Tuesday, January 23, 2007

The One Where I Whore the Blog for My Own Ruthless Endeavors

Sorry gang, but I am in need of a good degree of help, so if you would comply then that would be awesome. So here is the deal:

Right now as you perhaps may know, I am working with an international nondenominational peace and reconciliation group/community/non governmental organization/whathaveyou here in Seoul, South Korea. (www.thefrontiers.org) Things are sweet here, thanks for asking. Right now aside from our headquarters and intentional community here in Korea, we work (for peace!) in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Aceh, and East Timor. Basically we do various programs, largely educational, according to the need of the region, all which have a focus on community living, reconciliation, peace, and the intertwining of all of these in attempts to live truthful and nonviolent lives. Also we do some disaster relief and some disaster area reconstruction. And whatever else we can get our hands on. (This is the same group that did that Pakistan Earthquake thing back in 2005)

So that's us, vaguely. Thing is we want to extend our "network" to North America. The purpose of this would be expanding the possibilities of global peace-building and connecting peace-building in North America with that of East Asia. Also we are looking for volunteers and workers from North America, both long term and short, as a way of becoming a more truly international organization, and also connecting Americans to places where their governments policies often wreak havoc, and connecting people from economically well off nations, with those of lesser means. Despite being based on principles of Christian faith our organization is open to people of all religions or no religions (but not members of Bad Religion).

So here is where your help comes into play. I am hoping to come to the U.S. in March. At this time my plan is to travel around the joint, meeting like minded groups and organizations and interested individuals. I also hope to do some speaking to promote our group and attempt to get some more volunteers and workers. Basically touring around, visiting groups, schools, churches and whatever else, hopes of all of these things. I will probably be doing so for at least 3 months. Because money is tight with myself and the organization, I need to make this an efficiently planned trip because America is huge and expensive (and expansive!).

So I know MMW's are spread out across the fruited plain. And many of you attend churches or go to schools or know people that do such things. So please assist me. If you have a place I can visit and talk to, for promotion, recruiting or just becoming friends please email me (paulphilipmichelson at yahoo.com, put it together and change the at to @, I did that to avoid spam) Also if you know anyone else that has some kind of sweet connections please email me. Or if you know anyone who individually might be interested or you yourself are interested, please email me. Even if you don't personally know some group that might have some connection to this, but think it would be cool to visit them or talk to them, email me. Email Email Email!

Basically I have to plan this huge trip to America myself, because I am the only American in the organization, but I have never really done this (I did something similar but really short, last year), so I don't have many connections or know how.

So lend me a hand! And sorry for turning this blog into an advertisement for myself.


Friday, January 12, 2007

The List Torch Burns on! Scott Sahl's Favorite Albums of 2006

Scott asked me to post this for him, as he is not a member here. I hope I spelled your name last name right, Scott.

Loud Guitars! Breakdowns! Fist-pumping anthems! Lyrics you can actually relate to! A few albums that will bludgeon you! (And no Sufjan…hallelujah!)So yes, I know that ALL of these albums won’t be considered straightforward punk. But a punk root lies in there somewhere…at least I say it does, lol. I admit to being out of touch with the indie/obscure scene for a few years. But I noticed that it seems like no one on any of the previous lists would be considered punk…or metal. (Though I’m probably wrong cause I just don’t know all the artists, so don’t beat me up). But hey, I thought I would give this a try.


1. Lucero – Rebels, Rogues, and Sworn Brothers – I didn’t actually start listening to Lucero until this year. They had fallen in that “heard plenty of good about them, but never actually heard anything by them” category for a few years. My mistake. I still remain partial to their 3rd album, “That Much Further West”, but I have yet to hear anything that I don’t like. Lucero does have a definite Replacements influence…as well as some Springsteen…so hey will no doubt be someone’s new favorite personal discovery in 2007.

2. Strike Anywhere – Dead FM
– Tom Barnett and co. have yet to let me down yet. Though a tour with labelhead Fat Mike and NOFX is a bad move for someone who can actually intelligently talk about social issues, this album still kicks ass. And as far as “Instinct” goes…for someone who was directly affected indirectly (if that makes sense) by physical abuse…this is as close as I come to offering forgiveness to the perpetrator.

3. Bouncing Souls – The Gold Record
– The Souls are by far my favorite band on the planet. No, they are not complex. No one will ever accuse Greg Attonito of writing “deep” lyrics. No one will ever accuse them of being incredible musicians. But that’s irrelevant. There is no other band in the world (at least for me) that has songs that are so directly relateable to life. Whether it’s about friendship, struggling through the hard times, or simply the love for music and what it means to people, the Souls encompass it perfectly. It’s not their best effort, but its still better than most of what is calling itself punk today.

