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Wednesday, Dec 12, 2007
by Chris McCann

Nigerian-born novelist and poet Chris Abani understands the power of stories. My Luck, Abani’s protagonist in Song for Night, is a 15-year-old boy soldier who has been trained as a sapper. He roams ahead of his comrades, scouting for mines and disabling them, part of a team of children who perform this vital function. Early on in their training, their commanding officer ordered that they have their vocal cords severed so that if one accidentally tripped a mine, “we wouldn’t scare each other with our death screams.” The novella involves a journey beginning immediately after the explosion of a mine that has knocked My Luck out. When he wakes, the other members of his unit are gone. He goes to look for them, wandering through dangerous areas that may or may not be enemy territory. Much of the book reads like a dream. In fact, the novella is as much a prose poem as it is fiction. Abani’s gorgeous, elliptical sentences twine around each other like a profusion of vines tangled together in the tropical landscape. Song for Night is a compelling story of a young man’s search for self-comprehension in the midst of war.


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Wednesday, Dec 12, 2007
by Darwin Hang

Pop in this Playstation 3 exclusive and be prepared for your avatar to be blown away. That’s because even though Warhawk is the best multiplayer online experience that the PlayStation Network has to offer, there is a slight learning curve due to the lack of single player mode. You will learn this game through a trial by fire—literally if you come across a player who likes the flamethrower a bit too much.  Between Deathmatch, Capture the Flag, and Zone Defense, there is a game mode for everyone. Warhawk‘s most innovative feature is the availability of aircraft (including the titular Warhawk), ground vehicles (including tanks, tanks!), and ground weapons that add variation to every game, regardless of whether you like to capture flags or killpoints. Flying will also take a bit of getting used to, especially in the more crowded games where missiles are constantly flying at you.  Once you get flying down, it becomes the highlight of the game. There are servers made specifically for dogfights if that becomes your cup of tea. This game is loads of fun and gives all PS3 owners a peek at what the PlayStation Network can offer in the coming year.


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Wednesday, Dec 12, 2007

This DVD captures acts ranging from The Carter Family to Johnny Cash and rafts of others who were on the folk circuit playing their hearts out in the earnest belief that folk culture is the lifeblood of the country and that by turning to that wellspring passionately, they could achieve their own sense of truth and authenticity. Any DVD collection that can show you the roots of popular music forms like country music and the blues, played by some of the key musicians in the genres, is well worth the price of admission.


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Wednesday, Dec 12, 2007

He may as well have thrown in a slice of apple pie and a John Deere tractor—Sheeler’s book is about as American as baseball. His characters exude a down-home goodness, eschewing corporate jobs and urban lifestyles in favor of small towns and agriculture. To the modern, career-driven American, these “ordinary” people may not seem to have much to offer, though Sheeler somehow manages to convince even the most die-hard city-dweller that there is something of great worth in these pages.


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Wednesday, Dec 12, 2007

Mostly instrumental and brimming with unique holiday confections cooked up, Shawn Lee’s Ping Pong Orchestra drops some flavor in your ear and some soul in your stocking with A Very Ping Pong Christmas: Funky Treats From Santa’s Bag. No ping pong balls were hurt, much less used during the making of this album, relying upon Shawn Lee’s unexpected instrumentation and kicky configurations to carry out this trippy holiday fantasy. Along the way, Lee acts as Parson Brown, marrying an inspired twist of Screaming Jay Hawkins’ “I Put a Spell on You” to the holiday classic “God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen”. Not the only fresh take on traditional favorites, A Very Ping Pong Christmas also features a scratch n’ sitar-laden take on “The Little Drummer Boy”, sprinkling it with baritone sax, the sonic equivalent of colored sugar on Christmas-shaped cookies. Squealing horns interwoven with guitar-wonk psychadelia gives Lee’s version of “Do You Hear What I Hear” enough street cred to sound like the soundtrack to some long lost, ‘70s Christmas-themed blaxploitation flick. Fun and funked-out to the gills, Lee’s Yuletide effort merits year round replay value, not just during the holidays. While still recognizable as the usual arsenal of Christmas classics, Lee’s reworkings aren’t overtly identifiable as something strictly seasonal. Offering up something for fans of funk, jazz, and jam-session styles, these genres are expertly blended into a category-defying sound. Each piece is head-bobbingly good, invoking a holiday feel without overflowing that proverbial cup of cheer and saturating each track with an overdose of seasonal sentiment.


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