Warning: Declaration of Suffusion_MM_Walker::start_el(&$output, $item, $depth, $args) should be compatible with Walker_Nav_Menu::start_el(&$output, $item, $depth = 0, $args = Array, $id = 0) in /home/theatr23/public_html/wp-content/themes/suffusion/library/suffusion-walkers.php on line 39
Jun 192013


James Cathcart and Ben Swank over at the Third Man Records / Belcourt Theatre monthly avant garde film series Light and Sound Machine are on a roll. I’m still thinking about last month’s Nam June Paik retrospective.

This month, they outdo themselves with the first of the series to be screened on glorious 16mm film: Kidlat Tahimik’s Perfumed Nightmare.

This is a RARE opportunity to see this film projected. Do not miss!

Why? This description on the Belcourt and Third Man sites is far better than anything I could write:

Perhaps cinema’s most humorous and poignant essay on the cultural chasm between the First and Third worlds, PERFUMED NIGHTMARE is the quasi-autobiographical account of an acute case of cultural dementia. Kidlat Tahimik, the Pilipino-born, American-educated, German-based filmmaker and global citizen casts himself as Kidlat Tahimik, the primitive naif with an awe-struck enchantment with the wonders of the developed world. The semi fictional Tahimik is a taxi (or “jeepney”) driver by day who clutches his transistor radio by night, religiously tuned-in to Voice of America and forever dreaming of the heavens – he’s the president of a fan club for Werner von Braun, the defected Nazi rocket scientist who pioneered the American space program. His filmic diary is a collage of village anecdotes and imagery, presented with varying degrees of ethnographic exoticism and short wave radio chatter. However, his document is interrupted by the appearance of a comically sinister American businessman, offering Tahimik a new life in France, refilling his company’s gumball machines which conspicuously adorn the Parisian city streets. It is here that Perfumed Nightmare evokes a turn towards magical realism, and the illusion-shattering truths of the technology age transform Tahimik into something new – a once “sleeping typhoon”, now awakened and poised to literally blow away the symbols of Western domination, and himself back to his homeland.

Also check out the wonderful video excerpt below. Tickets will be available at the Third Man door, but I recommend you buy in advance via the Belcourt website.

The Light And Sound Machine
Co-presented by Third Man Records and the Belcourt Theatre
Kidlat Tahimik’s Perfumed Nightmare
7pm, June 20th, 2013, $10  ($8 Belcourt members)
Third Man Records
623 7th Ave S – Nashville, TN 37203

May 142013

James Cathcart, curator for the Third Man Records / Belcourt Theatre monthly experimental film series The Light and Sound Machine, is hitting it out of the ballpark! This Thursday’s installment centers around Fluxus member and legendary video artist Nam June Paik.

First things first, check out the excellent trailer by Belcourt manager Zack Hall:

Tickets are available on the Belcourt websiteThird Man Records website and at the door.

Major kudos go to Third Man’s Ben Swank for founding this series. They are installing a 16mm projector for future screenings, and I can’t wait to see what James Cathcart will bring next!

Here are the full details from the press release:


The Light And Sound Machine
Co-presented by Third Man Records and the Belcourt Theatre
7pm, May 16th, 2013, $10  ($8 Belcourt members)
Third Man Records
623 7th Ave S – Nashville, TN 37203

It’s hard to imagine a 20th century artist who more accurately predicted the 21st century media and information landscape than Nam June Paik. Even Warhol, in his depiction of a celebrity obsessed monoculture, focused merely on a potential destination of a media-saturated society while Paik foresaw the “electronic superhighway” that would take us there.

Paik is best known as a formative member of the Fluxus art movement in the 1960’s and as a pioneer in the field of video art. His elaborate sculptures, often composed of dozens of cathode-ray screens, can be found in prominent collections worldwide, including the Smithsonian American Art Museum and the National Museum of Contemporary Art in Seoul (home of Paik’s The More the Better – a 60ft tower which displays video on 1,003 monitors.)