4. Rise Against – The Sufferer and the Witness – This was nice to see (and hear). A band that actually had less accessible songs for their second major label release after scoring big with the acoustic “Swing Life Away” last time around. I’m never really quite sure how to describe RA as there are elements of punk, metal and hardcore throughout. Regardless, these are all pretty good…with the exception of “Roadside” which reminds me to much of “It’s been a while” from Stained.

5. Head Automatica – Popaganda – Didn’t hear much of the debut from these guys. Though I do seem to remember it being less poppy and more dancy. So I wasn’t sure what to expect when I heard about the latest effort from the Glassjaw frontman…Especially after “Dan the Automater” was no longer producing. No shortage of updated power-pop here. I know that I shouldn’t like this and normally wouldn’t, but for some reason I do. Maybe I was thinking this might have been what Brandtson’s latest effort might have sounded like…if it wasn’t such a huge stinking turd.

6. Mastadon – Blood Mountain – I think Brian had said something to the effect of this just making him want to roll a big fat one and well…you know. Damn that made me laugh…but somehow its true. I’m not sure how Mastadon pulls off bludgeoning you while making you want to smoke out at the same time, but they do.

7. The Draft – In A Million Pieces – Unfortunately Hot Water Music called it quits (officially) at the early part of the year. However ¾ of them were already working on this album under a new moniker. It’s still everything you loved about Hot Water Music…and since Chris Wollard and Chuck Ragan always did sound kinda similar, it works as a new HWM album for me…which is never a bad thing.

8. Copeland – Eat, Sleep, Repeat – Just kidding.

9. The Loved Ones – Keep Your Heart – I thoroughly enjoyed their self-titled EP the previous year. And while Dave…certainly has been known to enjoy a few beverages, he obviously left those behind for the studio. Solid, fast-paced punk rock with no filler.

10. Neko Case – Fox Confessor Brings the Flood – Don’t get me wrong, I really like The New Pornographers. But I must confess that I love Neko Case! And I can’t exactly put a finger on what it is. Maybe it’s that she used to play in punk bands…or the voice, or…there’s just something about the songs…that just stay with you after you listen to them.

11. Vaux – Beyond Virtue, Beyond Vice – For those of you who don’t know the story of Vaux…they were pegged as one of the next big-things a few years ago, signed by Atlantic’s Lava imprint and then well…left for dead in major-label limbo. Finally, well over a year after it was originally scheduled, Vaux released this on their own. And somehow, I don’t see many major-labels enjoying much of it, but I certainly did.

12. Against Me! – Searching for A Former Clarity – I know this was released in the last ½ of 2005, but I didn’t actually get to listen to it until this spring. Long story. It was a bit of a downer, not in quality, just content. But there is still nothing better than listening to an ongoing chorus of “Condoleeza!” during “From Her Lips to God’s Ears (The Engergizer).

13. Drams – Jubilee Dive – I came into contact with the Drams after happening upon a cd by their frontman’s old band, Slobberbone, at the library. I liked it so much, that I looked for current whereabouts, only to find that he was now fronting the Drams. Alt-country at its finest.

14. Latterman – We Are Still Alive! – This so should not be coming out on Deep Elm. Yeah, remember Deep Elm…of Brandtson and Cross Your Heart fame? Not the label you would be expecting to release something like this. Good, solid, uplifting punk. Like a warm blanket without ever descending into lyrical or musical cheese.

15. Converge – No Heroes – Yep, they’re still here. And they are still going to kick your ass into next week. You either really like Converge, or you hate them and say that they are nothing more than a bunch of loud, obnoxious noise. Obviously, I fall into the former category. I won’t exactly say that they are breaking much new ground here, but when you are already the best at what you do, change isn’t always necessary.

Friday, January 05, 2007

Saban a Snake?

I'm having a really hard time with all that's being said about Nick Saban leaving the Dolphins to go back to the College game at Alabama. Here's an overview of what's happened. For the last couple weeks of the NFL season Saban was asked if he would be leaving to go coach Alabama and he always denied that he'd be leaving. At one point (about 2 weeks ago) he said that there was absolutely NO WAY he'd be leaving and he had a hard time understanding why he had to answer the question so many times.

Then on Wednesday he took the job.

So here's the truth. Saban (essentially) lied when he said that he was not leaving the Dolphins and left anyway. I understand that, but let's talk about another situation that took place in the very same league last week.

On the last Saturday of the season Adam Schefter reported that the Raiders would be firing their coach Art Shell to which the Raiders responded by calling Schefter a liar and questioning his place as a reporter for the NFL Network.

Then they fired him today.

