erasing clouds

2007: A movie, some albums, a book, and two days.

by hiram lucke

I’m horrible at lists because it seems I’m constantly playing catch up on new things because of my pursuits and projects and Law and Order reruns. So here is a combo list of things that stand out in my memory from 2007 in an almost chronological order.

Guillermo del Toro (director) — Pan’s Labyrinth

I’m a sucker for magical realism and fairy tales. The dystopian nature of the film, courtesy of Franco-era Spain, an evil stepfather, war, and a demanding walking stick doesn’t really bode well for those wanting a movie that’s easy to forget. Knowing what’s going to happen to the main character from the beginning doesn’t really soften the blow, either. But within the gnarled maze of Goya-esque imagery, del Toro gives us at least a little hope of a moral universe, that sometimes the inhumane receive what they deserve, and that little princesses go back home. It was certainly a hell of a way to start the year.

Jens Lekman — Night Falls Over Kortedala / Euros Childs — Bore Da and Miracle Inn

Jens and Euros both write the kind of easy going and big hearted pop music that it’s easy to fall in love with and even easier to listen to over and over again. Both artists use an updated rock classicism to punctuate their talents as songwriters. Jens with his samples and stories of heartbreak somehow always sounds like Burt Bacharach with a hip hop fetish. Euros with his Beach Boys melodies meets “Crocodile Rock” (or “Tally Ho” from The Clean or anything from The Kinks ’65 to ’70 period) style and his stories of heartbreak always seems like a big brother playing his albums for you when you’re down. The idea behind this music is that you have to keep moving, sometimes by dancing through your problems and sometimes by leaving people and places behind. Touched with the melancholy of wounded romantics that refuse to give into cynicism, these albums were the soundtrack of the year for me. {,

Sluts and Squares Episode 7 w/ The Trucks, Swallows, and Gay Deceivers — Acme, July 19, Portland, OR

Sluts and Squares is a once-again monthly dance party/live band/burlesque (sometimes) extravaganza hosted by The Church of Girl’s DJ Boy and DJ Corban Lester. I really need to go to more of them. This night’s show was punctuated by watching the crowd for The Trucks not only start as about 30 dudes up front turn into about 30 women all with their hands in the air (waving like they did or didn’t care) in the time it took to order a beer, but as The Trucks moved into the chorus of the song “Why the,” the crowd started dancing and singing along to the repeated line, “Why the fuck won’t you go down on me?” It was both hilarious and a truly valid question.

Unfortunately, the night ended with my friend Matt and I witnessing a man punch his girlfriend/wife so hard that she fell to the sidewalk. By the time Matt explained what he saw and we were back around the block, he was gone. By the time the police showed up, so was she, saying she didn’t have any other place to go. [,

William T. Vollmann — Poor People

Vollmann, the author of a wonderful collection of short stories called The Rainbow Stories and the encyclopedic Rising Up and Rising Down among other things, travels the world asking those that are homeless or begging or both “Why are you poor?” The answer is always different: some choose self blame, some blame disease, some choose to blame a higher power, and others don’t believe themselves to be poor at all. Vollmann notes in the beginning of the book that James Agee and Walker Evans’ famous essay “Let Us Now Praise Famous Men” is “an elitist expression of egalitarian longings,” and, by making this the thesis of his book, humanizes the poor and their lives without sentimentalizing, infantilizing, or even subtracting himself from the problem. Most importantly, he doesn’t let the reader off the hook either. However, could someone at Ecco Press please arrange the photographs in the index in some sort of order (chronological as the stories would appear would be great).

Feedle — Leave Now for Adventure / Victor Scott — Good Times

I’m lumping these two albums together because they’re both from people I know and very few have heard their music (Leave Now... was originally released on SVC Records, but was reissued on Illicit in 2007; Victor released Good Times on his own). These two albums really encapsulated 2007 for me, not only because I seemed to listen to music made by people I know more than any other artists this year, but also because Feedle’s distorted beauty and Victor’s genre-hopping song craft deserve to be heard by everyone in the world. [, /

November 24, 2007, Portland, OR

My wife and I moved to Portland a year and a half ago from Lawrence, KS. We loved Lawrence, but needed a change of scenery. I lived in Portland years ago and always wanted to move back, so we did. November 24 was spent tooling around our new home town.

First, we found the building The Kingsmen recorded “Louie, Louie” in and took our pictures in front of it. The building is nondescript and there’s no plaque (according to Chuck Palahniuk in his book Fugitives and Refugees... it was stolen and never replaced). It rained for about 5 minutes, the entire time it took to get out of our car, take pictures, and then return to our car.

In the afternoon, we picked up our friend Matt and headed over to The Velveteria, “The Museum of Velvet Paintings,” because I had noticed that they were going to move soon and we didn’t want to wait to check it out (they’ll be opening again in March in a much larger building). The thing about the Velveteria is that, yes, it’s a museum of kitschy velvet paintings, but Carl and Caren know so much about the history of the art form, and are so damned nice, that it is hard just to view it as kitsch. It’s more like going to a friend’s house, a friend who has their walls covered in velvet paitings, some by the foremost velvet painter known as the “American Gauguin,” Edgar Leeteg. They’re putting out a book called Black Velvet Masterpieces: Highlights from the Collection of the Velveteria Museum soon. Second, this museum carries on the tradition of strange museums/art installations in Portland that always attracted me to the city. The 24 Hour Church of Elvis (now closed, sadly) was a stalwart (although I see Elvis of Portland riding on the bus a lot). The UFO Museum, gone (although I think you can still catch the Museum of Modern Materialism and Bad Karma News box down on NW 21st from Lex Loeb—curator and creator of the UFO Museum--unless he’s been forced out because of high rent as well). I’m glad someone is here to carry it all on. There are others, but this one stands out.

That night we went with our friend Adrienne to the Twilight Rummage Sale in the SE. It’s exactly what it sounds like. We bought a bunch of books, a sexy cowgirl fridge magnet, some records, and met a lot of wonderful people.

Then it was home. It was one of my favorite days here, reminding me why moving to Portland was the right thing to do. Now could the New York Times and The Guardian stop writing about it so that we can afford to buy a house, please? Thanks. [

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