Saturday, November 12, 2011

Die Bergkatze Part III: "The Lubitsch Touch" Upon Our Score

This is the third of three posts about R&P MPO's premiere of its new score to Ernst Lubitsh's Die Bergkatze (The Wildcat) for the St. Louis International Film Festival 8PM this evening November 12th at Webster University.

The Rats & People Motion Picture Orchestra's new score to Die Bergkatze (1921) is the ensemble's sixth new feature score. New works are always at least somewhat of a summation of previous works. At the same time, new works hopefully break new ground and explore new sonic textures and musical motifs complementary with and supportive of the "new" visual/textual narrative with which the ensemble works.

Die Bergkatze presented itself to the ensemble in ways both familiar and strange. The ensemble had encountered certain variant strains of the Verfremdungseffekt ethic of Brechtian Epic Theater in its previous film scoring work for the German Expressionist films of Murnau's The Last Laugh and (to a lesser extent) Nosferatu. Still, Lubitsch's explicit identification of Die Bergkatze with the theatrical tradition of "Grotesque" and his consequent use throughout the film of unconventional (non-squared) frames rendered Die Bergkatze as not merely a strain of Brechtian Epic Theater, but rather its cinematic sibling. It is readily apparent to an audience of Die Bergkatze that they are watching a film, just as Brecht wished for his audience to be conscious of the fact that they were watching a play.

But inasmuch as Lubitsch with Die Bergkatze hues to the Epic Theater ethic, there is nevertheless a "human"/"familiarizing" touch upon Die Bergkatze that is unavailable to and/or excluded from the Brechtian live theater ethic. Particularly in Pola Negri's performance as the bandit princess Rischka, there is a subtlety and un-amplified nuance that would contravene Epic Theater's gestus method. Die Bergkatze itself supports this subtlety and un-amplified nuance in its use of, among other techniques, the cinematic closeup. Nevertheless, the mixing of the live-stage-inspired verfremdungseffekt with more "immersive" and "familiarizing" acting methods is not jarring. It is a conjunction. It is the so-called "Lubitsch Touch."

The Rats & People Motion Picture Orchestra's new score to Die Bergkatze seeks to complement and support this "Lubitsch Touch" upon Die Bergkatze by musically conjoining the consciously-performative with the audience-immersive. More than in the ensemble's previous five feature scores, the Die Bergkatze score's themes and motifs define and pronounce the visual/textual narrative. At the same time, the Die Bergkatze score conjoins these pronounced themes and motifs with an undercurrent of "familiar" subtlety and nuance as they are manifested particularly in Pola Negri's star performance.

The goal for the ensemble and for its score, as always, is not to draw attention to the score's performers but rather to draw attention to and appreciation of the film. Die Bergkatze is truly a film like no other. The film's mix of the live theater-derived tradition of "Grotesque" and its structural inspiration from the consciously-political Brechtian theater is seamlessly conjoined with instances of cinema's ability to emotionally immerse an audience. We hope that our score is up to the task of Die Bergkatze, and that like the film it is a score not quite like any other.

The Rats & People Motion Picture Orchestra

Premieres its New Score for Ernst Lubitsch's
Die Bergkatze (The Wildcat) at the
St. Louis International Film Festival

November 12, 8PM
Webster University's Winifred Moore Auditorium
470 E. Lockwood
Webster Groves, MO

$10 for students, $12 for everybody else

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Die Bergkatze Part II: "The Lubitsch Touch" Upon the Brechtian "Epic Theater"

This is the second of three posts about R&P MPO's premiere of its new score to Ernst Lubitsh's Die Bergkatze (The Wildcat) for the St. Louis International Film Festival on November 12th at Webster University. Come back later today for Part III: "The Lubitsch Touch" Upon Our New Score.

There are plenty of reminders to the audience in Die Bergkatze that they are watching a film. The most obvious reminders throughout the film is Lubitsch's frequent use of non-squared, non-parallel frames. There are zig-zag frames and symmetrically curved frames, among others. The effect is somewhat jarring, yet at the same time serves a purpose: a constant reminder to the audience member that she/he is watching artifice - something that is performed. Insofar as cinema seeks to create the illusion of "reality," Die Bergkatze undermines cinema in its constant reminder to the viewer that what she/he is watching is not "reality."