All you have to do is listen to Sports radio for about a week to know that a coach or players job is only secure as long as they're winning. As soon as the teach gets cold there's a really good chance that the coach/player would loose their job. The team doesn't care about the commitment they made to the coach/player, the team doesn't even care if it told the truth last week. At the drop of a hat the coach could be without a job.

So why is it wrong for Saban to leave for another job when he could (if the season doesn't go well next year) be fired in week 6? I do agree that there are better ways to answer the questions in the middle of the season, but I still think that this is the culture of sports.

So why's everyone so mad? I think the answer is fairly obvious. The owners are angry because the power is slowly slipping through their hands and the media's angry because they don't like to be lied to. In the end I think it's all about control.

Oh... and are you really suprised that Don Shula's angry about the situation? I mean Alabama FIRED his son and then hired Saban. Is it really about honor Don?

So let's be nice to Saban. After all who wouldn't leave a job they hated for a job they really wanted (especially when they'd get paid a TON more).

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

Happy 2007 America! -Love, Pat

According to this article, Jesus told Pat Robertson that there is going to be another major terrorist attack. We already have been given the number one quote of 2007:

"I'm not necessarily saying it's going to be nuclear. The Lord didn't say nuclear. But I do believe it will be something like that."

I think that the Lord probably told Pat this so that some attention could be redirected from all the Colorado same-sex scandal of the past month or so. It's really a good plan on Jesus' part. This is why he started audibly speaking to Pat 20 years ago. Anytime there's bad press for Jesus, he can always redirect it to one person, Pat, by telling him crazy shit that makes Pat look bad for everybody. Good thinking.

On a serious note, Paco, do you have a place for me to stay in South Korea? If we're going to get blown up, I don't want to be around. I figure South Korea is a good hiding spot.

It's also good to know that Ariel Sharon was given a stroke for ceding land to Palestine. Nevermind his consistent acts of corporate terrorism against Palestine. For God's sake, it took God thousands of years to get His own country going (aside from America), so he damn well better smite people who compromise what He had to work so hard for.

So as well all look ahead at 2007, let's all remain thankful that this is probably only the small first taste of all the crazy shit Pat Robertson is going to say and do in the coming year.

Tuesday, January 02, 2007

One More! One More! Old/New Music I Rocked To In 2006, Something Like 50 of Them.

2006 was basically a year I used to catch up on things I should have listened to a long time ago. A few things were new/new, but not enough for their own list. Other things were partial new/old, meaning I finally got around to listening to an album I had downloaded months before. Here are some of those things, in some sort of order:

1. Alan Lomax recordings - Southern Journey series, Vols. 1-13 - All of my favorite albums of the year. I went through this awesome folk phase last summer, culminating in these recordings from 50 years ago: Volumes 9 & 10 / 11 & 12 blew me away, the former with hours of shape-note singing, the latter with the Georgia Sea Island singers. I wish the contemporary worship scene would ingest this somehow, giving it untold strength and power, and less Coldplay riffs. Get these albums at any cost.

2. Rachel's - systems/layers
- Oi, this is good stuff. Mostly modern classical, quasi-orchestral stuff, with sort of a post-rock-ish and something-I-can't-quite-put-my-finger-on vibe. Whatever it's called, it's real pretty.

3. Danielson - Ships
- Boom yeah! Danielson sails fast, Danielson sails sure!

4. Sufjan Stevens - Songs for Christmas - The CDs that broke my 5-month downloading fast. Gooodness gracious that man/boy can write, sing and play.

5. Damien Jurado - Where Shall You Take Me? - An album I missed when it came out, my friend Portia burnt me a copy before I saw him in Chicago. It may be his best since Rehearsals for Departure. If not, it's still damn good.

6. Vaughan Williams - Riders to the Sea / Fantasia on Greensleeves - Basically I love this guy, dead though he may be.

7. Jackie Wilson - Reet Petite: The Very Best of Jackie Wilson - Ditto. Only more like wild love.

8. Eric B. & Rakim -– Paid In Full - Rakim, now RAKIM, pretty much lives in awesometown 24/7.

9. Yann Tiersen - Basically alot: La Valse des Monstres / Rue Des Cascades / Le Phare / L' Absente / Tout Est Calme / Les Retrouvailles / Black Session - One of my binges this year, downloading all the Yann Tiersen I could get my hands on. Unfortunately, I had burned none of it to CD before my computer died. But so many good listens while I had it.

10. Buddy & Julie Miller - Love Snuck Up - I like country music sometimes. Buddy Miller is why.

11. The Stanley Brothers - Angel Band: The Classic Mercury Recordings / The Complete Columbia Recordings - The Stanley Brothers are why, too.

