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by shathley Q

16 Jul 2009

It just doesn’t seem like comics, does it? By the fifth page of ‘A Contract with God’, the artist seems woefully misguided by today’s standards. Bricks on the upper part of the wall seem to hang in the air, not at all cemented down. The light in the background is unclear, lost behind a sheet of rain. The steps that lead down from the sidewalk are visually unclear. Protagonist Frimme Hersh is in no way afforded use of the masking effect; the linework of his character is not simpler so as to promote emotional investment by the reader. And the cardinal sin - there has been no comics so far, just a series of five page-long posters.

But visionary cartoonist Will Eisner definitely knew what he was doing with very first Graphic Novel. It is so very hard not to involve oneself emotionally with the falling rain. It is a rain that just inundates the world. And it is the rain that is the most powerful visual metaphor for the utter despair of the lead character. For Frimme Hersh this is not anger, it is impotence. Hersh is almost a secondary consideration after his own anguish. He is completely unable to act in any way to the death of his daughter. And Eisner allows Hersh’s anguish to be seen in the world itself. Against expectation it is Eisner’s self-imposed limitation against using framed paneling and the masking effect that produces maximum emotional investment by the reader. This is a world literally awash with anguish and sorrow.

But in a wholly other sense, Eisner makes a statement about comics as a medium, and comics’ power to convey intense emotional experiences. Comics is a medium for great literature, Eisner seems to say, Do not simply mistake these for the picture-books of your youth.

In 1978 Eisner was the first to conceive of the Graphic Novel format. With its publication he made an argument about comics’ capacity to act as literature. But Eisner was also writing against a second generation of European comics the so-called Bandes Desinee like the Tintin and the Asterix series. These comics were prepared graphically, with empty speech balloons meant for the proper translation. In a certain sense, these comics were a reminder of the factory-style production that prevented institutional acceptance of comics as a medium. What impoverishment of the comics medium could there have been, if such comics remained the standard alternative to street-driven superhero stories of the 1970s?

It just doesn’t seem like comics. Not by today’s standards. In a sense, A Contract with God and Other Tenement Stories is not comics at all, it is a manifesto. It is a powerful piece of history and a powerful statement about the comics medium. The thoroughgoing craftsmanship of Will Eisner while pioneering the Graphic Novel form is one of the reasons that today we do have standards to judge comics by.

by Thomas Hauner

16 Jul 2009

The tenth annual Latin Alternative Music Conference presented a mix of new and old at Central Park’s SummerStage. Rising DJ—and founder of Buenos Aires’ ZZK Records—Él-G performed an interim set that straddled the styles and rhythms of the evenings other two acts, the Brazilian samba-funk and hip-hop artist Curumin and Argentinean Juana Molina. While Él-G even incorporated a remix of Animal Collective’s “My Girls”, much of his set was reserved and inconspicuous, as if waiting to unleash his subtropical mixes. Earlier in the evening Curumin eased into his set with a cover of Roy Ayers’ “Everybody Loves the Sunshine”, eventually turning up the tempo. Even though he was mostly static, singing behind his drum kit, his music was dynamic and rhythm perpetual. Both sampled and electronic melodies were woven into samba grooves and the mostly seated crowd grew restless. Near the end of his performance he played the best “Beat It” cover I’d heard in the last two weeks, transforming it into a sensual half-time lament. Juana Molina began with the opening—and title—track to 2008’s Un Dia. Gently singing the words “one day” and then looping them, she layered more vocals and then guitar passages on top before initiating the audience with more adlibbed vocals and musical yelps. Finally her bassist and drummer innocuously entered such that the song itself seemed to sublimate the casual utterances and nuances of everyday words and sounds. Over and over Molina created her signature ethereal blend of vocals, guitars, and electronics—with added bass and rhythms. Near the end of the night she played a solo song, “¿Quién?”. She wrote it after a weeklong trip to NYC years ago ended with her young daughter fearing complete abandonment, and the chorus echoes her daughter’s longing. What made many of her songs so captivating, however, was the scope of vocal textures she was able to produce and layer: Vocables, ombasure manipulation, and rhythmic variations. Paired with her music’s soft undulating cadences, her songs paralleled the night’s gentle breezes.

by Sarah Boslaugh

16 Jul 2009

If the economy has put the kibosh on your travel plans this summer, you can still take a virtual journey to Navajo country in the company of Tony Hillerman whose detective novels have done as much as anything else to foster an appreciation for the cultures and peoples of this region.