Die Bergkatze's use of unconventional frames appears to come straight from Bertolt Brecht's idea of Epic Theater, the fundamental goal of Epic Theater being that to "exclude the engendering of illusion." Every moment in Die Bergkatze in which an unconventional frame imposes itself upon the mise-en-scène, the audience member is reminded that what she/he is watching is "performed" rather than "real." In live Epic Theater, the task of reminding the audience is easy enough. Epic Theater would "break the fourth wall" by having an actor directly address an audience. If that wasn't enough, Brecht's Epic Theater productions often would make readily apparent to the audience the play's lighting and staging elements. Brecht coined the term Verfremdungseffekt - "the distancing effect" - to describe these techinques.

The actor's method in service of Epic Theater's larger goal of Verfremdungseffekt is the notion of gestus. In A Short Organum for the Theatre, Brecht outlines for the actor the method of gestus:
The actor should examine the world around him. With all his being he must pay attention to gestures, and imitate the world through a process of reflection. He must amplify what he observes, because the original is too subtle, "it speaks too softly." The construction of one character happens simultaneously with all the others. The actor must take possession of his character and critically calculate its various manifestations. Learning a character is [...] a critical process.
But live theater is not cinema. Cinema, unlike live theater, has closeups. With closeups comes the ability to nuance, for closeups amplify that which "speaks too softly." While Lubitsch in Die Bergkatze hues to the ethical modalities of Brecht's Epic Theater, the medium of film allows Lubitsch to interject a naturalism to the narrative that would be impossible on the stage. Even among the verfremdungseffekt framing devices and "surreal" set pieces of Die Bergkatze, Pola Negri's Rischka and Paul Heideman's Lieutenant Alexis are performed and received as much more nuanced and natural as would be live theater characters operating under a Brechtian dramatic ethic.

This making of room for naturalistic acting within the context of Brechtian Epic Theater manifests yet another aspect of the so-called "Lubitsch Touch." It's yet another example, as discussed in my previous post, of film critic William Paul's definition of the "Lubitsch Touch" as "the conjunction of lightness and seriousness, of gaiety and gravity." In this particular instance, however, one may prefer to substitute "formalism" for "lightness," "orthodoxy to the manifesto" for "gaiety."

Come back later today for Part III: "The Lubitsch Touch" Upon Our Score

The Rats & People Motion Picture Orchestra

Premieres its New Score for Ernst Lubitsch's
Die Bergkatze (The Wildcat) at the
St. Louis International Film Festival

November 12, 8PM
Webster University's Winifred Moore Auditorium
470 E. Lockwood
Webster Groves, MO

$10 for students, $12 for everybody else

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Die Bergkatze Part I: "The Lubitsch Touch" Upon the Brechtian "Grotesque"

This is the first of three posts about R&P MPO's premiere of its new score to Ernst Lubitsh's Die Bergkatze (The Wildcat) for the St. Louis International Film Festival on November 12th at Webster University. Come back tomorrow for Part II: "The Lubitsch Touch" Upon the Brechtian Epic Theater, and come back Friday for Part III: "The Lubitsch Touch" Upon Our New Score.

It's fitting that The Rats & People Motion Picture Orchestra will premiere its new score in accompaniment of Ernst Lubitsch's Die Bergkatze (The Wildcat) on November 12th, one day after Armistice Day. Die Bergkatze's original premiere occurred on November 7, 1921 - almost to the day three years after Imperial Germany's ignoble and official defeat in WWI on the first Armistice Day of November 11, 1918.

The opening title card of Die Bergkatze describes itself as a "Grotesque in Four Acts." During its first two acts especially, the film presents itself, at least superficially, as a lighthearted satire of the Weimar-era German military (and by implication, the Weimar Republic itself). The film opens one early morning on the (literally) sleepy frontier Fortress Tossenstein. The soldiers are a lackadaisical outfit, barely roused by the call of the morning bugler (who munches his breakfast in between arpeggios) and the soldiers return to their beds to sleep the moment their Kaiserly-mustached commander leaves the barracks after the morning inspection. It's an undisciplined outfit, but one gets the feeling that not much of consequence occurs at this quiet frontier outpost, so military discipline isn't really necessary.

Upon returning to his family's private quarters with his wife and daughter, the Commander receives word much to his chagrin that a Lieutenant Alexis has been transferred to Fortress Tossenstein (apparently as a punishment) and should be expected to arrive shortly. The Commander believes Lieutenant Alexis to be nothing more than a philandering dandy. At the same time, the Commander's wife and daughter, Lilli, think that Lieutenant Alexis is a handsome and heroic dreamboat.

