Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas [1998]

Through my twenties, if asked the question of what my favorite movie was, I'd say Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas or Pulp Fiction. It's been several years since I've seen either, but that framing still exists in my mind, much of it with little evidence backing it up: Those were my favorite movies because they've been my favorite movies, not because I can still pinpoint what it is precisely that I enjoy about them.

There's a lot of good here, but the emptiness on display in matt lynch's review is sticking with me. I felt something similar with watching another of Gilliam's movies, Brazil, recently - where subversiveness is weaponized against working stiffs, much as it is here. But in the end, Fear and Loathing promotes a darkness that cuts through the outer shell of its cultural commentary. The way Dr. Gonzo sours in the second half of the movie... the creepiness of his presence with Lucy, and the way he terrorizes the waitress in the diner - it's vile. At some point Raoul Duke turns a corner from drugged out confusion and into pathetic and complacent. The way he leaves that waitress to fear for herself, without even recusing himself of the insanity of it all only speaks to the scope of his concern. It's on him. Just him. Drugs or no drugs, it's always just been about him.

Out of the Furnace [2013]

Woody Harrelson makes a pretty convincing backwoods meth-head murderer underground businessman.

Prisoners [2013]

The intensity with which Jake Gyllenhaal is able to blink in this movie is an acting triumph unto itself.

The Royal Tenenbaums [2001]

One of my sister's favorite movies, when I still knew who she was.

The Darjeeling Limited [2007]

The frailty of the spiritual conquest, the balance of connection between the brothers... it's interesting, but I still linger on their hubris. They're all takers. They're all unaware. If it's possible to enjoy the film without admiring anything about its subjects, this is that moment for me.

Irreversible [2002]

Despite the gentle and sensitive operating system that Alex seems to believe Marcus operates under, his loutish misogyny at the party, and racist, homophobic, and ultimately misguided rampage at the Rectum are so overwhelmingly sour on this viewing.

Drive [2011]

The contrast between the almost tired pace of some of the scenes and the hotel/elevator scenes of violence is impactful, but there's a level of unintentional silliness to the awkward interactions between Gosling and Mulligan's characters that I hadn't picked up on before. They could barely support the interest of a conversation—I have no idea how they'd hold a relationship together.

A Journey Into Declutterization: Part Two

The other day I was thinking about all the domain names I've owned and the futility of the entire process... Paying money for this thing that can't possibly be maintained ad infinitum. In 2008 I had this idea for a blog called soft focus (rather: sftfcs, because I was being cute with the nomenclature) that was going to be an outlet for whatever was on my mind. Kind of like I'm doing with this space. I'd forgotten about it for a long time, but when I went searching on the Internet Archive I found a few blog posts that I wrote around that time. One was called "A Journey Into Declutterization: Part One."

From the bits and pieces of memory I have from that period of time, this post makes a lot of sense. I was twenty-five. I had recently left rehab. ("Soft focus" was a term one of my counselors used regularly.) I was emotionally molting. It's not surprising that I wanted to shed a lot of what I'd built up around myself to that point, and the idea of "minimalism" seemed as good a credo as any to hang my hat on as any.

Several weeks ago I'd made a note connecting the dots of George Carlin's "A Place for My Stuff" bit and emotional minimalism. I thought this was a new thought. Turns out, I already had it about ten years earlier. I made some fine points worth carrying forward in that article, about being "dissatisfied with the way I’ve been living - continually trying to find my happiness in external stuff," and "[upgrading] my life by downsizing and simplifying," and "as my personal cleansing commenced it became evident that it’s a tough realization to find out that the things I once placed so much emphasis in no longer reflect what I want in life"... But there was one line that made the most sense to me, speaking of "a goal with which I can no longer identify." Looking at those couple words and letting them rest is big.

A goal with which I can no longer identify...

Simplicity and downsizing have been on my mind lately, though the focus has been not what I've surrounded myself by, but what's in my head. I was listening to this podcast that posed a process, "like decluttering my house and getting rid of stuff and simplifying my life," instead "simplifying your heart and your attachments and your judgements." Damn, that's heavy.

Pivoting a little...
"It’s not that it’s bad to seek knowledge, but the idea is that if we’re just only seeking knowledge, if we’re just only looking for method, and if we’re only looking for this encyclopedic collection of technique and tools and what have you… Does the knowledge seeking enhance your knowing and harmony or wisdom...? I know a lot of people who knowledge seek as a way of weaponizing knowledge, separating themselves, [and] creating hierarchy."
Think back to how much I've weaponized information for protection? Identity signaling as a defense mechanism: If you think I'm some type of person... If I think I'm some type of person... Then acceptance? Then safety? I don't know, but it feels like I've armed myself with knowledge "about" a hell of a lot of stuff without really knowing much at all about any of it as a means of bridging gaps between myself and other people.

