Entries Tagged as 'art & entertainment'

art & entertainmentbooks & writing

Graphic Novel Review: “Crusades” by Izu, Nikolavitch and Xiaoyou

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One of the things I like most about European graphic novels is the wide range of genres on offer. Some of these are very different from what you can find in American comics, where you very rarely encounter historical epics. In France though, you can find stories set in the Middle Ages, Ancient Rome, Renaissance Italy, Byzantium or set in the Middle East during the crusades. Indeed, my understanding is that the French are crazy for stories set during the crusades. [Read more →]

Michael Cade's audio files

Audio files: Happy birthday, Herbie Hancock

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Hello, welcome to a special Friday Audio Files column that exists for the sole purpose of wishing “happy birthday” to the great Herbie Hancock. (h/t to pal Ethan.)

J-a-z-z   F-u-n-k!

My favorite Herbie album is probably Secrets, though the man has a huge catalogue of great material from which to choose, making any attempt at a “favorites” list something of a fool’s errand.

[Read more →]

musicThe Emperor decrees

The Emperor decrees that people must be officially approved before claiming that they “listen to everything”

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I have been declared Emperor of the World. Let us not waste time explaining why or how; let’s all simply accept the fact that we are better off, as a result; hence, my next decree:

Emperor’s Decree No. 9-X/32-CMany make this claim, in an attempt to prove their sophistication: “I listen to everything.” This claim, of course, is a reference to their musical tastes. (Usually, it indicates a complete lack of musical taste, but that is subjective and the Emperor would never want to be subjective.) The sad part is that this claim is usually made by those who make it in referencing the fact that they have pop, rock, rap and country on their playlists. This, to these ignorant auditors, is, “everything.” (And, no, it does not count that you listen to variants within rock and pop. One is not being musically explorational because one listens to Led Zeppelin and Slipknot and Rick Springfield. It is also fair to point out that music is not automatically experimental because its composer wears wool caps in the summer.) In short, most who make the claim of listening to “everything” are like an ant on a beach who, tuckered out after a good three-inch walk, exclaims “Well, I have now seen the world.”  He has seen grains of several different shapes, but, the fact remains, they are still a particular kind of sand. Henceforth, no one may claim that they listen to “everything” until their playlist contains at least 75% names  and works from outside the popular realm and whose works are not available on collections of “relaxing music” sold in endcaps at Target.

The Punishment: Those who wish to make the “everything” claim must be cleared by the Emperor, himself. He will quiz the person in question, who will need to score an 80% or above on a quiz filled with questions like: “Who wrote ‘Koyunbaba’?” — or, “Who was Count Basie’s legendary rhythm guitarist?” — or, “What American orchestra is best know for interpreting French Impressionism?” — or, “What Irish traditional band once teamed up with Roger Daltry for a recording of ‘Behind Blue Eyes?” Those who fail and still continue to make the claim will be chained to the dungeon wall and forced to listen to the entire catalog on their own MP3 player performed by a precocious child with a comb and some wax paper.

Now, go forth and obey.

The Emperor will grace the world with a new decree each Tuesday morning.

art & entertainmentends & odd

Screw you, Citizen Kane: Stephen Baldwin is about to debut!

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“Stephen Baldwin is set to make his directorial debut in ‘Riding Destiny,’ a feature film about an extreme-sports surfer-stuntman who returns home to fix his broken cowboy family.”

I’ll give you a moment to recover from having your mind blown.

(Pause)

That’s all I can spare. Behold it again.

“Stephen Baldwin is set to make his directorial debut in ‘Riding Destiny,’ a feature film about an extreme-sports surfer-stuntman who returns home to fix his broken cowboy family.”

And suddenly the world is a very different place.

[Read more →]

art & entertainmentcreative writing

Lease Exodus: A Passover Tale

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Here’s a short little piece – a prequel, of sorts – I wrote to celebrate the current Jewish and my enduring hatred of apartments and landlords.

art & entertainmenttrusted media & news

Tutus gone wild! The Bolshoi Theater acid attack

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Ballet: sometimes it’s better if the curtains stay closed.

