Archive for April, 2008

Authors, Assessed in Pairs

You can’t have one without the other. In a piece appropriately titled “Requiem for Two Heavyweights,” Sam Tanenhaus, editor of the NYT Book Review, compares and contrasts the recent memorial services for William F. Buckley Jr. and Norman Mailer (pictured here). The Guardian reviews A Dangerous Liaison, about the “extraordinary 50-year partnership of Jean-Paul Sartre and Simone de Beauvoir.” (Behold some fascinating quips on the couple’s liberal sexuality and four-alarm hygiene.) And the New York Review of Books sizes up historic speeches on race in America delivered by two former Illinois state senators. (Can you guess who they are?)

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“Third” Box Set

With most music being voraciously consumed digitally – a format that is convenient but has zero aesthetic value – it makes sense that physical releases with extremely high production value are flying off the shelves. Possibly with that in mind, Portishead recently unveiled the box set edition of Third, their first album in ten years. The set comes with a double vinyl version of the album, an etched 12″ vinyl version of one of the tracks from the record (“Machine Gun”), a USB drive (in the shape of a “P” no less) that contains the full album plus five films, and a limited edition print from artist Nick Uff. Could we be more excited about this album coming out? What’s next, will each copy of the record come with a free wish-granting machine?

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Where Have All the Critics Gone?

Last week, the Los Angeles Times pointed out that, “[t]here was a time when critics were our arbiters of culture, the ultimate interpreters of intellectual discourse.” What happened to the days of Pauline Kael? Today’s New York Sun does its part to provide answers, tallying the film critics for newspapers, magazines and alternative weeklies who have been the shown the door. The piece, “Film Critics Getting a Big Thumbs-Down” is available here. As for the man behind The Thumb, A.O. Scott of the New York Times published an assessment of Roger Ebert in the weekend paper. While providing some background on the creation of Ebert as a television icon, Scott noted that “it is worth pausing to appreciate — and perhaps also to defend — his work in that much-maligned medium” and directs readers to a “Letter from Roger” published in the Chicago Sun-Times, Ebert’s home for 41 years. Having survived a battle with cancer, Ebert wrote, “I am at last returning to the movie beat.”

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The Future of the Music Industry

No one in the music industry can keep up with the changes that are afoot. Albums aren’t selling, artists become overnight celebrities through Myspace and so on. So I guess I shouldn’t have been shocked when I read this little nugget: TAG, the body spray that Proctor & Gamble produces, is starting a record label with none other than Jermaine Dupri at the helm. You can read their respective proselytizing through the link above, but bascially what it has come down to is this: record labels are broke. Products like body sprays are not. Every product that is marketed as the next “cool” thing has to find new avenues into the youth market, now that traditional advertising routes are proving themselves defunct in the digital age. While some musicians will welcome this partnership, will welcome the chance to brand and market themselves with impunity to a scale unheard of in the traditional record industry makreting scheme, we’re sure that not all musicians are going to want their art to be intrinsically linked to a body spray. Unless of course, one were to start a new band solely about deodorant / body odor issues. I’ll give you start: Form a punk band called The Pit Stains. You can call your first album Yellowing The Whites. I smell a spring project coming on.

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Reflections from the Dark Side

John Riley of Newsday writes: “So, the Web sensation of the day is this picture from the White House Web-site of Dick Cheney, wearing sunglasses and flyfishing. The reason: Some think they see a naked woman reflected in the shades.” (View the image here.) Deciphering the reflection is no cakewalk. Is it, as one CNN news anchor put it, “a naked alien“?

Another item today that explores photographic obsession: Ron Rosenbaum‘s essay on Slate about the seduction of the slo-mo shot. The scrutiny comes on behalf of Errol Morris‘ techniques in his new film, Standard Operating Procedure. (Morris hosts his own blog about the search for truth through photographs. It’s titled Zoom, and is hosted by the NY Times.)

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Remembering Kurt Vonnegut

Today is the one year anniversary of Kurt Vonnegut’s death. Obviously, we have a huge amount of respect and admiration for everything the man did. Perhaps the best way to honor him today is to let him speak in his own words.

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Hairstyles of the Damned

Time to mind that cut: First off, it was announced last month that NFL owners will consider a “proposal to ban players from having hair flow from their helmets below their names on the back of their jerseys.” Players like Troy Polamalu of the Pittsburgh Steelers (pictured here), who is known for his Bone Thugs locks, won’t be required to cut it all off, just “tuck it up inside their helmets.”

One man who won’t be doing any cutting or tucking anytime soon is Patrick Canavan. The one-time senior vice president for corporate governance of Motorola loudly announced, at a meeting of executives in 2000, “that he wouldn’t cut his hair until the company’s share price matched its all-time high of about $60 reached earlier that year.” Since then, it’s been eight years of ponytail. The Wall Street Journal stressed this detail: “When it’s wet, his hair now stretches halfway down his back.” Awkward water-cooler banter, indeed.

And on the campaign trail, Hillary Clinton, whose “New Hampshire moment” centered on a question about hair maintenance, has continued the thread in Pennsylvania, pointing to the additional time she must spend preparing for the cameras and rallies each day (unlike her opponents). Michael Kinsley, writing in Slate, supported the claim: “…A middle-aged woman who is the first of her sex to make a serious run for the presidency is not going to be a pioneer in indifference to looks. One revolution at a time.”

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Straight Edge Lives!

Straight edge, the term coined by Minor Threat in 1981 for someone who doesn’t drink, smoke or do drugs, is enjoying a resurgence, apparently: tonight on the National Georgraphic Channel, a documentary narrated by Thurston Moore airs on the subject. Although the straight edge ideal was initially borne out of a rebellion against the late 70’s / early 80’s substance-ridden hedonism which these kids believed clouded judgement and generally made people act like idiots, some of the kids have turned what began as a positive notion, inside out. According to the Boston Globe, some straight edge kids in places like Reno & Salt Lake City are now classified as a gang by police, due to violence perpetrated at their hands (drug dealers and other people who don’t subscribe to their belief system being the targets). Should be an interesting look at the culture, 27 years after its inception.

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Pitchfork TV launches

Our friends (and neighbors…literally) over at Pitchfork have just launched the internet TV version of their website. While the site just launched yesterday, they already have exclusive performances by the Liars, Radiohead and much more, and you can be sure, with the behemoth-sized cultural capital that they have behind them, more great content is sure to follow. Be sure and check out the “casting call” video, where Fred Armisen and Tim Harrington interview potential VJs. Nice start.

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Changing Landscape of Hollywood

We’re barely into spring and 2008 has already proved to be a difficult year for the hierarchy of Old Hollywood. We commented earlier on the loss of a trinity of film noir heroes (Malvin Wald, Richard Widmark and Jules Dassin). Now comes news that actor Charlton Heston , pictured here, has passed at 84.

As for the physical changes to Tinseltown, the Chicago Tribune reported last month on how “138 undeveloped acres alongside the Hollywood sign came to be for sale, with rights to build a road and up to five houses.” For more on the history of the Hollywood sign, read Jim Heimann‘s piece in our Hollywood Lost & Found issue.

Also related: The Guardian commemorates the centennial of Bette Davis under the bold headline “Mother Goddam“. And film critic Anthony Lane remembers David Lean.

And for a dash of the New Wave: The New Yorker offers an audio conversation about “Jean-Luc Godard and Francois Truffaut, their tumultuous friendship, and French New Wave cinema.”

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