Monday, July 18, 2005

What have you been reading, watching, listening to?

Upcoming CD Release this week
Frank Black--"Honeycomb"
I own all his solo releases, and the last 3 or 4 really run together. I like his sound and his formula, but it has become just that. I'm hoping to be surprised this time, but even if I'm not, I'm sure it will be a good, fun listen.

Christian Music Anomaly
I don't really understand the idea of "Christian" music. It's certainly no genre or style. It's a marketing niche to be sure, but beyond that the point of it escapes me. And the fact that I recognize its "uplifting" chord progression cliches as, in fact, uplifting is truly infuriating. So, needless to say, I don't listen to it on purpose. Ever. That's why I've never heard the songs of Ginny Owens, despite having been her instructor for a semester of, I think, ear training several years back. She is the only blind student I ever had, and I'm sure that showed. I should have had to personally give her tuition money back--not that she even really needed that class given her considerable talents. She suffered through it with grace and I've been glad to hear of her success in the weird industry I don't get.

So, that's why I bothered to read her interview in today's City Paper (I usually would have turned the page as soon as I saw "Dove Award winner"), and maybe I'm getting soft in my old age, but she actually seems like an interesting and mostly reasonable person, considering that she's a "Christian artist" whatever the hell that means:
Because of the way Christians have been portrayed in the media, and because of a few people who "represent" Christians in politics, the general population assumes we are all alike: we sit around singing together, we eat testaments, we love each other but not the environment, we condemn people who drink, we only listen to Christian music. These hilarious misconceptions have often made my affiliation with the Christian music business an incredibly interesting adventure.

What would people be surprised to know about you?
I am a bit of a nut with a pretty goofy sense of humor. I'm also quite a rebel. A harmless one, but a rebel nonetheless.
And, well, now that I've come to some new level of appreciation for her as a rebel (even though I have no idea what "eating testaments" is) I really can't go listening to her songs. I'm afraid it will ruin it. I know, that makes me a terrible person.

But if I can find some contact information for her, I may see if she remembers me so I can congratulate her on her success and see if I can coax any more thoughts out of her on the relationship between her customer base, her songwriting, and the people who, as she says "'represent' Christians in politics." I'll let you know if anything comes from it.

The Smiths: The Musical
This can't possibly be a good idea. What's next: The Cure on ice?

When I lived in Pittsburgh, I was in a quaint little community called "Squirrel Hill" where everything you need is in walking distance. Immediately after seeing David Cronenburg's film, "Crash" (not to be confused with the one in theaters now)one night, I walked--fairly confused but curious--to the bookstore across the street and bought the JG Ballard novel, hoping for some immediate answers. It's a gripping read but left me similarly wide-eyed, frightened, feeling a little dirty (and kind of liking it). What it didn't leave me with, apparently, was the desire to read any more of his books. All of that to say the next thing I read of his was his recent review of the TV show, CSI, in the Guardian (via BoingBoing):
Given that there are no interesting characters, no car chases or shoot-outs, no violently stirred emotions and no dramatic action, why is the C.S.I. series so riveting? What is it that grips us to the end of the episode, which is scarcely more than an elaborate crossword puzzle with human tissues in the place of clues? My guess is that the answer lies in the inner sanctum at the heart of all three series - the autopsy room. Here the victims surrender all that is left of their unique identities, revealing the wounds and medical anomalies that led to their demise. Once they have been dissected - their ribcages opened like suitcases, brains lifted from their craniums, tissues analysed into their basic components - they have nothing left, not even the faintest claim on existence.
That's the next-to-last paragraph. If you want to read the haunting conclusion, and you should, then have a look at the whole thing. The review doesn't so much make me want to watch CSI (I've seen it maybe once), but it does make me want to read more JG. Anyone out there familiar enough with his work to make a non-Crash suggestion for where to go next?

Italian Music Month
Over at David Byrne's playlist, he's limited it exclusively to 3 Italian artists. They are all distinctive and fabulously interesting. Have a listen.

Kids and Art
I agree with Kate Kellaway (and it's easy to since I am not a parent myself) writing in the Guardian that we have become a culture too protective of children when it comes to experiencing art--in the form of literature, theater, and film especially. She points to an effort by the British Film Institute to combat this by recommending 100 must-see films for children under 14 Although the debate is billed as controversial, none of the films listed that I have seen seem like they would bring argument, but the issue is still an interesting one. I watched R-rated films rented on video when I was 15 and 16 once I had indicated an interest in film. Kate tells of sneaking a read of Lolita when she was 13. As she asks, "when are kids ready?"
Prescription is pointless, but recommendation is a good thing. Children need to be introduced to art, film and literature - and then make up their own minds. . . I do worry about exposing children to literature, films and theatre before they are ready - and I am particularly jumpy about violent films. But how do you decide when a child is 'ready' for a film? It is fascinatingly ambiguous. The extraordinary thing is that works of art - especially books - change according to age. A book read at 18, reread at 48, may seem entirely different. Age is part of what we bring to a work of art. . . .

One of my eight-year-old sons has just finished Pullman's Northern Lights. He didn't really understand it. But it gripped him. And he was incredibly proud to have read it. Maybe he will reread it one day. If he doesn't, he will have missed a fuller, more sophisticated pleasure. But I know I was right not to stop him. Children grow up by reading aspirationally - they don't need to understand everything. They unwrap the world this way. Last summer, my son Leo, 13, played Cobweb in A Midsummer Night's Dream. Now, he knows the play off by heart - and while there are lines he does not understand, the language is in his head and will grow up with him.
Clap Your Hands Say Yeah
Self-titled debut album is scoring as high as any CD has all year on Metacritics. Haven't heard it yet but I'll be on the lookout for a cheap copy. Can anyone testify?

Weekend Box Office
1. Charlie and the Chocolate Factory
2. Wedding Crashers
3. Fantastic Four
4. War of the Worlds
5. Batman Begins

Depp-Burton-Dahl should really be an inspired collaboration, but the well-known tradition of the Wilder version has me a bit skeptical. The best line I've read about it is from our own Nashville Scene. Jim Ridley says "it's an ideal beddie-bye movie, if your kid is Dennis Hopper."

As for Wedding Crashers, given the mostly positive reviews I've seen, it looks too funny to pass up. Still, John at AMERICAblog was unhappy with one aspect:
It's okay, if you like dumb guy comedies, except that there's a gratuitously homophobic thread running through the movie that's kind of surprising for a movie made in 2005.

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