For somebody who’s not remotely interested in ballet, I’ve watched a lot of ballet. I acquired my experience by accident, after getting to know a Moscow bank executive in the early 2000s. He had a box close to the stage at his permanent disposal, and offered me free access. Figuring I might as well see what this jumping about in tutus lark was about I went very often, for a year or so.

I can’t recall much of what I saw now, and probably remember the weird ones better than the good ones. [Read more →]

televisionThe Emperor decrees

The Emperor decrees that television station names must consist only of full words

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I have been declared Emperor of the World. Let us not waste time explaining why or how; let’s all simply accept the fact that we are better off, as a result; hence, my next decree:

Emperor’s Decree No. 99-08-7: The Emperor used to enjoy the “Independent Film Channel.” He also used to enjoy “The Learning Channel.” Time was, one could learn by watching “The Learning Channel.” In fact, the very first show the Emperor remembers watching on the newly launched station was about refrigerators and how they work. Learning. Soon after, he watched a show on ancient warriors. He learned stuff — which is what one would expect from “The Learning Channel.” Sensing, one supposes, that neither learning nor teaching is a lucrative endeavor, the station, at some point, changed to “TLC.” Arguably, one can still learn about which type of shoes one ought to wear with yoga pants, but, other than that, it has generally become a channel with shows about weird families. Likewise, before the “Independent Film Channel” became “IFC,” it showed rarely-seen, less-than-blockbuster, “independent” films, all of the time. Magically, it became “IFC.” The other day, the Emperor, happily wielding the Imperial Remote, caught the opening to Lethal Weapon 2, which starts not only with the classic (and decidedly big-studio-associated) Warner Brother’s logo, but with a brash rendition of the old “Looney Tunes” theme. Down in the corner of the screen was the station I.D. You guessed it: “IFC.” No more of this thinly-veiled deception! Henceforth, television channel names must consist only of complete words. If the content of the channel changes, the name of the station must also change to reflect that content. 

The Punishment: The heads of stations who commit this crime against the Empire will have their names changed, legally, to their own initials. On second offense, they will be changed to someone else’s initials. On a third offense, they will all spend the rest of their lives being called “The Artist Formerly Known as Prince.”

Now, go forth and obey.

The Emperor will grace the world with a new decree each Tuesday morning.

art & entertainmenttravel & foreign lands

Iran vs. Hollywood

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Xerxes: awesome?

So anyway, apparently the Mullahs of Iran are not scary theocrats after all. They’re actually tender petals with exquisitely sensitive feelings. In fact, I hear they silently weep into their beards when nobody is looking.

No, really: according to The Guardian, the regime has just hired a French lawyer named Isabelle Coutant-Peyre to take the directors and producers of Hollywood to court for something they call “Iranophobia.” Speaking this Monday at the intriguingly titled “The Hoax of Hollywood” conference, Coutant-Peyre said: “I’ll be defending Iran against films that have been made by Hollywood to distort the country’s image, such as ‘Argo.’” [Read more →]
Michael Cade's audio files

Audio files: The pathos of Jacko, plus muumuus and balloons

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I’ve been listening to vintage Michael Jackson lately. The ancient stuff.

And I continue to be struck by the transformation MJ went through over the years.

This has been documented ad nauseam, but it still makes for compelling speculation, mostly because the metamorphosis was so stunning. How exactly does one go from wholesome teen idol to David Cronenberg creature? What forces must conspire to create such a mess?

[Read more →]

art & entertainmentmusic

Non-stinky rock n’ roll side projects

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Ah, the rock n’ roll side project: in any long career it’s difficult for a rock star to resist the temptation to indulge. Weary of their official identities, worn out by fan expectations, they seek in a change of name or collaborators a reinvigoration of the creative juices.  So yes: while Mick Jagger’s Superheavy was indeed pretty rotten, it is easy to understand why he joined up with Dave Stewart, Joss Stone, one of the Marleys and that chap from Slumdog Millionaire.