12. Over the Rhine - Snow Angels - More Christmas goodies from OtR. This time with less depression.

13. Snowglobe - Our Land Brains - Oh mans, Manserly, I want to be a Elephant 6er.

14. The Apples in Stereo - Fun Trick Noisemaker - Me, too.

15. Clem Snide - Your Favorite Music - I had a little Clem Snide ep that I've been listening to for a couple of years now, but I didn't go out of my way to hear anything else from them until this year. I badly-loved Your Favorite Music for weeks beginning with my trip to Montana last April. Good frontier music.

16. King Geedorah - Take Me To Your Leader - Quirky rap. Hot rap. This deserves a cartoon special.

17. The Concretes - The Concretes in Color - Summer pop done real good. Been awaiting May 07 since September 06.

18. Mi and L'au - Mi and L'au
- Jake downloaded this and good thing, too, because basically it was the best album for listens after 2:00am for all summer long. Where are they from? I forget. Somewhere better than America, though.

19. Danger Mouse and Jemini - Ghetto Pop Life - Catching up on an album I had had for a couple years now, but didn't sit down with head phones until last spring. Spring is nice. So is this.

20. Half-Handed Cloud - Thy Is A Word & Feet Need Lamps - Discovered while searching for the new Danielson album, I think. Maybe not. But this one-man band is pretty much the best one-man band I know, sir.

21. DAT Politics - Wow Twist - Good pick, Paco. Thanks for getting the words out of your mouth.

22. Amadou et Mariam - Tje ni mousso - Africa, my Africa! Amadou & Mariam make me want to run and jump very high. And love animals real bad, too.

23. Sam Cooke -– Night Beat - My favorite soul singer lights it up -- on a studio album!

24. Frank Sinatra - In the Wee Small Hours - I'm taking back Frank Sinatra.

25. Common - One Day It'll All Make Sense - Good for Chicago driving. Another album lost in the computer crash of aught-six.

26. The Clutters - The Clutters - Some rock and roll band I came across. With farfisa hooks.

27. Public Enemy - Yo! Bum Rush the Show / Fear of a Black Planet - Chuck D drops bombs like a fierce sumbitch.

28. The Breeders - Pod - Way better than Bossanova. Frank Black should be ashamed.

29. Elizabeth Cotten -– Freight Train And Other North Carolina Folk Songs - Part of the folk and blues phase I mentioned. Miss Cotten plays meaner than your mom.

30. The Beatles - Please Please Me to A Hard Day's Night - Speaking of moms, my mom used to have all these on vinyl. She saw them live in 1964. I'm very jealous.

31. Method Man - Tical - My first forray outside of 36 Chambers. Bad-love it.

32. Suburban Kids With Biblical Names Â- #3 - Cutesy, indie pop for the kids who were 7 when Belle & Sebastian dropped Tigermilk. Still, surprisingly yummy.

33. Charles Aznavour - Sus Mas Grandes Exitos - In the Yann Tiersen binge, I came across some more Frenchies, like this guy. Would be sexier were I female.

34. Giacomo Puccini - La Boheme - Trying to learn to like opera. Puccini makes it easier.

35. Quasi - When the Going Gets Dark - These guys have been around forever and now I just hear them for the first time and now I just like them for the first time. And forever. Like Over the Rhine, but with knives.

36. Defiance, OH - The Great Depression - Socialist, possibly anarchist, Woody Guthrie inspired folk-punk. Much better than Toledo, OH, as well.

37. Alan Lomax recordings - Southern Journey series, Vols. 1-13 - I'm not kidding. Go get these songs, right now, dammit!

Monday, January 01, 2007

Old/New Extravaganza

Here it is. This may be my best list of the year. First things first, as Jonathan Rosenbaum points out, it is kind of ridiculous to place some movies over others when they are all excellent (see his top 100 American films in Movie Wars). But I don't want to remove the fun and pain of list-making by doing alphabetical order lists. So please remember that all of these are probably interchangable. I also can't remember if I saw things this year or last for some things, but I'll do the best I can. In addition, like Paco, I am not trying to sound awesome or obscure. These are really the best movies I watched this year, and many are actually embarassing that I am only now watching them. I should have watched most of these at least 6 years ago. Finally, I may be very brief on comments because of the length of this list. So without further ado...


1. Bande a Part (Band of Outsiders) by Jean-Luc Godard (1964). How does one rank out Godard films over each other? Here's how I do it. First, I have a huge crush on Anna Karina and she is at her most charming in Bande a Part. Plus, this is during my favorite era of Godard's career. He's always brilliant, but I enjoy his early 60's career the most.

2. Banshun (Late Spring) by Yasujira Ozu (1949). I enjoyed this departure from Ozu's usual negative focus on the generational gap. Here is a touching portrayal of generational love and self-sacrifice. Plus the interaction between Chishu Ryu and Setsuko Hara is completely beautiful.

