Saturday, March 7, 2009

Spring is Finally in the Air . . .

Last week I was talking about snow storms and this week, it's sunny, spring-like and no snow -- as if the 8 inches of snow last week never happened.

This week, I went a little overboard in the arts section. There's a lot of great stuff out there and I just went gung-ho and published it all: two features on 2 really unconventional artists: Native American Corwin "Corky" Clairmont and Japanese American Takeshi Yamada; and an assortment of book reviews on Louise Erdrich, Elaine Showalter and Allan Barra.

Then there is the question of Kindle -- what is it and do we really want to read books a la "Star Trek" style on computer pads; the loss of "A Different Light Bookstore" in West Hollywood, a bookstore chain that's been serving the gay and lesbian community since 1979. The closing of any independent bookstore is a blow to all communities, especially when they're not tied into the major chains that have succeeded over the years, in pushing a lot of these stores out of business. Finally, and I love doing this, that is, looking at different types of writers, like the Dubai Festival and the Mormon writers in "Faith and Good Words." Plus a few things to make you smile.

Let's hope Spring is not here for an awkward visit and is here for good!

Spring is Finally in the Air . . .SocialTwist Tell-a-Friend

Nothing Conventional About This Indian Artist


Chunks of asphalt suspended from the frame of a teepee over a bed of aerial maps.

Shreds of old tires, cast in rubber molds and shaped into a war shield that's split down the middle with a white zigzagged line.

A door frame wallpapered with real-estate ads and pictures of American Indians, the word SOLD sprawled in bold letters. The title: "Welcome to the Res."

There is nothing traditional about Corwin "Corky" Clairmont's artwork. In unconventional ways, he's spent a lifetime challenging the viewers of his work to understand what he has to say. Every piece of his artwork gives way to ironic twists and turns, full of social and political commentary as it relates to his American Indian culture.

The Artist is Immersed in the Culture
"For me, art is about life," Clairmont said in a reserved, soft-spoken tone that belies the brash force of his artwork. "Anything you're engaged in gives substance that might filter into a project. You have to be a participant in life."

As a longtime assistant vice president and art instructor at Salish Kootenai College in Pablo, Clairmont is immersed in the culture from which he draws inspiration for his art.

One of his most recent works, "Indian Country Passage Denied," is a perfect example of the provocative nature of his work. The collagraph depicts modern-day passport images of Lewis and Clark against a colorful background meant to reflect American Indians' rich past. In a portfolio of Clairmont's prints, "Native Perspectives on the Trail," the commentary points out that Lewis and Clark's historic expedition "was one of exploration but also the demonstration of arrogant superiority and the cementing of territorial lines.

"Lewis and Clark did not proceed as guests in a foreign land, but as conquerors ... Clairmont's print leads us to ask: 'What if Lewis and Clark needed passports and what if their passage had been denied?'">>

Nothing Conventional About This Indian ArtistSocialTwist Tell-a-Friend

Takeshi Yamada's Museum of World Wonders

Takeshi Yamada was born in Osaka, Japan and moved to the United States in 1983. He has had over 300 art exhibitions, including 34 solo art exhibitions, at galleries and museums in Spain, the Netherlands, Japan and the United States. His artworks are part of the collection of numerous museums.

Yamada started producing a series of artworks inspired by horseshoe crabs after his first visit to Coney Island in Brooklyn, New York in 2001. By combining the mythology of "Princess Otohime of Dragon's Palace" in China, "Tale of Urashimatarou" in Japan, stories of western mermaids, and the Buddhist concept of reincarnation, Yamada painted the portratit of Princess Otohime on the prosoma of a horseshoe crab shell as a ceremonial spiritual object at "Palace of Ocean."

He has also produced a series of "Warriors Ceremonial Masks" on horseshoe crabs as ceremonial objects similar to the Japanese "Haniwa" at Palace of Ocean. "Haniwa" is a clay-image figure to be buried with emperors and kings to protect them in the after life. Their facial expressions and helmet details were painted after careful examination of the intricate patterns appearing on the horseshoe crab shells.

I regard myself as a “Visual Anthropologist” and my artworks as a “Visual Encyclopedia” because they are furnished with comprehensive descriptions and cross-cultural anthropological research behind them. With my creations, I have had over 400 fine art exhibitions including 42 solo shows at museums, universities, nature centers, fine art galleries, art centers, and midways internationally.

My recent super-realism artworks reflect my investigation of the unique and distinctive culture of Coney Island area of Brooklyn, New York. This culture is called “Coney Island Sideshow”. At one time, Coney Island was much bigger than Disney World, Six Flags and Hollywood combined. Coney Island was literally the center of entertainment culture and the universal hub where the most spectacular beauties, curiosities, oddities, monsters and marvels were gathered from around the world to satisfy the human mind, intellect and imagination.

At the sideshow, I was particularly fascinated by the series of “specimens” of mythic creatures on display, which are called “gaffs”. Gaffs are a form of highly specialized hyper-realism sculptures simulating artifacts of curiosities and oddities (some are completely fictional, such as Fiji Mermaid and Jackalope) displayed at the pay-per-view sideshows behind large, vividly painted large banners. Historically, gaffs have been a vital part of the “Cabinet of Curiosities” (also known as Wunderkammer or wonder-room). The cabinet of curiosities was a collection of natural history specimens kept and often displayed in cabinets by many early practitioners of science (and they were symbols of wealth, social status and power by international trade merchants) in the early 16th century in Europe, and were precursors to today’s natural history museums.

