What goes through your mind when having an alcoholic beverage? Apparently for Russia and Poland, alcohol, or more specifically vodka, is much more than a consciousness-numbing substance—it is a key to history, tradition, and cultural pride. Since the late 1970s, both countries have been at war over where vodka originated, who has the right to call their product “vodka”, whose version is the knock-off recipe, and who gets to claim the drink as their own. The battle for vodka credit has even made it to the International Trade Court on multiple occasions.
After decades of fighting, The Vice Guide to Travel sent correspondent Ivar Berglin on a mission to find out once and for all if vodka originated in Russia or Poland. The Wodka Wars, a 33 minute documentary streamed on VBS.tv, presents the argument from a variety of perspectives. Berglin’s participatory approach took everything from history, nationalism, culture, and beliefs into consideration. He included diverse opinions and views on the debate from around the world. After watching the film one may ponder if history sufficiently proves claims to vodkas origins, or if opinion and pride are proof enough.
Stop it Sindri! I keep getting lost in your dewy eyes. Sindri Mar Sigfusson, bandleader of the whimsical pop-folk group Seabear, has just announced North American tour dates in support of his solo project Sin Fang Bous. Alongside Múm, this tour is to promote Sin Fang Bous’s first record Clangour, off Morr Music. Clangour explores Sigfusson’s personal musical ambitions with a thoughtful quilt of eclecticism: layered instrumentation and electronic hooks, colorful yet subtle melodies, and swirling vocals that keep you in a trance. Such pop ingenuity has led many to make comparisons between Sin Fang Bous and other experimental acts like Animal Collective. What separates them is that Animal Collective thrives on a dissonant, jungle-riffic street sound. It almost feels like it’s coming from an alien city. Hailing from Reykjavík, Sin Fang Bous’s songs are homemade quaint morsels of vibrant aural color. Clangour is a controlled chaos that is kind to the ears. These “pocket symphonies” remind you just how precious, and maybe fragile, the man and his music really are. Look below for his video for “Advent and Ives”, a free download of “Catch the Light”, and click through the jump to see the tour dates.
This post-apocalyptic film by the Hughes brothers (From Hell, Menace II Society), starring Denzel Washington and Mila Kunis (Forgetting Sarah Marshall), is scheduled to be released on January 15, 2010.
The wonderful thing is, it’s the same dude. That is the unprecedented, impossibly perfect Tao of Patrick Swayze. He had something for everyone, and while there are a handful of superstars who have straddled the line between man’s man and preening peacock for the ladies, usually the actor in question becomes tougher, or gentler, as he ages. Swayze could incorporate both extremes at the same time, starring in two of the penultimate chick flicks and, quite possibly, the mother of all male bonding films, all in a three year window. Guys watch — and cherish — trash like Point Break and Road House because they are hilarious, and Swayze is both alpha male and court jester, rolled into one.
In the rumble, on the ice or during the cold war apocalypse, this was the bro you wanted to have your back.
Remember The Outsiders? (For the full effect, you had to be target audience age when it first came out, which means you were over ten and under twenty). Nobody knew who Patrick Swayze was, then, so that experience is alien to a younger person watching a younger Swayze, now. You could not have shoehorned more pretty young things onto that screen: Dillon, Cruise, Estevez, Lowe, Macchio and C. Thomas Howell (the only one requiring a full name since no one heard from him again, unless you are one of the five people who saw Soul Man) and –for the boys– Diane Lane. That was a lot of Gen X eye candy. And then there was this brawny, unknown badass. He was, obviously, the leader of the brat pack; indeed, he was the only one in that group who looked like he actually could (and did) throw down if the situation required it. He was, in short, intimidating. He was perfectly cast, although he did seem old enough (even as the “older” brother) to strain credulity. He was also, arguably, the only star on that crowded billing not set to explode into immediate stardom. In fact, it would take Swayze, already 30 years old, another four years to become the man.
Everyone remembers how that happened. In the film that shall remain nameless, Swayze made his sweetheart swoon and took half of America with him. He had arrived, and from then on out nobody could put Swayze in the corner. Maybe it’s a guy thing, but the movies he starred in alongside Jennifer Grey and Demi Moore are unspeakable. They are sentimental, melodramatic schlock from the fetid heart of Hollywood. In other words, these commercial grand slams were just what the evil doctor ordered. Two things few men will ever understand (or profit from arguing about): Oprah, and those two movies. But Swayze was easily forgiven. After all, he had saved us from the Russians (or at least softened them up for Rocky IV), and helped the Greasers stomp the rich kids. He also dropped the gloves alongside Rob Lowe in what turned out, unbelievably, to be only the third most homoerotic flick in his oeuvre. With little left to prove, he dedicated himself to the dangerous task of making wonderfully awful films.