3. Qianxi Manbo (Millenium Mambo) by Hou Hsiao-Hsien (2001). I had no idea how to rank Hsiao-Hsien's work (I only started watching him this year), and this may be the most arbitrary pick on the list over Hsiao-Hsien's other work. I love him so much because you can always recognize his voice in his films, but they are so diverse at the same time. I guess I picked this because it is a bit of a departure from his usual focus on Taiwan's changing culture in the 20th century and instead looks ahead at the dawn of a new millenium.

4. Sud Pralad (Tropical Malady) by Apichatpong Weerasethakul (2004). The only Weerasethakul films I have seen are this and Mysterious Object at Noon. In Tropical Malady, I felt like I was introduced to Weerasethakul's true voice in film-making. From a director's standpoint, the vision behind and compiling of Mysterious Object were ground-breaking and completely encapsule what I think film-making should be as an art. But if you take all that and add writing credit to Weerasethakul, you get the whole package in Tropical Malady.

5. L'Age d'Or (Age of Gold) by Luis Bunuel (1930). Although I seriously appreciate Chien Andalou, I really enjoy Bunuel's longer solo absurdist adventure.

6. Ni Neibian Jidian (What Time is it There?) by Ming-Liang Tsai (2001). Coming almost at the current midpoint of his career, I think this may be the most fascinating work Ming-Liang Tsai has done. Maybe not though, because the River also rules.

7. Bad Ma Ra Khahad Bord (The Wind Will Carry Us) by Abbas Kiarostami (1999). Unfortunately thus far I have only seen this and 10 by Kiarostami. The Wind stuck with me hard. I'm not really sure why, but I keep going back to it. Something about its quiet progression touches me in a major way.

8. Ikiru (To Live) by Akira Kurosawa (1952). I guess it makes me a Philistine, but I don't love a lot of Kirusawa's historical/fictional history films about the Japanese Empires. That is why this incredibly human exploration into "progress" is by far my favorite Kurosawa film.

9. Down by Law by Jim Jarmusch (1986). This was really fun to watch. As one of the first Jarmusch films I watched this year, it was a great introduction to his style, themes, and cinematic aesthetics.

10. Le Souffle au Couer (Murmur of the Heart) by Louis Malle (1971). Weird sex-with-mom-action and Godard-narrative-style-rip-off aside, I thought this was a great summation of the French New Wave coming basically at the end of the necessity of New Wave. I dig it.

11. Noi Albinoi (Noi) by Dagur Kari (2003). I have seen almost no Scandanavian films. But if this Icelandic jewel is any indication, I love Scandanavian films as much as I love Scandanavian music (a lot).

12. L'Enfant (The Child) by Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardenne (2005). Hey, French films are still really good and I think this is a good indication of the emotional depths French film can explore after the passing of the New Wave.

13. Yaju no Seishun (Youth of the Beast) by Seijun Suzuki (1963). This was kind of trippy, plus Suzuki got in trouble with Japanese movie industry execs, so I have to give him props on it. Plus Jo Shishido has awesome chipmunk cheeks, so he makes a really sweet gangster.

14. Une Femme est une Femme (A Woman is a Woman) by Jean-Luc Godard (1961). I wanted to see how long I could go before I listed another Godard film. 14 spots, that's how many. I can't love anyone else as much (especially French films), because I want them to be more like Godard.

15. Nanguo Zaijan, Nanguo (Goodbye South, Goodbye) by Hou Hsiao-Hsien (1996). Once again, this is kind of odd subject-matter for Hsiao-Hsien, but he manages to totally keep his genius style and concerns within the framework of a gangster film.

16. Bu San (Goodbye Dragon Inn) by Ming-Liang Tsi (2003). This film is the perfect metaphor for the current state of cinema in America. Plus it is both sad and beautiful. Kiyonobu Mitomura cracks me up. Soft-spoken eerie melodic times.

17. Dokfa Nai Meuman (Mysterious Object at Noon) by Apichatpong Weerasethakul (2000). You have to find the DVD of this and watch Weerasethakul explain his inspiration for this film. I'd share, but I'll just mess it up. This film's setup and exploration adequately display Weerasethakul as a modern artistic genius of film.

18. Tokyo Monogatari (Tokyo Story) by Yasujira Ozu (1953). I watched this right after I saw Late Spring, so it was weird to see Chishu Ryu and Setsuko Hara in a completely different type of relationship. I feel like this film is timeless given some of my own experiences this year.

19. Kohi Jiko (Cafe Lumiere) by Hou Hsiao-Hsien (2003). What's better than one of Taiwan's greatest modern directors paying homage to Japan's greatest film-maker ever? I don't know. That's why this is so good.

