Wednesday, October 9, 2013

RIP Ryan Horn

Oh God Ryan....why couldn't you just call me.  Just call me.

Sunday, October 6, 2013

Ryan Horn, where are you?

I turned 35 today.  Everyone keeps wishing me a great day, but I'm (regrettably) having a difficult time focusing on that kindness.  

Accepting love is harder than giving love.  We'll get to that again later.

I live in a lovely neighborhood in Oakland.  I have a fiancee.  I have a cat.  I drive a Prius, have an iPhone, drink skinny vanilla lattes, and have a modicum of job security.  I just bought a black leather recliner.  More importantly, I just got health insurance for the first time in months.  The only things that suck are my student loan debt, my eternally flabby gut, and a few dozen "challenging" teenagers at the school in which I teach.  My life is pretty much better than I had ever thought it would be.

I'm off my medication at the moment, so this feels really, really weird to me.  I feel anxious, sad, and kinda pissed off at the world (gov't shutdown, gangsta bullshit at my school, etc).

Don't worry, I'm going to see a doctor on Friday to get my pills refilled.  I'll be back to safety soon.

My old Portland work pal/drinking buddy Ryan Horn went missing at the end of August.  He was one of those super healthy Oregonians that you meet - the kind who go camping in the woods for like a week at a time (for fun!).  He did yoga, was a skilled hunter, and could discuss beer for hours.  A tried and true good guy - a "man's man" for the Pacific Northwest set.  
I can't believe this is happening.

Ryan, where did you go?  What did you do?  What happened?

I've been asking myself this every day.  Sometimes I call Ryan's phone and leave him this very message.  I've found myself begging him to come see me in California:  "Ryan, I live so close to the Redwoods - you've got to come down here and see them.  You can crash with us.  I've got beer - really good beer.  We'll go on a hike.  We'll have a great time."

I was depressed to the point of self-harm for much of my life.  I recall instances when I was younger - like 8 years old - and I would cry all night, slam my head against the wall until it bled, scratch up my arms and legs....all the kind of stuff that would have gotten me a lot of attention had I actually done it in front of an audience.  My family was so busy with a multitude of challenges that I could hurt myself in solitude.  I was actually terrified of my Dad ever finding out about how I felt, because I'm sure he'd just give me "a real reason to cry".  

I remember being asked by a high school counselor where I'd want to be when I was 25.  I couldn't give her an answer, because I seriously just figured that I'd commit suicide by that point.  I figured that one of these days I'd spiral so far out of control that I'd pull the proverbial (or possibly literal) trigger.  I think back about it even now and it scares me.  I've walked to the edge a number of times, and I remember those times vividly.  It's like a horror show in my emotional memory bank.

When I was 17, I started driving and my life got way better.  I coped with depression by driving all night into the middle of nowhere.  By this point I was living in the Adirondack Mountains of upstate NY.  Gas was something like 95 cents a gallon, so I could just sail my 86 Mercury Sable into the night.  I'd make this incredible mix tapes, turn the volume up, roll down the windows (the ones that still worked), and just drive down desolate mountain roads.  I was an insomniac, so it didn't matter how late I stayed out.  I just drove.  Sometimes hundreds of miles, just to be alone.  This was how I dealt with myself.  

But I always made it back to reality to fight through another day.

Ryan had a rough year.  In the span of a couple of weeks over the summer, I went to a "going away" and a "welcome back" party for Ryan.  The last time I saw him was at a strip club in Beaverton called the Boom Boom Room.  Ryan's plans to move to Montana fell apart when his wife and he split up shortly after the move.  I don't know what happened.  Ryan wanted to have fun and not talk about it that night.  I trusted that he had enough friends around him that he would be OK.  He was also a handsome, funny, athletic guy.  He was young, still just mid-20s.  He was going to start over, and he was going to have fun - sow some wild oats and such.  People loved Ryan - he was full of charisma.  He was a positive presence in any room that he occupied.  He seemed to have a very exciting new life ahead of him.

When I heard that Ryan had gone missing, I didn't believe it.  I thought that he maybe just went camping with a new girl and didn't want to advertise it on facebook.  Then after two weeks I thought that maybe he had gone back up to Alaska, where he had lived for some time.  After his family started releasing more information, things became clear that this was a dire situation.  Ryan wasn't going on a road trip.  