It's weird, feeling like I'm just starting to ask questions of myself that it (now) seems like other people my age should have asked themselves long ago. Should is a dangerous word. Does staying connected to the endless torrent of information and "content" enhance my life? How much longer can I continue identity shopping before I'll look back with regret that I never slowed down long enough to feel who I was?

This Ron Gallo song has the line, "Talking talking. Never listening. Always elsewhere. Searching searching." From the time I wrote about declutterization when I was twenty-five, so much of my aim has been focused on a wayward target. It's not so much about any possessions I have or haven't amassed/divested myself of, and it's probably not about filtering out the valuable life-affirming information from the information firehose, either. It's not this, putting these words out into the world as if doing so "helps me process" them or relates remotely at all to any long-term resonance they're likely to maintain within me. Simplifying isn't about making all of this much more complicated than it needs to be in order to sort out "the answer." It's about none of this being up to me, whoever that might be today. It's about letting go again.

Harpeth River State Park (Kingston Springs, TN)

Photos taken November 21, 2018 at Harpeth River State Park in Kingston Springs, TN.

Brazil [1985]

When I was in my teens, I saw part of Brazil somehow and it implanted in me this weird fascination. It's a movie I've never been able to dedicate myself to, yet it lingers in my mind as this masterpiece I have to get everything out of... someday. It's challenging—trying to watch Gilliam's two-and-a-half hour cut is a marathon, and it's just too dense to digest in a single sitting. Even now, having finished it again, I feel I'm only scratching the surface. I feel like Sisyphus... and back down the hill Brazil rolls.

Battle Royale [2000]

Time has softened the impact of Battle Royale. The violence and themes don't seem nearly as outlandish as they once did. Still rough, still brutal, but maybe it's just the way movies have progressed. Maybe culture.

Always Elsewhere

Tired. Dissatisfied. Lacking. Needing. Sleep. But what would all this look like if—upon waking up—the problem was fixed? What if that thing that was out of reach was now in hand? What then? What would life look like in the presence of occupied achievement? What happens in that space, feeling what's real... What then? What happens when the flag is captured? Victory? Will there be a celebration? Will you feel like a winner? How will you sustain winning? How will you resist impermanence? The drive, the drive, the drive... to Achieve, to Achieve, to Achieve.

Sin City [2005]

For being so visually attractive, it was surprising how I couldn't remember a thing from the first viewing of Sin City. Maybe that has something to do with the superficial characters and forgettable acting (but what a cast). Hey, at least it's pretty!

Wrong Turn 2: Dead End [2007]

So much more fun than the original, there are a surprising number of unique visuals in this one: The splitting of the actress in the introduction and the running with steady cam/axe to the head still stand out to me.

Wrong Turn [2003]

Wrong Turn is about as good as an early-2000s mainstream backwoods monster-man flick is going to get, but I haven't the slightest clue how it was deemed memorable enough to merit five sequels.

Animal House [1978]

Probably the best college party movie ever, which can be appropriately summed up by the scene where John Belushi—sitting in a drunken stupor—decides to pour a jar of mustard on his chest just to see what happens. That's the college experience in a nutshell.

Caddyshack [1980]

Highlights are still the quotable moments from Rodney Dangerfield, Chevy Chase and Bill Murray, but the older I get the less the rest of the movie appeals to me. Maybe that's a testament to those three though, that even while the movie's not really "about" them—it's about Danny—theirs are the scenes that have stood up with time.

Who Are You? Point To It!

Walking bundles of habit, I think I read somewhere. That's what we are. I get up, hit my knees, give thanks, meditate, and stretch... all figuratively speaking, of course. Many of my habits are aspirational. Some of them, at least. The others have an anaconda lock on me, constricting me slowly before I'm too light headed to realize I'm in da belly of da beast. LOL. It's a hypnotic tango with my dance partners, with fear and self-doubt mirroring my movement each time I get a craving or feel alone or start running on capital e Empty. I mean, I'm good, but if that one thing happened I'd be doing way better. Oh, man, if that one woman said that one thing or she came over and we hung out and connected like I imagine we would, I'd be great. Then I'd be alright. Alright? Hell, I'd be better than alright! Then I'd be free, y'know? That would make it all worthwhile, all the other stuff that I do that I'm not sure makes me Me. Like, I know I'm not me when I'm slaving the wage, which is what I've had to do to get by, right? I'm just trying to make sure I've got some security, but next year I'm really going to focus on being me again. Then I'll return to the things that "feed" me, but I can't do that right now because that's just not where things are at. It's like that saying I just made up: I've got to get a few more ducks in a row, then the ducks will be in a row. As for who I am though? Well, at least I know who I have the potential to become. To become. To become.