With these in mind, I have created over 500 post-super-realism and neo-taxidermy artworks simulating the treasures of the cabinet of curiosities. Examples of them are 6-feet Fiji Mermaids, 5-feet Chupacabra, 31-feet giant sea serpents, dragons, two-headed babies, shrunken human heads, fossilized fairies, nuclear radiation giant stag beetles of Bikini Atoll, Canadian hairy trout, New York City giant subway bugs, king tarantulas, Mongolian giant death worms, two-headed snakes, four-legged turkeys, vampire monkeys, Chinese flesh-eating mushrooms, two-headed and six-fingered alchemist, human-faced insects, artifacts of the Dreamland Fire of 1911 in Coney Island, relics of ancient civilizations, sea rabbits of Coney Island, giant prehistoric horseshoe crabs, alien specimens collected by the Area 51 US military base, and Coney Island brand exotic canned foods, among many others. With my collection of curious, odd and mysterious specimens, artifacts and artworks at Takeshi Yamada’s Museum of World Wonders, I want to celebrate one of the primal desires of human nature, which seeks the mystery and wonders of the universe. >>END

Takeshi Yamada's Museum of World WondersSocialTwist Tell-a-Friend



With all the sadness and trauma going on in the world at the moment, it is worth reflecting on the death of a very important person, which almost went unnoticed last week. Larry LaPrise, the man who wrote “The Hokey Pokey“, died peacefully at age 93. The most traumatic part for his family was getting him into the coffin. They put his left leg in. And then the trouble started.

IN MEMORIUMSocialTwist Tell-a-Friend

Resisting the Kindle


The Amazon Kindle—a “new and improved” version of which has just been released—comes on like a technology for our times: crisp, affordable, hugely capacious, capable of connecting to the Internet, and green. How could one argue with any of that? Or with the idea, which I’ve heard voiced over and over, that it will make the reading of texts once again seductive, using the same technology that has drawn people away from the page back to it.

Why, then, am I so uneasy about the page-to-screen transfer—a skeptic if not a downright resister? Perhaps it is because I see in the turning of literal pages—pages bound in literal books—a compelling larger value, and perceive in the move away from the book a move away from a certain kind of cultural understanding, one that I’m not confident that we are replacing, never mind improving upon. I’m not blind to the unwieldiness of the book, or to the cumbersome systems we must maintain to accommodate it—the vast libraries and complicated filing systems. But these structures evolved over centuries in ways that map our collective endeavor to understand and express our world. The book is part of a system. And that system stands for the labor and taxonomy of human understanding, and to touch a book is to touch that system, however lightly.>>MORE

Resisting the KindleSocialTwist Tell-a-Friend

LGBT Authors Speak Out About Closing of A Different Light Bookstore


After running a story yesterday about the closing of the West Hollywood location of A Different Light Bookstore, I spoke with a number of gay authors, actors and publishers about their memories of the store and the future for "the little gay bookstore" industry.

While these economic times are difficult, I believe we must as a community, support our local businesses in order for them to thrive and continue to share our stories for years to come. And the following voices from within the LGBT literary community echo that sentiment as they lament the final days of a West Hollywood institution. >>

LGBT Authors Speak Out About Closing of A Different Light BookstoreSocialTwist Tell-a-Friend

Faith and good works


Julie Berry's first novel is a fairy tale with a prince and a witch and love and despair. But there's no swearing, and no sex. The novel is, she grudgingly admits, wholesome.

And that's what links Berry, of Maynard, and other Mormon writers, many of them young women, who are surging into the genre of young adult literature, finding a happy marriage between the expectations of their religion and the desires of a burgeoning publishing niche.

The most famous among them, of course, is Stephenie Meyer, a practicing Mormon from Arizona whose "Twilight" series, about a teenage girl who has a no-sex-before-marriage relationship with a dreamy adolescent vampire, has sold an astonishing 28 million books and spawned a film that has already grossed $188 million.>>MORE

Faith and good worksSocialTwist Tell-a-Friend

Dubai Festival of Literature: Censorship, women writers...and camels


According to the author Robert Irwin, there is a verb in Arabic, aqrahu, which has to do with contending with another for superior glory and generosity in the hocking or slaughtering of camels. This is one of many things that his audience learned in the event: The Camel: Everything You've Ever Wanted to Know ... and Plenty You Didn't. It could also have served as a metaphor for the inaugural Emirates Airline International Festival of Literature.

Dubai is a city of firsts, biggests and most expensive. It has the largest population in the United Arab Emirates. The Burj Al Arab is the world's tallest building. It appears to contain more women in burkas carrying Chanel handbags than anywhere else in the known universe. It makes sense, then, that it should host the "first true literary festival in the Middle East, celebrating the world of books in all its infinite variety". If this was an attempt to buy a little class in the midst of a cultural desert, it worked. And so, for an all-too-fleeting four days last week, the InterContinental hotel in Dubai, Festival City, became an oasis of cultivation in the otherwise featureless landscape of designer labels and oil billionaires. >>MORE

Dubai Festival of Literature: Censorship, women writers...and camelsSocialTwist Tell-a-Friend


All American

The Red Convertible
Selected and New Stories 1978-2008
Louise Erdrich || HarperCollins Publishers

Last fall, the permanent secretary of the Swedish Academy, the group that hands out the Nobel Prize in Literature, disparaged American letters, saying our fiction was “too isolated, too insular” and “too sensitive to trends” in our own “mass culture” (in short, too American) to matter much to the wider world. But it’s the very Americanness of our literature — the hybrid nature of our national makeup, the variety and breadth of our landscape, our mania for self-invention and reinvention — that captured the international imagination at a time when most readers could never visit the country they dreamed about. It still does today.