Ryan was off his meds.  He was angry over something (I don't know what).  He took a gun.  He got in his truck and disappeared.  

The Ryan that I knew was bipolar, but he was medicated.  Since we were supermarket clerks who often spent a lot of down time together, this was something that we talked about on occasion.  I was no stranger to bipolar disorder, as I had spent at least 3-4 years of my life in romantic relationships with bipolar girls.  Ryan seemed straight as an arrow to me most of the time.  He was, like a few of us, pushed into a rage by terrible customers or asshole managers.  We dealt with it in our own ways.  I would usually "take 10" outside, do breathing exercises, etc.  Ryan would do the same, though on a couple of occasions I would find Ryan throwing his anger into the bathroom wall.  I figured this was a coping mechanism (he was much more physical than I), and Ryan always showed that he could switch back to normal after he got it out of his system.  

I suffer from mental illness - depression and anxiety.  It is a real sickness, and like any sickness, the victim needs compassion, love, and patience from those around them.  Sometimes I feel like I'm going to die, and those instances are horrifying and traumatic and difficult to recover from.  But I've been lucky to live to 35 and continue to experience life - the ups and downs, the laughter and drama.  I choose art and travel, because I find comfort in the fact that it is a life's journey that will never end.  One cannot read every book, see every film, and visit every place, but they can fill their life with those things until a natural conclusion.  

I wish I knew where Ryan was.  I want to take him to all the places, show him all the wonders of the world, and show him that he has a lifetime to fill.  

I'm afraid I'll never see him again.  I'm afraid he's gone forever.  And I can't do anything about it.  And I'm afraid that I'm still at risk.  

If you are reading this and you suffer from mental illness, please learn your triggers.  Please figure out a coping mechanism that ends with you in a safe place.  Please seek medical attention.  

Please - and I know this is incredibly difficult, but I cannot stress this enough - learn to accept the love of your friends and family. 

Monday, December 31, 2012

Film 2012

The usual disclaimer:  I tend to follow the US & UK film releases, getting my mitts on anything that I've heard good things about from trusted sources near and far.  And since I'm officially out of the film critic game, I don't have time to see as much as I'd like.  So if you're all like "WTF dude, no Almayer's Folly, this is BULLSHIT!", you can just stop reading now.  Notable omissions from my eyes in 2012:  Anna Karenina, Les Miserables, The Turin Horse, The Kid With A Bike, Tabu, Beyond the Hills, The Angel's Share, The Loneliest Planet, Almayer's Folly, Magic Mike, and Alps.

Also, I'm not including documentaries on my list.  I'd provide some reason why, but that would be boring.  

Best Indie-Schmindie/"Nice Little Movies" 

These are those innocent, well-meaning indies; the kind that you maybe thought about making in the 90s.  God, there were a lot of these kinds of movies in the 90s.  I sort of miss them.  I'm going to put on some Yo La Tengo now.  Maybe I'll even think about Hal Hartly for 10 seconds.

1.  Sleepwalk With Me
Date movie of the year for NPR-loving hipsters.  I mean, literally a movie out of This American Life.  Likable schmuck Mike Birbiglia's autobiographical tale of sleepwalking is touching, sad, awkward, and hilarious; a sweetly dopey movie that I loved regardless of being reminded of it on every single podcast that I listened to this year.  

2.  Bernie
Richard Linklater teams up with Jack Black, Shirley MacLaine, and Matthew McConaughey and they make a movie.  They just do, OK?  OK.  It's real good, and I don't want to spoil it if you haven't seen it.  But yeah you should probably see Bernie.  It's a nice little movie.  

3.  Safety Not Guaranteed
Great "early stages of the relationship" date movie - you're into each other, but you don't quite know the level of time commitment the other person is willing to spend on quirk.  Aubrey Plaza and Mark Duplass are indie royalty these days, and if you're into them, you should be dating someone else who is into them, at least enough to enjoy this movie.  

4.  Turn Me On Dammit
Swedish teens can't get enough phone sex or (literal) dick poking.  They're in a rural-ish high school, they're awkward and horny....I don't remember much else, but apparently I was totally charmed by this one.  

5.  Your Sister's Sister
Mark Duplass gets sad, rides his bike to an island and sleeps with a lesbian, which was totally not cool since he's maybe in love with her sister.  But you should still see it even though I just told you what happens.  'Cuz it's a nice little movie.  