20. Jules et Jim (Jules and Jim) by Francois Truffaut (1962). I have a hard time with Truffaut. I love all the Doinel adventures bad, but outside of those 4 films, I don't really love his style and story-telling. But I place Jules and Jim here out of respect to an auteur. I have no place to criticize.

21. Dead Man by Jim Jarmusch (1995). I really love Jarmusch's style bad. Plus I have a man-crush on Johnny Depp. This film requires some serious reflection. I love.

22. Alphaville, Une Etrange Aventure de Lemmy Caution (Alphaville) by Jean-Luc Godard (1965). Godard plus Karina equals I love it. We already talked about that. The political commentary isn't very subtle, but I like it a lot more than Godard's explicitly political films (Carabiniers, Masculin Feminin, Le Petit Soldat, Tout va Bien)

23. Umberto D. by Vittorio de Sica (1952). I have a major love/hate relationship with de Sica's films. They are humble and earthy in such a wonderful way, but they also tend to leave me majorly depressed. Umberto D. is about as close to a happy ending de Sica was willing to give us. Plus Umberto's dog totally rules.

24. I Bambini ci Guardano (The Children are Watching Us) by Vittorio de Sica (1944). I get super-used to the way the French New Wave treats marital fidelity (super-loosely), so it is nice to know that Italians still thought sleeping around was not cool. Also, as sad as it is, the end of this film is absolutely perfect. Not quite there, but almost as good of an ending as the 400 blows.

25. La Ilusion Viaja en Tranvia (Illusion, Travels by Streetcar) by Luis Bunuel (1954). Most people don't like Bunuel's mexican period because he was a commercial whore. But he kept his flow. I like the mexican period, especially this one.

26. Viridiana by Luis Bunuel (1961). I know that as a Christian, Bunuel's disdain for the church and anything Jesus-related should bother me. At the same time, in growing up in the chaos of the Spanish war and the nature of the Catholic church in Spain, his criticism isn't necessarily of Jesus, but of the way Jesus was mis-used by the church. Here is what I think is one of his most pointed indictments against Christianity overall, but climaxing in the Last Supper of Fools and Drunkards. I was intrigued to the maximum. Plus Silvia Pinal is super-hot.

27. Hai Shang Hua (Flowers of Shanghai) by Hou Hsiao-Hsien (1998). Just like 2005 was the year of Wong Kar Wai for me, 2006 was the year of Hou Hsiao-Hsien. What is there to say? This film concerns what seems to be Hsiao-Hsien's fave time-period with some of his fave themes. Masterpiece.

28. Hsimeng Jensheng (Puppetmaster) by Hou Hsiao-Hsien (1993). Let's just wrap up all the Hsiao-Hsien with two in a row that begin at a table with a bunch of people hanging out. Super-duper pacing and dialogue for a movie whose english title makes it sound like a horror film.

29. Mystery Train by Jim Jarmusch (1989). Even though I don't like Elvis Presley at all, this film was still extremely accessible to me. I was also glad that Jun and Mitsuko got the most screentime.

30. 10 by Abbas Kiarostami (2002). I think I could have appreciated this more if I knew more about the Iranian cultural and political climate. However, I learned a lot and also developed a deeper appreciation for Kiarostami.

31. La Regle du Jeu (The Rules of the Game) by Jean Renoir (1939). This was really fun plus it raised some interesting class stuff that still applies based on socio-economic classification in our culture.

32. Tout va Bien (Everything is Fine) by Jean-Luc Godard (1972). This was wacky as hell. It also made me realize how ignorant I am of all the political and union crap that went on in France in the 20th century. Plus Jane Fonda is kind of hilarious (not intentionally).

33. Masculin Feminin: 15 Faits Precis (Masculine Feminine) by Jean-Luc Godard (1966). First, the "cul" (French for ass) play on words in the title that Godard points out a lot is fun. Chantal Goya is supposed to be the hottie, but she's kind of annoying. Paul should totally be with Elisabeth. Marlene Jobert is much more attractive and kind. It's also weird to see Jean-Pierre Leaud not playing Antoine Doinel. Plus his cigarette flipping trick is super cool. All of these things are positive.

34. Broken Flowers by Jim Jarmusch (2005). Yet another film with a brilliant ending. It is Jarmusch through and through.

35. Naked Lunch by David Cronenburg (1991). I know it makes me lame, but I hadn't read William S. Burroughs before watching this early this year. After reading the book, I grew in great appreciation for Cronenburg's ability to adapt such a sweet crazy mess of prose.

36. He Liu (The River) by Ming-Lian Tsai (1997). This kind of blew my mind. The mom-lusting-after-son action weirded me out, but it seemed like it was meant to. I also like films that explore the connectedness of things a lot.