Americanness needs no apology; it’s the strength of our letters. And few of our contemporary writers exemplify its adaptive vitality better than Louise Erdrich, herself descended from the first Americans (her mother was part Chippewa, part French, and her grandmother was a tribal chairwoman) and from German immigrants. The author of some two dozen books for adults and children, Erdrich is also a wondrous short story writer. In “The Red Convertible,” she gathers 36 stories, 26 previously published, together creating a keepsake of the American experience. Like the painted drum in her story of that name, this collection can be considered “a living thing,” an emblem of the universe — “exquisitely sensitive for so powerful an instrument.” >>MORE

Writing Women

American Women Writers From Anne Bradstreet to Annie Proulx
Elaine Showalter || Alfred A. Knopf

It may be surprising that there’s been no comprehensive history of women’s writing in America. But Elaine Showalter has now undertaken this daunting venture with her vast democratic volume, “A Jury of Her Peers: American Women Writers From Anne Bradstreet to Annie Proulx,” in which she energetically describes the work of long-forgotten writers and poets along with that of their more well-known contemporaries. In the 1970s, Showalter wrote “A Literature of Their Own: British Women Novelists From Brontë to Lessing,” which established an alternative canon of British women writers at a moment when feminist studies were very much in vogue, and her new book is an attempt to do the same thing for American literature. Showalter was, for nearly two decades, a professor in the department of English literature at Prince­ton (she was the head of the department when I was graduate student there), and she remains a grande dame of feminist literary studies. >>MORE

A Southern Gothic legend is hard to find

Flannery: A Life of Flannery O'Connor
Brad Gooch || Little, Brown and Company

Has any other 20th century American author with so little published output – virtually everything she wrote for publication and a few things that she didn't fit neatly into a single Library of America volume – had such an enormous influence on American literature? Mary Flannery O'Connor published just two novels, "Wise Blood" (1952) and "The Violent Bear It Away" (in 1960, three years before her death at age 39 from kidney failure brought on by lupus) and two collections of stories, "A Good Man Is Hard to Find" (1955) and "Everything That Rises Must Converge" (1965). Her influence on literature over the last half-century is enormous, from Alice Walker (who read O'Connor's stories "endlessly" while in college and was "scarcely conscious of the difference between her racial and economic background and my own") to novelists as radically different in temperament as Walker Percy and Cormac McCarthy. The wonder is that it took half a century for her to get a definitive biography, Brad Gooch's "Flannery: A Life of Flannery O'Connor." >>MORE

BOOK REVIEWSSocialTwist Tell-a-Friend


Iggy Pop to release jazz album steeped in French literature
An unlikely cocktail of Michel Houellebecq and Jelly Roll Morton is the
inspiration for Stooges legend's new francophile album, Préliminaires


An unlikely cocktail of Michel Houellebecq and Jelly Roll Morton is the inspiration for Stooges legend's new francophile album, Préliminaires In what is happily one of the best headlines of the year, Iggy Pop is to release a Jelly Roll Morton-influenced jazz album inspired by French novelist Michel Houellebecq.

The Stooges' leader made the announcement in a video originally posted on his official website, holding court at the side of a swimming pool. "I just got sick of listening to idiot thugs with guitars, banging out crappy music," Iggy said, "and I was starting to listen to a lot of New Orleans-era Louis Armstrong, Jelly Roll Morton type of jazz."

The album is called Préliminaires and was directly inspired by Michel Houellebecq's 2005 novel, The Possibility of an Island. Iggy was originally contacted to provide music for Last Words, a Dutch documentary about the novelist's efforts to adapt the book for film. Directed by Erik Lieshout, Arno Hagers and Reinier van Brummelen, Last Words played at several festivals and a DVD will be released on 17 March, according to reports.

Unlike the Guardian, Iggy is apparently a fan of Houellebecq's book – the story of a stand-up comedian, a Raelian-style cult and the comedian's cloned descendants. But while this work of misanthropic sci-fi might suggest creepy space synths or sinewy post-punk, Iggy has instead opted for a "quieter album with some jazz overtones".

"I've always loved quieter ballads," he said in his video, emphasising in a later MySpace bulletin that this is "NOT a rock album". According to a fan site, Préliminaires is "very Sinatra-like (low voice and all)". And on one song, Les Feuilles Mortes, Iggy Pop even sings in French.

"I've made it really especially for France and people who speak French," Iggy Pop said.

Préliminaires will be released in April or May by EMI France. >>END

MISCELLANEOUS NOTESSocialTwist Tell-a-Friend

"Joe" the "Plumber" attracts 11 to book-signing. Sells 5 books

Samuel "Joe the Plumber" Wurzelbacher signs his new book at the Borders at 18th and L streets NW, where only about a dozen people came to hear him read and only a few stayed afterward to get their copies signed. He says he's done with plumbing and plans to get into construction. (By James M. Thresher For The Washington Post)

"Joe" the "Plumber" attracts 11 to book-signing. Sells 5 booksSocialTwist Tell-a-Friend

Sunday, March 1, 2009

On the Verge of Spring . . .

It's March 1st and I am looking out my window and watching it snow, expecting at least 12 inches to land in New York City tomorrow morning.

Our world is so upside down, things don't make sense any more. Even during these bad times, when the arts is struggling for survival, rays of sunshine penetrate the clouds and manage to touch us. I heard recently that the film industry is making a killing, people are spending money going to the movies. Of course they are -- it's cheaper to spend 80 bucks at the movies (just saying 80 bucks sounds obscene to me) than plan the annual family trip, or taking a quick getaway trip to Florida. But what's even more telling is that people turn to the arts for comfort, escapism -- to just get away from it all. So it's snowing in March and despite our worlds being turned upside down from this financial crisis mess we're in, and our morale is at an all time low, we're still looking for rays of sunshine.