On several occasions, Paik worked in the very medium from which he took inspiration, via New York’s beloved WNET channel Thirteen. Through it’s groundbreaking TV Lab program, Thirteen/WNET facilitated production and exhibition for the earliest generation of video artists. Cutting edge works by trailblazers like Ed Emshwiller, Bill Viola, and Douglas Davis were available to anyone in the New York area with a television. NAM JUNE PAIK: I MAKE TECHNOLOGY RIDICULOUS highlights three of the artist’s seminal TV Lab contributions, serving not only as an overview of Paik‘s creative vision, but also as a testament to the potential of quality public television. The Light & Sound Machine dedicates this program to Thirteen/WNET, which celebrates it’s 50th year of broadcast in 2013.


Dir. Calvin Tompkins & Russell Connor, 1975, 28min

Produced for public television station WNET/Thirteen in New York, Nam June Paik: Edited for Television is a provocative portrait of the artist, his work and philosophies. This fascinating document features an interview of Paik by art critic Calvin Tompkins (who wrote a New Yorker profile of the artist in 1975) and ironic commentary by host Russell Connor. Taped in his Soho loft, with the multi-monitor piece Fish Flies on Sky suspended from the ceiling, Paik elliptically addresses his art and philosophies in the context of Dada, Fluxus, the Zen Koan, John Cage, Minimal art, information overload and technology. “I am a poor man from a poor country, so I have to entertain people every second,” states Paik. Excerpts from his works include Suite 212 and Electronic Opera Nos. 1 and 2; Charlotte Moorman performing TV Bra for Living Sculpture, and Moorman and Paik performing excerpts from Cage’s 26’1.1499″ for String Player in 1965. On a guided tour of his loft, Paik discusses the prototype of the Paik-Abe Synthesizer and demonstrates his early altered television sets and video sculptures. – Electronic Arts Intermix


Dir. Merrily Mossman, 1975/1977, 30min

Suite 212 is Paik’s “personal New York sketchbook,” an electronic collage that presents multiple perspectives of New York’s media landscape as a fragmented tour of the city. Opening with the 1972 work The Selling of New York, a series of short segments designed for WNET’s late-night television schedule, Paik critiques the selling of New York by multinational corporations and the city’s role as the master of the media and information industries. Russell Connor is the ubiquitous television announcer whose droning statistical information on New York is ridiculed by a series of “average” New Yorkers; a burglar steals the TV set on which we see his talking head. Intercut throughout this comic scenario are appropriated Japanese TV commercials of American products. At the core of Suite 212 is a series of short collaborative pieces that form an accelerated, vibrant romp through New York neighborhoods. Street interviews with Douglas Davis’ neighbors, Jud Yalkut’s rendering of a Chinatown noodle shop and a colorized walk along the bridge to Ward’s Island, and Paik and Shigeko Kubota’s hallucinatory tour of the Lower East Side with Allen Ginsberg are among the segments in this dizzying time capsule of New York in the 1970s. – Electronic Arts Intermix


Dir. Nam June Paik, 1977, 29min

One of Paik’s most overtly political and poignant statements, Guadalcanal Requiem is a performance/documentary collage that confronts history, time, cultural memory and mythology on the site of one of World War II’s most devastating battles. Guadalcanal in the Solomon Islands is the iconic setting upon which Paik inscribes symbolic gestures and performances. Scenes of Charlotte Moorman performing with her cello, interviews with American and Japanese veterans and Solomon Islanders, and archival footage of the battle are juxtaposed, synthesized, layered, colorized and otherwise electronically manipulated. The imagery is haunting and often surreal: Charlotte Moorman crawls along the beach in a G.I. uniform with a cello strapped to her back, plays a Beuys felt cello, and performs while concealed in a body bag. The subtext of this extraordinary collage is Paik’s assertion that global conflict arises as a result of cultural miscommunication. – Electronic Arts Intermix

Feb 212013


I have nothing against Jack White. I don’t personally connect with his music, but I really respect and admire the depth of his knowledge on music recording. His record store, live venue, recording facility and now movie theatre Third Man Records is a Nashville treasure, and I can easily see it with time becoming hallowed ground.