The next scene in Die Bergkatze confirms the Commander's opinion of Lieutenant Alexis for the viewer. The scene is Alexis' farewell and departure for Fortress Tossenstein. Throngs of people (mostly young women) have filled the city square for a hero's send-off. Included among the crowd are several dozen children who shout to Alexis, "Goodbye, Daddy!" "I did ... what I could," Alexis announces faux-humbly to the gathered well-wishers. The crowd becomes more like a hysterical mob as it presses around Alexis. Alexis can hardly be made out among the throng. Soldiers act as barricades between Alexis and his admirers. Eventually, the soldiers release a bag of mice upon the (mostly female) mob to scatter it as a means of crowd control. Alexis' coach makes a break for it, and the crowd runs after attempting to follow Lieutenant Alexis as he rides out of town. The scene is a riot ... in every sense of the word.

Bertolt Brecht wrote an epic poem titled "The Legend of the Dead Soldier" in 1918 while World War I was still raging. After the war, in 1921 (the same year as Die Bergkatze premiered), Brecht set the poem to music and performed it in a Berlin cabaret. Brecht's musical performance of the poem immediately caused him to be blacklisted:
One can see why the 'Legend of the Dead Soldier' caused such a reaction. It was not only blasphemous but in the climate of a recently lost war was regarded as an insult to the German soldier and a desecration of patriotic values.
And when the war was four Springs old
And of peace there was not a breath
The soldier took the logical step
And died a hero's death.
The war however was not yet done
So the Kaiser was displeased to be sure
That his soldier had given up like that
To him it seemed premature.
The dead soldier is dug up, pronounced fit for active duty and, supported by army medics and a chaplain, marches off to the front. On his grotesque journey, his shroud now painted in the colours of the German flag, he is gradually surrounded by a cheering crowd:

So many were dancing around him now
That the soldier could hardly be seen
You could only see him from the sky above
And there only stars can gleam.
It is likely that Lubitsch and/or his co-writer Hanns Kräly were aware of Brecht's "The Legend of the Dead Soldier." All three men certainly were aware of each other and their respective work. Lubitsch and Kräly's declaring in the film's opening title card that Die Bergkatze should be considered a "Grotesque" certainly situates the film within a Brechtian ethic. At any rate the parallels between Lieutenant Alexis and the Dead Soldier are apparent, whether authorially conscious or not. Lieutenant Alexis, like the Dead Soldier, is to be dispatched to the "front." Lieutenant Alexis, like the Dead Soldier, is given a hero's farewell. Both are subsumed in a mob of admiration and patriotic fervor. Both are "heroes." Neither is capable of being an effective soldier. Their personae are projections of a nation's desire for patriotic heroes ... the idea that "war is a force that gives us meaning." Each man wears not the Emperor's new clothes but rather the Empire's new clothes.

It seems that every film critic and filmmaker has her/his own definition of the so-called "Lubitsch Touch." If there is such a thing as "The Lubitsch Touch," then perhaps it's not the kind of thing that can be boiled down to an essence, but rather has several facets ... several manifestations. Film critic William Paul defines 'The Lubitsch Touch' as "the conjunction of lightness and seriousness, of gaiety and gravity."

Whereas Brecht's conception of the Grotesque for his Dead Soldier is largely that of directly (didactically?) macabre humor (Weekend at Bernie's, anyone?), Lubitsch's conception of the Grotesque for his Lieutenant Alexis is superficially lighter yet indirectly (subtly?) (upon reflection in the light of day outside of the cinema house?) just as disconcerting, if not more disconcerting. Brecht's WWI German "Dead Soldier" is absurd and tragic; a soldier dies on the front of Europe's most horrible and absurdly unnecessary of wars, only for his carcass to be exhumed from his grave and carried back to the front. Lubitsch's Weimar-era-informed recapitulation/echo of Brecht's German "Dead Soldier" in Die Bergkatze in the character of Lieutenant Alexis is absurd ... and pathetic; a philandering dandy officer is punished for his rapscallion ways with a reassignment from his desk job to the "front" - a sleepy fortress where there's little in the way of danger or brutality save for a small gang of rather innocuous bandits who rob officers of their winter clothes.

