Buy one of the following DVDs Richard von Busack mentioned in his article:
Takashi Miike’s ‘Dead or Alive’ (unrated director’s cut)
Buy one of the following SACDs Greg Cahill mentioned in his article:
John Coltrane’s ‘Soultrane’
The Bob Dylan limited edition catalog box set
Jaco Pastorius Big Band’s ‘Word of Mouth Revisited’
Pink Floyd’s ‘Dark Side of the Moon’
Rachel Podger’s ‘La Stravaganza’
Roxy Music’s ‘Avalon’
Steely Dan’s ‘Gaucho’
Donald Fagen’s ‘Kamakiriad’
Photograph by Mott Jordan
Anger Management: Angry? Let Bobby Bully Bag have it!
Live to Give
‘Tis the season to give until the giving is done
The holiday gift-giving gestalt these past couple of years has been as shrill as 10 pipers piping: America, open for business! Purchasing is patriotic! Don’t bury that tax refund under your mattress–cash it in for CDs!
Thankfully, the recent elf-sized economic upturn seems to have opened a pressure valve somewhere, and we need no longer feel like Osama is hiding in our wallets. This season, we can go back to giving gifts for the simple reason that we like someone, he lives in our household, or she spent one painful afternoon giving birth to us many years ago.
In this gift guide you will find perfect gift ideas for your special somebodies.
The holidays don’t have to be stressful (remember: there’s no “hell” in “holiday”!) as long as a sense of humor reigns. And if that fails, there’s always Aunt Dotty’s holiday eggnog.
Hell’s Jingle Bells
A gift guide based on perennial heart warmers the Seven Deadly Sins
No responsible heathen is unfamiliar with that illustrious codification of spiritual shortcomings known as the Seven Deadly Sins: pride, envy, gluttony, lust, anger, greed, and sloth. Is there a secret connection between the seven deadly sins and the Seven Dwarfs or the seven castaways on Gilligan’s Island? You’ll have to decide for yourself. In any event, those seven time-tested foibles make perfect categories for a holiday gift guide. Let us begin.
Pride. Also known as vanity, pride is said to be the most serious of sins, the one from which all others derive. It represents a disproportionate belief in your own abilities, a longing to be important forever. If your loved one secretly desires immortality, give him or her a gift membership in the Alcor Life Extension Foundation (www.alcor.org), the world’s largest and most advanced provider of cryonics technology. Membership includes a free subscription to Cryonics magazine. 877.GO.ALCOR.
Anger. Also known as wrath, anger is the result of someone espousing rage instead of love. What a concept. For that angry person in your life, why not opt for a human-shaped punching bag? You don’t even have to don karate clothing to belt the Bobby Bully Bag right smack in the face. It’s a full size, torso-shaped hanging bag for realistic target training, made from durable PVC and filled with urethane foam. The whole thing weighs 40 pounds–perfect for staged release of raw emotion. Available from Bill Wallace’s Superfoot’s Martial Arts Superstore (www.superfoots.com).
Lust. Lust is the opposite of the heavenly virtue of self-control. What more needs to be said? Whether it’s sex, power, or wealth one lusts after, it makes no difference. Jesus Christ himself said that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery in his heart.” Just substitute www.voyeur-sex-tours.com for “a woman” in that phrase, and you’ve got a nice little sales blurb going. No photo for this one, sorry.
Envy. When it comes down to it, other people are just better looking than you are. You desire their abilities, their social status, their financial situation. When you’re feeling a little self-deprecating or downright jealous, voodoo dolls really do come in handy. Give yourself a gift voodoo kit from Abaxion witchcraft supplies (www.abaxion.com) and let the torture begin. Needles included.
Greed. Also known as covetousness or avarice, greed is the desire for material wealth while ignoring the spiritual world–discounting eternal life for the sake of temporary things. For greed, the punishment in hell is to be boiled alive in oil. But Prov. 15:27 tells us, “He that is greedy of gain troubleth his own house; but he that hateth gifts shall live.” Yes, gifts! A wonderful gift for that greedy one in your life is Arianna Huffington’s wonderful screed Pigs at the Trough: How Corporate Greed and Political Corruption Are Undermining America.
Gluttony. Ah, the pleasures of uninhibited excess, the unwarranted desire to consume more than one requires–which does not necessarily equate to being fat. Gluttony is overindulgence in food or drink to the point where it takes away veneration of God. For a truly insatiable gift, give your gluttonous one the Chocolate Party package from www.catalogcity.com. At $94.99, the package includes Ghirardelli cookies and cream bars, 12 Joseph Schmidt truffles, chocolate graham toffee dunks, chocolate-covered pistachios, popcorn drizzled with white and dark chocolate, chocolate-dipped biscotti, and 12 chocolate cable cars.
