John Peel Dead at 65

I’m absolutely stunned. I woke up to the sad news this morning that John Peel died while on holiday in Peru. Just like many of his fans will say, Peel introduced me to a whole new world of music when I was in my teens in the U.K. Without John Peel, I wouldn’t have known about The Fall, or The Smiths, or more obscure bands like Fats Comet, Scraping Foetus off the Wheel, Hypnotone, and (the record I’m still searching for) Colonel Kilgore’s Vietnamese Formation Surf Team.
But what made Peel’s show special to me was not so much the music, but his in between breaks patter. Unpolished but never at a loss for words, Peel was a friendly voice there to guide you through some of the noisy patches of alt-rock. Good at popping pretensions and self-deprecating to a fault, he didn’t try to hide mistakes–like playing a record at the wrong speed, or not knowing when a song would start (“This one fades up a bit” he’d say as the music faded up).
When I had a radio show for a brief period in college, Peel was the model, and his chatty, casual style, like a best friend who couldn’t wait to play you the new records he bought, was quite hard to pull off. You realised it came from years and years of work, total comfort at the DJ station, and a humility that kept his ego in check. For someone who broke nearly every major music genre of the past 30 years, he never wore it like a badge.
I remember his glee over certain records. One was “Sidewalkin'” by the Jesus and Mary Chain. He had just got the single and opened the show with it. He loved it so much, he said that he played it again almost immediately afterwards. Then two hours later he closed the show with it, just like a giddy teenager.
Though I found it hard to listen to him here in CA (even with streaming radio), he is still the yardstick I measure other radio shows by.
After Peel, what else is there?
Goodbye John, you will be sorely missed.

Tokyo Story

Dir: Yasujiro Ozu
I can’t remember when I first watched Tokyo Story,
but I know it was on crumb-bum video and I hadn’t lived enough.
So here comes Jon Crow shoving DVDs in my hand, shaming me for not watching Mizoguchi and Ozu enough. Fortunately, Criterion are finally getting around to releasing Ozu’s films on DVD. A good transfer of an old film is essential to its enjoyment, I think.
Anyway, “Tokyo Story” is a masterpiece, and not just because everybody says so. It has the emotional cruelty and sparse interior landscape of Chris Ware, but the sort of heart that Ware is only beginning to attain.
The story of an aging couple making a rare trip from their countryside home to the big city, only to be treated as mostly a nuisance by their grown children, doesn’t offer easy explanations to the conflicts on the screen, but suggests much more beneath the surface. That is, we could blame Shige’s bad treatment of her parents to being obsessed with making money, but there are hints that she has some sort of reason, some issues that she hasn’t worked out, something she hasn’t forgiven.
Not that “Tokyo Story” is a post-modern “everything’s opposite” twist-o-rama text, just that the film’s handling of character is so well-drawn that multiple viewings are bound to bring out the numerous levels on which these people think. The father, Shukichi, was apparently a bit of a drunk (as was the deceased son), and may explain the children’s differing responses to him.
The film asks a lot of questions about the parent-child bond, what motivates the breaking of that bond, reality vs. a parents’ expectations, and whether there’s anything to be done about it. When the youngest daughter vows at the end that she’ll never be as selfish as her older sister, there’s no way to say if she’ll be able to keep her word. “Tokyo Story” leaves the viewer wanting to know what will happen to so many of the characters. What will happen to daughter-in-law Noriko, (Setsuko Hara, an Ozu regular), now a struggling widow still young enough for remarriage? What will happen to Shukishi, especially after he is cheerfully damned in a way by the neighbor at the end of the film? (“You will be lonely” she says to him, which could be the film’s brutal message).

Buy Me This for Christmas

As blogged on BoingBoing this morning, this keychain remote will turn off all TVs in a room, regardless of make.

Wired News: Inventor Rejoices as TVs Go Dark
Altman’s key-chain fob was a TV-B-Gone, a new universal remote that turns off almost any television. The device, which looks like an automobile remote, has just one button. When activated, it spends over a minute flashing out 209 different codes to turn off televisions, the most popular brands first.
For Altman, founder of Silicon Valley data-storage maker 3ware, the TV-B-Gone is all about freeing people from the attention-sapping hold of omnipresent television programming. The device is also providing hours of entertainment for its inventor.

After lunch I went to grab some coffee in a local shop here. One TV above the counter had the insufferable “Crossfire” on mute and another one above the door was showing soap operas. And nobody was watching either. This is why I want this keychain…