Saturday, November 22, 2003
New print of Sergio Leone's final Western Duck, You Sucker (A Fistful of Dynamite) premieres in NYC
Originally titled Once Upon a Time...the Revolution, this restoration features 20 minutes not shown in the US version.
Looking forward to the DVD. I remember getting a real kick out of the title and enjoying this as a teen, though it's pretty violent (for the time).
Coburn's devilish smile put to good use here.
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Friday, November 21, 2003
Props for 21 Grams the new Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu film
Reviewer says Sean Penn is even better in this than in Mystic River.
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"I take a very practical approach to finding the right person," says Lee, 27, a Wharton business school graduate who likens the dating market to the stock market, tossing around terms like "liquidity" and "market value." In fact, if he had his druthers, those mini-dates would last a minute, just enough time to gauge someone's personality and whether "they have bad breath."I admit my practical Capricorn voice admires the efficiency.
But this is life out of balance with a vengeance.
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Thursday, November 20, 2003
1 in 3 DVDs sold in UK is a boot [Arts Journal]
Compared to videos, which are bulky and offer compromised quality, the new digital format is a bootlegger's delight. The discs are cheap, light and easy to transport, while copying is quick and quality does not degrade. Not sure I believe the terror funding claim.
It's not only the movie industry and cinemas that are at risk. A conference later this week in Dublin will hear how proceeds from intellectual property, such as counterfeit discs, are becoming the preferred method of funding for a number of terror groups.
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Shirley Hazzard wins National Book Award
See post below.
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Loca Records gets it [Arts Journal]
Record labels have long been accused of stealing musicians' copyrights as soon as the ink is dry on the contract. Now, one small independent label in Great Britain is doing the opposite: It's giving the rights to the artists -- and anyone else who wants to use the music, too.
Loca Records wants to foster experimentation and freedom in music by building a stable of free music which can be shared, remixed and manipulated by anyone. Songs are not locked by digital rights management technology.
The music is available for free in MP3 format, but the company sells its CDs and vinyl in retail stores throughout Europe. Artists earn a percentage of any record sales; Loca Records makes its money through record sales, gigs it promotes and merchandise.
"You're free to copy it, give it to your friends and you can play it. If you're really interested, you can sample it and then re-release it," said David Berry, managing director of Loca Records and an artist himself, known as Meme. "Because at the end of the day, if you sample the work and create a fantastic remix, we think you're entitled to try and make some money from it."
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Companies like BigChampagne makes big bucks data mining P2P nets for MusicMobsters [Arts Journal]
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Stephen Lack: actor (in Scanners & Dead Ringers & Fatal Attraction), painter
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Abasiophilia from Anxiety's Snowglobe
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Low stock at the Herbarium
Though Aquilegia vulgaris seeds are in stock.
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A good summary of airport luggage carousels, and the way they move
from the Dullmen.
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Peanuts, whisky and the "hidden barriers of class"
With Americans, choice of words is more indicative of status than accent, although the New England boarding schools nurturing future upper-class boys have long fostered the Harvard, or Proper Bostonian, accent. In general, both the upper classes and the lower classes in America tend to be more forthright and matter-of-fact in calling a spade a spade (for example: organs of the body, sexual terms, exeretory functions, etc.) than people in between, members of the semi-upper and limited-success classes. In this respect, at 1east, we are reminded of Lord Melbourne's lament: "The higher and lower classes, there's some good in them, but the middle classes are all affectation and conceit and pretense and concealment."
Persons who feel secure in their high status can display their self- assurance by using unpretentious language. Old Bostonians are notably blunt (often to the point of rudeness) in their language. A well- established society matron of Dallas and Southampton gave the appropriate upper-class answer when asked about the "secrets" of her success in entertaining. She responded, according to *The New York Times*, with: "Why I just give them peanuts and whisky."
-- Vance Packard, The Status Seekers [from U Penn's The Literature & Culture of the American 1950s
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Tuesday, November 18, 2003
Jonathan Raban's Waxwings: review
If, finally, most of that rather evaporates, it doesn't really matter. Raban has never quite cottoned on to plot. Here, as in Foreign Land, his first novel, you sense that he'd be glad to have one, but his heart's not in it. What he likes doing is blending genres, confounding categories. Fiction, non-fiction, travel, sociology. His first major book, Soft City, mixed journalism with drama, semiotics and literary criticism. Foreign Land itself began as another travel book, a false start at what, the following year, became Coasting. What he does, he says, is "what used to be called 'human geography': writing about place - about people's place in place, and their displacement in it". His views, ironic and humane, are always acute; always illuminating. His prose - agile, musky, particular - is a treasure.More details if you want them:
A new novel by Jonathan Raban calculates the radius of the Internet bubble with the cool eye of an investor who can spot real value. Raban wrote a perceptive travel book in 1999 called Passage to Juneau, and he demonstrates that same sharp eye for the spirit of place again in this novel, his first in 18 years.
