Notes from the couch

You know you're sick -- really and truly sick -- when you can't even craft. When knitting takes too much energy and concentration and the very idea of cutting out fabric or sitting in front of the sewing machine exhausts you. Never mind that it's too hard to concentrate on a book or anything more mentally taxing than US Magazine. It's a sad day when you're too sick to make a tote bag. Word. As a result, I've been getting to know our Ikea couch better than ever and I must say it's pretty darn comfy. From this vantage point, I have been filling time between involuntary naps with much TV watching. Or, in my case, watching of TV and movies on my laptop, thanks to the wonderful world of downloads.

I embarked upon a Nip/Tuck marathon of past seasons and have witnessed its spiral from a moderately clever and entertaining dark comedy in season one to flat-out soap-opera melodrama in season three. (Not all in the past few days, mind you...)

I also watched Flight of the Conchords' Texan Odyssey , a largely entertaining documentary made by the duo for New Zealand TV, chronicling their attendance at the South by Southwest music conference in 2006. It's a bit spotty and disjointed but, heck, so am I this week. So if you like FOTC -- and we all know I do -- then you'll enjoy this. (It's available for viewing on You Tube, broken down into four or five parts.)

In addition, I've been taking advantage of Netflix's Watch Now section. For some reason, I've been wanting to see Neil LaBute's "In The Company of Men" again ever since enjoying Aaron Eckhart's performance in "Thank You for Smoking." Man, is that flick (the former) a tough ride. I saw it in the theaters when it came out, but I must have been REALLY newly sober because I didn't remember much of it. The rawness of the production values just underscore the relentless cruelty and unapologetic misogynism of Eckhart's character Chad. Not sure I'm glad I watched it again.

However, I did enjoy watching "Man in the Sand," the 1999 documentary that's sort of about Woody Guthrie and sort of about Norah Guthrie and Billy Bragg's project to record some of his unknown lyrics as songs and sort of about Billy Bragg and Jeff Tweedy not getting along so well creatively. Obviously, I'm not saying it's a great movie; it doesn't seem to know what it wants to be about. It gives you a very brief and somewhat candy-coated overview of Guthrie, moving you only a tad beyond the typical legend line by touching briefly on his abandonement of his first family in pursuit of a second and even third.

Guthrie left behind about a thousand songs he'd written lyrics for. Since he didn't read or write music, there's no record of what he planned for melodies. So his daughter -- feeling Bragg was a kindred spirit to her father, both politically and musically -- contacted him to write music for and record some of the songs. Ultimately, Bragg brings in Wilco to collaborate and the result was the Mermaid Sessions CDs.

If it's a film about Guthrie, then it's incomplete. If it's a film about Bragg's journey, then it's also unsatisfying. The film's best bits come at the very end when there's obvious tension -- hinted at before -- between Wilco's frontman Jeff Tweedy and Bragg, who have very different ideas about which songs and which mixes of songs should make the final cut. Weird thing is, it's never clear why Bragg brought Wilco on board in the first place, so it's tough to know what the plan was.

It's also hard to tell where the tension stems from -- is Tweedy being difficult or Bragg or both? St. Louis music fans will appreciate Tweedy's biting comment towards the very end of the film. I'm paraphrasing here, but when asked about collaborating with Bragg, he says something like, "Uncle Tupelo had two songwriters and this worked out just about as well as that." (Bear in mind, Wilco fans, that this documentary was made prior to the documentary "I Am Trying to Break Your Heart" which chronicled the band's meltdown and Tweedy's own downward spiral into drug addiction during the recording of Yankee Hotel Foxtrot.)

And now my head hurts again from all that thinkin'.