Fact check yourself

My sister and I always tell the Chipmunk Story.

“It’s a fucking funny story,” she told me during a phone call this year. “It kills at parties. Also, it’s a good ice breaker — ha! — because the chipmunk was frozen.”

We lived at the bottom of three hills just outside Reading, separated from a college in the city by a thin strip of woods. Picture this slab of cement outside our row home. The sun spotlighted an orange tabby and a chipmunk. When I set the scene in my mind, I stand in shadow just ahead of the front door. The cat, farthest from me, has raised hackles. Zoom in on the chipmunk’s harried eyes. The chase is off like wind-up toys.  

I stuck my hand into the fray to rescue the chipmunk — who promptly sunk his teeth into my thumb. He definitely misread my heroics. I think I flung the chipmunk down on instinct — I must have, right? — before hurrying to scoop it back up. Somehow, though I don’t remember the mechanics, the chipmunk ended up inside. My mom put it in a green Tupperware. She worried about rabies. She wanted to freeze the chipmunk and take it to work where the lab could run a blood test.

My sister and I were horrified. We spent the majority of our young lives crafting presentations on why our parents should allow us a hamster, after it became clear we weren’t gaining ground on the dog issue. 

So we hatched a plan.

The second mom left the kitchen, we pulled the container from the freezer. I thought we opened the lid and the chipmunk darted across the stovetop. We had to scramble to collect it before our mom realized we’d liberated it. My sister doesn't remember that part.

She said we took the Tupperware to the room we shared upstairs, removed the lid and tried to feed cheese to the chipmunk. I don’t remember that part. 

My sister also said she pictured a plain black cat at the beginning.

“I feel like I just put that in there,” she said.

Later, some light Googling of “Green Tupperware 1990s” yields images that don’t look like the bowl I imagine.

Our story was starting to unravel. 

We both agreed that when the tests came back, they showed the chipmunk had a clean bill of health — no rabies. 

Normally that’s the punchline, like, Hey guys, isn’t it ironic that in an attempt to save the life of a chipmunk, we actually caused its demise? Looking back, it’s a pretty morbid story. I’m surprised we usually got more laughs than dropped jaws. Or maybe I just forgot about those bad reactions.

But the funnier part, almost two decades later, is where our stories diverged. Why did it happen? My sister and I couldn’t figure it out. I guess we supplied specifics where our minds failed us.

Incidentally, I asked my dad if he remembered the Chipmunk Story.

“Yes, I remember it very well,” he said. “But you’re going to love this twist.”

When my dad pictures the chipmunk, he said he clearly sees mom putting it in the freezer in the kitchen we had after we moved to Texas. 

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Paige Cooperstein

Paige Cooperstein writes about film and pop culture. She contributes to The Post-Standard in Syracuse, NY as an intern in the features department, and 215 Magazine in Philadelphia, PA as an Arts & Culture blogger. Paige recently developed an aptitude for live tweeting big events like Syracuse Style's fashion show and the One World Concert featuring the Dalai Lama. Her other projects include producing audio previews for the Green Room Reviews theatre blog and hosting an arts themed podcast. She's always open to new projects. While not working, Paige frequently holes herself up to watch endless TV and movies. She's currently on a Buffy the Vampire Slayer kick eating up the behind-the-scenes interviews online. Spanish telenovelas keep her language skills sharp. If only she could find a similar outlet for ASL practice. Paige is also a proud Penn Stater and Newhouse SU grad student studying Arts Journalism.

Christian Marclay's "Clock" does more than tell time

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Christian Marclay’s latest film, “The Clock,” has a 24-hour run time synchronized with real time. Walk into a showing of “The Clock” at 4:25 p.m. and onscreen a clock reads 4:25 p.m. while a schoolboy waits for the final bell to ring. Marclay works as a collage artist, assembling readymade scenes from existing narrative films into a new object, in the same way that Marcel Duchamp assembled his readymades (notably a bicycle wheel and a wooden stool) into a new object that questions its own usefulness.

Marclay’s team of researchers, led by his editing assistant Paul Anton Smith, can be credited with finding each minute of the day on film – even the weird ones like 4:27 p.m. (Matthew Broderick places an awkwardly specific booty call) – while Marclay’s zeal for pattern shapes a meaningful essay on the human need to talk about time. In addition to shots of clocks on film, Marclay also incorporates dialogue references to time and discussions of the nature of time.

