Robert Altman died last night.
He was a hell of a brilliant filmmaker, such an original that his followers can’t capture his seemingly effortless ability to combine naturalistic dialogue, improvisation, ensemble casting, and (in his great movies, at least) his profound belief in humanity, for good and for evil.
If you’d like to read what some great, if obscure, writers think about his movies, please go read our Bob Altman issue of The High Hat, published just last week. The editorial at the top should soon be modified to include our sorrow over his passing.
High Hat #7, ready for the public.
This issue, the Potlatch section is an assessment of Robert Altman, good and bad. There’s also articles on pop culture artifacts as widely-flung as:
- In music: Schoenberg, Bonnarude, and death metal
- In literature & art: comics continuity, drunken novels, Charles Schulz, Prayer, and Pryor
- In movies: Artificial Intelligence and monkeys; and
- In TV: Deadwood and The Wire.
I’ve been sick. I’m at about 35% right now. If I felt better, though, I’d be dancing in the streets.
A meme borrowed from the inestimable David Schwartz at Mumble Herder:
IF YOUR LIFE WAS A MOVIE, WHAT WOULD THE SOUNDTRACK BE?
So, here’s how it works:
- Open your library (iTunes, Winamp, Media Player, iPod, etc)
- Put it on shuffle
- Press play
- For every question, type the song that’s playing
- When you go to a new question, press the next button
- Don’t lie and try to pretend you’re cool . . .
- Opening Credits: “Chatterboxes” – Deerhoof. A jittery song without a rhythm section, basically a pretty melody over percussive guitars. The lyrics are about passing stories through generations, and I like this as a good opening credit song. To wit: “Set sail, seaworthy vessel/Fill your holds with the sound/Of daughters and sons/Wagging their tongues.”
- Waking Up: “Dr. Schwitters Snippet” – Faust. An optimistic, Moog-driven, 49-second snippet from The Faust Tapes ending with a theremin and the beginning of an explosion. Sounds like a hell of a day.
- First Day At School: “Lisbon” – Six Organs of Admittance. Wow, this is pensive stuff. This track is solo acoustic guitar, in the style of Robbie Basho or John Fahey, all minor-key moody mood music. I guess the first day at school is a sad one. This track calls for a half-speed montage. Now!
- Falling In Love: “Always” – Tom Verlaine. Kinda rockin’ post-Television Verlaine track that sounds like many kinda rockin’ post-Television Verlaine tracks. I have no idea what he’s singing about, but “think it over” is repeated in the chorus. Killer guitar lead.
- Fight Song: “I Love You So Much It Hurts” – Ray Charles. Hey, is my iPod off by a song? Maybe I’m just a lover, not a fighter.
- Breaking Up: “I Summon You” – Spoon. Damn, I take it back. This is a perfect break-up song. Consider: “Where are you tonight?/And how’d we get here?/It’s too late to break it off/I need a release/the signal’s a cough/but that don’t get me off/I summon you to appear, my love/Got the weight of the world/I summon you here, my love.”
- Prom: “Elevate Me Later” – Pavement. Built on a fantastic riff, this is a kiss-off to, well, somebody. I know every word to this song — in fact, it’s nigh unto irresistable to sing along — but I have no idea what it’s about. “Those who sleep with electric guitars/range-rovin’ with the cinema stars/well, I wouldn’t want to shake their hand/because they’re in such a high protein land.” Yeah, you tell ’em, Stephen.
- Life is Good: “Der Vaum” – Faust. OK, more Krautrock from The Faust Tapes. This has a jaunty little melody, with lots of dramatic pauses, but it also has two heavily-reverbed competing vocal lines that appear to mix German and English. All I know is that something is “breaking my head.” I guess that’s good.
- Mental Breakdown: “Holy Train Wrecks” – The Weird Weeds. Remember when I went to see Jandek and made a bad joke about one of the drummers being in Jandek’s death-cult youth group? That guy was Nick Hennies. This is his band, and they’re freakin’ great. Another sign of alignment between the current assignment and my iPod, because this song is strange and beautiful enough to cause the fragile to experience hallucinations.
- Driving: “Needing Someone” – Gene Clark. Alright, a bit of 60s folk-rock for driving. I’m guessing that the movie would just appropriate some of the groovier motorcycle scenes from Easy Rider for this.
- Flashback: “Dog” – Sly and the Family Stone. Maybe this part of the movie is an extended Walter Mitty segment where I imagine life as a late 60s hippie hepcat. Maybe I could be a hoofer hoping to break into a supergroovy production of Hair. Or did that come later? I have no idea. ‘Cause I’m not young, but I was born years after this song came out.
- Getting Back Together: “Mrs. O’Leary’s Cow” – Brian Wilson. Ha! OK, then. No, wait! Ha! Cue the fireman’s helmets! This is going to turn out well.
- Wedding: “Yellow” – Okkervil River. Wow, a sad song about people who love each other but break up, anyway. That’s harsh, iPod. There’s some beautiful moments in this song, I have to say: “Our paths and our futures are hidden in mists that are stretching out over impossible distances/totally obscured/And I really do think that there’s probably more good than anger or selfishness, sickness, or sadness would ever completely allow us to have in this life/I think I’m sure/But that doesn’t mean it’s bad.” This seems better for the next category, so maybe I fell asleep through one song.
- Paying the Dues: “Victory Garden” – The Red Krayola. Oh, I love this song. I was familiar with the Galaxie 500 cover first, but the original is just great. It’s a bit more 60s psychedelia instead of the late-80s psychedelia of the G500, but man, this is great stuff. Less than two minutes long, too.
- The Night Before The War: “The Sweet Sounds of Summer” – The Shangri-Las. Yeah! I’d rather hear teenage symphonies to god before holy hell rains down on me.
- Final Battle: “We’ve Been Had” – The Walkmen. I have a Walkmen song on my iPod? Really? I’m stunned.
- Moment of Triumph: “A Song About Walls” – The Geraldine Fibbers. A rather upbeat song, but the lyrics, all fractured fairy-tales, are most decidedly NOT upbeat. A girl junky (with a “needle in her eye,” yikes!) hurls her addiction through the walls. Well, that’s ok, I guess, but there’s a lot of darkness about boyfriends and sex with dealers and stuff like that. The noise-to-melody ratio is about 1:1, and that’s freakin’ awesome.
- Death Scene: “Le Grande Illusion” – Television Personalities. Niiiiiiiiiiice. I’m going out to the sound of a forlorn teen implicitly comparing his secret love to one of Renoir’s greatest films. How are you going out?
- Funeral Song: “NightEndDay” – Pelican. Superbombastic funeral, ja! Jesus, I hope they’re setting my death-boat on fire, releasing a flock of endangered birds into the wild, razing and salting the land, and sending my body over Victoria Falls to justify using this music. Even then, it may not be enough. This song’s over 10 minutes long, so they should probably intercut some scenes of rampaging marauders setting villagers on fire to keep people into it.
- End Credits: “Now That I Know” – Devendra Banhart. Well, this song seems to say, “Thanks for watching this downer of a biopic. Hope you don’t slit your wrists much on the way home!” Lovely stuff, but sad, sad, sad.