37. Eraserhead by David Lynch (1977). I know I should have watched this so long ago, but I finally did. I can't decide, but I think I love that Lynch won't explain the film almost as much as I love the film.

CONGRATULATIONS! You made it through the whole thing. If obvious things are missing (like Wong Kar Wai and Ozu's Good Morning), that's because I didn't watch them this year. I watched them before. Thanks for reading this. It took me a long damn time.

Top 10 Best New Films that I saw released somewhere in the world during 2006

(Warning: I know not everyone spends(wastes?) as much time on film and movies as me, so If you wish to skip the diatribe, scroll down to the movie list)

Okay so, this post is maybe mostly for Ryan, but you other folks can read it too. These 10 movies are really fantastic. Unfortunately 8 out of the 10 probably won't becoming to America anytime soon if at all, thanks to everyone's favorite corporate whore/demon/greedy profit hog, Hollywood. And thanks to the way in which most mainstream movie reviews are done in the US of A, you probably didn't even hear about most of them, either. This is too bad for everyone involved, unless you really love limited choices, or watered down mass marketed "movies." It's great how the running for best movies of the year consistently looks like other countries don't even make movies, or maybe they make one or two a year, wishing they could make such movies up to the glorious standards of Hollywood. This arrogance, adds insult to injury as they say, to the fact that Imperial Hollywood already pushes for cultural/financial dominance in a realm it tellingly calls an "industry," Not an art form, not a way of improving our minds, and hearts and souls, not a way of perceiving in a new way, or re-examining what is around us, or being filled with rapture and ineffable emotion. No. It's a way to make money, its manufacturing, like making tires.

This year was actually a great year for film, as is almost every year, despite what it looks like from the US. I don't list these movies to show off, that I am some sweet smart film knowledge guy. Nor do I post to look cool or be obscure. I post it because there are incredible films constantly being made around the world, in all kinds of styles, forms and cinematic languages. But we are consistently blocked from viewing most of them, either for several years after thier release or sometimes forever. Thus, we live blindly in an Hollywood stunted cultural bunker, thinking The Departed was the best movie of the year without seeing or sometimes even knowing about the original Hong Kong film. You would be surprised at the real percentage of films in Hollywood are remakes or stolen makes from "foreign" movies, usually dumbed down and terriblized. Because who would ever want to see something that is not in English? Or not filled with mostly white professionally good looking actors? Or different than what I am used to or comfortable with?

Anyway, these films are fantastic to me. There are many styles here, and While I have only seen each of them once, I am sure they all demand more viewings to really grasp them and love them. I hope you can find a way (Might I suggest illegal downloading or failing that moving to LA or NY?) to see them someday. I have some of them actually, so when i come back, I can give you some copies if you need (Ryan, you are gonna get some sweet free gifts from me that will blow your mind!)

Also I saw a number of these on film on a big screen, at the Pusan Film Festival. These are the type of films that I would normally have to watch on my computer in DVD or AVI. This was very exciting to me, and I now am hooked on film fests (if only i could afford them). Seriously! Big screen film versions of actually awesome movies that I want to see! Unbelievable.

1. Science of Sleep (Michel Gondry, France) - Michel Gondry is turning into one of my favorite directors! You do have a chance to see this and please do! More "whimsical" than Eternal Sunshine, but just as good for me. Gondry, seems to be endlessly creative and makes me feel guilty constantly for not living my life more awesomely. I need to find a way to become his apprentice. Plus Gael García Bernal is an amazing actor as usual. I saw this in a theatre in Korea, so even with no English subtitles and some badly lacking high school French on my part, it was an awesome film. I can't wait to see it again with subtitles.

2. Syndromes and a Century (Apichatpong Weerasethakul, Thailand)
- Another relatively new director, who is also fast becoming my fav. This should maybe be number one but I saw Science of Sleep more recently so it got the vote. I saw this at the Pusan Film Festival (incredible!). It's a split into two parts as many of his films seem to be these days, one vaguely about some doctors in the past, another vaguely about some doctors in the present, plus lots of amazing silence, camera motion and non-motion, repetition, and a beautiful end. Joe as he is called by people that can't say his insanely long name is one of narrative cinemas most purely poetic new directors and also one its brightest lights. This is his best film yet. Amazing! I wish I was watching it right now! Plus it was awesome to finally see a Weerasethakul film in its original format and on a big screen! Yeah!

3. Bamako (Abderrahmane Sissako, Mali)
- I haven't seen Sissako's earlier work, which I have heard good things about, but Bamako is a solid film. The IMF, World Bank, and rich western nations are on trial literally and figuratively in Mali, Africa. The case is nothing new if you are immersed in it already, but is still interesting, and the side stories are excellent and moving. There is also an "out of nowhere" parody of Hollywood films, staring Danny Glover as a cowboy. An interesting entry in the seldom used essay/narrative film genre. Some people thought it was a little heavy handed, but i thought it was fine.