The length and pedantic subject matter of “The Clock” call to mind Andy Warhol’s “Empire,” a stagnant shot of the Empire State Building that lasts for eight hours and five minutes, in slow motion no less. But Warhol made “Empire” unwatchable on purpose; he never allowed abridged showings (Good thing he never lived to see it on YouTube!) On the other hand, “The Clock,” largely assembled from recognizable Hollywood films, is not only watchable, but mesmerizing. It played at the Museum of Modern Art during regular operating hours through January 21, and ran 24 hours in real time over three designated weekends. Contemplating “The Clock,” even for a half-hour, feels like a deep dream.

Marclay’s 1995 seven-and-a-half minute ode to telephone calls in film shows itself as a clear first draft for “The Clock.” His “Telephones” montage builds an immersive conversation where characters from different movies appear to talk to each other over the phone. Marclay doesn’t establish a clear narrative in “The Clock,” but his jarring juxtapositions create a clear sense of what different times of day feel like, notably the clockwatching anticipation that comes with the end of a day’s obligation by late afternoon. The sound design, by Quentin Chiappetta Media Noise out of Brooklyn, fluidly bridges the cuts, exaggerating and transforming the preexisting movie sounds.

From 4:25 p.m. to 5 p.m., Marclay shows how fast a minute can move, how slow a minute can move, and how much it can mean. In one scene, Samuel L. Jackson throws Ben Affleck against a car door, demanding, “Can you give me back my time?” In another scene, an Asian man sits on an overpass hawking watches. He smacks one against the side of his display table, ostensibly to catch the ears of passing customers, but the motion also looks like a way to pass the time during an otherwise boring job. Marclay’s clock montage strategically allows some movie scenes to include the context of their clock. At the train station in “Casablanca,” where Rick waits for Ilsa, the camera just catches a clock at 4:55 p.m. The clock never reappears, but Sam enters with Ilsa’s farewell letter. The scene ticks on until Rick gets on the train, alone.

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Paige Cooperstein

Paige Cooperstein writes about film and pop culture. She contributes to The Post-Standard in Syracuse, NY as an intern in the features department, and 215 Magazine in Philadelphia, PA as an Arts & Culture blogger. Paige recently developed an aptitude for live tweeting big events like Syracuse Style's fashion show and the One World Concert featuring the Dalai Lama. Her other projects include producing audio previews for the Green Room Reviews theatre blog and hosting an arts themed podcast. She's always open to new projects. While not working, Paige frequently holes herself up to watch endless TV and movies. She's currently on a Buffy the Vampire Slayer kick eating up the behind-the-scenes interviews online. Spanish telenovelas keep her language skills sharp. If only she could find a similar outlet for ASL practice. Paige is also a proud Penn Stater and Newhouse SU grad student studying Arts Journalism.

Have faith in "Kon-tiki"'s voyage by film and by sea

“Kon-Tiki,” directed by Joachim Roenning and Espen Sandberg, played in September at the Toronto International Film Festival in Norwegian with English subtitles. The Weinstein Company announced this week that it acquired the rights from Hanway Films to distribute "Kon-Tiki" in the U.S., Canada, United Kingdom and Italy.

The cast of "Kon-Tiki" at the 2012 Toronto International Film Festival

A well-paced love story unfolds in “Kon-Tiki”: between Thor Heyerdahl (Pål Sverre Valheim Hagen) and his adventure. As Thor longs to prove South Americans could’ve floated to Polynesia, and populated the islands before Asians, a strong will they/won’t they romantic tension pulls viewers through the film. Screenwriter Petter Skavlan built the script for “Kon-Tiki" as a labor of love, basing it on Heyerdahl’s real-life float across the Pacific Ocean on a balsawood raft.

Skavlan spent 11 years working on the script, beginning the process when Heyerdahl was still alive. When he learned Heyerdahl first developed his Peru-to-Polynesia theory while honeymooning in Polynesia with his wife, Liv (a weather-worn Agnes Kittelsen in the movie), Skavlan had a love triangle on his hands. Every obstacle Thor overcomes in his quest to reach Polynesia marks another step he takes away from Liv. This narrative frame, while clever, doesn’t always work, largely because Liv’s presence as the third prong of the triangle comes in and out of the film too intermittently.     

A good portion of “Kon-Tiki” comes across, probably accidentally, as a Norwegian “Jaws.” Besides hoping for his raft to attach itself to a westbound current, Thor’s main obstacle to Polynesia is sharks. He and his crew of five start dealing with the CGI-created sharks as soon as they survive their first big storm on the open ocean. Sharks knock against the raft and try to snack on a man overboard. To the credit of the visual effects team, the CGI only looks distractingly unreal when the crew’s parrot Larita flies off the raft and goes up against a shark.  

