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by Nikki Tranter

28 Jan 2009

Laura Lippman

Laura Lippman

Laura Lippman is the creator of the popular, award-winning Tess Monaghan novel series. Laura was a reported for many years at the Baltimore Sun, following on from her father, respected Sun journalist, Theo Lippman. Jr. Her latest book is a collection of short stories entitled Hardly Knew Her. Laura also recently contributed to the Poe anthology, In the Shadow of the Master: Classic Tales by Edgar Allan Poe and Essays. edited by Michael Connelly.

Laura Lippman is today’s Re:Print Special Guest, here to answer another Five Questions About Edgar Allan Poe.

Describe your first Poe experience.
I think it was in a Classic Comic! The Gold Bug. But it got me to look up the real thing.

What would you consider Poe’s greatest work, and why?
That’s tough because I haven’t read everything. But while I owe my career to his fiction, if I had to read just one facet of Poe’s work, it would probably be his poetry. It’s quite beautiful.

Hardly Knew HerAuthor: Laura LippmanHarperCollinsOctober 2008, 304 pages, $23.95

Hardly Knew Her
Author: Laura Lippman
October 2008, 304 pages, $23.95

How has Poe’s work shaped you as a reader/writer?
All crime writers owe Poe a debt. Granted, if he hadn’t “invented” the modern-day detective story, perhaps someone else would have. But he did, and every mystery writer follows in his footsteps.

Which of your own works owes the largest debt to Poe and why?
Easy as A-B-C is an out and out homage to Poe, a modern-day version of The Cask of Amontillado.

If you were hosting the celebrations for Poe’s big day, how would have your guests celebrate?
I would cancel the party and ask my guests to make a donations to a nonprofit that supports the arts and young writers. Poe struggled so to make a living. Those writers who really want to honor his memory should make sure they are helping other writers. On Poe’s birthday, in fact, I’ll be teaching at a writers workshop.

Laura Lippman is online here.

by Roman Kuebler

28 Jan 2009

When Baltimore’s Oranges Band announced that they were headed into the studio to begin work on their new record, having soldiered through personnel changes and struggles at their label, Lookout Records, it seemed like an excellent time to catch up and to allow them to speak for themselves by cataloging the happenings.  Blog entries One through Five tracked them from the very beginning of pulling the band together for the first time in the studio, to laying the album down piece to piece, to looking into just why albums can sometimes take so incredibly long to finish.  In entry six, with the album largely tracked [Editor’s Note: It sounds incredible], Oranges Band frontman Roman Kuebler took a break from writing about the experience of recording to providing the photos that come along with it.  In this final installment he explores the inconceivably painful and time-consuming task of coming up with cover art, once again with the same [much-appreciated] humor, attention to detail, and self-effacing honesty that has marked all of his entries.—Jon Langmead

The final product

The final product

Cover Art

The Oranges Band Are Invisible. An album is not an album without a name. And after what seems, now, like an eternity, this collection of songs is, officially, an album. Not only because the album now has a name but also because it collects the experience of writing and rehearsing it, demoing and recording it, mixing and fixing it, and yes, naming it.

For me, processing and reflecting on all of the stages that went into the making of this album is rather overwhelming. Our last album was released close to four years ago and this new album, because albums are the benchmarks of a band’s history, is responsible for gathering all the experiences since then and, somehow, defining the band through these songs and under this title, The Oranges Band Are Invisible. Easy enough to consider that no album could really comprehensively sum up four years of any band’s history, right? Well, what is overwhelming about that concept is that I might be the only person in the world for whom this album really CAN do that.