Sloth. The sweet avoidance of all work, whether it’s spiritual or physical. If you’re just itching for inactivity, then try the Quartz Action Limited Edition Dotclock, which divides the day into 12 important breaks: snooze, nod off, shut eye, nap, 40 winks, chill, dream, lie in, head down, rest, zonked and catch up. Available exclusively at www.spaceruk.com.
Scrooge Buster: For the silent film seeker, cue Kino’s 11-DVD set of ‘Art of Buster Keaton.’
DVDs for the season, with all the jingle bells and whistles
Outside, there are germs. There are muggers, animals that might attack, and teenage snipers gone spiral-eyed from too many viewings of The Matrix. Inside the house, it is warm, safe, and dark, and there is no cover charge. It’s an easy choice.
Buying movies online for loved ones is just as easy a choice; this way, they won’t have to risk the outside world either.
For the most shut-in of the shut-ins, consider a subscription to Netflix (www.netflix.com) for $19.95 per month. The five-year-old website is still the king of online film rental organizations, with free shipping both ways, 15,000 titles, and no overdue fees. At any time, subscribers can keep up to three DVDs indefinitely. Netflix is beginning to offer exclusives, such as the not-to-be-missed documentary Daughter from Danang, and frequent commentary from the knowledgeable and affable film critic James Rocchi.
Few companies are as aptly named as Criterion (“principle taken in standard of judging,” defines the OED). Known for the highest quality film restoration and the utmost in scholarly annotation, Criterion Collection home video (www.criterionco.com) has yards of titles. Too late for the Christmas season (but there’s always Russian Orthodox Christmas) is their long-awaited DVD reissue of M. Hulot’s Holiday and Mon Oncle by Jacques Tati. 1956’s Mon Oncle is a gentle comedy about an out-of-step Parisian remembered especially for its keen satire of architectural crime.
Criterion’s catalogue includes works by Truffaut, Fellini, Hitchcock, and Bergman. The average price for Criterion’s DVDs are steep, though; on Amazon.com, the titles run about $36 per CD. This connoisseur video company also distributes wilder stuff, such as a restored version of 1958’s Fiend without a Face. (The fiend, a flying brain with a prehensile spinal cord, just had a cameo in Looney Tunes: Back in Action.)
Criterion’s film notes say, “Fiend without a Face is presented in its original theatrical aspect ratio of 1.66:1. Created on a high-definition Spirit Datacine and enhanced for 16 x 9 televisions, this new digital transfer was mastered from a 35mm composite fine-grain master. To further enhance the picture, thousands of instances of dirt, debris, and scratches were removed.”
Sweet! I’m not sure what a Spirit Datacine is, but I’m convinced that this is exactly the right tool to restore a flying-brain movie to the visual splendor its creators intended.
Criterion’s selection of classics of the macabre should be popular during the light-starved, ghost-haunted solstice. Check out William Dieterle’s too-little known The Devil and Daniel Webster (perfect viewing in hard and corrupt times). Criterion’s edition of 1922’s Haxon: Witchcraft throughout the Ages was taken from a master owned by the Swedish Film Institute. It is a DVD no Goth should be without.
The even more hardcore person on the holiday list might deserve a treat from Something Weird Video (www.somethingweird.com), earth’s most sumptuous treasure-chest of cine mauvaise. The one-stop shop for the peculiar works of the late Doris Wishman, plus vintage smut, elderly burlesque reels, 12 volumes of old anti-cine16 educational films (titled Campy Classroom Classics), and several volumes of the Dusk to Dawn Trashorama Show of drive-in movie ads and coming attractions. Perfect for that special someone who longs to see the dancing hot dogs cartoon at least once more in their lives. Almost nothing in the Something Weird catalogue is more than $20.
Kino (www.kino.com) is still in the business of rereleasing films for theatrical exhibition, from Takashi Miike’s odd and poetic policiers to J. P. Melville’s Bob le Flambeur. Their site is indispensable for fans of silent film on DVD. If their warehouse was on fire, the first thing I’d grab is the 11-DVD volume Art of Buster Keaton ($160). Most of Kino’s DVDs are priced in the neighborhood of about $20.
Some of the newest offerings are hard-to-find films by Paul Leni, an expressionist master who died too young. His movie Waxwork (1924), set in a wax museum, is one of the first horror anthology films. Leni’s The Man Who Laughs (1928) stars Conrad Veidt as the disfigured antihero. Veidt gave Batman’s creator Bob Kane the idea for what the Joker should look like.