The Blues Brothers [1980]

There's a legacy gap here, where a previous generation has embedded value in The Blues Brothers that I'm not sure is really there. I don't ever remember loving the movie, but have probably seen it a half dozen times now. That's a question for me, personally—why keep watching? Why keep drilling for something that's not there? It has its moments, but it's not very funny (which wouldn't be a problem if this weren't registered as one of cinema's great comedies). The music is good, but it's also kind of weird that a pair of white comedians are projected as the heroes of black music history. I want to understand why this is so good, but I'm not sure I ever will.

Wayne’s World 2 [1993]

It's not really any "better" a movie than Wayne's World, but I appreciate how the sequel leans all the way in on its self-aware schtick. The scene where Wayne demands the production staff swap out gas station attendants for a better actor (Charlton Heston), for example, just clicks.

The Jackal [1997]

Sidney Poitier confronts mobsters in a techno club and arrests them in their native Russian tongue... that's the first scene of The Jackal. Richard Gere's Irish accent is god level bad. Dialog includes phrases like, "Go along and we'll get along." And there's a little over two hours of this schlock. I'm not sure why I remember enjoying this as a teenager other than it introduced me to Jack Black.

The Big Hit [1998]

Loved this as a teenager, and watching it now I couldn't figure out why... until China Chow's first appearance. Then, the way she shuts Lou Diamond Phillips down in the blackmail scene... she's a gem. Every actor in this thing hams it up, and much of The Big Hit is self-aware spoof, but there's just something about the way Mark Wahlberg is portrayed that leaves some of his scenes feeling too self-serious for this kind of movie. Not deciding—or maybe committing to—what it is, holds it back from being great. Then again, in the final fight scene at the video store, the only legible signage is for Troma movies like The Toxic Avenger 3 and Tromeo and Juliet, so maybe I'm not giving The Big Hit quite enough credit where I should.

Something Wrong

The feeling is so strange, the organic and artisanal refuge communicating a message that there's goodness to be had here. I'm good because I'm here. So are you. But why? We're here, doing good for ourselves, at this place that tells us it's the kind of place for people who care about enhancing their well being. People who are mindful. People who deserve it. At that other place people just shop for food. That place doesn't smell the way that good places smell. Actually, it doesn't smell like much at all. This place smells of lavender soaps, bulk organic quinoa, fresh produce, and herbal mustache waxes. Paying more is a byproduct of treating yourself to a better life, with better scents. We're not buying products here, and maybe that's why the feeling is so strange. We're buying everything we're being sold.

Strange Brew [1983]

Part of my Canadianness hates that so many reviews here reference "how Canadian this film is" when I haven't the slightest clue how this is any better example of Canada than something like Wayne's World is of America. Or maybe both of those movies are spot on representations of their country of origin. Either way, once you cast aside the toques and stubbies, Strange Brew is fairly forgettable comedically. Actually the part that made me laugh most was the throwaway scene where the McKenzie brothers' defense attorney inexplicably uses martial arts to beat up (and probably kill... I mean, he threw one guy off a tall ledge) a pack of journalists in a pre-Trumpian stand against the media, only to never be spoken of again.

Irreversible [2002]

Despite bearing similar glances of stylistic flair as Enter the Void, there's a cohesiveness achieved by Irréversible that is far more satisfying. There is a tide going in and out here, rushing in with brutality at the beginning, before shifting to a lull. Then, again, it returns with godlike presence, devouring the entire shoreline with the red tunnel scene before fading out to the movie's end. The gentle final scene transitioning into strobe light outro rinses the palette clean. Clean, but changed.

Orgazmo [1997]

I like Trey Parker and Matt Stone. They're good actors when playing to their own characters: Here, Trey's a sheepish wayward Mormon caught up in Hollywood's underbelly and Matt's a dimly lit porn photographer who can't quite decide how gay he is. I want to like Orgazmo more than I do, based on their ability to be good at delivering their own jokes and playing parts they created. It just doesn't make for much of a movie though.