He would redeem himself, not only in the subsequent Point Break (clocking in at number two on the homoerichter scale), but in the masterwork that men are genetically incapable of turning off while channel surfing. I am referring, quite obviously, to Road House.
Every man has seen this movie and any man who hasn’t is not a man, so that about covers it. I won’t insult its integrity by trying to analyze anything, I’ll just savor some of the moments that make it so…seminal:
Doc: Do you always carry your medical records around with you?
Dalton: Saves time.
Dalton: I want you to be nice until it’s time to not be nice.
Doc: How’s a guy like you end up a bouncer?
Dalton: Just lucky I guess.
(Everyone): I thought you’d be bigger!
Dalton: Pain don’t hurt.
Jimmy: I used to fuck guys like you in prison.
(Repeat: I. Used. To. Fuck. Guys. Like. You. In. Prison.)
He was, for a while there, our contemporary sacred clown. But more than that, he was real. As in: it only bolstered his appeal (and considerable street cred) when you realized he did his own stunts, married (and remained married) to his childhood sweetheart and, by any account, was a genuinely good person. One must remain wary about separating art from the artist for all the obvious reasons, but there are the occasional exceptions where the illusion is an extension of the actual.
It was refreshing to hear his family report that he passed away peacefully. Of course he did. It’s the least the world could do for him. Besides, death don’t hurt.
Holcombe Waller is one of those underground artists that doesn’t seem to care about what is happening on the surface of the popular music landscape. He writes songs in his apartment in Portland, he performs (straight-forward performances, fused with a smattering of performance art), oh and he teaches a little too…an elective course at UC Berkeley, to be exact. All of which seems to be executed, and indeed achieved at the artist’s very own creative whim.
How my love affair with this man’s music began, is simple. I discovered him just over a year ago in a back issue of Butt, and from that moment, I felt compelled to ‘discover’ whether Holcombe had the artistic credos to back up his cheeky interview persona.
The quest began with a long wait, for a US import of his release, Extravagant Gesture to arrive to the UK. Once fully loaded and synced, it was only a week, before four tracks off of the album were in my Ipod’s most played list, with the layered, melodic cataclysm ‘Anthem’ taking the prized spot as the number one repeater. At that point, I started to understand why I felt so passionately about Holcombe. Somehow, he had managed to fuse Van Morrison’s lyrical delivery, with a touch of Gospel soul, and cradled that within the airy melodic landscape suited to the The Smiths.
On his next release, 2005’s Troubled Times, Holcombe seemed ready to tackle a different beast. The self-confessional poetry of his previous effort is still all over the place, except now it is aimed at us with a political undertone. The artist weaves his way through shiny melodies that intersperse tales of war and identity, with stories of powerless lovers in helpless relationships. To the reader it may sound ridiculous, but somehow Holcombe manages to begin with the refrain “Condoleez, baby pleez” (on ‘No Enemy’), only to shift to the nonchalant candour found in ‘You Love Me’, where the singer confesses to his lover that he is going to be “vacationing from pain”. From then on, we assume that the couple are on official ‘break’, when Holcombe suddenly tells him “if I [still] love you, we’ll be fine” (that is, if his lover manages to heat things up in the bedroom, of course).
The rest of the album is equally welcoming. The singer meanders between catchy refrains, where minimalistic lyrics have the power to ignite the imagination. When Holcombe sings on title track: “What you doing, patriot? Come buck-naked dance for free, Watch one-monkey down the last cherry tree”. One wonders whether Holcombe is singing about the brutalities of the Bush administration, or a more personal, romantic war – one that may be tearing the artist up inside.
After all this, I have yet to mention Mr. Waller’s greatest gift, his voice. An astonishing instrument, the singer’s four-octave vocal range veers from a gentle simmer to a pointed falsetto with a beguiling ease and precision. This instrument, coupled with his bare and evocative lyricism suggest that Holcombe is one of the more exciting, (and underrated artists) of recent memory.