Saturday, March 05, 2011

Heinrich Kühn, a new favorite artist

Gorgeous, painterly photographs from the upcoming exhibit Heinrich Kühn: The Perfect Photograph running 3/6/11 through 5/30/11 at the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston. Kühn highly developed the gum bichromate technique of printing photographs to achieve this dreamy quality. I was captivated and will definitely go see it again.

Friday, March 04, 2011

Perspective on medical costs

A couple nights ago at work, I held several doses of Factor VII while another nurse went over the process of administering it with a pharmacist. It's an uncommon enough, and expensive, treatment that they wanted to be sure to get it right. As I looked at it I thought, "This costs as much as my remaining student loans." That would be $30,000.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

On decorum when faced with kink

I can't be sure, but I suspect the eye mask a recent patient of mine brought from home was actually intended for BDSM activities. It was black leather, with fleecy lining on the interior eye patches and little straps on the exterior eye patches. All night I kept looking at it in wonderment. I considered making a veiled reference to confirm and so he knew that I knew, but decided to stay scrupulously professional.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Pavement at Stubb's 9/28/10

Great show from a reformed Pavement tonight in front of a sold-out crowd. So nice to see lots of people smiling and mouthing along with the words. Or shouting, cause you kinda have to yell "40 million daggers!" along with Bob. I haven't read interviews with the band stating the reasons for reuniting, but financial compensation and the urging of Matador upon their anniversary are likely high on the list. Whatever, I was just glad to bask again in the fun that is a Pavement show. I didn't end up sweating and exhausted at the front of the stage like I used to for Pavement shows at Liberty Lunch, but I did attend with the same guys as back then. So glad you could go with me E & M! Wonderful to see so many other friends as well.

UPDATE: The setlist to remind myself.

1. Silence Kit Play Video
2. Frontwards Play Video
3. Box Elder Play Video
4. Date w/ Ikea Play Video
5. Unfair Play Video
6. Starlings of the Slipstream Play Video
7. Stereo Play Video
8. Rattled by the Rush Play Video
9. Grounded Play Video
10. Perfume-V Play Video
11. Shady Lane Play Video
12. Fin Play Video
13. Cut Your Hair Play Video
14. Spit On A Stranger Play Video
15. Nastonovich slide whistle solo Play Video
16. Zurich Is Stained Play Video
17. Gold Soundz Play Video
18. Fight This Generation Play Video
19. Trigger Cut Play Video
20. Conduit for Sale! Play Video
21. Range Life Play Video
22. Encore:
22. In the Mouth a Desert Play Video
23. Two States Play Video
24. Here Play Video
25. Encore 2:
25. Kennel District Play Video
26. Summer Babe (Winter Version) Play Video
27. Stop Breathin' Play Video
28. AT & T Play Video

Friday, September 24, 2010

So You Think You Can Dance? Tour, Houston 9/21

This is not the time to mount a detailed defense of my watching this show. Suffice to say the dancers and choreographers are talented and frequently breathtaking. I regret my early reluctance to watch during the first four seasons. Thankfully I came around. I've become a big enough fan of the show that this is the 2nd tour show I've seen.
Most of the clips I've included here come from the New Orleans or St. Louis live shows, where my comments pertain to the Houston one that I attended. Not sure why their clipped on the right side and frankly I'm too sleepy to figure it out. Just full-screen it for the best effect. Anyway, on with the show.
Introductory video, then the dancers one by one showing their stuff. Into the first routine, an adapted group piece that borrowed lots of bits from one of the first group routines on the TV show.

Dominic is a ham, but a good one. Cheesy banter flows. This is only the 2nd show of the tour so it isn't quite smooth yet. Choppy cheese. None of it was worth quoting.
Lauren & Russell (sub in for Twitch) – My Chick Bad
Russell did an admirable job, but I wish I could have seen Twitch. Excellent start to the evening.

Kent & Ade (sub in for Neil) – Shoeless Joe
This one was a little too "Broadway" for me on TV so I wasn't crazy about seeing it on tour. Decent though. Kent looked a little deer-in-the-headlights and Ade, while having plenty of power, is missing Neil's crispness.

