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Bromfield: ‘The Green Book’ Won Because That Was Its Job
Date: Feb 24, 2019
The Green Book is a black hole designed to siphon awards from films that deserve them. Every spot it occupies in award-nominee listings, including its Best Picture win at the Oscars, could have gone to a work of political art that knows what it’s talking about. Something like Boots Riley’s Sorry to Bother You, which wasn’t nominated for any Oscars, or even Spike Lee’s BlacKKKlansman, a film I didn’t care for but at least had the courage to be about something. Peter Farrelly’s film about a white man driving a black pianist on tour through the South was designed to win awards. That’s how socially conscious dramas promote themselves, and Farrelly and his marketing goons know their best hope of lining their pockets is to get it to the highest echelons of award season. But The Green Book is not a truly conscious film but a race-flavored buddy comedy that makes no insights that would have been controversial even in 1990, when Driving Miss Daisy won Best Picture. This film is a con, and because its theft of awards means white moviegoers will see it instead of films like Riley’s and Lee’s that might actually inspire them to think about their role in perpetuating racism, it’s arguably evil.
Good political art puts the audience on the spot. It asks us if we’re part of the problem and has hope we can change. Sorry to Bother You asks us why we choose to turn our heads in a time where atrocities are a normal part of the daily news. Blackkklansman argues racism is an intrinsic part of American history. The Green Book plays it safe for its white audience by fostering an us-vs-them mentality where if you’re woke enough to pay for a ticket you can assuage yourself that you’re one of the “good ones,” floating above the seething mob of rednecks responsible for racism in America. According to The Green Book, New York is devoid of racism except for one Italian family, while the South teems with hateful bar hooligans. How else to interpret the scene toward the end where they’re on their way back to New York and a cop pulls over the Viggo Mortensen and Mahershala Ali characters? We think he’s going to bust them for something arbitrary because Ali’s black, a scenario that’s already happened a few times in the movie. Instead, he politely tells them one of their lights is out and lets them go with a smile. We’re in the North now, Farrelly is telling us: no more racism. Never mind that The Negro Motorist Green Book, the real guidebook for black travelers that gives the film its name, was authored by a New Yorker and maps not only the South but the rest of the country. Or that sundown towns, a plot point here, were a Northern phenomenon. (Click “web” or “pdf” view to continue reading.)
Review: Gas looms through the trees at Recombinant Festival
Date: Nov 28, 2018
Publication: 48 Hills
Wolfgang Voigt’s storied ambient project debuts in SF with ethereal Königsforst vibes and earthy visions of erlkings.
Wolfgang Voigt’s music as Gas is inexorably tied to the forest. The project was inspired by Voigt’s youthful acid trips in Germany’s Königsforst, and appropriately the sleeves for the project’s six albums (with the exception of its apocryphal self-titled debut) are adorned with psychedelically blurred trees and shrubs, all bathed in unnatural colors coordinated to the mood of the music and stamped with the name Gas in a formidable serif font. How this specifically sylvan music would translate to the spartan constraints of the live electronic show intrigued me. It seemed inappropriate to have a Gas show anywhere but the most remote and tangled stretches of the Black Forest, maybe with a trail of breadcrumbs leading to the stage.
Gas’s first-ever San Francisco show was part of the first night of the Recombinant Festival, an ongoing multimedia and experimental music event at Mission Street’s Gray Area. While most of the artists aren’t well-known outside deep avant-music nerd-dom, Gas was undoubtedly the popular headliner. His music enjoys the same critical acclaim and rare crossover appeal outside ambient music as Brian Eno or Tim Hecker, and 2016’s sumptuous Box set of his 90s albums was enough to bring him out of a decade-and-a-half hiatus to drop 2017’s Narkopop and this year’s Rausch. By popular demand he’d added a second early show after I’d bought my tickets for the late show at 9 pm. (Click “web” or “pdf” view to continue reading.)
