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Wednesday, Jun 25, 2008

“If you’re lucky enough to have even one book gets into people’s consciousness in that way then its fortunate, and the fact that that book (Midnight’s Children ... 27 years after it was published is still interesting to people, I’m very proud of that.”


Salman Rushdie discusses his knighthood on a short, taped interview with the BBC News.


The AFP has a piece on the event here, and India’s Sify news has a brief piece on its site.


Meanwhile, Rushdie’s new book, The Enchantress of Florence, was reviewed by the Philadelphia Inquirer during the week. Reviewer Carlin Romano had this to say:


In some ways, “Enchantress” launches a successor style to now-passe magic realism—call it sardonic exoticism. On top of Rushdie’s customary wryness (one perk in Akbar’s water-park capital is “the best of all possible pools”), Rushdie takes Rabelasian risks here that will please all serious readers: those who expect sentences, and not just plots, to surprise them.



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Wednesday, Jun 25, 2008

Where I work, someone has thoughtfully put a $6 bottle of Kiss My Face Organic Grapefruit and Bergamot self-foaming hand soap beside the bathroom sinks, and every time I use it, I think, “Wow, this is far classier than using the industrial fluid installed in the basin-mounted pumps.” (I also think, “Weird. My hands now smell like Froot Loops.”) Today, because I had just been reading Megan McArdle’s post about morality as a luxury good, I also thought that it’s probably true that more people will be motivated to enivronmentally friendly behavior by its aspirational aspects, by the luxury it connotes, than by any sense of moral rectitude. In consumer society, morality is more of a product than a line of reasoning, and an identity signified through props as opposed to an ethos sustained through a series of actions.


McArdle is mainly interested in the positive freedom our general prosperity allows for: “Morality lies in doing the best you can with what you have. Given that I do have the luxury of finding delicious vegan food and non-leather shoes, I believe I have an obligation to do so. If that should change, I will go back to eating and wearing animal products without moral regret—though with a fair amount of digestive distress.” I think the framework that orients our notions of what prosperity means (more stuff) means that the calculus that goes into our moral decisionmaking may have been recalibrated for most of us, away from a focus on pursuing voluntary obligations and toward the idea of accumulating moral stances as so many prized possessions, reified into various tokens that symbolize our green concerns.


Hence, the Method soap strategy, which Rob Walker wrote about a few years ago. he talked to Eric Ryan, one of Method’s founders.


‘‘Design is a fast way to make these products more high interest,’’ Ryan says, to the target audience of ‘‘progressive domestics.’’ Environmental safety was ‘‘a goal,’’ one that he still sounds almost surprised to have achieved. But form is what really sells some $10 million of the stuff annually. Much of the feedback from enthusiastic customers boils down to: ‘‘I kind of thought it wouldn’t work, but at least I’ll have this cool container left over. Then I got it home and used it, and I’m shocked at how well it actually works.’‘



For most consumers, the sleek design and the product’s environmental perks are of the same ilk—distinctive qualities that mark the consumer who uses such a product as being of a better class. Environmentalism is not a ethos but a design quirk. This may be the only way to corral individuals into acting on a problem that is far too large for any one person’s actions to affect—to ignore outcomes and sell it on style.


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Wednesday, Jun 25, 2008
Unorthodox Daughter - No Lay

Granted, this was never part of “pop’s” past, but this No Lay song which I originally caught on a 2005 Grime compilation called Run the Road, I thought she would be the breakout superstar of the UK hip hop scene.  Of course, that hasn’t happened yet, though a new LP , No Comparisons could put her miles above far more modestly talented imports like Mike Skinner and Lady Sovereign.  Her flow is frenetically knifed out, flipping angles so fast that it takes a constant listening sprint to keep apace.  Of course, that level of aggression could prove problematic since Americans tend to prefer Fergie to Jean Grae and the image of slicing someone guts for garters is about as darkly evocative as Jean Grae’s line about taking Satan to a baptism in a flooded basement.  There’s also Grime’s antsy grooves, more ricochet than head bobbing, though the stuttering success of imports like Justice could soften the market for something a bit more jagged in the hip hop market. 


I also can’t help but love her total lack of guile.  If you can’t come up with some outrageous Bowie-esque persona why not just be yourself, hanging out with your friends, braiding some hair, and lounging around in your neighborhood.  Hip hop would do a far greater service to affirm people’s lives rather than indulge some of their most childish fantasies.  All hail No Lay!  Get on this bloggers so that she can be as heralded as already forgotten hip hop saviors like Uffie.


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Tuesday, Jun 24, 2008
It's Wednesday, time for more cinematic dung. This time, Al Adamson turns a typical '60s heist flick into a series of hate crimes that could only happen in a pre-PC motion picture landscape.

A gang of goofball mobsters, led by the Van Dyke-sporting Vito, robs a jewelry exchange, but the gems accidentally end up in the back of a contractor’s truck. A simple commute home, and the heist is a complete bust. As the criminals regroup, our blissfully unaware builder, David Clarke, celebrates his child’s birthday by giving her the most politically incorrect toy ever to hit the market (and that includes the anatomically correct “Joey” from All in the Family).