When Die Bergkatze premiered in November of 1921, Lubitsch had already established himself as Germany's most popular and critically acclaimed directors. His films were invariably box office hits. Die Bergkatze nevertheless was a mild disappointment at the box office. Europe's most brutal and most pointless of wars and Germany's most humiliating of defeats had occurred only three years ago. Germany in 1921 was a crippled, humiliated and impoverished country. German audiences no doubt were looking for diversions from thinking about their difficult day-to-day lives and the still-fresh memories of the horrors of war. Die Bergkatze is an uproariously funny, clever, cute and romantic film. But Die Bergkatze also is imbued with the William Paul definition of "The Lubitsch Touch." It's the conjunction of the "lightness" of romantic comedy with the "seriousness" of a satirical depiction of a Weimar Germany that is a shell of its former self, and a conjunction of the "gaiety" of madcap slapstick with the "gravity" of a subject matter and setting - war - that at least on a subconscious level must have made German audiences (and European audiences, for that matter) uneasy. In 1921, Brecht's absurd and tragic provocation with his poem "The Legend of the Dead Soldier" received the harsh reaction, yet it was Lubitsch's recapitulation of The Dead Soldier as Lieutenant Alexis in the ostensibly light romantic comedy Die Bergkatze which ended up subtly and perhaps sub-consciously hitting closer to home for German audiences.

Come back tomorrow for Part II: "The Lubitsch Touch" Upon the Burlesque Grotesque

The Rats & People Motion Picture Orchestra

Premieres its New Score for Ernst Lubitsch's
Die Bergkatze (The Wildcat) at the
St. Louis International Film Festival

November 12, 8PM
Webster University's Winifred Moore Auditorium
470 E. Lockwood
Webster Groves, MO

$10 for students, $12 for everybody else

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Let No One Put Us Under

Go West always will define the Rats & People Motion Picture Orchestra. It is our first score to a feature-length silent. It is our introduction to Silent Era film. It is the first romantic encounter with the love of our life. However furtive and bashful we were at times in composing our score, by the end of our premiere performance of Go West at Webster University we had declared our love and made known our intentions.

We were hitched. To this day we remain smitten.

It seemed only fitting, then, to capstone our September El Leñadency with a romantic renewal of vows upon the fourth anniversary of our making them: performing our score in accompaniment of Buster Keaton's Go West.

This coming Monday evening's anniversary party could have been canceled. As we are saving every dollar for a new touring van, our paying a fee for permission to screen Go West would have put us under. We are fortunate enough to have friends and family who are willing to donate their hard-earned money to secure the permission to screen Go West. The majority of the funds raised come from donors who live outside of and far from St. Louis - friends and family from Arizona ... to Colorado ... to Northern Illinois. These donors won't be able to see and hear Monday night's screening, but they believe that it's important enough of an event in its own right to make possible. We are forever grateful and humbled.

Also coming from out of town to our rescue is Googolplexia, a.k.a. Mustard RØB.
While Mustard RØB hails from right here in St. Louis, he's been touring the country for the past three weeks. He's returning in triumph to El Leñador this coming Monday evening. After his opening set, he'll help us thank the donors who made Go West possible. Prepare yourselves for a very special recitatif backed by the R&P MPO.

Come celebrate our love this Monday night.


10PM: Googolplexia

11PM: Rats & People Motion Picture Orchestra performs its score in accompaniment of Keaton's Go West

Monday, September 26th
10PM Music Time
El Leñador
3124 Cherokee St. STL MO

21+, free admission (but donations welcome and appreciated)

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Eisensteinian Ambition at El Leñador

Sergei Eisenstein's Strike (1925) was the director's first full-length feature film, as well as Eisenstein's first full-fledged development of the ideas set forth in his now-famous 1923 essay "Montage of Attractions." Eisenstein's use of quick and rhythmic edits in Strike (and later that same year in Potemkin) forever expanded the possibilities of what film could do. Some eighty-six years after its premiere, Strike's editing and pace resemble that of a contemporary 2011 feature film.

