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Wednesday, Dec 5, 2007

Conservatively, hundreds of books have been written about the Beatles. In addition to the plethora of autobiographies and biographies, these include children’s books, at least two separate volumes on the late ‘60s “Paul is Dead” hoax, and titles like Earn Extra Money In Your Spare Time Selling Beatles Memorabilia Online. Yet, if necessary, the truly universally essential titles could be grouped into a Nick Hornby-type Top Five, and the late Ian MacDonald’s Revolution in the Head: The Beatles’ Records and the Sixties, originally published in 1994, would be among them. Why? In short, it’s MacDonald’s ingenious tact of cataloging each of the 188 songs the Fab Four ever released, along with a handful they didn’t, in order of the original date of recording, and writing an individual analysis of each. This setup plays on what Beatles observers love or loathe most about the band—the music, stupid!—and uses it as a springboard for analyzing everything else about the band, including influences on and of, personalities, cultural contexts, relationships, and philosophical musings, rather than vice versa.


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Wednesday, Dec 5, 2007

It’s an unqualified disaster and a ridiculous combination of bombastic period piece, director Tinto Brass bravado, and producer Bob Guccione’s unmatched hubris. Inserting XXX pornography into an otherwise ordinary extravaganza was just the Penthouse publisher’s first mistake. Pissing off screenwriter Gore Vidal and overstating the audience’s desire for smut come a close second. So why would anyone want to revisit this biographical botch job? Well, Image has created one of 2007’s most comprehensive DVD packages. With input from actors Malcolm McDowell and Helen Mirren, and archival looks at the production, it deconstructs a project destined to fail and the egos that caused it to happen.


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Wednesday, Dec 5, 2007

The Discovery Channel’s massively popular, frightening and enlightening shark series is 20 years old this year and the network is celebrating in grand style. A recent four-DVD set, Shark Week: 20th Anniversary Collection, offers highlights from the history of the show and it’s not just all gory attacks. Many of these episodes offer the latest research on these fascinating creatures and make a convincing case for strengthening and enforcing shark preservation efforts across the globe. A perfect present for all the nature show junkies and shark fans amongst your friends and family.


 


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Wednesday, Dec 5, 2007

The Wilbury’s catalogue has shamefully been out of print for over a decade now. That a band could boast the greatest singer (Roy Orbison) and the greatest lyricist (Bob Dylan) in rock history and find its work completely nonexistent is an inexplicable crime. Thankfully, Rhino has righted that wrong with a two-CD/one-DVD set that chronicles the band’s history and output. The real prize of the collection, however, is the film included on the DVD, titled The True History of the Traveling Wilburys. Watching it makes listening to the albums a totally new experience, as it provides background and context that cast the songs in a new light. True, some of this stuff may border on music geek trivia, but it’s fascinating nonetheless. The inspiration for “Last Night”, for example, was “Sidebury” Jim Keltner drumming on jars in a refrigerator. And, just as odd, the lyrics for “Dirty World” were, in part, lifted from an auto magazine. If you’ve ever wondered how geniuses create, this twenty-five minute documentary is an enlightening watch.


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Wednesday, Dec 5, 2007

Compact in size, yet jam-packed with clear, colorful photos, this mini coffee table book is just the thing for you or your favorite eco-conscious consumer pals when you’re looking to save the Earth in style. Or at least raise awareness of the plight of the planet. Dave Evans, an award-winning Australian photographer, highlights practical, whimsical, and artistic objects, each made from recycled or eco-friendly materials put to innovative use. Ever seen a menorah crafted from galvanized steel plumbing pipes? A CD holder crafted from vintage vinyl LPs? We’re intrigued.


Cool Green StuffAuthor: Dave EvansCrownOctober 2007, 256 pages, $14.95

Cool Green Stuff
Author: Dave Evans
Crown
October 2007, 256 pages, $14.95


The collection is divided into sections like ‘fashion’, ‘house’, and ‘outside’, and the sheer variety of things created from materials that could have become trash or actually were reclaimed from the local dump is amazing. From ‘elephant poo poo paper’ (prettier than it sounds) to a ‘sun trap handbag’ crafted with a solar panel in the base that gently glows when opened, allowing you to find your keys at the very bottom, these objects are both usable and sustainable.


This book has an impressive range of objects that are often incredibly practical or else designed expressly to draw attention to the possibilities of product design in an enviro-friendly market. From furniture to housewares, wearable fashion to modes of transportation, the sheer scope of this project doesn’t fail to impress. Although the casual flipper-of-pages may notice a couple of sections where artists or producers are repeated in close proximity (at first I thought, why not give some press to additional manufacturers?), it makes sense that designers who are at the forefront of this movement are not focusing their efforts on a single product. No one paid to be a part of the collection; Evans has carefully selected those items which demonstrate commitment to the green consumer movement, as well as undeniable style.


Don’t miss the snazzy bottle openers made from recycled bike chains or the oddly mesmerizing ‘giggles bracelet’ created from the slightly creepy faces of discarded Barbie dolls. Possibly more disturbing is the 50 ml bottle of ‘Crude parfum’, which is not truly a perfume but a decorative flask in the style of today’s myriad celebrity fragrances, and filled literally with crude oil, drawing attention to the power of one of the most influential raw materials of our time.

Bonus: the web address for each artist or manufacturer is given on the same page with its description and photo, so the reader can follow up on those coasters made from recycled motherboard components—the only time when coffee is allowed near computer parts.


Rating: 8


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