Gimme Noise

I remember an old blog post I wrote somewhere in 2008 when I first caught some of Jay Smooth's Ill Doctrine videos. I can't find it, but I'm sure there was little to it beyond: 1) Jay's great; and 2) I'm a fan. Sometime this past week I saw a link to this Columbia Journalism Review profile piece, "The Complicated Philosophy of Jay Smooth," linked from kottke.org (the blog, not the Twitter page, but the Twitter page is where they keep an archived list of links shared on the blog), and today I read the article. It's well written, weaving the righteous figure's private and public lives together in a story that portrays Jay as someone attempting his best to live by virtuous means. Good enough.

When I finished the article there was just something empty about it. I couldn't place it, and I'm still not sure I can now. It wasn't the article, just the process. What did I get from it? When Jay's on, he's one of the better social critics I can think of. I like his videos but haven't really followed him much since Ferguson. (That time feels so distant, yet so present.) The point is, I appreciate him, but I'm not sure what the value is in reading the article. I gained some history into the man's background, but I didn't need it, and knowing the things I read doesn't particularly endear me any more or less to him. But I wasn't thinking about him with that feeling that followed, just this sort of thing. These articles, all of this...

In the time where my mind needs something to focus on, while being entirely unable or unwilling to focus on my school work, I've been working on a process of dusting off old blog posts from around the web and republishing them here. Like it's a scrapbook or something. There are a bunch of reasons why I told myself there was value in doing this, but I think I'm going to find something interesting that I don't anticipate learning once it's done. 

The first thing is the volume: I've been blogging now, off and on, for about fourteen years. In that time I've had several blogs that lasted a while—CultureBully.com, ChrisDeLine.com—and a whole bunch that came and went pretty quickly—RecoveryNashville.comVillin.net, FairlyTrill.com, BelievedToBeSeen.com, LegacySwag.com, DiscoFiesta.net, and sftfcs.com, with a several Tumblr and Blogger sites thrown in there, as well. Not a single one of those websites is still online. Some domains were sold, a couple redirect here, and the others abandoned outright. I could have paid for hosting and renewed domains, I suppose, to keep websites online. But where does that end? When do you stop?

Elsewhere, there is a great deal of "content" I've produced for websites that no longer exist on other people/company's sites. Dozens of episodes of a podcast I contributed to are no longer available to listen to and a couple of appearances on Huffington Post's HuffPost Live network are gone without a trace (which are just a few of the several years worth of original content that is no longer available online, as best I can surmise). Beyond that, a few websites I contributed over the years are no longer online (a Nashville music blog BreakOnACloud.com, The Smoking Section, and Brite Revolution, to name a few.

For about a year, I wrote for the Minneapolis Village Voice outlet, City Pages, which included a daily news column called "Gimme News" which was featured on their "Gimme Noise" music-centric blog. Gimme Noise is no more, absorbed back into the larger body of the brand's website (a brand which has been sold... twice... since 2008), and the several hundred articles and blog posts I wrote have been run through several site redesigns, leaving them barely indexed, largely unformatted, and buried deep in their archives (which is inarguably where they belong: buried). 

It was announced this month that flickr will be reconfiguring its platform, rightly setting a cap for its "free" users to 1000 photos. It was the right thing to do, both from a business and community perspective, and the only reason I re-signed up for flickr in January (which, I think, was probably my second or third time around on the platform) was because they essentially offered unlimited uploads for free. I'm not a "user" of the service in any other sense that I used their services. I'll be transitioning those photos from my account (which I've started doing) in the next year, or so, before they vanish, too.

I've followed kottke.org for years, as many of the links, articles, and videos shared on the blog are interesting to me. I like the general aesthetic of it. It's progressive-leaning. It's interesting. And it's safe. Very little I come across there challenges who I am as a person or confronts me with ideas, concepts, or ideologies I disagree with. That's not what the site is, for me. It's the kind of site that shares a link to a profile piece of a social media critic who I respect. If I read it, and like it, I might remember I was introduced to this great article because of kottke.org. If I read it, and don't like it, I might recall that kottke.org was looking out and connected me to that bland article about that guy I like. Even if I don't read it, if I acknowledge the article by reading about it on the blog or bookmarking it to return to, doing so will probably reinforce that kottke.org is a safe place for me to find articles that bend toward my interests.