Honorable mentions:  Liberal Arts, The Five-Year Engagement, Ruby Sparks, 2 Days in New York.

Best Blockbusters

1.  Skyfall. 
2.  The Hunger Games.  
I'll refrain from writing about the others, since people freak the fuck out one way or another over Batman, The Avengers, and Prometheus, all films I enjoyed but am totally not part of those worlds.  But Skyfall fucking ruled.  

Biggest Surprises

I'm not surprised that The Hobbit was way too long and that breaking it up into 3 parts was anything other than a cynical cash grab.  What I was surprised about was that Peter Jackson and loads of studio people actually watched this film in the HFR format and didn't say "wow, we should stop this because it looks fucking awful" before unleashing it on the world.

2.  QUENTIN TARANTINO MADE A VIOLENT MOVIE.  He even used the "N-word"!  He obviously shouldn't be allowed to make any more movies.  

3.  MENTAL ILLNESS ISN'T A PUNCH LINE YOU GUYS!  As "someone who has suffered from depression" all my life, I'm often sneering at stupidly romantic/cartoonish/nightmarish interpretations of mental illness on film.  Mental illness was at the heart of some of 2012's best films:  Perks of Being a Wallflower (PTSD, depression), The Master (PTSD), Moonrise Kingdom (depression), Oslo August 31 (depression, addiction), and Silver Linings Playbook (bi-polar).  Each film dealt with it in its own crafty, explicit, and respectful way.  There's one thing that depression sometimes does that few people understand - it gives one a heart so big you couldn't even imagine.  

I didn't know a thing about The Hunger Games going into the film.  Apparently this is popular with "the kids", which I realized when I spent 6 week observing a middle school classroom and every other kid had their nose in one of these books.  Now I can use Hunger Games in my Government class in place of Orwell (because my kids don't know Orwell).  Makes up for the glimmering vampires.  But seriously, I'm excited about this franchise.  IT'S SO GOOD YOU GUYS.

The past few years have been pretty lame, with easy standouts not getting the Oscar recognition to keep them in the memory of film history (seriously, TREE OF LIFE loses to THE (cute dog cute dog cute dog) ARTIST?  Bah!)  But 2012 was the year that the 'teens took off.  2012 was the year when we actually didn't mind seeing a number of 3-hour long films.  I only saw maybe two or three movies this year that I actually disliked, and only one that I actively regret subjecting my girlfriend to.  Maybe it's timing, but a good chunk of the world's iconic filmmakers put out work this year - Ang Lee, PT Anderson, Michael Haneke, Kathryn Bigelow, Stephen Spielberg, Quentin Tarantino, Woody Allen (obvs), Wes Anderson, Spike Lee, and David Cronenberg.  It was a good year.  

Top 10 films of 2012

1.  The Master
There wasn't a question in my mind when I was watching this that I was, in fact, watching a masterpiece.  Paul Thomas Anderson has grown, in my mind, from a passionate lover of movies to one of our truly great living artists - the kind of transitions that few (Martin Scorsese, David Lynch) make, and others (Quentin Tarantino) don't.  

2.  Zero Dark Thirty
I could be all about the "character study" aspect of this film (like I sorta was with "The Hurt Locker"), but in all honesty I was so gripped to the screen that my mind never wandered into intellectual wankery.  This is as sharp a procedural ever made, and I can't escape the historial weight of the subject matter.  Riveting, brilliant, brave filmmaking.  

3.  Silver Linings Playbook
A tough sell for most folks - the trailer wasn't good, Bradly Cooper comes with baggage, and people can't seem to tell if they're making fun of the characters or not.  Forget all of that.  The performances were fierce, the pacing was quick, the story was deep, and the jokes are dark and funny.  It's sometimes too close to the bone, but it's just that sort of emotional daring that endears me to this film.  Also, it's just a really good movie about ordinary-ish people, which, looking at this list, I don't see much of.  

4.  Argo
The most unabashed Hollywood film on my list, and it sits pretty damn high.  Argo has its issues (that ending setpiece), but there may not have been a more fun movie to root for all year.  Plus, fun with politics!  

5.  Holy Motors
There have been few times in my adult like when I have been rendered speechless by a film's ending.  I still don't know what was going on with the monkey and the talking cars, but before that Holy Motors was an outrageous adventure though the world of cinema....I think.  Well, whatever it was, it was fucking spectacular.  