Robert & Courtney – XXXOOO
Good. I barely remember this one from TV so it clearly wasn't a favorite of mine.

Dominic & Jose – the battle for a sword
Dominic is fantastic. Jose is a distant, over-the-horizon second. Tour clip below isn't great but shows how sloppy Jose is comparitively. Just watch the smaller guy with the bleached hair streak and ignore the other one. The superior TV version, click here.

Lauren & Billy – Boogie Shoes
Lauren is far more committed and professional than I would expect from most 18 year-olds. However, I do not like this routine. It is what I would show someone if I wanted to confirm their worst expectations of what the show was like. Boo.

Robert & Kathryn – Heaven Is A Place On Earth aka Off to the Army Dance
Why why why did they do this one instead of the great West Side Story routine from the TV show? It actually softened my visceral loathing of WSS. Why this? Because it's gooey as hell and the mom/teen girl matrix melt in their chairs for it. Awful cover, competent choreo. Meh.

By general consensus of the fans and judges, Alex & Twitch's Get Outta Your Mind routine is one of the best routines in any season of the show. Alex was injured quite badly on the show, torn Achilles tendon, and so couldn't even participate on the tour. However, knowing it makes for a nice break for the touring dancers, the producers just showed the video. Still killed. No embed again, watch here. And keep in mind Alex's (the Asian guy) training is mostly in ballet. Damn boy.
Group of 7 competitors - Royal T
This wasn't a favorite of mine from the show, mostly because half of the competitors just can't pull off Sonya's choreography. Though to be fair it is off the beaten track. Robert is yet again the standout for the guys and Courtney shows why she's such a great match for Sonya.

Kathryn & Russell – I Can Transform Ya shaky on the power moves
This was the only performance from Season 6 (which sadly did not have it's own tour) and was included here because these were the only dancers representing that season. The choreographers NapTab were at a nadir that particular season, though it's an adequate routine. Thank goodness they recovered and turned in a largely fantastic body of work for Season 7. No decent live clip again, here's the show performance (which as I watch it now was much better than the tour one anyway).

Kent & Robert (sub in for Neil) – How It Ends
Loved this one on the show and was wary of Robert taking over for Neil, but he killed it. Kent was great as well. Kent's been pretty lackluster this show, appearing nervous and lacking in energy. He must have been saving it for this one or possibly just felt it more. I admit I teared up a little, partly because it was just well-danced but mostly because that DeVotchKa song is just heart-breakingly beautiful.

Stupid compilation video of "funny" bits of the judges. More dancing please.
Group routine – All That Jazz
Robert shone again here. By this time of the night, I started to understand how good he really is. Definitely the guy to cast in a touring show.

Ashley & Dominic – How Low aka ninjas
Ashley is sadly worse than on the show. Least improved which rather bummed me out. Couldn't find any live clips so here's the show version.
Lauren & Ade – Fever
Pretty dang good. Smoky. Can't find any clips of it though.
Kent & Allison – Sundrenched World
Muscular but frantic, powerful but missing the flow needed to really land this one.

Robert & Billy – Bollywood
A definite improvement from the show version. Robert just lit up the stage.

New Group Bollywood routine
This was fun, but geez some of those guys suck at Bollywood.

Group routine – Everything She Does is Magic
Lauren taking her place as was originally intended. On the TV show she was injured and Allison subbed in for her. Definitely more sweetly charming as it was obviously intended (at the time she was the only girl left going up against I think five guys). Still, on the show version Allison brought a strength and joy that Lauren didn't quite match. Also I'm biased because Allison is my ladycrush. This one really worked great in a live setting. Very happy they staged it.

Russell, Dominic, & Jose - New hip-hop routine
Unclear from my notes where this came in the order. It was fun and significantly better for Jose because it featured his skills worked into a routine. Dom & Russell were great as well.

Season recap video
Robert & Dominic – Scars aka scary clowns
Really looking forward to this one as I loved it on the show. Both guys had some flubs and an uncharacteristic streak of mushy movement that took it down a few pegs, but still pretty good.