THIS IS BAD, DON’T LISTEN TO IT:

[Read more →]

Bob Sullivan's top ten everythingmovies

Top ten movie mashups

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10. The Bourne Yesterday

9. Escape to Brokeback Mountain

8. The Empire Strikes Back to the Future

7. Alien vs. Kramer

6. My Left Footloose

5. Dr. Strangelove Is a Many-Splendored Thing

4. No Country for Grumpy Old Men

3. The Dark Knight of the Living Dead

2. Romeo & Dumber

1. Slumdog Squarepants
 

Bob Sullivan’s Top Ten Everything appears every Monday.

art & entertainmentbooks & writing

The good Stalinist

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Àíäðåé Ïëàòîíîâ

“Hm? What? Stalin? Yeah, I kind of dig him…”

As a fan of Soviet literature, one of my great frustrations is the lack of good writing from a pro-Stalin perspective. There is no shortage of books about the evils of Stalin and the system he created- Solzhenitsyn, Shalamov and Bulgakov all spring to mind- but what about those writers who actually believed in his vision for the USSR? [Read more →]

art & entertainmentbooks & writing

Orwell’s 1984: A Literary Appreciation

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Winston stopped reading for a moment. Somewhere in remote distance a rocket bomb thundered. The blissful feeling of being alone with the forbidden book, in a room with no telescreen, had not worn off. Solitude and safety were physical sensations, mixed up somehow with the tiredness of his body, the softness of the chair, the touch of the faint breeze from the window that played upon his cheek. The book fascinated him, or more exactly it reassured him. In a sense it told him nothing that was new, but that was part of the attraction. It said what he would have said, if it had been possible for him to set his scattered thoughts in order. It was the product of a mind similar to his own, but enormously more powerful, more systematic, less fear-ridden. The best books, he perceived, are those that tell you what you know already.

This past weekend I re-read Orwell’s 1984. Or maybe re-reread since I’m fairly sure I’ve read it twice before. You might expect from the title of this blog entry that it would be an appreciation of the book’s themes and significance and how today’s world is more like Oceania than ever … et cetera. But it (the blog) won’t be.

It’s not that I don’t appreciate the significance and incisiveness of the book. I very much do. And reading it again I appreciated it more than ever, even to the point that it didn’t seem all that ‘depressing’ – because it wasn’t all that shocking. The photo posted here was taken yesterday on an NJ Transit train. Note the flat, built-in ‘telescreen,’ the surveillance camera, and the loudspeaker. Seem familiar?

Speaking of significance, as a brief aside, I recently watched The Wire, and I was struck at how well 1984 depicts the drug trade, with its 24/7 surveillance, its complete intolerance for dissention and individual thought, and its willingness to ‘vaporize’ anyone for any reason. The parallel works because 1984 is describing a dictatorship, which is what the drug trade is, and exactly as Orwell writes: a dictatorship not as much about money or luxury but pure power. (We especially see this in drug lord Marlo Stanfield.) But don’t get me started on The Wire.

Reading 1984 this time, I especially wanted to examine the literary merits of the story. Would I see through the story and recognize 1984 as ‘merely’ a brilliant essay disguised as a novel?

Nope. Don’t doubt Orwell, is the lesson. On this go ‘round, I was lock-and-stock sold on the literary quality of 1984. Let’s look at just a few finer points:

[Read more →]

Bob Sullivan's top ten everythingmusic

Top ten things overheard at last night’s Grammys

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10. “How are LeAnn Rimes and Busta Rhymes related, exactly?”

9. “Yes, I’m Vanilla Ice. Now can I show you to your seat?”

8. “In what month is thing scheduled to end?”

7. “What’s the difference between ‘Album of the Year’ and ‘Record of the Year’?”

6. “Exactly when did Taylor Swift join Cirque du Soleil?”

5. “I hear Snoop Dogg got endorsement deals in both Colorado and Washington State.”

4. “I haven’t seen this many commercials since the Clios.”

3. “This year they’re giving a Grammy for Artist Whose CD Was Easiest To Open.”

2. “I’m glad Adele mentioned she was pregnant. For a second there I thought she was up for Best Group Performance.”