A band’s album is so many levels. It’s songs and performances and ideas and potential but at the end of the day, it’s a product. A physical product that has a name and a visual reference so that it can be classified among the other albums that people experience. What this means is that after working forever on getting your music where you want it to be, you have to wrap it up in a package to sell it. It needs a name and artwork that will classify and define it. Now, assuming the responsibility for just about everything in the progression of a band has it’s advantages… I guess you can claim all the credit for your, many… errr, ummm, well, some of your successes. You know, you get to ride in the convertible at the parade! You get, also, to own (outright) all failures! The fringe benefit, the one that people don’t see, though, is that you get to wake up in the middle of the night realizing that the artwork is not going to complete itself.

I really like doing the artwork for albums but not necessarily for my own albums (even though I’ve done every one). It deserves so much focus and attention and I found that, after having “left it all on the field” during the recording, the artwork can be a daunting task. Not only it is creatively stressful but it is also a technical exercise that requires patience and administration, commodities in short supply at the end of the album-making process. It was with this in mind that I sat awake in bed one night devising ways to get around doing the artwork this time. The obvious answer was to have someone else do it. Employ one of my many talented and artistic friends to create a great concept and execute it, visually, to perfection. Sadly, it’s an idea as simple as it is unrealistic. I have tried this many times and it has been my experience that artists, myself included, are as capitalistic as the next guy. Well maybe not if the next guy is an investment banker or something, but we still operate on the “time is money” concept and creating an album cover takes a LOT of time. Of course most bands, ours included, find that money is another commodity in short supply at the end of the album-making process so that didn’t seem like a workable solution.

CDs were hand assembled while watching football

CDs were hand assembled while watching football

Still lying awake, racking my brain to figure out how to get out of doing the artwork, I was nearly resolved to having to put in the hours of being shackled to my computer, staring at the screen when, in a MacGyver-like flash of inspiration I thought, “What if there is NO artwork?” Wait… what?! The basic thought of an album with no artwork is a little too easy. I mean, again, an album needs to be represented visually in some way and needs to be a physical product so it had to be something but an adjusted concept that eliminated paper sleeves and tray cards did seem legitimate. Not only did it seem manageable, but I was quickly aware of how the idea of a “paperless” album actually challenged the popular concept of music packaging at a time when the music industry is struggling to define the value of music and the legitimacy of the compact disc format against, obviously, the digital format which has no physical representation. I liked it’s environmental statement as well, even though it’s still a lot of plastic… well, we won’t sell too many then, out of concern for the environment.

Ok, so having convinced myself I can get around the idea of artwork, at least in the traditional sense I still had to name the album. Easy enough, if the Beatles did the “White Album” with the all white artwork and Metallica did the “Black Album” (uh, I mean Spinal Tap-never figured out if that was a joke by Metallica), then we were going to claim the “Clear Album”. Knocking it around a bit I thought it best to shy away from inviting comparisons to the Beatles, which would seem a little self important, and came around to the idea of the “Invisible Album”. But you can’t write it on the album and say it’s the “Invisible Album” and I am sure we wouldn’t get the opportunity to nickname our album through the press or anything so I had to figure out a way to call it something that included invisible. By the way, I am still lying in bed thinking about all this. Even though it takes a couple hours to sit and recount the episode in writing the whole thing developed in about three minutes I would guess. Crazy, huh? As I am cycling through a number of album title options utilizing the “invisible” theme, I thought about The Oranges Band Are Invisible. I think some of the others were just Invisible or The Invisible Band or just stuff like that but when I got around to The Oranges Band Are Invisible, I was immediately reminded of The Fuses Are Lies. The Fuses were one of the great Baltimore bands of the late 90s and have inspired many Oranges Band songs and, along with a handful of other local Baltimore groups, are largely responsible for me playing in bands at all. This album draws deeply, both lyrically and musically, on that music and that time in my life so this association with the title really felt right to me. I love it when a concept comes together!

Finally, in thinking about the title I was toying with the idea of an invisible band. The Oranges Band have always felt a little bit like the invisible band, kind of hiding in plain sight. Not necessarily the underdogs or the attention-getters but more the guys who fade into the landscape a bit. I don’t mind that so much as it sort of accurately describes our perception and maybe our place. We have an understated appeal, that’s all. I appreciated how the title of the album is a statement about our band from our band. And hey, I mean the Invisible Man, right? Who hasn’t dreamt of being the Invisible Man? He’s easily one of the coolest superheros–or was he a menace?! I guess I didn’t see that one.