You know what they say, "like all other pleasures immoderately enjoyed, the excesses of hope must be expiated by pain." Let's hope the anxiety we're all facing will subside and that the beauty of art -- be it music, books, festivals, dance and movies -- will continue to prevail.

By the way, Black History month has come to a close and what could be more fitting than suggesting a few new books with an African American slant?

A month full of milestones in Black History

This year marks the 77th anniversary of America's Black History celebration, a memorial that began in 1926 as Black History Week and has since expanded into a month-long tribute to African-American culture and heritage. The idea for this time of remembrance originated with Carter G. Woodson, a black scholar and Harvard graduate who chose February as a time for commemoration because two important figures in African-American history, Frederick Douglass and Abraham Lincoln, celebrated birthdays during that month. The creation of the NAACP and the death of Malcolm X also occurred in February, making the time an especially appropriate one.

Woodson would be pleased with the variety of titles published this year in honor of the celebration he initiated. This Far By Faith: Stories From the African American Religious Experience, the companion volume to the PBS television series airing in June, explores the role of religion in black culture. Written by Emmy Award-winner Juan Williams, author of Eyes on the Prize, and Quinton Dixie, the book blends research, interviews and input from noted contemporary religious figures with unforgettable photographs and archival material.

The book contains fascinating tales of people on fire with faith, like Sojourner Truth, whose absolute trust in God allowed her to walk away from an unjust owner and campaign for the rights of women and African Americans. We read of the establishment of the storefront church as blacks migrated north, the indispensability of the largely Protestant church in the Civil Rights movement and the rise of the controversial Nation of Islam. This Far By Faith is a wonderfully comprehensive evaluation of the ways in which African Americans have worshiped, as well as a moving tribute to the life of the spirit. >>MORE

On the Verge of Spring . . .SocialTwist Tell-a-Friend

Festival of the Arts Boca Raton


Despite what politicians of all parties and powers say, it’s art and literature that makes the world go round. The power of words and of artistic expression cannot be denied.

Our world is indisputably influenced by the word and the performance – and that’s been true throughout history, i.e., George Washington kept on his bedside table a copy of Addison’s Cato – a five-act play about a Roman statesman and Stoic philosopher.

The power of words will be in turn be fully on display during the Festival of the Arts BOCA literature series, as five of today’s most prodigious authors explore timely topics and delve into sources of inspiration. Terrorism, globalization, polygamy and family, all of these words evoke strong images and emotions in us and all of them, in one way or another will be explored during this year’s lecture series. >>MORE

Festival of the Arts Boca RatonSocialTwist Tell-a-Friend

First reference book on classical Taiwan literature released


National Cheng Kung University (NCKU) in southern Taiwan introduced Monday the world's first reference book on literature in Taiwan, titled "Chronology of Classical Literature in Taiwan: The Ming and Qing Dynasties." The 800-page book was published last November after seven years of work by the two NCKU professors, Shih Yi-lin and Liao Mei-yu, and 27 researchers.

It traces the development of classical literature in Taiwan from 1651-1895 under five headings -- "writers events, " "literary and education events, " "significant events in Taiwan, " "significant events in the Qing Dynasty" and "significant events in the world." In a report on the NCKU Web site, Shih said that the development of classical literature in Taiwan should have a place in history and should be examined within the context of significant events of the time to understand the meaning and value of the literati, works and literary activities during specific periods. >>MORE

First reference book on classical Taiwan literature releasedSocialTwist Tell-a-Friend

Literature Map: best book recommendation tool for readers


This is one for the books! A website that makes book recommendations based on a reader's favorite authors. A project by Marek Gibney, The Literature Map is part of gnooks which is part of gnod.

Gnod is an experiment in the field of artificial intelligence. It's a self-adapting system that "talks" to everyone who comes along. Its intention is to learn about the world and "understand" its visitors. Gnod is then able to share all its "wisdom" with you in an intuitive way. They call it "a search engine for things you don't know about."

But Gnod doesn't just do books [although it could and I'd be happy forever]. It also examines music [gnoosic] and movies [gnovies] and has an international social networking component [flork]. And while the site has been in existence for a bit, I somehow managed to miss it. A shout out to my pal Caitlin for showing me the way!

When using the Literature Map, you simply type in the name of an author you love to read. The site will then immediately generate a "map" for you of like authors. The closer the "new" author's name is positioned on the map to the author you submitted... the closer the comparison, and the more likely you'll enjoy the read.

Aside from its obvious practical applications, The Literature Map is technologically brilliant. Simply put: pure genius.

Literature Map: best book recommendation tool for readersSocialTwist Tell-a-Friend

Obama's favorite books now a class


Anne Langendorfer is finally seeing one of her dreams come true: her dream course will be offered this spring quarter at Ohio State. The course is titled "Barack Obama and/as Literature."

Langendorfer, a graduate student in the English Department, created the course through an annual contest in the English Department.

"Every year graduate students in the Ph.D program in English are invited to submit ideas for a special topics course of their own design," said Manuel Martinez, associate professor of English. "The criteria for winning is based on best design, originality and the likelihood of drawing interest from a broad range of undergraduates."

Martinez said this year seven graduate students applied, but Langendorfer's proposal stood out. >>MORE

Obama's favorite books now a classSocialTwist Tell-a-Friend


'Fool' by Christopher Moore

Give San Francisco comic novelist Christopher Moore full marks for plunging into deep waters. In "Lamb" (2003), he set out to narrate Jesus' coming-of-age story in a "Gospel According to Biff, Christ's Childhood Pal." In his rambunctious new book, "Fool," Moore undertakes nothing less than a prose retelling of "King Lear."