6.  Moonrise Kingdom
I've had a Wes Anderson crush forever; I even named my first club night after his first film.  I heart WA.  Moonrise Kingdom was everything that I love about Wes Anderson films - sweet depressed white people throwing their hearts at each other in their own awkward ways.  

7.  Oslo August 31
It took me so long to watch this movie, which is known as "24 hours in the life of a Norwegian drug addict".  That sounds like homework to me.  But I was delighted to see that Anders, the suicidal Norseman in question, is one of 2012's most intriguing characters.  Joachin Trier's film economically gives us a deep character study through flashbacks, and ratchets up the tension enough to do what is most difficult to do - truly care about a depressed Norwegian junkie.

8.  A Royal Affair
People might think that Les Miserables is the best costume drama of the year, but they're mistaken (and obviously haven't even heard of A Royal Affair, or are likely to not see it at their local cinema).  This Danish marvel of anti-enlightenment struggles under King Christian VII is captivating and bold, the most interesting "Politics in a castle" sort of movie in quite some time.  Here's how complicated shit gets - a British girl gets married off to an insane King of Denmark, who can only be tamed by a German doctor played by Mads Mikkelson.  The good doctor helps the King move Denmark into the enlightenment period, only to muck things up by having an affair with the Queen, thus sending the whole country into a church-fueled nose-dive back to the middle-ages.  It's super good, trust me.  

9.  Lincoln
I've had a blah relationship with Stephen Spielberg for so long now, that the level of terrific of Lincoln really kicked me in the ass.  Of course, it's got the Hollywood ending, and there's some questionable stuff going on at the beginning of the film, but basically it's Daniel Day Lewis playing the hell out of Lincoln, so there's that.  Oh, and politics.  Fun with politics.  

10. Amour
A few years ago Ingmar Bergman and Michelangelo Antonioni died in the same week, and I was sure that this meant the end of the masterfully done cinematic chamber play.  I wasn't expecting such a touching film from Michael Haneke, who usually serves up stark misery with a side of pessimism.  But Amour, a movie about love and letting go, which reminded me most of Sarah Polley's fantastic "Away From Her", while dealing with a dark and difficult subject, is so tender and haunting that it penetrates the willing soul.  I often lament that people don't make these sort of movies anymore, and I'm happy to be wrong.  

Honorable mentions:  Django Unchained, Skyfall, Life of Pi, Looper, Rust and Bone, Cosmopolis, Beasts of the Southern Wild, The Hunger Games, The Sessions, Cabin in the Woods, Once Upon a Time in Anatolia, The Perks of Being a Wallflower.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Upcoming DJ thingy and updates about stuff

I'll be DJing a "Girls Get Ready" party at the old Bottle Rocket Portland home, Beauty Bar, this Saturday night from 6-10. Graye bumped into me at karaoke a few weeks back and asked if I could do it, and it sounds like fun, so LET'S GO YEAH.

Rick's gonna be my DJ buddy, and we're playing girl group stuff and things that ladies would wanna hear whilst getting their hair/nails done up all pretty like. I think this is just the sort of thing that Beauty Bar was made for. I'm still too busy to try and launch another Bottle Rocket residency, so I welcome this little one-off.

I've also been asked to DJ my girlfriend's sister's wedding this summer. So...yeah. Looking forward to that.

There's a fair amount going on in 2011. I don't think I can swing another international trip this year, so I'll have to keep all the funtimes in North America. I'm likely going to the east coast in early May for my cousin's wedding and my mom's 50th, which is likely my only big-ish jaunt.

I'm listening to Broadcast and getting real sad about Trish Keenan's passing. much reading this term. I'm taking Political Science (US Gov't & policies), Microeconomics, and US History 1919-present. Feeling strong about all but Microeconomics, which throws my brain into a tizzy with all of the graphs and numbers. NUMBERS SCARE.

Katrina just watched some documentary about Stress and how it kills you.

I just watched the first 6 episodes of Party Down. Love it.

I REALLY REALLY WANNA SEE BLUE VALENTINE. I've pushed back my best of 2010 movie post until I see it.


Monday, December 27, 2010

My 30 favourite albums of 2010

2010 was an absolute banner year for music...I think. I mean, at least the kind of stuff I like. I have no idea how the "industry" is doing, nor do I really care anymore. It's easier than ever to make music without getting signed, and some bigger artists are doing just fine with touring without writing #1 singles. Point is, music is getting better.