4. Offsides (Jafar Panahi, Iran)
- A short and funny, and not funny story of women soccer fans in Iran and their struggle to enter a soccer game (which is forbidden). Done in Panahi's typical Iranian style. Just really nice. One annoying part was that since I can kind of speak Farsi, Sometimes I noticed the subtitles were a little off or misleading. But still great.

5. Half Moon (Bahman Ghobadi, Iran)
- Another Iranian film, although the style couldn't be more different. Ghobadi has a thing for dramatics and theatrics. The film focuses on a family of Kurdish musicians traveling to Kurdistan for a performance. Along the way it discusses mortality, Iranian Societies treatment of minorities, and has some beautiful dreamlike sequences. As usual for Ghobadi, Half Moon is funny, beautiful, and incredible sad. However this time, he succeeds where his last films (slightly) failed.

6. City of Violence (Ryu Seung-wan, South Korea)
- Not much to say about this one other than its a lot of fun. If it ever comes to America, there will be a lot of Kill Bill comparisons to be sure, although it should probably be the other way around. A nice genre film and homage to the Asian Kung Fu films of the 60s and 70s. Some funny parts, a lot of ridiculous battles, and Korea's premiere stunt man taking his first lead role (and of course doing his own stunts). Maybe not something that I will care about long term, but it's very exciting, and Ryu Seung-wan continues to churn out great films.

7. Dave Chappelle's Block Party (Michel Gondry, USA)
- This is another film that was basically one long feel good party. Nice jams, nice folks, Dave Chappelle, and Michel Gondry. What more do you want? Definitly destined to be a "minor work" for Gondry, but still nice and pleasant.

8. Woman on the Beach (Hong Sang-Soo, South Korea)
- I predict this one is just going to move up the list higher and higher the more I watch it. Not as formally exciting as some of his past films, Hong Sang-soo is still proving why he is my favorite Korean film director. Probably what Woody Allen's films are supposed to be like, Hong continues his deconstruction of Korean society and male/female relationships. If that sounds a little bit lame, then you need to experience the incredible subtlety, nuance, and intelligence his direction, screenwriting, and actors bring to the game. If there is one problem with his films it is that they don't usually feature very many likable characters. This one is similar, although there is some actual humor in this film for the first time. I missed it at Busan, but downloaded it, and it doesn't seem to be a film where watching it on dvd limits you in anyway.

9. Fantasma (Lisandro Alonso, Argentina/France)
- This was my first film by this semi-acclaimed Argentinean director and I will definetly be needing to watch it again. An homage to Tsai Ming-Liang's Goodbye Dragon, Inn, Fantasma contains almost no dialogue and even has a lengthy sequence where the main character simply watches Alonso's last film, Los Muertos, also staring said main character. Unfortunately, It was my fourth film of the day (at the Pusan Film Festival) and I was originally going on about 2 hours of sleep. So I was in and out a sleep during the whole thing. I actually think this might have enhanced the experience, much the way I kept falling asleep the first time I saw Sigur Ros play, and the music mixed with my dreams. When people say this film is a meditation they really mean that. Also I fear that seeing it on dvd (if it makes it there) will lessen the experience quite a bit. But I do need to see it again.

10. The Host (Bong Joon-ho, South Korea)
- Another fun one here. It's basically a monster movie. The American army (who are all played on purpose by awesomely bad actors) dumps toxic chemicals into the Han river (The biggest river) and a mutant monster is created that wreaks havoc all over Seoul. It's up to one dysfunctional family to stop it, and so on. Actually fairly intelligent, its also has some decent jokes, nice monster action, and even some "moving" parts. This is how monster movies should be done. I think it is definetly a thing you need to see on the big screen though and with a bunch of people, to up the fun. While I did like it alot, this one got major attention from lots of westerners and Koreans alike and i think it was a bit overrated. It's not the greatest thing in the world, and I am not dying to re-watch it again and again. But it was well made and good enough to earn this final spot. It's also pretty straightforward so it has a chance of making it in America. I heard that Magnolia Pictures (Steven Soderburgh's independent company) has picked up the distribution rights for the US. In the bad news category, I also heard that there is an American re-make planned, probably destined for huge dumb bomb, or at least, me asking WhyTF are you remaking movies that just came out, if at all? But then the answer would be found in the beginning rant. Anyway, try to watch it! It's totally decent with gnarly potential!

Still to Come: Best Old Movies I Saw for the First time this year, Best new movies I didn't see, and maybe some other stuff.