Kent & Courtney – Amy
Headscratcher why this was included. Probably to give each dancer another routine. Kent still hasn’t lost that awshucks quality, but Courtney smoulders. She is seriously the sexiest lady I've seen in quite a while. I almost stayed after the show and got in the teenager-heavy autograph line just to talk to her up close. Woof, er...meow? Allison's my ladycrush but Courtney sets a fire.

Ashley & Ade – Drumming Song
Disappointingly off. The pair didn’t connect as one the show. The whole idea here is that Ashley is almost bonelessly being tossed about. She was great on the TV show but here she seemed to scale back, not trusting Ade to be there. C'mon Ashley this is your showcase. However, Ade is supa-hot. Dang, dude is ripped and when he does layout backflips my tummy flutters. Also, this is one of my favorite songs of last year. Florence got some serious pipes.

Adechike & Lauren (sub in for Comfort) – Fallin’
This was a good showcase for Adechike so of course they were going to perform it. Lauren's the best girl hip-hop dancer they have on the tour (and that's quite a compliment for this 18 yo) but she just didn’t live up to the passion of Comfort on the show. Still it works.

Kent & Kathyrn – Tightrope
Somewhere in here was also a group disco routine that incorporated all the best lifts from Doriana Sanchez’s routines over the past three or four seasons. It was high energy and fun. Robert, Ade, Allison, and Kathryn knocked it out here.

Billy & Ade – Mad World
I love this routine. Yes it's has a "socially relevant" theme and that usually bothers me on SYTYCD, but the beauty of it overcomes my knee-jerk objection. Still not sick of that song so it does some heavy lifting but geez the quality of movement from both of these guys is just breathtaking. Absolutely shows off their strengths.

Robert & Allison – Fix You
I like Travis Wall's choreography, he's particularly great at hitting the climax of a song with an energetic unison section. Still, he leans over the schmaltz line a bit here. I have a massive crush on Allison for the way she completely assumes the character in every piece she dances. In group routines my eyes were often drawn to her because of the passion and precision she exhibits. Really wish I'd seen her season start to finish. Robert continues his streak of fantastic work for the night here.

Lauren & Kent – Prom routine, then immediately into latin ballroom First Kiss
The screams, oh the screams. This looks like a good idea on paper, the winner and runner-up getting all lovey-dovey in back-to-back routines, but Kent looked tired at this point and frankly sucked the energy out of what was to be the climax of the show. Never cared for these routines myself anyway.

Group – You Can’t Stop the Beat
Best of the night accolades go to Robert, Lauren, Allison, and Dominic. Lackluster nods to Jose (of course!), Kent, and Ashley.
Overall it was a pretty good show, but suffered for not having ballroom experts Anja and Pasha on the tour. Lauren's tango with Pasha played a large part in her getting to the finale and likely winning. It clinched it for me anyway. Sad we didn't get to see much ballroom at all tonight. Also, I wish the Houston stop had come a little later on the tour. We got the second show and nerves were clearly present for some of the less-experienced dancers. It would nice to see a later show for comparison.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

SXSW Film 2010 Day 2

Late start today so I sadly missed Thunder Soul. It should screen again post-festival in Austin and Houston as it has strong local roots.


Munday (refuse to continue the all-caps silliness) is similar to Knocked Up in telling the story of a loser guy who is forced to grow-up when a one-night stand results in a pregnancy, though the source novel predates Knocked Up by several years. Despite "preceding" it, Munday suffers from the same problem; we are expected to cheer on the "rehab" of a douchey dude who is practically required to fall in love with the barely two-dimensional, harshly critical female lead as they form a happy, conservative-dream-of-family in time for the credits. Despite this glaring flaw, the film is enjoyable if taken as probably intended, a minor relationship comedy.

When it works, it's largely due to the talented cast who wring the comedy from the script. Judy Greer, hamstrung by stereotypical stringy-hair-and-glasses = ugly and the aforementioned stridency, manages to humanize Ginger and deliver sharp line readings. Patrick Wilson, underutilized as a comic actor in his career, shines here creating far more laughs than the dialogue provides. Wilson is slightly miscast in that he's far too attractive and muscular to really be this character, and yet he convinces.

