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by Michael E. Ross

28 Sep 2009

Death, where is thy drop off the radar screen? The industry, phenomenon and force of artistry known as Michael Jackson is very much alive, if not its namesake. Columbia Pictures is readying release of Michael Jackson’s This Is It, a film of Jackson in rehearsals for the tour that will never be. The film is set for theatrical release Oct. 28, but advance tickets are available as of Sept. 27 (a smart marketing approach on Columbia’s part, one that seeks to extend the frenzy of a live Jackson show into the multiplexes for what will be nothing less than a cinematic wake).

But the Michael behind Michael, the mystery of the man behind the machine, was the subject of an often-moving segment of “Dateline”, aired on NBC Friday night. “The Michael Jackson Tapes” explores Jackson’s inner hells and private joys, all chillingly documented in his own voice. Programmes consisting largely of crawl lines of words transcribed from audiotape have rarely been this emotionally compelling. Ironically, in its reach for the mysteries of this incandescent figure, the hour-long programme only deepens those mysteries; by the show’s end we’re more familiar with the how; the why of Michael Jackson remains as elusive as ever.

The tapes belong to Rabbi Shmuely Boteach, a longtime friend and advisor Jackson met in 1999, a man who saw the singer through some of his most turbulent times, including the troubling years after his lacerating child molestation trial. Boteach got Jackson to open up, to some degree, on any number of the behaviors that made Jackson a target of opportunity for comedians, bad tabloid newspapers and, let’s be honest, all of us.

by Allison Taich

28 Sep 2009

In 1984, the Talking Heads’ release of Stop Making Sense floored critics and fans alike, securing a place in music history as one of the greatest documentaries and performances captured on film. Pauline Kael of The New Yorker described it as “a dose of happiness from beginning to end.” Now, 25 years later, the film is being re-released on Blu-ray by Palm Pictures, on October 13th.

The film was directed by Jonathan Demme, and filmed over a period of three separate performances at the Pantages Theatre in Hollywood, in December of 1983. As the concert progresses, the complexity of the music and presentation grows. There are few cutaways and no interviews; the audience doesn’t even appear until the end. The film is focused around the music and the eccentric talents that created it.

Its 1999 DVD release included an audio commentary with Demme and all four band members, David Byrne’s storyboards and notes, bonus songs, Byrne’s self-interview video, text notes and the film’s trailer. The Blu-ray features the same extras as the DVD, plus a never-before-seen, hour-long press conference with the full band, filmed in 1999 at the film’s theatrical re-release.

With an enhanced visual and audio experience, Stop Making Sense is sure to inspire you to throw on an over-sized suit and frantically dance about.

by Tyler Gould

28 Sep 2009

This post is about a video game, but I implore even the non-gamers among us to pay attention, because The Shivah, though it first came out in 2006, is still in a class of its own. You can see right on the cover art that it’s a “rabbinical adventure of mourning and mystery”, which you generally won’t find at your local game dealer. The Shivah is normally a scant $4.99, and is of such a high caliber that it almost feels wrong to take it for free, but Lincolns can be hard to come by these days, and the man (developer Dave Gilbert) is just giving it away.  Go here before midnight tonight and use the coupon code “FreeShivah” to obtain one of the more notable indie games of the past few years.

by PopMatters Staff

28 Sep 2009

Apricot Rail
Apricot Rail
(Hidden Shoal Recordings)
Releasing: out now

Most instrumental rock suggests the apocalypse is coming. If it is, Apricot Rail are too busy crafting beautiful lilting melodies to care. This Australian quintet have the charm, humour and songwriting nous—and a killer live show—to re-ignite anyone’s belief in music’s subtle, giddy powers.

“The album’s (and arguably the band’s) crowning achievement has to be ‘The Parachute Failure’—it’s spine-tinglingly anthemic and really leaps out at the listener. It so beautifully epitomises the band’s key strengths, as evidenced throughout this remarkable debut—powerful and emotive melodies that engage through the push and pull of delicate restraint and blissful abandon In a word: lovely.” –- Drum Media (CD of the Week).

01 A Public Space
02 If You Can’t Join Them, Beat Them
03 Trout Fishing In Australia
04 Pouring Milk Out the Window (Single)
05 Car Crash
06 Wadnama
07 Rain Falls on Your Nose, It’s Red From the Cold
08 The Parachute Failure
09 On the Trolley
10 Halfway House

Apricot Rail
“The Parachute Failure” [MP3]

Photo: Tom Cramond

Photo: Tom Cramond

by Nikki Tranter

28 Sep 2009

Grant felt himself exposed in no man’s land. There was no avenue of retreat and the enemy was invisible and unassailable. His supports had been dissipated, his arms were lost. He could not even burrow into the ground to hide.