Eisenstein's late-April 1925 premiere of Strike so impressed the Soviet Central Committee that they immediately demanded another film from Eisenstein by the end of the year. The compressed schedule for shooting and editing Potemkin for its premiere in December led to what must have been one of the most harrowing of situations in cinema history:
In his account of the premiere at the Bolshoi Theatre in Moscow from Immortal Memories: An Autobiography, Eisenstein confirmed how rushed the whole process was, with the final reel not yet spliced together––even in the projection booth— when the opening section of the film was being projected. “The sequence of the meeting of the squadron was made up of extremely short cuts,” he wrote. “To make sure they would not be lost or get mixed up, I stuck them together by licking them with my tongue, and gave the reel to the assistant to splice. Then I took a look at the first version. Tore it apart. Looked at the second. Tore and changed that one too.”

To Eisenstein’s horror, the assistant threaded the film onto the projector without cement-splicing the cuts. Miraculously, the film ran through the projector without sputtering into bits. The premiere was a success, and the rest was history.
While nowhere near as difficult, stressful (and ultimately as thrilling) as Eisenstein's 1925, the Rats & People Motion Picture Orchestra's 2009 had much in common with Eisenstein's 1925. 2009 was the first (and so far only) year in which we composed, rehearsed and premiered two full-length feature film scores. Further making our work difficult was the spacing between each premiere: our new score to Strike was to be premiered at Webster University on September 27th and our new score to Murnau's Nosferatu was to be premiered on Halloween night at Vanderbilt University.

Composing our new score for Strike began in July of 2009, and as soon as we had enough score to start rehearsing it, we started rehearsing it. Meanwhile, Brien and Pace continued to compose some twenty minutes of film ahead of the full ensemble's rehearsals. As soon as Brien and Pace composed the last notes of the Strike score, they started composing the first notes of the Nosferatu score. (That moment happened in early September, if I remember correctly.) It was as if we were inside that Bolshoi Theater projection booth, and the full ensemble was the projectionist, and Brien and Pace were Eisenstein the editor ... just twenty minutes ahead of the full ensemble.

At the same time during that late summer and early fall of 2009, we wanted to expand and develop both as composers and musicians. Our previous scores for Go West and The Last Laugh had been loose and less technically demanding affairs. With Strike's quick and rhythmic editing, we took the opportunity to "compose above" our technical skills and challenge ourselves to meet the demands of a technically demanding score that we ourselves had composed. Strike is an audacious and often muscular film that demands an audacious and muscular score. What we composed was a score that gives us a workout unlike any other. Perhaps we were a little crazy. Thank goodness that we pulled it off. The months leading up to our Strike and Nosferatu premieres were the most difficult and stressful of our ensemble's existence. Each premiere was equally as thrilling as the difficulty and stress leading up to them.

The May Day Orchestra is the opener for R&P MPO's performance of its score in accompaniment of Strike, this coming Monday the 19th at El Leñador. May Day Orchestra will perform its folk opera May Day, or Songs for Lucy Parsons. The songs of Lucy Parsons center around the people and events related to the Haymarket Massacre. The subject matter seems a fitting complement to Strike. Further in complement of Strike (and of the venue), May Day Orchestra will perform Lucy Parsons as Eisenstein's ¡Qué viva México! is projected on the big screen.

Eisenstein Evening

10PM: May Day Orchestra performs Songs for Lucy Parsons in accompaniment of Eisenstein's ¡Qué viva México!

11PM: Rats & People Motion Picture Orchestra performs its score in accompaniment of Eisenstein's Strike

Monday, September 19th
10PM Movie Time
El Leñador
3124 Cherokee St. STL MO

21+, free admission (but donations welcome and appreciated)

Thursday, September 8, 2011

From Prehistory to Present

IMDb lists it as 2002, so I suppose perhaps it was the year before that, 2001, when Aaron Crozier brought a stack of storyboards to my and Pace's apartment in University City that outlined the plot of a caveman movie called Grumboon. At the time, the both of us were in a band called the Baysayboos. My friend Suzanne had brought Aaron to one of our shows, and now Aaron wanted us to write and record the music for this new caveman movie he was directing. He had bona fide storyboards! This was for real!

