Music Review: 24 Postcards in Full Colour

By , August 31, 2010

max-richter-24-postcards24 Postcards in Full Colour
by Max Richter

In addition to Independence Day and National Hot Dog Month, July marked Cell Phone Courtesy Month.  Let me challenge you to celebrate year round!

If ring tones were more sonically pleasing, perhaps it wouldn’t matter if we forgot our manners and failed to silence our cell phones in public places.  Enter composer Max Richter.  Richter’s 2008 album 24 Postcards in Full Colour is a collection of dreamy and atmospheric musical moments, composed with the intention they be used as ring tones. The longest track is a mere 2 and a ½ minutes.

Richter was born in Germany, but his family moved to the UK when he was a young lad.  Growing up he listened to a whole lot of Philip Glass, Pink Floyd, The Clash, and artists in the electronic music scene such as Kraftwerk.  After completing studies in composition and piano, Richter spent time in an ensemble that played works by composers such as the aforementioned Philip Glass, Brian Eno, and Steve Reich.  Richter eventually began to focus on his own compositions releasing solo albums in the 2000’s, which brings us back to 24 Postcards.  Some music snobs will say these very brief compositions are a creative cop-out, I say don’t forget it’s a concept album!

The album name, 24 Postcards in Full Colour, not only refers to the 24 tracks, but to the 24 accompanying photos in the liner notes.  These snapshots, some of which were taken by Richter, add more facets of insight and enjoyment to the listening experience.   He has also scored films, including last year’s Waltz with Bashir.

So always remember to practice cell phone courtesy.  And the next time you decide to assign a new ring tone, think of Max Richter.  Or consider John Cage’s most famous composition…

Popmatic Podcast: Cherie Priest

By , August 27, 2010

Bryan brings us an interview with Locus Award winning author Cherie Priest. They talk zombies, steampunk, and pretending to a vampire in the lobby the Grand Ole Opry Hotel.

Read Cherie Priest (WorldCat)

DVD review: Big Fan

By , August 25, 2010

big fan  Big Fan

Just in time for football season, check out this character study of obsessive New York Giants fan Paul Aufiero (comedian Patton Oswalt, in a remarkable performance).  After some overzealous stalking of his favorite player leads to an assault, he has to decide where his loyalties lie.  Some of the best moments are the nightly calls he makes to his local sports radio show, as well as his rivalry with another frequent caller, Eagles fan Philadelphia Phil.  Highly recommended even for non-sports fans (it was a Sundance favorite last year, and was directed by the screenwriter of The Wrestler).

-Beth

Crystal’s picks: Sean Connery

By , August 24, 2010

crystalspicks_markeeActor Sean Connery, born in 1930 in Edinburgh, Scotland, and celebrates his birthday on August 25th.

Although best known for portraying James Bond in six feature films (1962-1971), Connery has maintained a successful career post-Bond. He has portrayed four different kings: King Daniel Dravot in The Man Who Would Be King (1975), King Agamemnon in Time Bandits (1981), King Richard in Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves (1991) and King Arthur in First Knight (1995). He won the Best Supporting Actor Oscar and Golden Globe for his role in The Untouchables (1987). Connery was awarded Knighthood of the British Empire in the 2000 Queen’s Millennium Honors List for his services to Film Drama. His latest feature film role was Allan Quartermain in The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen (2003). Connery lives in the Bahamas.

Check out movies with Sean Connery

Book review: 5-Star Cookbooks

By , August 18, 2010

Need some new recipes in your repertoire?  Check out these four cookbooks for some quick, easy, and delectable ideas. 

Cooking Light: Fresh Food Fast

The Frugal Foodie Cookbook

Southern Living Complete Quick and Easy Cookbook

Nigella Express: Good Food, Fast  

-Beth

DVD review: Gentlemen Broncos

By , August 9, 2010

gentlemen broncosGentlemen Broncos

Fifteen year old Benjamin (Michael Angarano) is an aspiring SF writer whose manuscript is ripped off by Chevalier (Jemaine Clement) his aging literary hero.  Getting his manuscript back is hilarious business as Benjamin also has to moonlight for mother’s custom nightgown business to make ends meet. Chevalier isn’t only person that wants Benjamin’s story. A local film production company is also trying to pervert his precocious novel. Gentlemen Broncos is a story within a story. Besides Benjamin’s quest to get his words back, we see his book, The Yeast Lords: The Bronco Years, envisioned by three different minds on three different budgets. Yes, The Yeast Lords is as funny/awful as it sounds. Imagine the rad doodlings of Napoleon Dynamite’s notebooks come to life. Brought to us  by the same creative team behind Napoleon Dynamite, Broncos hilariously spoofs pompous SF writers and their geeked-out conventions (both literary and hotel-bound). You’re allowed to laugh if you are a nerd. Come to think of it, you probably won’t get it otherwise. I laughed the covers off my paperbacks.

The opening credits are a buzz inducing collection of trash surreal SF paperbacks with the lettering altered. If you appreciate that kind of thing you might enjoy:

Good Show Sir: Only the Worst Sci-fi/Fantasy Book Covers
The name says it all.

Awful Library Books
Yeah, the worst books ever offered up to be chortled over before hitting the dustbin. All genres, but tends to lean to outdated nonfiction.

- Bryan

Popmatic Podcast: August Edition

By , August 4, 2010

We’re August hot. Amanda transmorphs with the novels of Rachel Vincent. Crystal goes arty and mobile when she considers 21st century music of Max Richter. Bill celebrates one of the best movies never to get a video release, The Friends of Eddie Coyle, which is out now on DVD.