And here's where we get to something I noticed in my years of SXSW attendance. There's a score-creep phenomenon that occurs. The audience is eager and the filmmakers are often in attendance which can lead to better appraisals than the film might otherwise warrant. That isn't to say Munday definitely falls into the category, but I did pick up on an early tendency for the audience to perhaps overreact to jokes and mugging. The writer-director Chris D'Arienzo also engaged in my favorite, always-charming SXSW Film cliche, walking out onto the Paramount stage and being gobsmacked by the theater itself and the idea of it full of people wanting to see his film. Yes, we likey the film and the people who make them in Austin.

Documentary Shorts

A very strong program this year.

Seltzer Works
A profile of the last seltzer bottler in New York City. Gorgeously filmed and tightly edited, this is a modest but beautifully done short.

Six-man football is a largely unknown phenomenon of small town Texas. Unable to field full teams but loving the game as much for entertainment as the way it holds communities together, rural high schools play a small team, high scoring version of football. 6 is the best short doc I've seen in a long time. From pre-title set-up to action footage to deeply-felt interviews, this is practically perfect top to bottom and the audience knew it. No attempt to stretch this into a feature but giving its subject a full presentation, this is what short doc-makers should aspire to make.

Big Birding Day
Lovely images, but a lack of focus in recording the attempt to set the record for most birds seen in 24 hours leaves this doc at the bottom of the pack.

She-said, he-said story of a couple who embraced the "free spirit" of the late 60s/early 70s and formed a quasi-group marriage with another couple. Made by their daughter, the doc presents their stories simultaneously in split-screen. It's an effective device and elevates the film above run-of-the-mill family bio docs.

Mr. Hypnotism
Profile of con-man hypnotist Dr. Dante by SXSW alumni Brandon Beesley. Competently made, the oily charm of Dante holds your attention.

White Lines and The Fever: The Death of DJ Junebug
An early hip-hop prodigy, DJ Junebug increasingly chose cocaine over turntables which led to his early death. It felt like the filmmakers wanted this to be a feature, but correctly ascertained that the story didn't warrant the length. Great production value, great talking heads, great use of music.

Micmacs à tire-larigot
[English translation: The Slidewhistle Micmacs]

A return to director Jean-Pierre Jeunet's (Amelie) earlier madcap films like Delicatessen and City of Lost Children, Micmacs follows the pattern of most Jeunet films: lovable, down-on-his-luck "orphan" Bazil (Dany Boon) finds a new family and fights a powerful enemy—here the arms industry—using his wit and talents. After smartly establishing Bazil's history and motivation, Micmacs essentially becomes a heist film heavily colored with Jeunet's standard-yet-gorgeous visual flair and comic sensibility. Bursting with Tex Avery-esque action setpieces, outsize characters, and just a hint of sentimentality, Micmacs is a perfect introduction to Jeunet's body of work for newcomers and another winning entry for devotees who will especially appreciate the sly references to previous films.

The rest of my evening was a bust: too late to get into American Grindhouse, Centurion secret show cancelled.

Friday, March 12, 2010

SXSW Film 2010 Day 1

Worked 13 hours directing lines and dealing with minor problems at Registration while trying not to talk too much because of the canker sore on my tongue. So, super-awesome. Periodic "shots" of liquid benzocaine made it bearable and the day went well, no down-time on the computer network, no loud customer meltdowns (at least that I saw).

The one hiccup was a fire alarm where we had to clear the building. It was stressful but in retrospect it was kinda fun to use my best stentorian booming voice to overcome the general noise level. If it had been an actual fire, we might have lost the videogamers because the fire alarms went unnoticed in their room full of flashing lights and cacophonous bleepbooping. I had to take the mic away from the Rock Band participants and announce the evacuation.

With the 8 hours I worked yesterday adding to the general exhaustion, I didn't even have the energy to stay awake in a theater and watch American: The Bill Hicks Story. Oh well, it'll screen again this week.