But something about his post on being selected as Ambassador of Record Store Day 2013 really rubbed me the wrong way. You see, it’s not really about being selected as Ambassador of Record Store Day 2013. It’s a diatribe against non-tangible media masquerading as praise for tangible media.

After mentioning a survey someone told him about “years ago” which revealed zero out of 1,200 high school students had ever been in a “stand-alone record shop,” White goes on to say

 How can record shops (or any shop for that matter) compete with Netflix, TiVo, video games that take months to complete, cable, texting, the Internet, etc. etc? Getting out of your chair at home to experience something in the real world has started to become a rare occurrence, and to a lot of people, an unnecessary one. Why go to a bookstore and get a real book? You can just download it. Why talk to other human beings, discuss different authors, writing styles and influences? Just click your mouse. Well here’s what they’ll someday learn if they have a soul; there’s no romance in a mouse click. There’s no beauty in sitting for hours playing video games (anyone proud of that stop reading now and post your opinion in the nearest forum). The screen of an iPhone is convenient, but it’s no comparison to a 70mm showing of a film in a gorgeous theater. The Internet is two-dimensional…helpful and entertaining, but no replacement for face-to-face interaction with a human being. But we all know all of that, right? Well, do we? Maybe we know all that, but so what?

I’m not sure what annoys me most: the tired “back in my day” Luddism, the implicit assumption that format is more important than content, or the blatant hypocrisy. Since Jack White hates downloadable media, he surely did the stand-up thing and stopped selling his music on iTunes, Google Play, and Amazon MP3, right? Or at least he donates his MP3 profits to charity?


And what about the survey that was the basis for the whole piece? Jack is a little scant on the details. I suspect he doesn’t know the details because he’s never read the survey. Someone told him about it. Years ago.

When and where was it conducted? Does “stand-alone record shop” mean a shop that sells records but not CDs or does it include all music stores? A number of things struck me as suspicious, especially the too-tidy-for-science zero out of 1,200 stat. I tried to find some shred of evidence that this survey even exists, but all I could find were countless re-blogs of  Jack White’s speech. I suspect he might be referring to one of the semi-annual Piper Jaffray “Taking Stock With Teens” surveys, but Piper Jaffray do not even ask that specific question.

But we don’t need a survey to see that chain record stores are dying out. And yet boutique stores owned by passionate and knowledgeable fans are appearing, and vinyl records sales are steadily increasing. And that’s a great, great thing … which brings me to another reason White’s post irked me. He needlessly spreads the false dichotomy that there’s one righteous path to experiencing media, basically arguing “This thing is great because that thing sucks!”

I’m not going to argue that experiencing media on tangible formats is a bad idea. That would be as wrongheaded as arguing that experiencing media on digital formats is a bad idea. The truth is we have a plethora of options catering to different wants and needs, and that’s wonderful. My roommate loves the tangibility of vinyl. I prefer the freedom that digital brings. Jack seems to think we should be dueling to the death in a Highlander-style sword fight.

He’s making the assumption that everyone has the same wants and needs he does, and if you take umbrage, you’re a soulless, cave-dwelling mouse-clicker. You may even … gasp! … play video games! But there are ways to write about why you prefer one content delivery over another without proclaiming others are doing it wrong.

I still occasionally enjoy hard copies of books, music, and film, but more often than not, I’m experiencing media digitally. My primary place for listening to music, podcasts, and audiobooks is in my car though my Android phone, connected to the car speakers via a dock. Digitally delivery means I can stream any song in my entire music collection via Google Play Music or listen to the latest episodes of my podcast subscriptions automatically downloaded via DoggCatcher.

