Legends of Film: Victor J. Kemper

By , February 25, 2009

Bill brings us an exclusive interview with Victor J. Kemper, cinematographer of such films a Dog Day Afternoon, Pee Wee’s Big Adventure and Coma.

Music review: Amasskoul – Tinariwen

By , February 15, 2009

amassakoulAmassakoul
By Tinariwen, 2003

4 stars

Nashville Public Library is pleased to have in our collection amazing music from around the world. The band I’m highlighting here is just one of the many, so go to your local library and make a musical discovery!

First a little background about the band whose name is TINARIWEN, and how they came to be. The Touregs have lived as nomads in the Sahara for hundreds of years. In the 1960’s, the newly created African nations of Mali, Chad, and others, didn’t know how to handle these nomads. The Malian Touregs rose in rebellion against restrictions on their lifestyle, but were crushed by the new government. Then severe drought forced many to migrate to the other side of the Sahara, to live in refugee and military training camps in Algeria and Libya. It is in those camps the future band members of TINARIWEN met and were exposed to the sounds of Western music icons, such as Hendrix, Marley and Dylan.

TINARIWEN formed an ensemble that created a new musical tradition, trading in their traditional lutes and shepherd’s flutes for electric guitars. In 2003, they released a record called Amassakoul. The lyrics often speak of political awakening, exile, and the repression of their people. Their music grooves like the ever-changing waves in the desert sand. You’ll hear the rock, folk, and blues influences, flavored with their own musical traditions. We also have TINARIWEN’S 2007 release called Water is Life, so grab your library card – you know what to do!

- Crystal

Book review: Punching in: The Unauthorized Adventures of a Front-Line Employee

By , February 9, 2009

Punching in: The Unauthorized Adventures of a Front-Line Employee
By Frankel, Alex

This was quite an informative and interesting book, with many hilarious encounters told with candor and an eye for detail. Ever wonder what it’s like to work for the brown army of UPS during the Christmas season? How about selling extras to customers at Enterprise Rent a Car, a place where the phrase “6 figures in 6 years” was bandied about by upper management to trainees. Alex Frankel got to work at both places for a while; he also tried to gain employment with Home Depot and Whole Foods but the interview process weeded him out. His arcane group interview at the Container Store was particularly unusual and funny. He ends his journey after the sheer boredom of folding clothes at the Gap (a place no longer apparently that cool, but where hip individualism survives despite many policies and a dress code) and an exhausting stint at Starbucks, with a more enlightened retail experience at the Apple Store.

Set in San Francisco over a couple of years, this is a whirlwind tour in which you’ll experience the sometimes complex indoctrination processes, the levels of management (and their sometimes painfully urgent meetings, incentive charts, goal setting and evaluation systems) and meet several driven coworkers that sometimes let Alex feel like he is actually “one of them.” Corporate culture from an insider’s front- line perspective – a brave and very entertaining endeavor!

- Phil

Book review: Northline

By , February 9, 2009

Northline [With CD]
By Vlautin, Willy

When I started reading Northline I thought to myself, “this is way too dark and depressing to be reading in the middle of winter!” The main character is so compelling, I had to read her through. Allison is a 22 year old high school dropout living in Nevada, whose now secretly carrying the baby of her abusive boyfriend. She’s made some bad choices, and has experienced terrible trauma. Alison sneaks off to Reno to have the baby and give it up for adoption. When she experiences terrible bouts of anxiety, her hallucination of Paul Newman (RIP) offers her advice and comfort.

Singer-songwriter Willy Vlautin’s second novel “Northline” reads like a film that’s gritty and full of real people with real problems. Read this if you like dark human drama.

NOTE: The limited edition includes a CD of songs he composed while writing the novel.

- Crystal

Book review: Dhalgren

By , February 5, 2009

Dhalgren
By Delany, Samuel R.

Wow. Either there is a fictional Midwestern city, Bellona, where some sort of environmental disaster has occurred and now space-time there is in flux, or there was a disaster in said city and the narrator has escaped from a psychiatric hospital and we experience things through his perspective. The narrator in question can’t remember his name, but chances upon moniker “the Kid.” Also seemingly falling to place-time is Kid’s emergence within the half-abandoned city as its de facto poet laureate and chief gang leader.

The relationship between the upper classes and rebellious gangs is amorphous due to the necessities of survival. The city becomes a laboratory for social experiments about sexuality, gender, race, class, violence, and mental health. The novel is metafictional and the relationship between reader/author, signifier/signified, intention/perception is all on the table. The line between the author and characters are blurred. We are never sure if Bellona constantly geographically shifting or Kid’s mind is shifting. We are never sure if things are happening by chance or whether Kid is willing them to happen. The novel is hyper-subjective, but I’m not sure if the narrator is Kid or the city of Bellona itself. Dhalgren is a fantastical carousel of possible meanings that Delany places devilishly on the blurry edge of figure and ground.

The length of this book intimidates some readers, but Delany brings it all home in the end with a satisfaction you’d rarely get from get from other ergodic texts. Not that all that much is resolved, but meaning impregnates the text retroactively. The final sections of the book justify the picaresque structure of first three fourths. Dhalgren has been wrongly classified by many into the science fiction genre. Dhalgren is surreal, but its images to do not emerge from the unconscious. Its images are the nightmare traces of the structures of power revealed. In this way, Dhalgren is not an unconscious work, but a hyperconscious one.

Bryan

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