30. Owen Pallett - Heartland
29. Gil Scott Heron – I’m New Here
28. Ariel Pink's Haunted Graffiti - Before Today
27. First Aid Kit – The Big Black and the Blue
26. MIA – Maya
25. Dum Dum Girls – I Will Be
24. Wild Nothing - Gemini
23. The Vaselines – Sex With An X
22. The Radio Dept - Clinging To a Scheme
21. Crystal Castles – s/t
20. Big Boi - Sir Luscious Leftfoot: The Legend of Chico Dusty
19. Spoon – Transference
18. No Age – Everything In Between
17. The National – High Violet
16. Deerhunter – Halcyon Digest
15. Sleigh Bells – Treats
14. Betty and the Werewolves - Tea Time Favourites
13. Belle and Sebastian – Write About Love
12. Arcade Fire – The Suburbs
11. Los Campesinos – Romance is Boring

10. Joanna Newsom – Have One On Me

I remember the astonishment I felt when I first laid eyes on this album - I was at Amoeba Records in Berkeley, and the album was there on the racks, weeks before its official release date. This was one of my most anticipated albums of the year, as Newsom's majestic Ys was one of my favourite albums of the past decade. Have One On Me is an enormous album in more ways than one - it took me nearly the entire year to digest it. But when I finally did, I was rewarded with one hell of an experience. While Ys had too few songs on it, this album certainly has too many, but that's a problem I'm not bothered having.

9. Kanye West – Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy

I admit, I wasn't entirely familiar with Kanye's music. The most I knew was that he was sort of an interesting lunatic who had a rough year before this sonic boom of an album dropped. I'm blown away by Kanye's production skills, but at the same time a bit disappointed by his sheer arrogance. Not a flawless album, but a fascinating document of a brilliant madman.

8. Allo Darlin' – Allo Darlin'

I first saw Allo Darlin as part of the NYC popfest, and that was it - one of the best performances of the year and I was in love. This is the new indiepop crush that I'd been waiting for - tender, playful songs about Woody Allen, Sweden, and kissing.

7. Sufjan Stevens – The Age of Adz

Sufjan is scary talented. After taking a few years off from releasing a proper album, Sufjan drops the fantastic All Delighted People ep, and follows it up with a full-length that says I will continue to win. His foray into electronics is divisive, and though he can overdo it with the angelic sounds, the end result is something totally unexpected and utterly enjoyable. Oh, and "Impossible Soul" may be the best 20-something minute track since Sonic Youth's "The Diamond Sea".

6. Janelle Monae – Archandroid

I still don't love Janelle Monae, but that may be that I'm still in shock by her limitless talent. She's seemingly come out of nowhere and put out an album that has her crushing the worlds of indie and hip-hop, like a female James Brown, if James Brown were doing some of that gender-fuck Bowie stuff.

5. Titus Andronicus – The Monitor

If this album had come out 10 years ago, I would have put it at the top of my list. The Monitour has a sound so huge it seems to fill the canyon that has been empty since At The Drive-In broke up. Well done lads.

4. Robyn – Body Talk

Does anyone in the world write a better dance/pop song than Robyn? And those lyrics are fucking killer - "I'm gonna love you like I've never been hurt before" tears at my heart every time.

3. Best Coast – Crazy for You

It's all about Bethany - a sweet girl writing innocent pop songs about boys, weed, and her cat. These are the songs you sing along to while driving with the windows down. I don't know how this isn't the number 1 album in like a billion countries right now.

2. Beach House – Teen Dream

This is the second straight Beach House album that I've put at number 2, and I should start referring to them as one of my favourite artists. Teen Dream is an absolutely shimmering slice of dream pop that, while constantly sleepy, never tires. They're the new Portishead - music for seduction or suicide. And that's a good thing.

1. LCD Soundsystem – This Is Happening
awesome interview with The Onion

Like his female equivalent Robyn, James Murphy writes emotional dance music. After writing the best song of the decade ("All My Friends" of course) and taking some time off to, you know, grow up a bit more, Murphy and the LCDSS transcended their already soaring apex to deliver the Kid A to their OK Computer. LCDSS have always sounded hip, but in that impossibly timeless fashion.