So much of what I've written isn't very memorable. The majority of the articles and blog posts certainly don't deserve the respect I'm paying them by bringing them back to life here. Respect is the wrong word, probably. I have an idea of what my intention might have been at the time I spent time on them the first time, and in reflecting on that I'm learning about how little value there is in the "thing." It was almost always process. Maybe that's what I'm doing: Tuning into the process. What is all of this that I've dedicated so much time to over the years? The most "valuable" article I ever wrote was a review of one of Eminem's albums which garnered a couple hundred thousand pageviews. But I can't tell you a goddamn thing about that article or the album, in hindsight. I can tell you about how those BreakOnACloud.com posts contributed to creating my own "Nashville music blog" a few years later, which led me to an email exchange with someone I'm still trying to reckon with. I can manufacture "process" with the best of 'em.

There's not a logical thread that winds through all of this, but that's where my thinking is right now, and I want to just get that thought, itself, down here. The value of recording it seems just as important as the value of recognizing that I'm not getting much out of reading profile pieces. I don't really know that I ever fucking did. There's a freedom in accepting how impermanent all of this is—writing, blogging, putting it all out there if only to potentially gain from the process, before Google no longer wishes to host millions of free blogs online and folds the very platform that I'm using at this particular moment to publish these particular words. And if process is where honest value might reside, maybe returning to the same online time-wasters to reinforce my own cultural sensibilities under the guise of expanding my understanding of the world (whose world, and which part of it?) is opening up a window to questions more important than those that can be answered by a professional link-hawker.

Big Fish [2003]

At some point in my early twenties I watched this with my dad, and the feelings that followed had a lot to do with guilt for calling B.S. on his repetitive tall tales (and coming to resent him because of them) for so long. Sure, they weren't Big Fish-styled exaggerations, but even normal stories feel blown out of proportion when you hear them a few too many times.

Tim Burton and company built a lot of heart into this movie, even if you don't have a personal story linking the themes to your own life. If you do though, Big Fish could well make you experience feelings. Several of them. All at the same time. The takeaway for me this time wasn't the limp postscript about the father's life, but the underlying story of how much time and energy the son wasted by his own hand. All he had to do was let go.


"Didn't kill anything did I?"
"A few rabbits, but I think one of them was already dead."
"That would explain the indigestion."

I'm pretty sure this entire movie is a Frank Reynolds fever dream.

Wayne’s World [1992]

There's a scene where Wayne and Cassandra are in bed and the phone rings. She answers it and he proceeds to act silly. It's cute. But she's holding back laughter like it's the funniest thing she's ever seen. While I watched this movie at least a dozen times in my teens, that's how it feels now. It's cute, acting as though it's hilarious.

Happy Gilmore [1996]

So many (still) quotable lines. The Bob Barker fight. Chubbs. "You eat pieces of shit for breakfast?!" Ben Stiller. The "Endless Love" lip sync. And the source of my decades old crush on the mom from Modern Family. I was ready to leave Happy Gilmore in the past, but it's just too good to completely move on from.

Stepping Stones

The first photos here were taken in March 2017, with the brick patio project running from May 2018 into November 2018. Essentially, I finished the project last week, when I brushed out and set a layer of cement sand across the patio to lock it, but I'll return to the back yard in the Spring to build out some raised plant beds. 

I took the job on as I tend to do with big jobs: Without much of a plan and no idea how to accomplish my goal. And once I got going it quickly became overwhelming. There was an unanticipated volume and density to the roots that needed to be excavated from the surface layer of the ground, for example. I transported the entirety of the gravel base and the bricks into the yard by hand using five gallon buckets, pounding down the remaining tilled dirt and gravel before using a rubber mallet to install each brick, one at a time. It was a lot.

I'm sure there's some fantastic metaphor at work here for how the year has gone, but I'm just glad it's done. Every so often it's nice to reach a finish line.

Contact [1997]

Cosmic exploration, politics, business, and faith. There's a great deal which I really loved about Contact including the slow build, the psychedelic interstellar journey, and the spiritually combative themes, but I will always hate James Woods.

The Naked Gun: From the Files of Police Squad! [1988]

I swear, when I was in my teens watching the scene for the first time where OJ Simpson is busting in on the boat of bad guys, only to begin a domino effect of unbelievable calamity, I lost myself in a bout of hysterical laughter. There are so many great, dry deliveries here. The movie is fun, but part of that is reflecting about how much The Naked Gun influenced my sense of humor growing up. Leslie Nielsen is comedic gold and even though most of his films after this were regurgitated dumpster crud, I still miss him.

Hot Fuzz [2007]

Even without considering all the easter eggs that serious Hot Fuzz fans seem to obsess over, this is such a smart, enjoyable, and sharply witty movie. Having just trudged through Hot Shots, it's also a refreshing reminder of how good parodies can be. Maybe Edgar Wright's best movie?