Not content to restrict himself to that capacious and penetrating tragedy itself, Moore rummages around in a dozen or so of Shakespeare's other plays for characters, plot points, imagery and dialogue. Lifts from "Macbeth," "Hamlet," "A Midsummer Night's Dream," "Julius Caesar," "Romeo and Juliet" and "Love's Labour's Lost" are overt. Some of the other appropriations are slyer. The result is a Bardic stew liberally seasoned with slapstick, sex, groaner puns, anachronisms and plenty of cheerfully curdled Elizabethan wordplay. >>MORE

Grisham returns to 'Firm' ground

Making a move that's sure to delight connoisseurs of the legal thriller, John Grisham takes something of a sentimental journey in his latest novel, The Associate, on sale January 27. The book's plot might sound strangely familiar to fans of his 1991 blockbuster, The Firm: newly minted Ivy League law school grad takes job with powerhouse firm and soon finds himself in deep trouble. That book catapulted Grisham to perennial bestsellerdom and established him as the superstar of the legal thriller genre.

The character at the heart of The Firm was Mitch McDeere, a cocky kid just out of Harvard Law who discovers that the Memphis firm that hired him is controlled by the Mob. In the successful 1993 film adaptation, McDeere was portrayed by Tom Cruise, an inspired piece of casting that gave a strong boost to Cruise's career and Grisham's film franchise.

Grisham sets his new novel, The Associate, in New York City, the first time that one of his books has taken place entirely in the city that never sleeps. Where better to follow the dilemma facing young lawyer Kyle McAvoy, described by Grisham's publisher as "one of the outstanding legal students of his generation: he's good looking, has a brilliant mind and a glittering future ahead of him. But he has a secret from his past, a secret that threatens to destroy his fledgling career and, possibly, his entire life." >>MORE

The White Tiger, by Aravind Adiga
A chatty murderer exposes the underbelly of India's
tiger economy in this thrilling debut novel


Towards the end of this debut novel, its voluble, digressive, murderous protagonist makes a prediction: "White men will be finished in my lifetime," he tells us. "In 20 years time it will just be us brown and yellow men at the top of the pyramid, and we'll rule the world." He's talking about the phenomenon at the heart of this dazzling narrative: the emergence of that much-heralded economic powerhouse, the "new India".

You have, no doubt, read about it. In fact, you may have done so courtesy of Aravind Adiga, who is Time magazine's Asia correspondent. But with The White Tiger, Adiga sets out to show us a part of this emerging country that we hear about infrequently: its underbelly. We see through the eyes of Balram, who was born into the "darkness" of rural India, but entered the light that is Delhi via a job as driver to Mr Ashok, the son of a rich landlord. Now, though, Balram has escaped servitude and is himself a rich businessman. What's more, his unlikely journey involved a murder.

The result is an Indian novel that explodes the clichés – ornamental prose, the scent of saffron – associated with that phrase. Welcome, instead, to an India where Microsoft call-centre workers tread the same pavement as beggars who burn street rubbish for warmth.>>MORE

BOOK REVIEWSSocialTwist Tell-a-Friend


I Remember You
Tuck & Patti | Self Published (2008)

I Remember You, from guitar/vocal duo Tuck & Patti, is the first in its catalogue to exclusively feature songs from the Great American Songbook. Originally inspired by the duets of Joe Pass and Ella Fitzgerald, the pair has been a marital and musical team for 30 years, evolving a crossover sound that draws on jazz, R&B, folk, pop and new acoustic music. Jazz fans will appreciate the sensitivity and consummate craftsmanship they bring to these oft-roasted chestnuts from the standards repertoire, seamlessly blending voice and guitar, making much with minimal means.

Patti Cathcart's rich contralto, at times earthy, at others ethereal, lifts and lilts with warmth, fluidity and spiritual immediacy. While her readings of the melodies are fairly conservative, her scatted solos over "The Very Thought of You," "A Foggy Day" and "Old Devil Moon," and her bouncy riffing over the intros and outros reveal a fertile imagination.

Tuck Andress' playing combines walking bass lines, midrange chords, chunky backbeats and treble melodies that together create a remarkably lush and swinging ensemble; through delicate variations in volume, plucked harmonics, legato fingerings and a grab-bag of extended techniques, he has developed an original and highly effective style, the ultimate complement to Cathcart's voice. His work on "In a Sentimental Mood," "'Deed I Do," "When I Fall in Love" and "It Might as Well Be Spring" will be revelatory to the uninitiated. >>MORE

Ane Brun - Changing Of The Seasons

Like an elegiac cheesecake baked to perfection, Ane Brun's third album is simultaneously rich and enriching, insanely moreish, and deliciously indulgent. Frosted with a resilient pathos that never seems to rub off even when ravished with greedy attention, Changing Of The Seasons is orchestrated ear candy for grown-ups.

Too old to be hailed as a wunderkind, Brun seems an almost matronly figure of battered wisdom among some of the more headline-grabbing artists emerging out of Scandinavia. She'll still peel your skin off, but she'll do it with the precision of her glassy notes and uncommon control of her tremulous, but never timid, phrasing. "It's hard to be safe, it's difficult to be happy," she breezes with such considered acquaintance on the title track, it's hard to resist being swept up in her pretty, doleful reverie. >>MORE

MUSIC REVIEWSSocialTwist Tell-a-Friend



Tokyo! is a curious conundrum. The movie is a triptych of short films about the titular metropolis made by Michel Gondry, Leos Carax, and Joon-ho Bong, three non-Japanese filmmakers. Each tries to offer up personalized impressions of the Japanese capital, and that alone would suggest a worthwhile cinematic experience. But the films themselves lack the intimacy with Tokyo's cultural nuances that we crave from a piece like this, trafficking instead in stereotypes and platitudes.