Just past the 25th anniversary of Jacques Brel’s death, Kino offers Jacques Brel Is Alive and Well and Living in Paris (about $20), the first release of a musical review, out of print for decades. The songs include Brel himself singing his “Ne Me Quitte Pas.” Brel’s cabaret music will apply to the listener a layer of class and world-weariness as thick as the lacquer on a Lexus.
With the help of such websites, you can transform your and your loved ones TVs into shrines of cinema greatness, while the rest of the world goes nuts outside.
It’s a 5.1 World
2003 surround-sound market starts with a whisper, ends with a bang
By Greg Cahill
This will go down in history as the month the recording industry got serious about multichannel sound, even as rumors floated online that Sony–one of the innovators of Super Audio Compact Discs–plan to bail out of the market.
Whereas both DVD-Audio and SACD have entered the marketplace in drips and drabs in the past couple of years to capitalize on the burgeoning home-theater craze, the labels have now turned the spigot on full blast with dozens of titles pouring into the stores every few days. Those recent releases range from classic titles by Elton John (Goodbye Yellow Brick Road) and the Who (Tommy) to new releases by Robert Cray (Time Will Tell) and Ludacris (Chicken-N-Beer)–all brought to you in often beautiful sounding and always confusingly competing formats.
Many consumers got a first taste of this audiophile-for-the-masses craze last month when Rolling Stone magazine included in its 500 Greatest Albums of All Time issue an eight-page ad that promotes the Super Audio CD format. The ad includes a hybrid-layer surround-sound SACD with selections from several of the issue’s picks performed by Bob Dylan, Pink Floyd, the Who, Herbie Hancock, Norah Jones, Elton John, Billy Joel, Miles Davis, and Aerosmith.
Who can keep up with this deluge of remastered music? Still, here are a few favorites from the past year that kept me chasing the ever-elusive perfect audio experience (and helped keep a couple of local home-theater equipment shops in business).
John Coltrane, Soultrane (Mobile Fidelity). Not all good things come in 5.1 surround-sound packaging. This classic 1958 recording featured the jazz legend on tenor sax backed by Red Garland (piano), Paul Chambers (bass), and Arthur Taylor (drums), and it has never sounded better than on this restored mono SACD version.
Bob Dylan, various titles (Columbia). One of the most anticipated SACD releases of the year found 15 titles, from the landmark 1962 release The Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan to the recent Love and Theft. Not everyone agreed on the selection (a lot of folks could have lived without Street Legal or even Planet Waves in lieu of more recent titles), but most agree that Dylan’s catalog sounded terrible. These digitally remastered discs, especially Blood on the Tracks, are a marked improvement. Five titles even sport 5.1 surround sound.
Jaco Pastorius Big Band, Word of Mouth Revisited (Telarc/Heads Up). A who’s who of electric bassists join former bandmates of the late, great Jaco Pastorius (who played bass for Weather Report, Joni Mitchell, and others) on one of the best-sounding jazz SACDs released this year. Impressive all around (and Telarc has emerged as one of the most trusted labels in the surround-sound industry; you can’t go wrong with these guys if your thing is blues, jazz, or classical).
Pink Floyd, Dark Side of the Moon (Capitol). One of the greatest rock albums of all time is one helluva surround disc, though a few audiophiles squabbled over the quality of the hybrid stereo mix. Is it better than the Mobile Fidelity gold-plated Ultradisc version from a few years back? Not really, just different. But the new surround mix really brings out both the nuances (I didn’t realize just how much swearing there is in the incidental chatter on this album) and the sledge-hammer sonic effects. I own this in every format and every version ever released–hell, why not?
Rachel Podger, La Stravaganza (Channel Classics). This young British virtuoso violinist captured a coveted Gramophone magazine award and a lot of hearts with this stunning two-disc set of 12 violin concertos (the seldom-recorded op. 4) by Antonio Vivaldi. Go for Baroque!
Roxy Music, Avalon (Virgin). The British art-rock band regrouped in 1982 to record their swan song. The result was one of the most sophisticated and gorgeous pop albums of all time. This Dutch SACD does it justice, making spare use of the surround effects and highlighting the seductive synthesizers and Bryan Ferry’s wistful vocals.
Steely Dan, Gaucho (MCA). One of the few rock albums released on both SACD and DVD-A. In fact, this classic 1980 album, the band’s last studio release for 16 years, was one of the first surround-sound releases. But that DVD-A version suffered from serious problems, most notably the unbearably shrill horns that emanated from the rear channel. This new SACD is as smooth as the duo’s jazz-inflected pop.