Since the movie was set in caveman days, there was to be no dialogue (cavemen can't talk). Instead, it was to be a "silent" film with a musical score. After raising the money, shooting the film (much of it at Elephant Rocks State Park) and making a final edit, Aaron handed a copy over to Pace. Pace ended up writing most of the score, in of all places, a hotel room in Toronto. At the old Radio Penny Studio on Lemp the Baysayboos recorded the score synced-up to the movie. Grumboon premiered at the Omnimax at the Science Center where Aaron worked. Later, the Baysayboos live-accompanied Grumboon at the Tivoli for the St. Louis International Film Festival.

is a prehistoric film in more than one way. Grumboon is prehistoric too in the sense that it's the prehistoric R&P MPO. The score for Grumboon is, for two of R&P MPO's current members, the very first movie score we wrote and recorded, and the very first movie score we performed live in accompaniment.

Next Monday evening we're screening Grumboon at 10PM in addition to three other locally produced and directed short films of which all or some of the ensemble has had a musical part. After the screening of these local films we'll play our scores in accompaniment to three Buster Keaton shorts, including our most recently-composed score to Keaton's The Goat.

Prehistory to present ... I'll probably get at least a touch nostalgic about all of it.

Local films + 3 Keaton Shorts

10PM: Aaron Crozier's Grumboon (musical score by the Baysayboos), Mike Pagano's Chicken & Waffles (musical score by R&P MPO), Hugo Fleming's The Cask of Amantillado (musical score by Heather Rice) and Cody Stokes' Heartland Transport (musical score by R&P MPO)

11PM: The Rats & People Motion Picture Orchestra performs its scores in accompaniment to Buster Keaton's The High Sign, The Goat and One Week (One Week score composed by Kevin O'Connor)

Monday, September 12th
10PM Movie Time
El Leñador
3124 Cherokee St. STL MO

21+, free admission (but donations welcome and appreciated)

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

"Don't hate the player; hate the game."

This is a kind of trite thing to say, but it's pretty damn true. The massive post-War project in the United States of mass post-secondary education coupled with the now dominance of the internet has put "literature" in transition. There are more people in the USA than ever doing "literature." At the same time, the means of production and distribution are wildly different than they were just some twelve years ago. The industry (whatever that is) is in flux. I know absolutely no one involved in this latest niche imbroglio, and only know of a couple of people secondarily or tertiarily related to it. It seems that a lot of the commenting has been about siding with one party over the other based on loyalties, friendships, aesthetic/political or "poetics" stances, et cetera. That is fine and good. Everyone should have a friend.

Two people removed from the situation each have a more systemic (I know ... another trite word) take on the matter. Mike Meginnis breaks it down in a kind of microeconomics style, while Joseph P. Wood breaks it down in a kind of sociological/political economy style. Both takes seem to me the most clear-headed and insightful. I think that both takes end up more or less "Don't hate the player, hate the game."

Even if you could care less about "indie-lit," the dynamics of the imbroglio and the subsequent discussion have analogous threads in any creative enterprise these days. The means of production and distribution of music and film have very certainly and very radically changed. Making and distributing is way easier and way cheaper. The "barrier to entry" is nearly ground-level. What was "indie vs. mainstream" twelve years ago isn't "indie vs. mainstream" today. Maybe, as Joseph Wood hints, it's a matter of whether to view the arts on a spectrum rather than oppositional. Maybe the spectrum has been the usual, but the Twentieth Century's means of production and distribution, e.g. mass media, set up binary oppositions - i.e. "mainstream" vs. "alternative/avant/ ..." Maybe this 20th Century type of means of production was an anomalous hiccup.

And so maybe that's why there's so much difficulty, anxiety, screw-ups, shadiness, and hurt feelings right now. We've all been raised and schooled under a mass-media model of culture - mass production (and its opposition) , mass distribution (and its opposition) - that just isn't operative anymore. Maybe it's a new game, and maybe the players are figuring it out as they go along.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Der letzte Mann

The first time that I saw The Last Laugh was in college for an intro to film studies class. The professor had us watch it as an example of 1920s-era German Expressionism (the conventional film studies wisdom being that this was the last film in that vein). Watching the film even then, at my most jaded mid-90s self, I was moved to several teary moments.

Fast-forward roughly a decade later, and there I was watching The Last Laugh again ... and I was even more teary more often than last time. This time, my friends in the Rats & People Motion Picture Orchestra were performing a score that they had written for it at Webster University. Maybe it's just that I had turned into an old romantic fool by then, but I think that a lot of it had to do with how beautifully and seamlessly my friends' music evoked the mood of the film and complemented it.

Fast-forward to now, and it's my honor to be a part of this ensemble. It's also an honor to have a small part in a free R&P MPO screening of The Last Laugh this coming Labor Day evening at El Leñador.

