World of Tomorrow: Episodes 1 & 2

Two years ago, animator Don Hertzfeldt dropped World of Tomorrow on our undeserving Earth. An animated short derived from recordings of his (then) four-year old niece Winona Mae, it featured  a young girl named Emily who is visited by a third-generation clone of herself (voiced by Julia Pott), who looks to retrieve a lost memory. Over the short’s 17 minute runtime, it manages to say more than films with ten times the runtime, covering love and loss and existence over galaxies and time.

 Watch World of Tomorrow on Netflix

This past week, Hertzfeldt returned with a sequel, World of Tomorrow Episode 2: The Burden of Other People’s Thoughts, for a somehow even less deserving Earth. This time, with more unscripted recordings from his niece (who was five when recorded in December 2014), Emily is visited by another clone of herself, who currently serves as a backup of the original Emily’s consciousness, but wishes to free herself of that in order to live an independent life. This time, the 22-minute film delves into the subconscious of both Emily-s, The Burden of Other People’s Thoughts reinforces the first film’s message about living in the present, while also exploring other, more complex themes, all while being disarmingly funny, thoughtful and ambitious, and all within the runtime of a standard TV sitcom. While the first episode is available on Netflix, Episode 2 is available to rent from Vimeo; both are essential viewing, some of my favorite films in recent memory and both are well worth your time.


One Year Later: Kanye West's Saint Pablo Tour

Today marks a year since I had the chance to see Kanye West when he brought his Saint Pablo Tour to the then-Verizon Center in Washington, D.C. (it has since been renamed to the Capital One Arena). While I had read reviews of previous shows that talked about a floating stage that moved across the arena, reading about it and actually seeing a no-joke smoke spewing platform coasting by you were two very different things.

The show itself now stands, in my memory, as one of the greatest single concerts I’ve ever been to, as West went through over two hours of hits while his set threatened to rapture everyone right out of the arena. It was the first time I’ve been in the pit for a major arena show, and the experience was surprisingly one of the most pleasant I’ve experienced at a show. Rather than everyone jostling and jockeying for the best position, the nature of the stage meant that wherever you were standing could be the best seat in the house at any point in the show, and that, combined with the fact that the show was full of hypebeasts who wore their best shoes out for this show, meant everyone was fairly considerate about personal space.

While the rest of the year for Kanye would be marked by personal strife, Trump support nonsense, and a mental breakdown necessitating the cancelation of an extra leg of the tour (including a return to Verizon Center that I was looking forward to after convincing a whole mess of people to join me for it), for me he’ll always have this show, one that provoked a genuine sense of awe in me the way few other artists can muster.

I’ve posted a few pictures on Instagram, but here’s a more complete collection of them, in full resolution. All the pictures were taken with a Fujifilm X100T, with some processing in Lightroom with VSCO Film afterwards for most of them.

Find the setlist for the show here.

Listen to This: The Adventure Zone

Forever ago, in a past life, I wrote about My Brother, My Brother and Me (MBMBaM for short), ostensibly an advice podcast from the brothers McElroy: Justin, Travis and sweet baby Griffin. Since then, the show has become a flagship of a podcast empire, with the brothers and their friends, family and significant others tackling everything from medical history to etiquette to the Bachelor/ette series. I was fortunate enough to catch the show when it came through D.C. last year, as the boys discussed swampy grundles in the historic Lincoln Theatre (Episode: MBMBaM 306: Foggy Bottoms). And shoot, those are just their audio ventures! Video adventures like Monster Factory, where Justin and Griffin hop into the character creation engine of video games to create abominations unto the Lord, and Griffin’s Amiibo Corner, where Griffin reviews the Nintendo-produced figurines before trying to fit them into his gob, are as funny as anything being produced by television networks nowadays.

Even with all those works, one in particular, The Adventure Zone, has emerged as a standout in its long-form storytelling. In it, the brothers and their father Clint have been playing a multi-arc campaign of Dungeons and Dragons for the last near-three years, concluding today, on Episode 69 no less (nice!), in an over two-and-a-half hour finale. As the show has wound towards its conclusion, Griffin, the dungeon master for this campaign, has masterfully woven characters and themes from the entire series, collaborating with his players to retroactively lend significance to nearly everything that’s happened in the series. Before I disappear into this finale for the next bit of time, I just wanted to go on the record recommending this show to anyone who…well, let’s just stop at anyone. I MEAN GRIFFIN EVEN MAKES THE MUSIC HIMSELF WHAT MORE DO YOU WANT.

Listening to the family learn and goof their way through D&D has been an unexpected and immense pleasure, and I’ve been looking forward to this finale as much as any piece of media this year. While this isn’t the end of the podcast as a whole, merely this campaign, I can’t wait to see where they go next, but for now, take some time to catch up on this fantastic series, wherever you get your podcasts.

RSS Feed: The Adventure Zone

Episode 1: Here There Be Gerblins, Chapter 1

Episode 69: Story and Song, Finale Part 3

Run the Jewels: Tiny Desk Concert at NPR

It's pretty much what it sounds like. Run the Jewels, the rap duo of Killer Mike and El-P, recently came to DC and, after a weeks' postponement, tore down the house at Echostage in a cathartic performance the night before the recent inauguration. While I'm not a huge fan of the venue, the show was tremendous, complete with a guest spot from Zack de la Rocha (of Rage Against the Machine fame). Before the initially scheduled date for the show, they stopped by the studios at NPR to perform a Tiny Desk show, where musicians play stripped-down versions of their songs at a small desk at the office.

Recreating Vatican City in THE YOUNG POPE

HBO's latest limited series THE YOUNG POPE (though seeing a second season is in development has me questioning the meaning of 'limited') has been great through its first few episodes, bringing the sensibilities of director Paolo Sorrentino (THE GREAT BEAUTY, and goodness if you haven't seen it yet stop right now and do that) to the politicking and chicanery that occurs within the walls of Vatican City. At least in a way that doesn't involve Tom Hanks' Robert Langdon haircut running around the place.

 In a series with Templars and religious phenomena, this might be the least credible thing in the whole affair.

In a series with Templars and religious phenomena, this might be the least credible thing in the whole affair.

In a Vulture piece, the show's production designer Ludovica Ferrarrio discusses how the show worked around not being allowed to shoot inside Vatican City, by utilizing locations in surrounding Italian cities:

The many frescoes were achieved by using wallpaper, while the illusion of smooth marble flooring was made possible by printing color on treated plywood. A special gloss, meanwhile, brought meticulous gold plating and gold leaves to life.

Other challenges included replicating the meticulous manicuring of the Vatican's gardens, as well as reproducing locations that are iconic in our collective consciousness, and not even just among the devout. If you have HBO, this is currently the best thing on the whole network, and deserves your time. To close, the opening to the show, which by itself is better than most anything aired on television.

The Young Pope - Opening Credits