For its easy charm and humor, Michel Gondry's "Interior Design" comes off best. Gondry's story follows a young couple -- Hiroko and Akira (Ayako Fujitani and Ryo Kase) -- who have just moved to Tokyo, struggling to find an apartment, jobs, and generally to start their new lives. Akira's an aspiring filmmaker-artist, hence a bit of a space case, while his girlfriend Hiroko is smart but directionless. While getting started in Tokyo, they bunk up with a friend in her absurdly tiny apartment. Gradually, Hiroko pulls away from Akira and, in a Gondry-esque bit of transmogrification, she suddenly has the ability to shift from human to chair form and back. As a chair, she becomes part of the furnishings in a stranger's home, and feels herself an object of value, something she lacked as a human being. Gondry pokes fun at Tokyo's housing crisis: The living spaces are hilariously cramped, hardly more than glorified closets. With the low-key bantering of its characters, the quotidian details of Tokyo street life, its movie-within-a-movie device, the human-chair magic trick, and the overall theme of life-as-reverie, this is a Gondry project through and through. And, though not illuminating on the subject of its city, it's still a cute, clever take on Tokyo to keep us amused. >>MORE

Madea Goes To Jail Review | Shifting Loyalties

Multi-talented entertainment force Tyler Perry attempts to marry two genres with mixed success discovering along the way it’s hard to serve two master in the uneven dramaedy, “Madea Goes to Jail.”

Alternating between buckwild Mabel “Madea” Simmons, (Perry) who has some SERIOUS anger issues and is trying to stay out of trouble and Assistant District Attorney, Josh Hardaway (Derek Luke) who seems to be on the fast track to marital bliss before a person from his past shows up and has him reexamining his life choices. >>MORE

MOVIE REVIEWSSocialTwist Tell-a-Friend

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Of ICT and the dearth of traditional reading habits


It is under siege from new diversions. Under attack from the technological revolution, the television, computer, video, CDs, DVDs, the Internet and podcasting, the traditional book is endangered.

Jonathan Roper, in his article The Book, the Publisher and the Internet says, "Since the 16th century the book has played a vital role in the transmission of knowledge and culture, and book publishers are extremely reluctant to give up their traditional role as conduits of information. Is the book an outmoded format, or a concept ready to be re-invented?"

Today, reading and the love of literature comes under constant, relentless barrage of competition; would-be readers of books have myriad forms of entertainment. >>MORE

Of ICT and the dearth of traditional reading habitsSocialTwist Tell-a-Friend

Essayist celebrates black authors in American literature

African- American Writers: Legends of Literature

Literature is the cultural legacy that we must not forget. African-American Literature comes from the unique melody of a people intertwining the connection of ancestral Africa with the cords of hardship in America to produce a symphony of words that gush from the well of our experiences.

Did you know that early novelists like Charles W. Chesnutt were frustrated and hampered by the dialect tradition mainly because of America's great affection for stereotypes? White Publishers were so enamored with the writings of Joel Chandler Harris( Uncle Remus) that they refused to accept work by Blacks that were written in Standard EnglishEbonics anyone? >>

Essayist celebrates black authors in American literatureSocialTwist Tell-a-Friend

Literature Gone Askew


For someone like myself who came of age reading the great works of the 20th-century modernists -- writers like Gertrude Stein, James Joyce, T.S. Eliot and Marcel Proust -- the highly ubiquitous postmodernist movement, which was spawned by the excesses and political shenanigans of the 1960s, has generally been an irritant to me. Whether it's Andy Warhol's soup cans or deconstructionist literary theory, which dominated academia for the past 30 years, postmodernism has either indulged in a dead-pan jokiness aimed at the concept of art as a serious endeavor or has directed an implicit, humorless critique at all language as base and empty, mere signs without meaning.

Postmodernism, at least as it was wielded in the academy (and I use the word wielded purposely, since the theory was utilized as a political weapon), gave rise to the culture wars that have raged over the last three decades, and that continue to rear their ugly head whenever certain groups of people feel their worldviews being threatened.

And yet, of all the writers I've gotten to know and truly admire over the course of the last several years or so, Roberto Bolaño -- a tried-and-true postmodernist -- has struck me not only as an exciting presence, but perhaps one of the most profound artists of the second half of the 20th century. >>MORE

Literature Gone AskewSocialTwist Tell-a-Friend


Wynonna, Sing: Chapter 1

Having cemented her status as a country music icon as half of legendary duo the Judds, and with a couple of phenomenal, adventurous solo albums in the early '90s, Wynonna hasn't done much to enhance her legacy of late. In fact, much of her output over the last decade—from uneven, strident studio albums that included dead-serious Foreigner covers and collaborations with the useless John Rich to countless televised live performances punctuated with spoken-word platitudes dedicated to all her "sisterfriends"—has been so affected that it's easy to forget the true extent of her talent. Despite a handful of moments that suggest she's still taking performance cues from drag queens, Sing: Chapter 1, her seventh proper solo album, goes quite a long way toward reversing that trend. >>MORE

Bruce Springsteen, Working on a Dream

While on tour for his excellent 2007 album Magic, Bruce Springsteen quickly realized the fabled E Street Band was playing some of the best shows of its career. Wanting to catch lightning in a bottle, he gathered the band together during breaks on the tour to record his next batch of songs. Those songs became Working on a Dream.