Uncovering The Forbidden Funk Of Prince’s Lost ‘Black Album’
Date: Jul 17, 2018
Prince stepped into the mouth of evil when he recorded The Black Album in 1987. A divine vision yanked him back out and the forbidden masterpiece has been shelved since
Ah, yes: the Dark Funk. It’s one of the great lost albums, and though it’s on Tidal and was briefly available in 1994, it’s, for the most part, still pretty lost. Even with Prince’s death opening up a trove of archival goodies, the reissue campaign has so far amounted to an expanded Purple Rain and a bunch of his Piano & A Microphone shit. Maybe that’s because all the really hardcore fans already have The Black Album. I got mine on Mediafire, that treasure trove of sketchy rarities whose loss was a crushing blow to everyone outside the music industry. But who wouldn’t want to hear “Bob George” on vinyl? Have three decades dulled the mystique of this forbidden masterpiece? Or is this thing just too damn evil to safely unleash on mere mortals? Would a vinyl pressing lead to a Ghostbusters-style plague, with little green things swooping around and stealing our hot dogs?
Prince might have suspected as much. The album, originally titled The Funk Bible, was recorded in 1987 but pulled and bulldozed a week before release, purportedly because Prince — while on Ecstasy pills that may have been provided by Anthony Kiedis — experienced a divine vision that informed him it was evil. He replaced it with Lovesexy, a solid album that’s just about the polar opposite of The Black Album. This event was the first of a series of blows for the Purple One that derailed his muse, with the ascent of hip-hop and his escalating woes with Warner Bros. being no less cataclysmic. The Black Album is arguably the last great album he recorded, coming after Sign O’ The Times and before the Graffiti Bridge and Batman soundtracks and his depressing descent into new jack swing. (Click “web or pdf” view to continue reading.)
Review: The Bob’s Burgers Music Album
Date: May 22, 2017
Publication: Pretty Much Amazing
This sweet, funny collection is probably the least offensive comedy rock album ever made.
At the heart of the Season 5 Bob’s Burgers episode “Li’l Hard Dad”, a great little exchange takes place between Bob, who’s on his way to demand a refund for his crashed model helicopter, and his son Gene. “Some people say you have to learn to let things go,” Bob rhapsodizes, not realizing how self-important he sounds. “Well, you know what happens when you learn to let things go? You drop the thing you’re holding!” Gene’s been recording the whole thing on his portable keyboard, and when Bob finishes his spiel, Gene plays it back. “I sound important,” Bob observes. Then Gene punctuates the speech with a sampled fart. “Maybe take out the fart noise?” Bob suggests. Gene refuses. “It makes you go, ‘good point.’ And also: ‘good fart!’” (Click “web or pdf” link to continue reading.)
RIP: Pauline Oliveros, Experimental Music Pioneer
Date: Dec 02, 2016
Pauline Oliveros, one of the most radical and outspoken composers of the 1960s San Francisco avant-garde, passed away last Friday. She was 84.
Oliveros is best-known for her philosophy of “deep listening,”which she developed in the ‘80s and promoted through workshops, books, and records by her Deep Listening Band. “Hear with your ears, listen with your heart” was her credo. Under Deep Listening, anything can be music: the hum of a fridge, the din of cars, the chatter of crowds. If you want it to be music, it’s music. (Click “web or pdf” link to continue reading.)
The fate of the Campbell Club: how a handful of anti-capitalist students are trying to save their home
Date: Jan 28, 2016
Publication: Daily Emerald
(The article received a second place award for Best Feature Story by the Oregon Newspaper Publishers Association in the 2016 Collegiate Newspaper Contest.)
The Campbell Club’s dish drainer was “fucked.”
“I cut through the pipe and gallons of stagnant sink waste started spraying out,” said Waldo Przekop, the job and maintenance coordinator at the University of Oregon’s oldest co-op.
Drenched in foul-smelling fluid, Przekop ran to fellow co-opper Jimi Wood for help.
“He comes upstairs covered in straight poop water like, ‘Jimi help me!’ ” said Wood.
Wood toweled off Przekop’s face and the two of them rushed downstairs to fix the dish system. After much trial and error, they managed to get it running again.
“But people still throw food in the sink,” Przekop said, laughing.