Donald Fagen, Kamakiriad (Rhino/Warner/Reprise). Ten years ago, Fagen, one half of Steely Dan, unleashed this oddball solo concept album (based on a futuristic car and space girls, no less) to little fanfare. This is one of the best examples of DVD-A enhancing a mediocre album. The disc (playable on any DVD player and offering several surround-sound options) sparkles with great graphics, lyrics, a photo gallery, a behind-the-scenes documentary, and a pair of playful music videos for “Snowbound” and “Tomorrow’s Girls.” It’s a perfect match for Fagen’s earlier Nightfly on DVD-A and, one could say, fulfills the promise made at the dawn of the CD age that every disc one day would feature a smorgasbord of flashy eye and ear candy. Fagen got one thing right–the future is now.
The Holiday Sock: Handmade gifts at www.buyolympia.com please even the most rebellious.
The Mouse Potato’s Guide to Holiday Shopping
By Christina Waters
You know who you are. Like me, you do a little web shopping even while surfing the Internet for legit job-related purposes. And more than once, you’ve ordered that perfect J.Crew tank top, video game, or DVD release simply by clicking your trusty mouse on the “Order Now” button.
The good news is that you can just as easily point and click your way through your entire holiday shopping list from the comfort of your own keyboard. No shuffling through crowded malls, no soggy umbrellas, and no parking problems. You just sit at your computer and follow our suggestions for absolutely perfect gifts for everybody on your list. You click, they ship. The biggest no-brainer on the planet.
Here’s how it works. Visualize yourself driving over to the Santa Rosa Plaza and swimming upstream toward Banana Republic to snap up one of those hot pink cashmere hooded sweaters for your sweetie, who is so Gwyneth Paltrow.
Now visualize this. Dial www.bananarepublic.com and scroll through the colorful visual menus, find the item you want, click on it (oh, and you do have to provide some method of payment), and it can be delivered to your sweetie, complete with a card from you. Or have it delivered to you, you wrap it up, add a personal card, and deliver it yourself to the lucky recipient. How easy can shopping get?
Here are a few online hot spots to get you started, both mainstream and not-so-mainstream.
Thrill your kids with a personalized letter from Santa, available at www.santamail.org.
Choose heavenly makeup, fragrance, and body lotions in luxurious gift sets at www.sephora.com.
Does someone on your list adore vintage clothing? Then check out the amazing selection of real and faux Victorian jewelry and clothing at www.artandartifact.com. Jewelry practically falls off the keyboard at various sites, including the excellent www.gemstones.com–don’t miss the Amulet.com listing while you’re there.
Need something to raise those holiday pulses? Then get on over to www.trashy.com and ogle the inventive lingerie sets–naughty micropleated skirts with matching bras, that sort of fun. Don’t miss inspired items like the leopard-print bustiers, from www.cameolingerie.com. For off-the-beaten-track bedroom accessories, look no further than www.stormyleather.com. You gotta love a website that offers “whips, floggers, and paddles.”
Everybody knows about the goodies galore–books, DVDs, CDs, computer toys– at the mighty www.Amazon.com. But for rare, used, and out-of-print books, also check out www.powells.com and www.abebooks.com. And if you’re one of those budget-minded consumers who likes to comparison shop, use www.pricegrabber.com to make sure you’re getting the best deal.
Specialty paraphernalia to please the meditation fanatic, like hand-painted tankas from Nepal can be found at www.dharmacrafts.com. Gourmet gifts are as easy as www.epicurious.com, where you’ll find delicious packages of everything from cheeses and imported gravlax, to caviar and chocolate. Thrill your mom with a half pound of deluxe truffles for $46. Surprise the cook with must-have, hand-harvested sea salt from far-flung regions like Brittany, Wales, Sicily, Maine, and Hawaii at www.saltworks.us.
If something even more exotic is craved, try the natural beef, lamb and pork specialty cuts from Niman Ranch at www.nimanranch.com (and click on Products).
Does someone need a Poppie French tank ($110)? A Dede Metal diamond choker ($115)? An e.vil “Fame: I Wanna Live Forever” pullover hooded sweatshirt ($92)? You’ll find all this and more at www.girlshop.com; equally fantastic men’s gifts are available at www.guyshop.com.
Get even funkier with the Olympia, Wash. DIY collective www.buyolympia.com, where you can get your favorite punk-rock sock monkey ($25), blank journals by Amber Bell ($25), and customizable sterling silver ID bracelets by Dottyspeck ($42).
If you can’t find the perfect gift online, it doesn’t exist.
From the December 11-17, 2003 issue of the North Bay Bohemian.