The album opens with “Outlaw Pete,” a sprawling eight-minute epic with western overtones, classic Springsteen harmonica, and a big, layered sound not unlike many of the songs on Magic. It’s classic Bruce and as good as anything he’s written. >>MORE

Kanye West, 808s & Heartbreak

There must have been a moment when Kanye West was actually content with being the most potent and essential personality in hip-hop. Date it early (the out-of-nowhere ubiquity of The College Dropout) or late (Graduation's dominance of 50 Cent's Curtis during the first-week sales showdown of last fall); at some point West has to have rested on his Luis Vuitton-labeled laurels for at least a millisecond and savored the fact that his singular styles of production and emceeing, not to mention dressing, have left irreplaceable impressions on hip-hop as well as the culture at large. >>MORE

MUSIC REVIEWSSocialTwist Tell-a-Friend


More censoring of Ultima

To the accompaniment of Su Teatro's production of Bless Me, Ultima opening in Denver this week, comes word of Rudolfo Anaya's beloved coming-of-age novel receiving the medieval slap of censorship in California. How much longer before such decayed minds follow the path of the more honorable, but extinct, dinosaurs?

The Chicano classic has sold over a third of a million copies, yet its reputability is often questioned by small minds. Assumedly, its Spanish expletives rank on those who similarly detest the presence of Mexicans in an economy that owes its survive to them. >>MORE

BOOK REVIEWSSocialTwist Tell-a-Friend

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

University, Renown Health create literature and medicine program


The University of Nevada School of Medicine received a $3,000 pilot grant from Nevada Humanities to team up with Renown Health to create a literature and medicine program inspired by the Maine Humanities Council’s Literature and Medicine: Humanities at the Heart of Health Care®. The partnership between the School of Medicine and Renown Health includes the participation of Washoe County physicians as well as the University of Nevada, Reno, Division of Health Sciences faculty and Renown employees, from administrators to clinicians.

The literature and medicine program encourages participants to connect the worlds of science and lived experience, giving them the opportunity to reflect on their professional roles and relationships through plays, short stories, poetry, fiction and personal narratives in a setting where they can share their reflections with colleagues. It has had a significant effect on the way participants understand their work, and their relationships, according to Marin Gillis, Ph.D., director of the medical humanities and ethics division at the School of Medicine. >>MORE

University, Renown Health create literature and medicine programSocialTwist Tell-a-Friend

Sunday, February 8, 2009

I’m Not Saying Stop Reading My Blog, But…


Yesterday, I came across a fascinating piece by William Deresiewicz in The Chronicle Review, the magazine insert of The Chronicle of Higher Education. “An End To Solitude” examines today’s technologies and the resultant connectedness granted us by cellphones, texting, Facebook, twitter, and blogs like the one you’re reading now, and then asks what’s happened to the idea of being alone with oneself: the value of meditation and rumination, of solitude as a place of reflection and renewal or as an incubator for the growth of wisdom. While many of us talk about how Facebook has changed the nature of what friendship means (sometimes talk on Facebook about it!) or how we all connect and relate, Deresiewicz offers a broader view, drawing on the vast history of man and sampling novelists, critics and philosophers — Socrates, Emerson and Thoreau, Virginia Woolf, Lionel Trilling, Marilynne Robinson — to examine what solitude has meant and what it means now. >>MORE

I’m Not Saying Stop Reading My Blog, But…SocialTwist Tell-a-Friend

From Evolution Comes Literature

Can we prove what we read and write is rooted in biology?

Literature depends on literacy, a very recent acquisition in human evolutionary history--so recent that it cannot plausibly be considered an adaptation. But people in all non-literate cultures use language, tell stories and play with words in creative and evocative ways. Written language is just a cultural technology that extends those universal human aptitudes.

Literature and its oral antecedents are thus part of the basic profile of "human nature." Over the past 15 years or so, literary scholars in a small but now rapidly growing group have argued that producing an adequate theory of literature requires an evolutionary conception of human nature. By assimilating evolutionary social science, these "literary Darwinists" aim to form a new paradigm for the study of literature. >>MORE

From Evolution Comes LiteratureSocialTwist Tell-a-Friend

Friday, January 30, 2009

Updike at Rest


John Updike's death isn't affecting me like Donald Westlake's or John Mortimer's or Studs Terkel's or Tony Hillerman's. Westlake and Mortimer were my literary models at a key moment of my life. Their styles and senses of humor got into my head and my writing. Their characters became my friends. Their books and stories are comforts as well as inspirations. Terkel was a hero. Hillerman just wrote books that I had a lot of fun reading.

Updike was...


From the beginning. He was a last name. It was how I was introduced to him.

"Your assignment, class, is to read Updike's A&P."

"What are you reading, Dad?"

"Updike's new novel, Lance." >>

Updike at RestSocialTwist Tell-a-Friend

The Booker-Nobel cut


The Booker tends to go to talented writers who, it seems, are yet to write their best novels. The Nobel is tending to go to talented writers who wrote their best books many years ago
Last year was not a bad one for South Asian fiction. Four authors of South Asian origin were on the Booker longlist and the prize was bagged by one of them. But then the Sahitya Akademi struck back: No Indian English book was “found eligible for the honour” of an Akademi award in 2008. 1:0 in favour of bhasha literature (literature in Indian languages)?

