I don't know where he might place economics... maybe as a voodoo science?

In mitigation, I have to say that much as I'd like to, it's extremely unlikely I'll get around to a novel :)

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Discovered 70s gems 8: Holland-Dozier - Don't Leave Me Starvin' For Your Love

Eddie Holland, Brian Holland and Lamont Dozier left Motown records for pretty much the same reasons as everyone left: they were achieving, but not being rewarded, and had little control.

They set up two record labels: Hot Wax and Invictus, scoring some early hits in 1970 and 1971 with Freda Payne (Band of Gold), Chairmen Of The Board (Give Me Just a Little More Time),  and a US number one with Honey Cone's Want Ads.  All these were produced by Holland-Dozier-Holland; they also wrote the latter two.  But without the infrastructure (and financial muscle) of Motown, the labels didn't last more than a few years.

More about Honey Cone another day.  But before Lamont Dozier left for a minor solo career (peaking with 1974's Fish Ain't Bitin' - which notably wasn't written by him), the team put out a few singles of their own.

Don't Leave Me Starvin' For Your Love is, like a lot of their compositions, a low-key song without any real punches... but it really grows on you.  There's times I just could not get it out of my head.  And it's the only one of their own renditions that made a (minor) dent in the charts, credited as Holland-Dozier featuring Brian Holland.

HDH's 1970s discography:

  • 1972 Don't Leave Me/Instrumental (Invictus 9110)

  • 1972 Why Can't We Be Lovers/Don't Leave Me (instrumental) (Invictus 9125)

  • 1972 Don't Leave Me Starvin' For Your Love (Part 1)/(Part 2)” (Invictus 9133; US #52)

  • 1973 Slipping Away/Can't Get Enough (Instrumental) ” (Invictus 1253)

  • 1973 If You Don't Wanta Be In My Life/New Breed Kinda Woman* (Invictus 1254)

  • 1973 You Took Me From A World Outside/ I'm Gonna Hijack Ya, Kidnap Ya, Take What I Want  (Invictus 1258)

  • *Conflicting information on which is the A-side