Check out titles mentioned in this episode

Let it Bleed: The Rolling Stones, Altamont and the End of the Sixties

By , August 2, 2010

letitbleed

Let it Bleed: The Rolling Stones, Altamont and the End of the Sixties
By Ethan A. Russell

Whoah! Quite a gripping and sometimes harrowing work with many of the photographs being simply stunning (and never before seen).
Reading about the Stones’ 1969 tour (with Mick Taylor & Ian Stewart on board) – Mick Jagger lamenting about being “so old” back then – is time travel at it’s best.
You get a sense of the evolving chaos from various perspectives, including photographer Ethan Russell, the band members, security man Tony Funches (who knocked out two Hells Angels and lived to tell about it) and others.
The book builds to the final concert, a huge festival held at the Altamont Speedway in northern California on December 6th. I had a really chilled, near visceral reaction to the firsthand accounts of what transpired here, with the Hells Angels providing “security” and ultimately stabbing a fan (who had a gun) to death near the stage.  A detail is dropped in then a few pages later you see a photograph and instantly “get it”.  A thousand words many times over, indeed.
The parallels mentioned to getting out of Vietnam by helicopter were right on as this concert was often a scene of mayhem, violence and general disorder. Not a happy scene.
Some of the photographs capture fans – some oblivious, many high, some focused on what is happening – from the stage, where the crush of humanity must have been stifling at best. The photo of a stunned looking Bill Wyman in the helicopter about to take off after the show is a real shocker, a moment in time.
The polar opposite of Woodstock, I’m not sure how anyone can argue that this event didn’t clearly “end the sixties”.

-Phil

Book review: Blood and Guts in High School

By , August 2, 2010

Blood and Guts in High School
by Kathy Acker

Kathy Acker is a burning hot razor blade. She can disembowel you. She can purify you. Defining the aboutness of her books is a difficult task due to her aggressive methodology, but here goes: Blood and Guts in High School is nominally about Janie Smith, who begins life as a sex slave to her “father” in Mexico, only to escape (or be abandoned) to New York were she discovers true poverty and punk rock. From there, her life lapses through a dream sequence of enslavements and rebellions by and against various masters and complexes of power. She goes to Paris, and then north Africa, stumbling closer and closer to Egypt, the womb of Western civilization. Where she goes to die.

It’s the story of a woman’s body flung into textile mill of capitalism: body as natural resource, controlled by others. It is also a metaphor for being trapped in cycles of repetitive behavior due to our childhood experiences. Who can related to that? How ’bout everybody! Each episode has a dream-like repetitive quality reminiscent of the “psychodramas” of 1950s experimental films. Times merge. Every lover/father/hero/boss figure bleeds into the next, as if they are just a place holder in macrocosmic template. Even Acker/Janie’s literary outlaw hero Jean Genet loves/betrays her in equal measure. Seeking the secret to this cycle of use and abuse, birth and death, leads her to Egypt.  Perhaps she has to die to learn the secret. Perhaps she has to die to have any relief. Perhaps she has to die to be free.

Having no choice, being born into this organism/machine/economic-system/psycho-biological myth complex, Janie is more free/happier when she rebels, even if such rebellion is, literally, self-abortive. Doing what she wants with her body and mind always takes its toll. There are only so many natural resources to go around. Literally bleeding/bursting through the text is visual dream material. No matter how oppressive the physical circumstances, one’s inner life pulses on though it might be distorted, perverted, altered. Despite the roles we inhabit on our social relationships our inner life is always churning with psycho-mythic dough. Blood and Guts in High School exhibits Janie’s PTSD-suffering physical and mental state.

Acker is a sex-positive feminist and her words and pictures will affront some readers. Especially those feminists who feel her methodology is, well, self-abortive.  There is a large potential for misinterpretation, especially by men. This is why Acker’s work is dangerous. A female person, any person, can be silent (erased), or write (do) what they want and prepare themselves for the consequences. Of course the deck is rigged, the possible consequences are predetermined, so why not rip it up? The form of Blood and Guts in High School echoes it’s function. Acker writes:

As far as I know, “terrorists” are people who use chance methods to hurt people in a society in order to get the rest of that society to realize a particular political situation. I’m not sure you do that with books. I’ve never taken someone by chance and hurt them, or killed them, in a way that would wake a society up. What I did in Blood and Guts in High School was to attack a certain relation between a political situation and literature. It seemed to me that in high culture there were certain presuppositions behind high culture and these were political presuppositions that had a lot to do with class structure. What I was interested in was attacking the very close relations between a fairly rigid class and structure and high literature. I don’t think that’s terroristic. That is, I wasn’t kidnapping someone by chance. (Milleti, 2004)

The book is actually quite funny in parts, offering hilarious send ups of both Erica Jong and Nathaniel Hawthorne. To appreciate all these aspects you do actually have to read the book, as opposed to just flipping through the pages and scoffing at the “dirty” parts (much like librarians used to do with Mark Twain). Spoiler alert: the killer is you.

If you enjoy a challenging read like Blood and Guts in High School you might be interested in the Down the Rabbit Hole Book Club here at NPL. We read avant-garde texts, cult classics and literary graphic novels. Click the link for more info. Cut.

- Bryan

Milletti, Christina. “Violent acts, volatile words: Kathy Acker’s terrorist aesthetic.” Studies in the Novel 36.3 (Fall 2004): 352(22).

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