It’s perhaps a rite of passage for any Australian reader to endure Wake in Fright, the 1961 condemnation by Kenneth Cook of the outback and its inhabitants. It’s harsh, unsettling, a new (at the time) insight into the coastal vs. inland cultural disparities inherent in the so-called Australian way of life.

In the novel, John Grant, a Sydney-sider unhappily teaching primary schoolers in an outback town 1200 miles inland and consisting of little more than a pub and a railway station, is excited to be heading back to the coast for a six-week holiday. His journey home involves a stop-over in Bundanyabba, a small town in the middle of nowhere, yet with pubs, hotels, people, enough to get by. Happy to check out the local scene for his one night in town, Grant hits the pubs – confident, content, ready for his break to begin. And then, on a gambling whim, Grant loses everything. He finds himself trapped in this outback wasteland the locals call the ‘Yabba.

Grant, we learn early on, deplores the outback lifestyle, and the people that, by choice, populate and thrive within it. Soon, though, reliance on those people becomes his only means of survival. But at what cost? Grant’s ‘Yabba stay becomes a trek into his own personal hell – educated and well-to-do, Grant soon finds himself shooting ‘roos, drinking endless slabs of beer, skinning his own wildlife catches for food, and contemplating what to do with the last remaining bullet in his rifle – the gun a gift of the locals.

It’s a wonderful set up – stranger in a strange land goes to extremes to get by, discovers his weaknesses, battles his demons while flailing in hell. And Cook puts Grant through the wringer. It’d be giving too much away to describe exactly what fun amounts to for the local ‘Yabba yobbos who befriend Grant on his second night in town. Grant’s most horrific experiences, though, occur in the company of Doc Tydon, an educated man rather like Grant himself, an incongruity central to the book’s themes of class and culture, freedom and choice. Tydon is aware of Grant’s outback prejudice, and stirs up the snobbery in him whenever he can, cleverly using it to draw Grant into some seriously awful undertakings.  Grant endures it all; ultimate desperation, you know, can make us do crazy things.

The book is a rite of passage because it’s a view into a different part of Aussie life, the other, other side of the Sun, Sand, and Surf mystique. Or even the croc-hunter, man on the land ideal. It’s key, though, the distinction Cook makes between those lifestyles, and how so many of us don’t experience those other sides, at least not fully enough to grasp the customs of each. As a rural dweller most of my life, I can’t claim to know the first thing about the surf culture in Sydney or the fun park paradise of coastal Queensland. I’m as lost as Grant in such places. On the other side, too, I’ve smiled to myself at the awkwardness of the city dweller in the sticks.

These distinctions aren’t specific to Australia; everywhere has its Otherness – north and south, east and west, city and country. Cook’s observations of these differences in this country give his book authenticity. He gleaned much as a journo in rural Broken Hill, the town on which Bundanyabba is said to be based. Grant, for instance, is consistently surprised when men offer to buy him beers – this is the ultimate favour in outback Oz, and Grant feels he owes these men who give and give for no reason other than to quench another man’s thirst (one of his first mistakes).

And when Grant, drunk or tired or just plain full refuses the offer, his refusal is met with disdain. Country folks, apparently, take a refusal to be bought a beer as the ultimate dismissal. I laughed at this notion because it’s so, so true. But while the book aptly describes the isolation and inwardness of such communities, it is still a dramatization in the extreme. As a rural Australian, it’s difficult not to want to defend the tight-knit-ness of such a community, and the informal approach to, well, everything, as a sign, perhaps, of a freer existence, not a stupid one that knows no better. Or perhaps, I just don’t want to know if the outback indeed has such power to utterly destroy a man and his sensibilities. Everyone’s version of hell is their own, I guess.

Still, the book managed to scare me – I finished it the day before a scheduled flight across that mighty expanse from southern Melbourne up to Darwin, at its tippy-top. With no idea what to expect from that rural city smack bang in its own middle of nowhere, I wondered what I might do if my friends didn’t collect me from the airport, if somehow I left my bag on a bar counter as I once did with my Passport in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. What would I do? Where would I go? I’d figure it out, no doubt, after a beer or two… Someone’d get the tab, that I know for sure.

Wake in Fright was originally published in 1961, and was reissued in June by Text Publishing to coincide with the re-release of the 1971 film version directed by Ted Kotcheff.

//Mixed media

Exposition Dumps Don't Need Dialogue in 'Virginia'

// Moving Pixels

"Virginia manages to have an exposition dump without wordy exposition.

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