An ungracious controversy has been raging between some writers of bhasha literature and Indian English authors for decades now. On the one side, Indian English authors are accused of being superficial, on the other—most famously by Salman Rushdie—bhasha writers are dismissed as not good enough. Was the Akademi’s decision to ignore Indian English books a consequence of this? >>MORE

The Booker-Nobel cutSocialTwist Tell-a-Friend

Booker winners protest funding cut to Irish Writers' Centre


The Booker prize-winning trio of John Banville, Roddy Doyle and Anne Enright along with an army of the biggest names in Irish literature are protesting the termination of funding to the Irish Writers' Centre, a hub for Dublin's literary community which hosts regular readings from the likes of Seamus Heaney and Colm Tóibín.

The authors have put their names to a petition calling for the Irish Arts Council's decision to cut the Centre's €200,000 funding to be reversed, and for support to be "reinstated urgently". Other signatories include Sebastian Barry, fresh from winning this week's Costa prize, John Boyne, Ciarán Carson, Maeve Binchy, Paul Muldoon and Joseph O'Connor, as well as a host of international supporters, from Richard Ford to Will Self and the Forward prize-winning poet Sean O'Brien. >>MORE

Booker winners protest funding cut to Irish Writers' CentreSocialTwist Tell-a-Friend

East Anglian Literature Prize

Entries are now being accepted for a new biennial regional literary prize, called the New Angle Prize for Literature, which has been launched by the Ipswich Institute (a thriving independent library and former mechanics institution established by Dr George Birkbeck in 1824). A first prize of £2,000 will be awarded for a literary work associated with or influenced by East Anglia (defined as Norfolk, Suffolk and North Essex). Entries can be fiction, non-fiction or poetry and must have been published in the two years up to 31st March 2009. The deadline for entries is Friday 3rd April. Details and entry form are available at this website. An event to publicise the shortlist will take place in Ipswich on Wednesday July 8th and the award ceremony will be held on September 22, 2009.

East Anglian Literature PrizeSocialTwist Tell-a-Friend


Live Review: Lincoln Memorial Concert and Big Shoulders Ball

As you probably know by now, the first official event of Barack Obama's inauguration took place Sunday afternoon on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial. Perhaps you know that Springsteen and U2 played, that Joe Biden yelled into his microphone, or that Beyoncé closed out the show with the national anthem. What you may not know, however, is that the more than half a million concertgoers endured bone-chilling cold and crowded Metro cars to get there. We stood in seemingly infinite lines to get our bags searched, then pushed our way up as close to the jumbo screens as we could. For most people there, the wait for the Lincoln Memorial Concert was longer than the concert itself, which was two hours of performances and solemn speeches that had more in common with back-patting awards show than with a political or musical event.

For most of us, the performers were only visible from the jumbo screens scattered across the park, and the music reverberated loudly off the frozen Reflecting Pool, creating a delayed report nearly as loud as the music. Yet, because of the excitement in the air and the significance of the setting and the caliber of the performers, it was hard not to be entertained, if not exactly charmed or impressed. The past eight years have taught us to be suspicious of such pious displays of patriotism, but perhaps due to Obama's grassroots appeal, the concert seemed at times like a collective sigh of relief, a pinch on the arm to make sure yes, this is really happening. >>MORE

MUSIC REVIEWSSocialTwist Tell-a-Friend


Body Language: Poems of the Medical Training Experience
Edited by Neeta Jain, Dagan Coppock, Stephanie Brown Clark
BOA Editions Ltd.

Reading “Body Language” brings the reader into a world that is completely unfamiliar to most of us, the world of medicine. It's a compilation of poetry written entirely by doctors. The poems explore their world, a world of sixteen hour days, catheters, and mental patients. While this world is unfamiliar to me, except occasionally as a patient or family of a patient, these poems bring me right into the action. I feel like I am an intern working a sixteen-hour day who has not seen my mother in months.

The poems are magical in that they explore something wholly different from our day-to-day experiences. The subjects of these poems are not flowers or beautiful women; they are the gritty truths of life as a doctor, and they bring the reader right into that OR. The doctors write of unfamiliar or even scary subjects in a way that speaks to universal human truths and emotions. They explore love, loss, death, relationships, exhaustion, and aging, all things that are a part of our day-to-day lives.

The beauty of this compilation is that it brings the world of the young doctor, the intern, to life in a way I've only before seen on television. These doctors, masters of the scalpel, are also masters of the pen.

BOOK REVIEWSSocialTwist Tell-a-Friend


Some rags for Mr. Madoff

We saw Slumdog Millionaire yesterday. It's a gritty story, less buoyant than grim, until an improbable ending that could only happen in the movies. We loved it anyway. It's the only one of this year's best-picture nominees I've seen, but I'll go ahead and award the Oscar now -- and wait, as I usually do, for the Academy to rubber-stamp my pick.

Rags-to-riches stories have universal appeal, especially one told so artfully as this. But I wonder if Americans aren't ready for a look at the other side of the coin: Riches to rags. As uplifting as it is to see kids overcome cruel poverty, a better fantasy might involve billionaires going in the opposite direction. Imagine Bernie Madoff in ragged shorts, combing through a garbage dump in Mumbai. Tell me that's something you wouldn't pay to see.

But the rich never seem to get poorer, do they? Even the most venal and crooked seem to weather personal disgrace just fine. As far as I know, Mr. Madoff is still gazing down on Manhattan from the great height of his upper East Side apartment. Same with the other titans of greed, and there are a lot of them. Failure's always an option and the consequence is a comfortable retirement. This is America: You hit a certain level of obscene wealth, and you become untouchable. In a good way.

Somebody makes a movie like Billionaire Slumdog, I'm first in line at the box office. I don't want to see all the blameless greedheads blinded, necessarily, or dipped in excrement. But I would like to see them poor.

MOVIE REVIEWSSocialTwist Tell-a-Friend
© free template by Blogspot tutorial