1. “Excuse me, but I want to introduce Lady Gaga to the Goo Goo Dolls…Gaga, Goo Goo!…Goo Goo, Gaga!…Oh, and look who just came in: Kajagoogoo!”
 

Bob Sullivan’s Top Ten Everything appears every Monday.

adviceart & entertainment

Caveat Emptor: Pop Scholarship in a Mass Media World

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I recently picked up a non-fiction book called Generation Me. I wasn’t expecting a monumental work, but about fifty pages in I set it aside in boredom and disgust. Bamboozled again, by my old nemesis: pop scholarship.

What is pop scholarship? Let’s break it down.

The author proposes a vague, generic ‘thesis': the twilight of American culture, the “tipping point” of trends and fads, the American dream meeting American medicine, and so on. It’s not really a thesis so much as a catchphrase.

The next step is for the author to gather data and evidence for his ahem, thesis. But that takes a lot of work, so what really happens is that the author reads a few books on a similar topic and calls that research. Toss in some Wikipedia and a few journal articles for good measure, and presto! A bibliography. As far as statistics in pop scholarship: well, as the joke goes, “I never meta-analysis I didn’t like.”

By the way, when you read pop scholarship, take note that while there is a “Notes” section at the back of the back, there are no footnotes or endnotes actually in the text. Why not? Well, for one, the author and/or publisher is afraid that a potential reader will be turned off by seeing superscript numbers that correspond with the source of information. Second, when your research is shallow and shoddy and your sources reflect that, it makes sense to make it difficult for readers to keep tabs.

Anyway, once the research is gathered, it’s time to write. Actually, many of these works aren’t written at all: they’re dictated, which is why the prose of pop scholarship often sounds so colloquial or dumbed-down. Still, the authors are wily, and if they sense they’ve gone too far, even for pop scholarship, out come the academic buzzwords or jargon (anything containing “paradigm” or “gender roles” are especially handy).

But finally the drafting is done. Whew. Unfortunately, the manuscript is barely long enough for a good, in-depth magazine article, let alone a book. And this is another point about pop scholarship books. Most of them aren’t books at all. They’re simply bloated articles or blog entries sold as books. Of course, readers don’t realize this until long after the credit card is approved.

Back to the writing process, though. How can the author pump their flimsy essay into a book? Bring on the filler.

And this filler is the most offensive aspect of these “lite” non-fiction works. The pages sag with miniature book reviews, movie synopses, factoids, annoying repetition, newly-minted useless acronyms, and personal anecdotes, rather than primary-source data, investigative reporting, apt analogies and genuine insight. Generation Me is especially shameless with its never-ending TV and movie recaps, which make for delicious irony given the author’s griping about modern-day attention spans. In fact, an Amazon customer review from “Sam B” – and these reviews are usually the only honest ones of pop scholarship – points this out trenchantly:

While the beginning of the book is made up of one insight after another backed up by some quality and unique research,  the rest of the book is one point of hearsay after another backed up by quotes from Dawson’s Creek and Teen magazines. Seriously! I was shocked that a supposed academic would use dialogue from a television show as insight into a generation, and then have the audacity to call it “research”. She would actually use fictional television dialogue to lend support to her analysis. If she hoped to define a generation, a lot more is needed than pop culture references.

[Read more →]

moviesThe Emperor decrees

The Emperor decrees that Thaddeus T. Wimplenoodle must die

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I have been declared Emperor of the World. Let us not waste time explaining why or how; let’s all simply accept the fact that we are better off, as a result; hence, my next decree:

Emperor’s Decree No. 24FPS: The Emperor has not, as yet, sentenced anyone summarily to death, but now is the time. Or, rather, the past is the time. Who, you might often have asked, was the sadistic monster who decided that popcorn should be served in movie theaters? What sick son-of-a-mother decided that the loudest-chewing snack in the history of mankind, served in the loudest-crinkling bag possible, should be the staple treat at an entertainment medium that depends upon audible dialogue; that operates on sometimes delicate, sometimes sublime emotional levels that can be crushed by the slightest peripheral disturbance? We’ll tell you: one Thaddeus T. Wimplenoodle, in the year 1927. (The Imperial Historians were up all night tracking down this information — don’t bother trying to verify it.) Was this beast trying to drive theater-goers into homicidal rages as a result of their being surrounded by entire families full of grunting, bag-crinkling, slack-jawed, open-mouthed chompers? The very idea is a sign of severely sociopathic intentions. Someone like that should never have been allowed to live and the tradition of popcorn in movie theaters must be stopped.

