Friday, August 31, 2012

End Credits Audio from (Untitled) (2009): David Lang's Stick Figure

The climax of Jonathan Parker's (Untitled) (2009) is, in many ways, its end credits. There we hear the first straightforwardly gorgeous piece of music in the film (although possibly only the prior ninety minutes of thonk-bonk contemporary music has allowed us to hear it as gorgeous and not monotonous): just over half of David Lang's Stick Figure (the Fourth Movement of his Child (2001)) performed by the Italian contemporary music ensemble, Sentieri Selvaggi (a 2003 recording that's available on iTunes, Amazon, etc. at an incredibly reasonable price). One way of interpreting the piece in context is as the finished version of the last piece of noodling that we hear from the composer within the film, Adrian Jacobs (Adam Goldberg).

(Untitled) (2009) is a pretty good film with its own uniquely equivocal mood and tone, and a standout performance from (should-be-a-star) Marley Shelton as downtown NYC gallery owner, Madeleine Gray. Definitely worth checking out (esp. if you've ever dabbled in art-walks, gallery-hopping, and the like).

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Passion Pit's Little Secrets

OK, so I'm two years late discovering this slice of Time-to-Pretend-style awesomeness.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Madonna's Drowned World/Substitute for Love

Man I miss this more mysterious, adult Madonna. 2012's born-again teenager Madonna doesn't do it for me (does anyone like it?).

Madonna has had two terrific albums since Ray of Light: Music and Confessions on a Dancefloor. But apart from those....

Update: Listening again to Madonna's ignored/semi-reviled American Life (2003), I find that it's quite a lot better than I remembered. It now feels to me a little like the Amnesiac to Music's Kid A: similar but less commercial and without the big boost that being the immediate successor of a career-changing/zeitgeist-defining album (OK Computer, Ray of Light respectively) affords. At any rate, anyone who likes Music should definitely check out the following tracks: Nobody Knows Me (a dark version of Music), Nothing Fails (a dark Don't Tell Me), Easy Ride, and X-static Process. And three other tracks - Die Another Day, Hollywood, and Love Profusion - are at least OK.

2008 Election Revisited

The Electoral Commission has recommended doing away with overhangs that increase the size of parliament - what I call 'external overhangs' - for sub-4%-threshold parties if the Commission's 'no one electorate seat exemption/waiver' recommendation is accepted.

Its reason for this linkage is:

For example, if the one electorate seat threshold had not applied at the 2008 General Election and the current provision for overhang seats had been retained there would have been eight overhang seats.
But this example and reasoning assumes the crudest possible way of doing away with the electorate seat exemption, one that makes all MPs for sub-threshold parties overhangers. Better to allow sub-threshold parties to keep any party share entitlements they have up to their number of electorate MPs, i.e., # of quotients for sub-threshold party i = min(# of i's electorate wins, # of quotients i's party vote share would entitle it to).That sort of proposal strips out tag-along list MPs of the ACT/United Future/Progressive sort while preserving genuine overhangers - the genuine inconsistencies with/violations of party vote share that so far only some Maori party MPs have been.

In the 2008 election, Progressive, United Future and ACT all earned enough party vote share to 'cover' their electorate successes, and the Maori party earned enough party vote share to 'cover' three out of its five electorate wins.
Here's what the 2008 election looks like under various regimes holding voting behaviors constant (click to enlarge):

The Commission's proposal is unjustified overkill, mostly leading to less proportional outcomes (LSQ(2008, Report policy) = 3.046 > 2.932 = LSQ(2008, external overhangs w/o tag-alongs), and it should be abandoned.

A simpler example than what the actual world provides us with may be valuable (click to enlarge):

In this toy case the disproportionalities are exaggerated and the separation between the Report's policy (III) and our proposal (IV) is correspondingly clearer (23.5 > 18.5). Indeed (III) gives the most disproportional outcome in this toy case, which isn't true in the real-world Election 2008 case. Finally, note that even if our proposal didn't generally have the edge in proportionality/non-distortingness, it might still be worth accepting for its basic intelligibility as a hack to avoid an allegedly nasty consequence (i.e., of too large overhangs given the maxially natural and intelligible policy).