Waxwings, the first of three novels to be set in the Pacific Northwest, opens as the millennium closes. Wall Street is throwing ticker tape, but the real pixie dust is coming from the other coast. In cloudy Seattle, under the glorious sunlight of Microsoft, a thousand e-tulips bloom. Internet millionaires bid the city's real estate into the stratosphere. Mercedes crowd parking lots. Bathrooms are tiled with stone cut in Zambia.
Seattle in 1999 is a presatirized, virtual setting, and it's a testament to Raban's control that he can integrate personal and public catastrophes so deftly in this witty novel.
If tackling the giant social novels of Jonathan Franzen or Tom Wolfe makes you wish for a book that isn't quite so full, Waxwings may be just the corrective you're after. Raban captures this exuberant era with striking efficiency. He prods us to consider that we're living in a period that makes us all somehow foreigners, desperate for residency.
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Susan Choi's American Woman: review
But American Woman isn't merely a fictional retelling of the Hearst case. Instead, it's that rarest of creations, a political novel that gives equal weight to its characters' inner and outer lives. The very conscience that prompted Jenny to extreme acts in protest of the Vietnam War begins to trouble her when it comes to her charges. The cadre are dangerous because they are, as she once was, naive enough to take rash action, "undisciplined, and terrified, and aflame with self-pity." They'd be funny, with their talk of carrying on their delusional "armed struggle" against the police and their solemn classification of newsmagazine articles as "intelligence," if they didn't tend to leave bodies in their wake. At 25, only a few years older than these fiery "warriors," Jenny feels vastly more experienced and far less certain.
Yet Jenny is also profoundly lonely, as only someone who has been living an entirely false life can be. With the fugitives, she can go by her real name among people who know her true history. And in Pauline, daughter of privilege, the cadre's great prize and yet never allowed to feel she entirely belongs, Jenny believes she's found someone to care for, and perhaps befriend. "We spend so much time hashing out the big forces that control our lives," one of Jenny's old comrades tells her, "but then sometimes I think you don't notice the personal things. All the messy emotional things. Those control our lives too."
This is a masterfully plotted book, but Jenny is driven by her own interior quandaries, not the imperatives of storytelling. American Woman feels organic, not constructed; it's a mature, fully realized work (though only Choi's second novel) that does everything a novel should do and seldom does in this day and age. It shows us the ways that character can be destiny, the big and the little forces that control our lives, the possibility that our worst choices will ultimately seem worth it, and the strange and circuitous paths by which a soul as lost as Jenny Shimada's can find its way home.
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Monica Ali's Brick Lane: review
As her white neighbors become more openly xenophobic and her lover grows more radical, Nazneen finds herself in a world of passions ? political and personal ? as destructive as the repressed world she considers leaving behind. Her salvation comes not by doing what she's told or by choosing from the options of saint or sinner as outlined for her, but by daring to imagine a life outside those boundaries. Ali follows her progress so closely, so sympathetically that it's a moment of real delight when Nazneen finally cries out, "I will say what happens to me. I will be the one."
In the liberated West, of course, we've long known that women have other options: Madame Bovary can choke on poison, Edna Pontellier can walk into the sea, Thelma and Louise can drive off that cliff. How ironic that a young Muslim woman from Bangladesh should find a path that's neither nihilistic nor self-centered.
British critics have called her the next Zadie Smith, presumably because they're both young, nonwhite females who blasted onto the literary scene with Booker- nominated bestsellers about immigrant culture in London. But Ali displays none of Smith's pyrotechnics or her sprawling scope and scale. Biology aside, a better comparison would be with Anita Brookner, that non-young, blisteringly white matron of British fiction whose quiet incisive novels scrutinize the plight of lonely people.
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Monday, November 17, 2003
You can never go home
On McSweeney's attempt to put the story back in short stories: review
Some time around 1950, short fiction lost the plot. That is what Michael Chabon claims in his introduction to this special edition of McSweeney's. Until that somewhat arbitrary date, he argues, the term "short fiction" would conjure up all sorts of generic associations: the ghost story; the horror story; the detective story; the story of suspense, terror, fantasy or the macabre; the sea, adventure, spy, war or historical story; the romance story. "Stories", he asserts, "with plots." Since that time, we have endured the hegemony of "the contemporary, quotidian, plotless, moment-of-truth revelatory story". As Bryan Ferry once wrote, "Looking for love in a looking-glass world/Is pretty hard for you".
Chabon's mission, like that of some intrepid character from one of the tales here, is to "revive the lost genres of short fiction".
