November 10, 2004

Blogging two Birds with one entry

My entertainment dollars this week have been stupendously well spent, let me tell you. Sunday night, Rose and I saw The Incredibles, written and directed by Brad Bird, and it was absolutely exhilarating. Possibly my favorite Pixar film yet, which is saying quite a bit. (Certainly it's the first that feels more pitched at adults than children.)

We were not the only people to notice, however, a certain Ayn Randy quality to the film -- that whole thing where a society suppresses exceptionality to make everyone equal, and it's a bad thing. But the reason Rand was a kook wasn't that she felt suppressing exceptional people was a bad thing, it was that she thought that humoring anyone she considered unexceptional was a waste of time, and that altruism was for suckers. But the core of the idea isn't crazy, and shouldn't be dismissed merely because Ayn Rand happened to think of it en route to planning her domination of the world.

I felt the story of a family of unusual people forced to pretend to be average was particularly resonant, having just gone through an election in which large swaths of the country proclaimed their desire to limit my freedoms based on their religious beliefs. It's a difficult time to be a secular humanist.

The second Bird referred to above is Andrew Bird, a hard fellow to describe. He's a violinist/guitarist/singer/songwriter whose instrumental virtuosity and facility with language do nothing to appease one's jealousy at his amazing voice. He played last night at Southpaw in Brooklyn and pretty much blew our minds.

He played solo, using a technique that never fails to delight me: live-looping multiple instrumental tracks, which he would then sing or solo over. He mostly looped violin parts, periodically grabbing a guitar or playing a melody on a tiny xylophone (accompanied by some high-quality whistling). Impressive. Bill Frisell used a similar technique at Roulette way back in 1989, and more recently, Kid Beyond (aka Andrew Chaikin) did the same thing, but a cappella and with the ability to turn different loops on and off at will. My reaction to both: dropped jaw, delighted brain.

Anyway, you can check out streaming audio of Andrew Bird's live solo technique here (scroll down to show #283). His main website is here, and features some downloadable tracks and three CDs otherwise only available at concerts. (Also, my apologies to my Boston friends for not noticing that Andrew was playing in Somerville on Monday night. He'll probably be back in February, when his new album comes out.)

Posted by Francis at 01:11 PM | TrackBack

...that whole thing where a society suppresses exceptionality to make everyone equal, and it's a bad thing.

Which I associate, not with Ayn Rand (who I've never read), but with Kurt Vonnegut's short story "Harrison Bergeron".

Posted by: Lance at November 12, 2004 12:45 PM

I enjoyed "The Incredibles". It's a fun, fast-paced, imaginative movie. There is a political/philosophical subtext, which seems to be deliberate, but I ignored it.

As for Ayn Rand, I obviously would not qualify for her elite. I'm not a CEO.

In "Atlas Shrugged", Rand not only repetitively called liberals, government employees and union members "moochers" and "looters", but also offered a sneering portrayal of the one character who was involved in the arts. Only the captains of industry are worthy of her respect.

Posted by: Eileen at November 19, 2004 08:57 PM