view from the hill

A look at the elements and events that come into view from where I'm standing...
... the stuff that matters in this life. Some flicker and are gone in a matter of hours
only to live in memory, others become life long travelling companions, never far from reach.

Friday, April 14, 2006

Vancouver Anthropology Museum

villiage3I’m up in Vancouver for the weekend visiting Tiff who’s working on a show here. Yep, once again we’re living separate lives and it ain’t no fun. But at least this time around it’s only a couple hour’s flight, and in the same time zone.

outsideSo, we find ourselves exploring yet another new city, and one of the first places I wanted to see was the Anthropology Museum because it’s filled with totem poles! I love the indigenous art of the Pacific Northwest, so this was a must see. The museum is south of downtown in Kitsilano on the grounds of the University of British Columbia. It was a rainy day when we drove up which added to the mystery of the dark pine trees that greeted us. Once inside we found this place is stacked to the gills with amazing carvings that carry the history and myth of these First Nation tribes. Turns out, this place really is impressive.

ravenThere have been people living in these forests and coastlines for thousands of years, but apart from small flint objects, the oldest surviving artifacts are only a couple hundred years old because they made everything out of wood. Houses, boxes, baskets, masks and clothing are all made from red and yellow cedar. They call it the tree of life for a reason.

villiage1After fully exploring the galleries, we ventured outside into the drizzle where a small coastal village has been built. This was almost more intriguing because outside is where these totem poles are meant to be. I couldn’t help but wonder, though, if the animals depicted in the carving are confused because they’re not facing the sea. Or if they can look in and see their brothers on the inside of the museum behind the wall of glass.

totemBack inside I picked up some great books in the bookstore – of course. What a great introduction to Vancouver. It’s wonderful to be so close to the art of the Pacific Northwest. Next stop is the Vancouver Art Museum for a slightly more contemporary view of life in the Great White North, eh.

Sunday, April 09, 2006


brickCurrently residing in the why-didn't-I-think-of-that file is Brick, the great new film that takes the universe of 1940s film noir and drops it smack dab into a contemporary suburban high school. All the usual suspects of classic noir are here, the moody settings, murder, king pins, thugs, the femme fetal, and of course lightning-fast slang banter. This movie practically invents it's own language! At the Arclight in Hollywood, there's a crib sheet in the lobby to help audiences translate. But, like tuning your ear to Shakespeare, you quickly fold into the snappy soundscape and let the plot twists spiral you deeper into a stylized underbelly of this particular Southern California suburbia.

Brendan, our world weary outsider is the kind of guy who blends into the crowd. But don't take him for granted, this kid packs a punch, and he' s not afraid to get the crap beat out of him for a good cause. That good cause is finding who killed his ex, and why. The trail keeps pointing to the Pin, but if you ask for a show of hands if anyone's actually seen this Pin, you'll get a crowd of full pockets. There's heavies trying to prevent Brendan from digging deeper, and the vice principal is on his back as well.

brick1The movie is a great ride, but it's worth seeing for the sound design alone. This film is an audio feast, with trains rumbling by, distant seagulls, creaking floorboards and bodies thumping in car trunks. There's a great sequence where our hero is being chased on foot by a thug with a knife, and the drama practically hinges on the different sound their shoes make echoing through the corridors of the school. It's just a treat to listen to.

It's such a relief to see a movie that doesn't shy away from its originality. Brick plays it straight without winking at the audience. Do yourself a favor, keep your specs peeled for this one and spend some time with a modern classic.

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

David Gray

davidgrayWe’ve seen the man! The other night at the Universal…I mean… Gibson Amphitheatre, David Gray played a wonderful set. With a five piece band behind him he alternated between sitting at the piano and strumming his guitar. Drenched in a simple light show, his Grayness was at his bobble-headed best.

Poor old David isn’t exactly obscure, but apart from a few songs like Babylon and Sail Away, he sure doesn’t get air play, so it’s a great thing to be in a room full of fans who are singing along with every word.

The best parts of the show were when he went off the map a little. He added new verses to songs, jammed with the band and just let the songs roll on. It was like meeting old friends that have new stories to share. He even played my favorite song off the new album – Ain’t no Love, and opened his encore with a pretty amazing acoustic version of Shine, just him and his guitar center stage. I just love his rhymes and chord changes! Now I’m waiting for a live album.

Pick any disc and buy it today!

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

Munch at MOMA

seinestcloudI heard an ad on the radio this morning that there's an exhibition of Edvard Munch's paintings at MOMA (the Museum of Modern Art). How exciting! The web site says this is the first retrospective of Munch's work in the US in almost 30 years. There's a huge list of all the paintings on display, and yes, Girls on the Pier is one of them. How wonderful to get to see this painting in person, especially after just writing about it. Up until recently, I'd only been familiar with the Scream, which is a tad disturbing, but seeing some of his other paintings I realize there's a lot womanonbeachthere. Some of these are incredibly bold and elusive, really beautiful. Plus it's always great to see an entire retrospective to see things in context and learn about the artist's life. Maybe I can go this weekend.

And then…

I looked up the address to figure out where to go, and it turns out this is the MOMA in New York! Dangit and curses all to heck! The Scream is much more fitting now.

(Alex says, "Nooooooooooo!")

So, if any of you are in Gotham in the next month or so, check it out, and please, report back to me.

Check it out here