The Punishment: The Imperial Quantum Physicists have sent an Imperial Assassin back in time. Assuming the Imperial Assassin doesn’t accidentally kill his own grandfather, you should count on an unexplained offering of, say, padded cardboard boxes full of marshmallows instead of popcorn at your next theater visit. In short, Thaddeus T. Wimplenoodle must die (or, must have died) before he can (could have) unleash (unleashed) such malignant madness into the world.

Now, go forth and obey.

The Emperor will grace the world with a new decree each Tuesday morning

Bob Sullivan's top ten everythingmovies

Top ten Disneyland-Lucasfilm projects planned for the new year

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10. When You Wish Upon A Death Star

9. Snow White and the Seven Ewoks

8. The Lightsaber in the Stone

7. No Deposit, No Return of the Jedi

6. Raiders of the Lost Duck

5. The Princess Leia Diaries

4. Atlantis: The Lost Empire Strikes Back

3. Song of the Sith

2. Randy Quaid in The Wookiee

1. Dumb and Dumber starring Goofy and Jar Jar Binks
 

Bob Sullivan’s Top Ten Everything appears every Monday.

Bob Sullivan's top ten everythingmusic

Top ten names of rock bands, just before they picked their current names

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10. Silver Beatles

9. The Strolling Roans

8. Guns and Bayonets

7. The Windows

6. Little Head Todd and the Monsters

5. The What

4. Motley Crew

3. Flaming Eyeballs

2. U1

1. Ezra
 

Bob Sullivan’s Top Ten Everything appears every Monday.

Bob Sullivan's top ten everythingmovies

Top ten signs your film won’t be nominated for an Academy Award

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10. It’s called The Life of Pie, starring Chris Christie

9. Tyler Perry’s in it, but he’s not wearing a dress

8. The title contains either the words ‘John’ or ‘Carter’

7. The opening and the closing credits meet in the middle

6. It was filmed in 1D

5. The jury at Cannes found you “Guilty as charged”

4. It’s based on a board game

3. Like last year’s winner, The Artist, it’s a silent film — but that’s due to a technical error

2. Adam Sandler is at his zaniest

1. Roger Ebert gave it two thumbs down and a middle finger up
 

Bob Sullivan’s Top Ten Everything appears every Monday.

diatribesmusic

Cafe Music Crankiness

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Those who know me know this is continuing struggle of mine: music played at cafes.

I was recently at a cafe, OCF on South St, and the music was spectacularly bad. When I arrived it was thumping techno — not electronica or lounge — TECHNO. After a little while I approached the barista and semi-tactfully explained that the music was intrusive, poorly-selected, and too loud for the cafe. So he changed it, to a mix of…

…calypso music. I’m not joking. I thought he was, at first, to spite me, but no, he was serious. That’s what hipsters do. They tend shop at cafes in ironic ugly Christmas sweaters, playing calypso.

But at least the calypso was pretty soft and not too offensive, even if it made no sense to play it on a freezing cold December day. Once that mix was over, the playlist of fail continued:

– Electronica, none of which was listenable
– The full “Loveless” album by My Bloody Valentine. Now this is an “important” album and I get that. It’s overrated, though, because Kevin Shields’s legendary perfectionism and layering process makes the sound more muddled than it should be. Hence how good Japancakes’s cover (of the whole album) sounds. Regardless, anyone who knows MBV knows it’s not cafe music.
– Drone music

You read that right, too. Drone music. It’s exactly what it sounds like. Like a blog entry wwwwwwrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrriiiiiiiiiiiittttttttteeeeeeeeeeennnnnnnnn lllllllllllliiiiiiiiiiikkkkkeeeeeeeeeeeeee ttttttttthhhhhhhhhhhhhhiiiiissssssssss.

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