The obstacles at sea become more harrowing and the love story in "Kon-Tiki" swells as Thor shows his blind faith in Tiki, the god a Polynesian said first sailed his people to the islands from the east. Thor demands his crew have faith in Tiki, the same way one has faith in true love. He obsesses over the purity of his voyage, throwing modern wire overboard in favor of rope lashings that ancient Peruvians could have accessed to build a raft. This is a blind fit of passion like one having an affair.

The 119 minutes of “Kon-Tiki” do little to develop Thor’s crew, or even his relationship to Liv, which reappears abruptly in the final scene, but his mad heart for adventure connects with the audience and carries him across the ocean.

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Paige Cooperstein

Paige Cooperstein writes about film and pop culture. She contributes to The Post-Standard in Syracuse, NY as an intern in the features department, and 215 Magazine in Philadelphia, PA as an Arts & Culture blogger. Paige recently developed an aptitude for live tweeting big events like Syracuse Style's fashion show and the One World Concert featuring the Dalai Lama. Her other projects include producing audio previews for the Green Room Reviews theatre blog and hosting an arts themed podcast. She's always open to new projects. While not working, Paige frequently holes herself up to watch endless TV and movies. She's currently on a Buffy the Vampire Slayer kick eating up the behind-the-scenes interviews online. Spanish telenovelas keep her language skills sharp. If only she could find a similar outlet for ASL practice. Paige is also a proud Penn Stater and Newhouse SU grad student studying Arts Journalism.

Found Music: The lost art of the mix tape

Transient

The music magazine Relix included a mix CD in their October-November issue featuring music its editors recommended for fall listening. It surprised me to find a CD like that, flopping between the pages in the manner usually reserved for subscription cards. Last time I got a mix CD it was sophomore year of college.

Ironically, the first thing I did with the disc was transfer it to my iTunes so I could listen to it on my iPod. To get a feel for the mix, I took a walk around downtown. I encourage aimless walking for the first listen to any piece of new music. The action makes you a participant in the work.

Several of the opening tracks use a one-two beat that proved good for walking. "Sky High" by WeMustBe relies on organic vocals and a repeated drum beat to keep the canvas neutral for the lyrics. The WeMustBe duo, formed by Christine Dominguez and T. Xiques, imagines a mountain climbed for happiness’ sake: “Way up on the mountain top/ It’s the answer to all my problems/ Where the snow falls up not down no lie/ Get me sky high.” Dominguez, who sounds like the female Citizen Cope, adds an even more smiley touch with the image of “Clouds around our head like Dr. Dr.” It’s music for the beginning of a journey.   

From a subtle acoustic, the mix builds to the power of a disenfranchised youth's anthem in "Oh Yeah!" Purveyors of the classic three-piece set-up, the band Les Racquet intersperses their tune with quick-fingered guitar solos that rival what Guitar Hero comes up with.

"Blue Laws" by Betsy Kingston & The Crowns, five songs later, really lets the guitar dig into its own. With Southern soul longing in Betsy Kingston’s voice, she croons “Nothing makes you blue like the Blue Laws on Sunday.” It creates the perfect cradle for the searching guitar solo that starts at 1:47, carries on until 2:11, and reprises at 2:39 – 3:15.

But as with any mix CD made for you by someone who doesn’t actually know you, there were some songs I wanted to skip over, and in fact did skip over by the time they rolled back around on my iPod.

Master Thieves played reggae in “Once Upon a Time” in a generic way, not quite committing to ska. They gave no nuance to the performance; not like State Radio, the band I hold up as the example of how to successfully twist reggae. In fact, State Radio’s subtle rock-infused reggae would have actually complimented the rest of the acoustics on Relix’s mix. Sounds like the beginning of a beautiful new mix CD.

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Paige Cooperstein

Paige Cooperstein writes about film and pop culture. She contributes to The Post-Standard in Syracuse, NY as an intern in the features department, and 215 Magazine in Philadelphia, PA as an Arts & Culture blogger. Paige recently developed an aptitude for live tweeting big events like Syracuse Style's fashion show and the One World Concert featuring the Dalai Lama. Her other projects include producing audio previews for the Green Room Reviews theatre blog and hosting an arts themed podcast. She's always open to new projects. While not working, Paige frequently holes herself up to watch endless TV and movies. She's currently on a Buffy the Vampire Slayer kick eating up the behind-the-scenes interviews online. Spanish telenovelas keep her language skills sharp. If only she could find a similar outlet for ASL practice. Paige is also a proud Penn Stater and Newhouse SU grad student studying Arts Journalism.