Is trouble with its (internalize the) overhang prescription the Report's only infelicity? Decidedly not. More on that soon. But note that the allegedly fiendish 2008 Status Quo saw Act get 5 MPs for its 85K party votes while NZ First got 0 MPs for its 95K party vote. Quelle horreur! Under the Commission's policy, however, nearly exactly the reverse happens: Act gets 1 MP for its 85K party votes and NZ First gets 5 MPs for its 95K party votes. The more things change.... And in both cases the Maori party cheerily gets 5 MPs on 56K party votes. What progress!

If you were inclined to whine before, surely you must either be inclined to continue whining or to rethink your original inclination? Perhaps you were just being a baby about boundaries? More anon.

Monday, August 20, 2012

Two Recent Vids

"Turn Your Back On The Wind"/"Believe In Love" (1970) was one of The Fourmyula's final, unsuccessful singles, but it has since achieved renown on their various Best Of/Compilation releases. It hasn't been available on youtube up till now except in a recent live version here. I hereby plug that gap:

My visuals are the heartbreaking last few minutes of King Vidor's Stella Dallas (1937) w/ Barbara Stanwyck in the title role. The story is as follows: Stella wants what's best for her daughter, Laurel (Anne Shirley), and she realizes that Laurel will only be able to 'marry up' if she exits from her daughter's life (Stella's hard-scrabble roots constantly show through, vulgarities cause embarrassment, etc.). Laurel, however, won't abandon her mother just to better herself. So Stella has to fool Laurel that she, Stella wants her daughter out of the way so that she can herself pursue another husband. In the final scene Stella watches her daughter's wedding from out in the street in the rain, happy that her ruse has secured her daughter's future and probable happiness. It's a 'two boxer', and a triumph for both Vidor and Stanwyck. The obvious strong case for Stanwyck as one of the 2 or 3 greatest screen actresses starts here perhaps.

Soon after the release of Bob Fosse's film Sweet Charity (1969) (which adapted Fellini's Nights of Cabiria, via the original stage-show that Fosse also directed and choreographed), Paul Mauriat rearranged and reorchestrated part of Cy Coleman's Overture into this magnificent pop-classical/lounge band confection. This piece of music was used as background music, e.g., for events montages, throughout the 1970s.

Fosse's film starred the great Shirley MacLaine as Charity Valentine. The film's a bit of a dud overall. but MacLaine is dynamite, as is much of the music and dancing. Many of the stills I've used come from a very warm appreciation of the film due to Ken Anderson here.

If you want to see what a more successful, ultra-dramatic version of the underlying story looks like, watch the ending of Nights of Cabiria here. In my perfect Hollywood-world, MacLaine would have got to star in a straight remake of Nights of Cabiria as well as Fosse's musical. Oh well.

Note that Mauriat's Sweet Charity first appeared on his album Un Jour, Un Enfant (1969):

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Anna Chicherova (High Jump, Gold Medalist 2012)

While Britain's Jessica Ennis may have won the race for pure, Olympic sweetheart, for cool cheekbones and for the body of an alien robot from the future here to kill us all, it's hard to go past the High Jump gals. C'mon down gold-medalist Anna Chicherova (Russia).
Is she ready for her closeup? Yes, yes she is.
Get on this Hollywood. I'd even go for her and Isenbayeva as a dynamic duo of some sort. Make it so.

Note that High Jump is one of those events where records set in the 1980s still stand (for both women and men), notwithstanding all the improvements in diet, training, and general sports science ever since. (Things that make you go 'Hmmm'!) Current athletes, however, are getting close, especially on the female side. Chicherova's personal best (2.07m) is 2 cm short of equaling the World Record, hence 3 cm short of breaking it. And Croatia's Blanka Vlasic is 1cm closer still.