They could have called a plumber, but the Campbell Club is already $17,000 in debt. If the clubbers can’t scrounge this amount together by March 20, the co-op will be shut down by the Student Cooperative Association, its overseeing body.
Double Takes: David Bowie caps his career with Blackstar
Date: Jan 21, 2016
Publication: Daily Emerald
(This article, co-written with Alex Ruby, received a first place award for Best Review by the Oregon Newspaper Publishers Association in the 2016 Collegiate Newspaper Contest.)
David Bowie released Blackstar two days before his death at age 69. This was no coincidence: he’d been fighting cancer for 18 months, and we now know Blackstar was a carefully planned “farewell gift” for his fans. The record is replete with references to the singer’s fate, most portentously on “Lazarus” (“Look up here, I’m in heaven,” he cries). But instead of mourning the inevitable, Bowie clings stubbornly to life and puts out one last fight before he goes out. He isn’t staving off death so much as seizing what’s left of his life and milking it for all it’s worth.
Sorry Punks the Mission’s All-Ages Punk Venue Has Shut Down
Date: Jul 09, 2015
Publication: San Francisco Magazine
It’s the final night for SUB-Mission. In the shadow of towering, psychedelic murals in the back courtyard, teens and older punks light smokes, laugh, yell, and get ready for the multi-band blowout that will be the last for the Mission’s beloved punk rock venue.
Two in the crowd—Fabrizio Incerti, drummer/vocalist for psychedelic rock band Clumsy, and his friend Sam Velarde—suggest rallying slogans for the soon-to-be-scattered contingent of SUB-Mission regulars. “#Submissioninexile” is Incerti’s suggestion; Velarde’s is simply “Free SUB-Mission!”
SUB-Mission began as an art gallery known as Balazo 18, but it soon expanded to hosting local and small touring bands. Most shows are only $5, in line with the venue’s adamantly non-profit stance. But with rents in the Mission skyrocketing, non-profit began to mean non-viable. “The landlord was willing to negotiate, but he wanted to charge $40,000 just to sit and talk with him,” said the current space manager, who goes by Kay Two. (We asked for his real name and he told us “Lou Sypher,” so that’ll teach us.) “That wasn’t guaranteeing we had a lease when the meeting was over. So we decided not to burn that money.”
Date: Aug 12, 2014
Publication: San Francisco Bay Guardian
While still a child in early’80s San Francisco, Boots Riley witnessed something he didn’t quite understand but that would stick with him for the rest of his life. Walking into a theater performance at the venerable Mission District art space Project Artaud (http://www.projectartaud.org/) , Riley saw actors in body paint writhing around him in apparent agony on all sides. It was meant as a simulation of the AIDS epidemic, with the actors portraying the afflicted. But it didn’t enlighten him much as a kid.
“It just scared the hell out of me,” Riley recalls. “You walk into this place, and it’s like a whole city, with people all around you.”
Artist Profile: Romance of Thieves
Date: Nov 20, 2011
Publication: SF Rebirth
It would be an understatement to call Nick Martin a perfectionist. During a pre-gig rehearsal in a crowded, dimly lit room at San Francisco’s Lennon Studios, Martin, leader of R&B ensemble Romance of Thieves, is dissatisfied, and he has the horn section squarely in his sights. “You guys don’t have your shit down!” shouts Martin, 16. “Paul’s only been in the band five days, and he knows his shit better than either of you guys!” He gestures towards newly recruited bassist Paul Mallari, who watches while noodling nervously on his bass.
The horn section, comprising brothers Jonah (trumpet) and Aaron (saxophone) Baker-McCann, seems a bit puzzled. They’re not getting things quite right, but neither can figure out what they’re doing wrong, and Martin doesn’t seem inclined to give much in the way of direction. The other band members choose not to intervene. They recognize Martin’s leadership and implicitly understand that he may be the only guy in the room who knows what the horn part is supposed to sound like.
The tension mounts, and within about ten seconds, Martin and Jonah Baker-McCann are in the midst of a shouting match, which mixes with the other band members’ noodling to create an unbearably awkward cacophony. Jonah threatens to quit; Martin ignores his threats. Finally, Jonah packs up his trumpet and walks right out the door.