What can I tell you about The Last Laugh without any spoilers? Well, how about this: To me lately, The Last Laugh is about the pride and identity one brings to her or his station in life, and how quickly that station can change, and how psychically devastating that can be. I know, I know ... heavy stuff for the last night of a Labor Day weekend. But then again, maybe given what day it is, it's especially appropriate.

F.W. Murnau's The Last Laugh

Musical score written and performed by
The Rats & People Motion Picture Orchestra
Monday, September 5th
11 PM Movie Time
El Leñador
3124 Cherokee St. STL MO

21+, free admission (but donations welcome and appreciated)

Thursday, June 16, 2011

This Evening's Walk

"Hey, what's up, man."


We pass each other on the sidewalk. He has more to say, though.

"Hey man you remind me of my friend Matt who died in a car accident yesterday."

"Oh, man. I'm sorry to hear that."

"Hey, keep your head up, alright?"

"Thanks. Likewise."

I decide to make sure and wait for all green lights and walk signs for the remainder of my stroll.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Three Hypotheses

Hypothesis 1

balding dudes with shaved heads who are avid bicyclists/dudes who are avid bicyclists
balding dudes with shaved heads/dudes

CLoEV*: High

Hypothesis 2

balding dudes with shaved heads who are avid runners/dudes who are avid runners
balding dudes with shaved heads/dudes

CLoEV: High

Hypothesis 3

balding dudes with shaved heads who are avid bicyclists/dudes who are avid bicyclists
balding dudes with shaved heads who are avid runners/dudes who are avid runners

CLoEV: Medium

*- Confidence Level of Empirical Validation

Friday, May 20, 2011

Not a HaikuLou

Not a HaikuLou

Fawn in the leaves
Doom Town cooks
Andrew Bryant arrives
From Mississippi
Theodore Fete

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

A single beautiful moment

"Dear friends, known and unknown to me, my dear compatriots, and all the people of the world:

In the next few minutes a mighty spaceship will carry me off into the distant spaces of the universe.

What can I say to you during these last few minutes before the start? All my life now appears as a single beautiful moment to me. All I have done and lived for has been done and lived for this moment."

Yuri Gagarin, April 12, 1961

Thursday, March 24, 2011


Poor Forms, inspired, writes a devastatingly beautiful post riffing off of another devastatingly beautiful post by Sugar. I figure riffing off of the riff would be a good way to get this small and humble piece of the internet started, so here is some advice from myself on March 24, 2011 to myself on March 24, 2000 (when I was 22 years old). I wonder whether I'd listen to me.

Here goes:

The sooner you drop the Manichean worldview that you have right now, the better. Everybody gets treated poorly in this world (and most get treated way more poorly than you have been treated). There's nothing special about you in that regard. It's unhealthy because you're about to waste several years being trapped and static because of your attitude.

Next year, you're going to get a cushy office job that allows you to use your talents as a writer and reader. You're going to think that you don't really have to finish that bachelor's degree. This new job will not last. Finish your bachelor's degree now while you're working at the grocery store and when your hours are more flexible. Trust me on this one.

Hang out with your friends and enjoy your time with them to the fullest. People are going to move (including you). People are going to get married and have children. People are going to pursue their ambitions and goals and take on responsibilities. You won't be able to see everybody as much. Tell your friends how much you care about them.

Get over your fear of failure. It's self-destructive.

Organize a Midwest tour for the Baysayboos.

Show more caring and kindness to your parents and siblings. You're going to need them in a big way some ten years from now.

Quit smoking now. The longer you keep smoking, the more you will feel inextricably hooked to nicotine.

Spend more time listening and less time talking when you go out on a date with a woman whom you like.

Spend more time listening and less time talking when you hang out with your friends.

There are rewards to hard work. The rewards very rarely are what you had envisioned, and even more rarely are readily apparent to others. Don't let that stop you from working hard and applying yourself to something about which you care. Status and accolades are often empty signifiers.

Write this advice down in a letter, and ask someone to mail it to you on March 24, 2011. Most of this advice still will be relevant.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Just Text

Here are my new internet digs. These digs are nothing fancy, but I guess that's the point. Hopefully, the blank-pagedness of it all will lend itself to posts with more reflective, fleshed-out ideas. No pictures, no graphics, no frills. Just text. Here's hoping.