The story and characters in A Thief of Time, first published in 1988, seem as fresh today as when the book first came out. The precipitating event in this novel is the murder of Dr. Eleanor Friedman-Bernal, an anthropologist working in Chaco Canyon. Officer Jim Chee and Lieutenant Joe Leaphorn are both called in to work on the case, which ultimately uncovers a wide network of people, both Caucasian and Native American, who are involved in the illegal excavation and sale of Native artifacts.

A Thief of Time is one of Hillerman’s best-plotted stories and is particularly rich in descriptions of the Navajo traditions as well. Hillerman has always used Leaphorn and Chee to represent contrasting attitudes toward their Navajo heritage: in this book they become reconciled when Leaphorn, dealing with the recent death of his wife Emma, asks Chee (who studies and practices the ancient Navajo spiritual ways) to help him come to terms with his grief.

Hillerman also gets some digs in at the competitive, hothouse nature of academia, where the urge to impress an advisor or publish a career-making article can become so overwhelming as to prompt otherwise normal people into risky, even criminal, behavior.

If this story has a “ripped from the headlines” aspects it’s because the problem of artifact theft has not gone away in the intervening years. The case of Utah physician James Redd, who committed suicide in June after being charged along with several others with trafficking in stolen artifacts, once again brought national focus to the continuing existence of this crime.

A Thief of Time was re-released by HarperCollins in May.

by Rob Horning

16 Jul 2009

Here’s a shock. The Washington Post reports that ugly-shoe-maker Crocs is about to go out of business. Wow. That seemed like a business built on a sturdy foundation, one that was built to last. Much like Krispy Kreme, it wasn’t tied to a trend at all, and stock touts were surely right to recommend buying in back in 2007. Sometimes the economy is so unpredictable. Who would have thought that demand for Crocs wouldn’t continue to grow forever, like the value of our houses?

The company had expanded to meet demand, but financially pressed customers cut back. Last year the company lost $185.1 million, slashed roughly 2,000 jobs and scrambled to find money to pay down millions in debt. Now it’s stuck with a surplus of shoes, and its auditors have wondered if it can stay afloat. It has until the end of September to pay off its debt.
“The company’s toast,” said Damon Vickers, who manages an investment fund at Nine Points Capital Partners in Seattle. “They’re zombie-ish. They’re dead and they don’t know it.”

I think that it is safe to assume that Crocs might have found itself in some trouble regardless of the recession. It always amazes me that companies like this get hyped in the financial press; it seems a bit irresponsible and cynical. The unspoken subtext seems to be this: Everyone knows that eventually the trends that such companies are built on will pass, but everyone also believes that the other investors are more naive than they are and have bought into the trend unthinkingly. Everyone then wants to exploit the other’s presumed ignorance, assuming some other fool will be left holding the shares when the day of reckoning comes. And the press is there to cheer this game along, pointing to how much growth the company has seen during its peak trendiness, encouraging the extrapolation of such unsustainable figures into the future. I wonder if all the analysts who recommended Crocs a few years ago (or the ones, probably the same ones, who recommended Krispy Kreme in the late 1990s) feel any embarrassment at all.

 

by Sarah Zupko

16 Jul 2009

Arlo Guthrie
Arlo Guthrie: Tales of ‘69
(Rising Son)
Releasing: 18 August 2009 (US)

Arlo Guthrie is a certifiable folk legend, plus the son of another one, and a true ‘60s icon with a fine pedigree in the field of protest music. Perfect for these troubled times for sure and his music has a certain timeliness to it in the face of a rather famous anniversary this summer—yes, it was 40 years ago that the cultural event that was Woodstock took place in a muddy field in rural New York. To celebrate, Guthrie is releasing some live recordings he made right before Woodstock at a venue on Long Island. Tales of ‘69 features nine songs from that event and we have an exclusive one for you in “Coming into Los Angeles”.

Guthrie is going to have a very busy fall as he heads out on a massive tour being labeled as the “Guthrie Family Rides Again”. The tour will feature Arlo’s classics as well as a bunch of his father’s unreleased lyrics recently set to music by a stellar cast of collaborators, including Billy Bragg and Wilco. The tour will truly be a family event as Guthrie will be joined by his son Abe and daughters Cathy, Annie and Sarah Lee. The tour begins in October and runs all the way through next May (dates below).