Podcasting allows me to deliver my experimental improv music show Theatre Intangible instantly around the world with zero environmental impact, all in a mouse click. Podcasts are labors of love made by individuals who don’t have to answer to executives or advertisers. Lengths aren’t restricted by specific episode times. All of that means interview shows such as WTF with Marc Maron can have a level of intimacy and depth not possible on television and radio — episodes such as … oh I don’t know … this interview with Jack White.

Through Audible.com, I’m able to listen to a book while driving long distances, and through my Kindle, I’m able to take that same book into a restaurant and pick up right where I left off. It was an Audible audiobook, Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking , that taught me not all people communicate best in social gatherings such as chance encounters at book stores. Some introverts like myself communicate best when quietly-typing away on a keyboard, enjoying the benefits of time and reflection to better articulate a thoughtful response. In fact, the digital distance empowers us to say things we might not have the courage to say face to face. Here on the internet, people will call you out on your shit. I can’t tell you how many skins I’ve shed in the comment-response cycle of denial, indignant outrage, self-reflection, heartfelt apology, and behavior change via Facebook and blog posts (and yes, Jack, amidst all the trollery, in forums too). These experiences can be exhausting or painful, but often, the call-outs were things I needed to hear, and I’m a better person for having my ideas /opinions /privileges checked.

And yes, browsing through tangible books next to tangible people can yield chance discoveries and personal recommendations. But browsing through the Internet does that too, except times a million. In web stores, I can sort alphabetically, by user rating, by release date, by author, by genre, by sales, by playlists created by my friends and more. I have the option of reading through dozens of user reviews and review aggregations that help me choose my next purchase. On my Kindle, I can bring 50 books to the beach. Or I can bring zero and select, purchase and download my book at the beach. Some people prefer the tangibility of turning a real page, the texture of the grain, and the mysterious scents trapped between the pages. And that’s totally fine. I’m just glad we have options.

>>The screen of an iPhone is convenient, but it’s no comparison to a 70mm showing of a film in a gorgeous theater.

I can’t argue with that. He and I are among the privileged few who live in a city with a 70mm projector. Still, I will concede that Nashville’s independent (35mm) theater The Belcourt is my church, and it always will be. But I also enjoy watching movies and shows at home on my television (not iPhone) streamed via Netflix, Amazon Instant, and hundreds of independent Roku channels. And with downloadable movies, I can support independent filmmakers whose films never make it to the local screens. The current streaming selection leaves much to be desired, but it will eventually surpass the selection available on any previous format. And instead of a DVD sitting on my shelf unwatched for who knows how long, I can make the decision to rent a film right before I watch it.

>>There’s no beauty in sitting for hours playing video games

This part really confuses me. He didn’t say “video game downloads.” He just said “video games.” Brick and mortar stores selling tangible video games still make up a huge chunk of overall video game sales, and you would think Jack would extend his support to independent video game stores. (Perhaps when boutique, limited-run NES cartridges gain traction …) Video game buyers presumably talk soulful romantic shop just like record buyers do. Ah, but I forgot. Video games are not “art.” He can slip this in without anyone noticing how out of place it is.

Clearly, he’s never played Portal 2, Bioshock, Journey, Fez, Limbo, or Braid. Just to name a few.

And though he didn’t frame his gaming argument on the basis of digitally-delivered content, let me just say that there has never been a more exciting time in gaming because of downloadable games. Four of the six games I mentioned above were released as downloads. Valve’s Steam, Xbox Arcade, the Playstation Store and mobile phone platforms have revolutionized the way gaming content is delivered to consumers and allowed individuals and small team to make masterpieces without the support of big gaming studios.  And OUYA, an open-source and truly-democratic gaming console that exclusively runs downloadable content, will be released in a few months.

So, yes, tangible media is a wonderful thing and Record Store Day is a worthy cause featuring a host of fun events, live appearances, and special-edition albums. Please by all means support it; and when buying tangible media, support your locally-owned stores. But don’t mistake your own personal preferences for the one true way.  And remember why you fell in love with music, literature and film in the first place: the content. Not the container.