This little symbol of insensitivity, decked out in blackface and singing the kind of racist minstrel music that made Al Jolson such a Roaring Twenties sensation, is loved by the incredibly gap toothed Nancy…so much so that she takes the pilfered baubles she discovered in the back of Daddy’s rig and stuffs them up the doll’s backside.


Since Vito wants the trinkets returned pronto, he puts Joe Cory and his life partner Curtis on the job. Unfortunately, Joe has a jones for homicide, and needs to get in a few pre-diamond-hunt killings before he goes bug butt. After ascertaining that contractor Dave is married to local lounge singer Linda, Joe heads over to the floorshow to do a little mopping up. But Linda has taken Nancy and her Dixie doll on a Greyhound bus tour of northern California.


While Vito and the rest of the motley crew that couldn’t steal straight take David hostage, lovebirds Curtis and Joe make for the Pacific Coast Highway to stop the chanteuse. Long stretches of stagnant, silent pursuit ensue. Everyone ends up on Grizzly Adams’s doorstep, trying to figure out how to get hold of the treasure while avoiding Joe and his tired Psycho a Go-Go shtick.



As it starts, Psycho a Go-Go has a lot of promise. The swinging nightclub setting, with swirling, gyrating dancers in their frilly fringe minis and knee-high boots. The throbbing back beat of a typical ‘60s bit of garage pop. Flashing, psychedelic lights and the air of civil debauchery (exploitation, here we come!). But then Tacey Robbins shows up like a bouffant Winnie-the-Pooh and starts to croon. As the haunting, hateful “My L.A.” drives a stake of shamelessness right into your cranium, the musical barrage just won’t stop. All hopes for something sordid and swinging die down.


The editing picks up and soon everything starts spiraling out of control. Your mind starts to free-associate on such ideas as suicide, self-abuse, and playing in traffic. The anonymous torsos that pass for dancers keep shouting, “We got it!” and images of the plague and pleurisy shuttle across your retinas. And still, Tacey tunes on, hoping to sell us on the notion that she is actually entertaining. But our hopes are already dashed, both the flesh and the spirit are weak, and we end up metaphysically drawn and quartered.


Then the real plot kicks in. Oy! What a narrative it is. Botched robberies, irritated construction workers, little girls with heinous dental issues, and a bald, bulky Jack Nicholson wannabe with his own cap-toothed traumas (Roy Morton, making his Joe Corey a mindless mental case) add up to one shape-shifting cinematic sludge pit. Mixing your motion picture metaphors is never easy for a low-budget film, but this stealing-meets-slasher-by-way-of-Desperate Hours doody is so chaotic the Sex Pistols are wishing it for the UK right now.


Dammit, certain elements here ought to work! They should push the puzzling, pedestrian storyline out of its sheer stupidity and over into surreal estate territory. After all, our child actress has a brown-painted doll called “Christie Minstrel” that constantly breaks into chipmunk-ish versions of such sour Southern sop as “Camptown Races” and “Swannee River”. The crime syndicate employs a hulky, mute handyman named Curtis who lusts after every man he sees like he’s ready for a Fire Island rendezvous. His homosexual love leanings are so obvious and overt that you expect Curtis to start singing Bronski Beat songs.


But no, instead we have the sullen, shrill Tacey Robbins and her ill-conceived musical numbers urping all over our eardrums. Unable to lip-sync convincingly, and with all the stage presence of a jar of spoiled mayonnaise, Robbins and her songs should add up to at least a few minutes of miscreant fun. After all, if Arch Hall Jr. can make atonal talentlessness terrific, why can’t she?


The answer is all Al Adamson. You can tell that he had no idea how to make all these divergent, disconcerting elements labor to his advantage. What could have been riotous and ridiculous is played straight, and as a result, comes across as dense. Adamson’s Psycho a Go-Go is an angry movie, filled with contempt for everything: the characters, the plot convolutions, and the audience. He doesn’t try to entertain you—he more or less brow beats you into cinematic submission, following the illogical premise that if he puts it on the screen, it will somehow magically transform into a movie. But that doesn’t happen. Instead, we get endless shots of Roy Morton / Joe Corey mindlessly groping Ms. Robbins, Curtis mentally undressing the male cast members, and a demonic race-baiting doll. Suddenly, Psycho a Go-Go turns a must-see into a no-no.


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Tuesday, Jun 24, 2008
by Sarah Zupko and Karen Zarker
Pictures by Sarah Zupko / Words by Karen Zarker.

Soul and gospel legend Mavis Staples’ sold out performance at Chicago’s Hideout last night brought the Civil Rights movement and all those souls who marched, sang and prayed during that critical time, to the crowded little room. A tiny venue for Staples’ big voice –- bigger than the legend herself, nearly as big as the History she sings for -– the Hideout was standing room only and filled with the reverential; some among them who lived through the ‘60s, as well.


Staples and her talented band opened with Buffalo Springfield’s “For What It’s Worth”, and carried the spirit of fighting for justice through gorgeous renditions of “Eye on the Prize”, Down in Mississippi”, The Band’s “The Weight” –- to name but a few. The ghosts of the marchers stood among us, swaying, stamping, clapping.


For those who couldn’t be there in person (because you live in another city/country, or were just born too late), she was recording a live album for Anti- Records last night, and her tour schedule is going strong, strong as that fighting spirit that lives on.  Amen.


Click on image thumbnails below to view the rest of the photos.


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