SONG LIST
01 The Unbelievable Motorcycle Tale
02 What a Gas
03 Coming into Los Angeles
04 If You Would Just Drop By
05 If Ever I Should See the Mountain
06 Finger Pickin’ Good (Simply Tuning)
07 Alice—Before Time Began
08 Road to Everywhere
09 Hurry to Me

Arlo Guthrie
“Coming into Los Angeles” [MP3]
     

TOUR DATES

Friday, October 2, 2009: Old Trinity Church in Housatonic, MA
Saturday, October 3, 2009: Old Trinity Church in Housatonic, MA
Sunday, October 4, 2009: Old Trinity Church in Housatonic, MA
Friday, October 9, 2009: Jorgensen Center for the Performing Arts in Storrs, CT
Saturday, October 10, 2009: Jorgensen Center for the Performing Arts in Storrs, CT
Friday, October 16, 2009: Soaring Eagle Casino in Mt. Pleasant, MI
Tuesday, October 20, 2009: Barrymore Theatre in Madison, WI
Wednesday, October 21, 2009: Schauer Center in Hartford, WI
Friday, October 23, 2009: College of Dupage Arts Center in Glen Ellyn, IL
Saturday, October 24, 2009: Genesee Theatre in Waukegan, IL
Tuesday, October 27, 2009: Oakville Centre for the Performing Arts in Oakville, Ontario, Canada
Wednesday, October 28, 2009: Dominion Chalmers Church in Ottawa, Canada
Thursday, October 29, 2009: Outrement Theatre in Montreal, Canada
Sunday, November 1, 2009: Homer Center for the Arts in Homer, NY
Thursday, November 19, 2009: The Flynn Centre in Burlington, VT
Friday, November 20, 2009: Merrill Auditorium in Portland, ME
Saturday, November 21, 2009: Hutchins Concert Hall in Orono, ME
Saturday, November 28, 2009: Carnegie Hall in New York, NY
Sunday, November 29, 2009: New Jersey Performing Arts Center in Newark, NJ
Friday, February 19, 2010: The Birchmere in Alexandria, VA
Saturday, February 20, 2010: McCarter Theatre in Princeton, NJ
Sunday, February 21, 2010: Patchogue Theatre in Patchogue, NY
Tuesday, February 23, 2010: Grand Opera House in Wilmington, DE
Thursday, February 25, 2010: The American Theatre in Hampton, VA
Friday, February 26, 2010: The American Theatre in Hampton, VA
Saturday, February 27, 2010: Paramount Theatre in Charlottesville, VA
Monday, March 1, 2010: Newberry Opera House in Newberry, SC
Wednesday, March 3, 2010: Diana Wortham Theatre at Pack Place in Asheville, NC
Thursday, March 4, 2010: Diana Wortham Theatre at Pack Place in Asheville, NC
Friday, March 5, 2010: Ferst Center for the Arts in Atlanta, GA
Monday, March 15, 2010: The Lyric Theatre in Stuart, FL
Tuesday, March 16, 2010: The Lyric Theatre in Stuart, FL
Saturday, March 20, 2010: Bartlett Performing Arts Center in Bartlett, TN
Tuesday, March 23, 2010: Miller Outdoor Theater in Houston, TX
Friday, March 26, 2010: Sheldon Concert Hall in St. Louis, MO
Wednesday, March 31, 2010: Long Center for the Performing Arts in Austin, TX
Saturday, April 3, 2010: Journal Theatre, National Hispanic Cultural Center in Albuquerque, NM
Thursday, April 8, 2010: Del E. Webb Center for the Performing Arts in Wickenburg, AZ
Friday, April 9, 2010: Centennial Hall in Tucson, AZ
Saturday, April 10, 2010: Mesa Arts Center in Mesa, AZ
Wednesday, April 14, 2010: California Center for the Arts in Escondido, CA
Friday, April 16, 2010: Royce Hall in Los Angeles, CA
Saturday, April 17, 2010: Irvine Barclay Theatre in Irvine, CA
Tuesday, April 20, 2010: Clark Center in Arroyo Grande, CA
Thursday, April 22, 2010: University of CA at Davis in Sacramento, CA
Friday, April 23, 2010: Zellerbach Hall in Berkeley, CA
Saturday, April 24, 2010: Gallo Center for the Arts in Modesto, CA
Wednesday, April 28, 2010: Rogue Theater in Grants Pass, OR
Friday, April 30, 2010: Corvallis Center in Corvallis, OR
Saturday, May 1, 2010: Kentwood High School Auditorium in Kent, WA
Sunday, May 2, 2010: Mount Baker Theatre in Bellingham, WA
Tuesday, May 4, 2010: Metropolitan Performing Arts Center in Spokane, WA
*Additional dates TBA*

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