In an extreme way [Eggers's story] illustrates a tendency that characterizes much of this volume; Eggers is not "reviving" a lost genre in the way Chabon's introduction asserts, but registering our distance from those ripping yarns, from their historical and aesthetic forms.
I find something troubling about the lavishly anachronistic layout ("It has been designed to resemble a pulp magazine from the 1940s"), and in the incorporation of actual advertisements (and parodies of them; in McSweeney's universe it is ever more difficult to separate the two) that were once the staples of the pulps: ads for dubious correspondence courses, cheap clothing for outdoor workers, manual typewriters for hire at 10 cents a day, jobs as mail clerks. Ads which once appealed to -- and exploited -- the genuine aspirations and deprivations of their original readers have here become items of kitsch for the amusement of McSweeney's highly educated and knowing subscribers. This is one of the dangers of attempting to revive symbolically not just a predilection for plot but the historical context in which those plots were situated.
These stories once fired young and old imaginations, made mundane early 20th century life palatable. Now we're just looking for something to anchor us in a fairly stable "reality" for a little while.
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Post at ctc on the new Didion
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Sunday, November 16, 2003
Portuguese writer Fernando Pessoa's remarkable The Book of Disquiet appears to be a "memoir" of someone with Beckett's sensibility and self-imposed Dissociative Identity Disorder (yikes and wonderful): reviews here and here
Throughout, Pessoa is aware of the price he pays for his heteronomity. 'To create, I've destroyed myself... I'm the empty stage where various actors act out various plays.' He compares his soul to 'a secret orchestra' (shades of Baudelaire) whose instruments strum and bang inside him: 'I only know myself as the symphony.' At moments, suicidal despair, a 'self-nihilism', are close. 'Anything, even tedium', a finely ironising reservation, rather than 'this bluish, forlorn indefiniteness of everything!' Is there any city which cultivates sadness more lovingly than does Lisbon? Even the stars only 'feign light'. Appropriately, each review suggests the merits of a different translation; the Guardian reviewer likes the Richard Zenith which is available at the amazon link above, while Trisha Yost over at Powell's prefers Margaret Jull Costa's take. There are 3 English translations altogether.
Yet there are also epiphanies and passages of deep humour. In the 'forests of estrangements', Pessoa comes upon resplendent Oriental cities. Women are a chosen source of dreams but 'Don't ever touch them'. There are snapshots of clerical routine, of the vacant business of bureaucracy worthy of Melville's Bartleby. The sense of the comedy of the inanimate is acute: 'Over the pyjamas of my abandoned sleep...' The juxtapositions have a startling resonance: 'I'm suffering from a headache and the universe.' A sort of critical, self-mocking surrealism surfaces: 'To have touched the feet of Christ is no excuse for mistakes in punctuation.' Or that fragment of a sentence which may come close to encapsulating Pessoa's unique reckoning: '... intelligence, an errant fiction of the surface'.
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Todd McEwen's Who Sleeps with Katz sounds like an engaging paean to a 20th century New York that may soon be a memory
And yet Who Sleeps With Katz (the title suggestive of what we do when faced with the loss of our closest friend) scrupulously avoids sentimentality by its edge of crankiness, by its conviction that New York City is a mystery whose secrets are open to anyone who is open to it. MacK and Izzy's elucidation of the character of various neighborhoods and streets, and the imperceptible yet quicksilver change that comes over the city as you pass from one to the other, is the antithesis of the false bonhomie you find in that tourist "classic," E.B. White's Here Is New York. The key to New York, in the view of both McEwen and his characters, is embracing its energy (what is often seen as its rudeness) rather than insulating yourself from it. Thus he writes of bars and corner delis and public buildings with some character in a nearly sacrosanct way, as refuges that are not disconnected from the world outside, each offering succor and expressing the grace the city can exude.I spent some time visiting New York from the mid 70s to 1990, and there was definitely something ineffable about it, maddening though it often was. I ended up being glad to leave it, partially because of its eurocentrism and teeth-grinding energy. But I'm glad I got to experience it.
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Li Zhensheng's Red-Color News Soldier coolly and mercilessly documents the sadistic excesses of China's Cultural Revolution in unaltered, previously unseen photographs: review
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Julie Gregory's Sickened : The Memoir of a Munchausen by Proxy Childhood is a very disturbing read I'm sure, but the author not only survived but triumphed and now is a psychiatrist and spokesperson for this kind of abuse: review
...Gregory captures the sometimes bucolic pleasures as well as the sometimes horrific isolation that her rural family home provided. Her shock at discovering her mother is the perpetrator of her pain is heartbreaking as is her eventual resolutions of how to finally take control of her life. That Gregory survived her abuse and can continue to see her mother for all her beauty as well as her psychosis is remarkable. That she records it all in a hypnotic, compelling, and necessarily humane manner is testament to a wise and wonderful woman.
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