Denver Bar Association
February 2005
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10 Things I Love (art-wise)

by Greg Rawlings

Like most critics, I live to dislike things: Wendy’s French fries, CSI: Wherever, Clear Channel, Fox News, MTV, the Dave Matthews Band, Spielberg’s entire oeuvre (except Raiders of the Lost Ark); basically all of modern American pop culture. However, in the spirit of Valentine’s Day, I have gone all warm and fuzzy, and decided to write about things I actually love (or at least like a heck of a whole lot). And being my usual OCD self, a list (in no particular order) is certainly called for. See these brief notes as silver linings in the gray clouds of my wildly depressed little world.

Image courtesy of Sony
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1. Bill Murray. If you’d told me ten years ago that Bill Murray would become America’s best actor, I’d have laughed in your face. Over the past decade or so, nobody has starred in more truly excellent films: Groundhog Day, Rushmore, The Royal Tenenbaums, and Lost in Translation. He is, circa now, in a league of one.

2. That my alter ego Paul Westerberg is still alive, long after his great band, The Replacements, bit the dust. When my ex gave me the lyrics to Paul’s haunting song "Self Defense," I knew that, no matter our differences, she truly understood who I was. It meant a great deal to me. No living musician has given me more joy over the years. Sure, Alex Chilton is still kicking, as is Steven Malkmus, as is Matthew Sweet. When I need to hear someone totally simpatico, though, I turn to the hermit-like creature who penned "Color Me Impressed," "Here Comes a Regular," and "Darling One."

3. The dance scene in Jean-Luc Godard’s 1964 film "Band of Outsiders." As sublime a sequence as exists in world cinema. In an upstairs pool hall, Godard’s real life wife Anna Karina and two low-level gangsters define cool.

4. Every word ever written by Thomas Pynchon, the greatest literary mind since Shakespeare. Even Vineland. The man who perfected the paranoid mode in literary fiction. Our Kafka, Joyce and Mann, all rolled into one reclusive New Yorker. The one person in the world I’d most like to have a long, liquid dinner with. Especially if Kirsten Dunst and Katie Holmes could come, too.

Hannah Rawlings as a doll
in “The Nutcracker.”
5. Watching my nine-year-old daughter Hannah dance in the Colorado Ballet’s production of "The Nutcracker" this year. What can beat listening to a thousand-plus well-heeled Denverites applauding for a scene that contains your smiling, costumed kid? Nothing.

6. "Luna Live." Former Docketeer Jen Williams turned me onto this gem at a house-warming party she threw a ways back. Luna is an even better Velvet Underground tribute band than its main man Dean Wareham’s previous band Galaxie 500. Which is saying tons, in that Galaxie 500 had the V.U. thing down pat. Evocative lyrics, drone strum guitars and, on the Serge Gainsbourg/Brigitte Bardot nugget "Bonnie and Clyde," the sexy voice of bassist bombshell Britta Phillips. Wacka wacka wacka.

7. The Temptation to Exist, by E.M. Cioran. Worth buying just for Susan Sontag’s brilliant introduction. My favorite work of 20th century philosophy. Cioran was a Greek Orthodox priest’s son from Romania who lived in Paris. Whether writing about superpower entropy or the decadence of modern life, he is never less than eloquent, and quite often dazzling in his profundity. On the very, very short list of books I really, really wish I’d written.

8. The paintings of Paul Klee. Dark humor, obsessive details, a purity of line that rivals Matisse. The sort of artist that makes me wish I was rich enough to afford even a trifle, even a scrap of a cartoon.

9. This is Not a Novel, by David Markson. No, it’s not a novel but it is, well, novel. Everyone I’ve turned on to this book has complained about it. They’re dead wrong. I want to be buried with this brief, beautiful, learned meditation on death. Not yet, but eventually. Comprised almost entirely of statements about the deaths and lives of famous artists. Especially the deaths.

10. The precious few readers who have understood that these little lists and essays I send in to The Docket are the closest thing to an autobiography I’ll ever have the guts to write.

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