The CD covers were hand screened by Alex Dondero. This is the artwork for the screen. Thanks to Alex for his help.

The CD covers were hand screened by Alex Dondero. This is the artwork for the screen. Thanks to Alex for his help.

by PopMatters Staff

28 Jan 2009

Asobi Seksu’s latest album, Hush, is releasing February 17 on Polyvinyl Records. Here’s the first single, “Me & Mary”.

by Michael Edler

28 Jan 2009

Brutal. Even for a die hard Midwesterner like myself, January weather in Chicago has been brutal this year. So brutal that I find myself wrestling with the winds and bitters of Chicago sidewalks to make my weekly treks to local record stores. Falling over sheets of ice, dirty salty air, and a need to walk hunched to avoid all but the sidewalk just in front of my next fearless step. Yep. It’s been this bad.

I have found myself dodging some current releases in order to refresh my record collection of some lost, classic American songwriting. Today’s picks were a pair of purely American originals. Tom Waits and The Band tell stories we’ve all heard before, but each give us perspective and point of view demonstrating a rich palette of Americana. I speak to albums from each artist/group: Tom Waits Franks Wild Years (sic) and The Band The Band.


Tom Waits, Franks Wild Years

Tom Waits’ 1987 release is the music he co-wrote with his wife Kathleen Brennan. The songs became the basis for the play of the same name; performed in1986 by Chicago’s Steppenwolf Theatre Company. The album is pure Tom Waits and I’m shocked I have never spent the time listening to the entirety of the album. It is a record that demonstrates Waits’ flexibility as a songwriter. A song like “Hang on St. Christopher” is a staple in the Waits’ catalogue, but experiments on the two versions of “Straight to the Top” demonstrate musical moxie that harkens back to Leonard Cohen and Irving Berlin more than anything contemporary to Waits. Typical of Waits’ albums, he borrows from his previous albums in songs like the previously named “Hang on St. Christopher” and “Telephone Call from Istanbul” that fit in line with some of his previous experiments in 1986’s album Rain Dogs (incidentally, the title of the album is a nod to an early song of the same name on his 1983 release Swordfishtrombones), but gently massaging his listener in different experimental directions in the songs “I’ll Take New York” and “Blow Wind Blow”. Franks Wild Years is a masterful touch from one of America’s greatest songwriters to ever grace us with his presence. Truly, a man who can write a song like “Straight to Vegas” and then three songs later (and on the same side of the record) share a song like “Cold Cold Ground” where Tom laments “Take the weathervane rooster / Throw rocks at his head / Stop talking to the neighbors / Til we all go dead / Beware of my temper / And the dog I’ve found / Break all the windows in the cold, cold ground.” shows dexterity that is pure talent, shockingly beautiful in its execution.



The Band, The Band

I always have found it interesting that The Band’s second, self-titled album was a more commercially and financially accepted album on its release date than compared to their previous album, 1968’s Music From the Big Pink. The Band is a little more evenly arranged. There is a definite sense that Robbie Robertson (that’s J.R. Robertson to you and me) had a vision to the development of the track’s order and subsequent arrangement. However, I have always been more emotionally drawn to Music From the Big Pink because of exactly why The Band’s second album is so credited; because Big Pink is so uneven and spontaneous. With this being said, The Band is a beautiful collection of songs that paints a visionary tale of Americana. The first track “Across the Great Divide” sets the album in motion. Robertson’s invitation to “Grab your hat, and take that ride” calls out the listener to sit back and ride through the backroads of Americana.  The pace is continued through Reconstruction Dixie in “The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down”, continued in the songs “Up on Cripple Creek” and “Look Out Cleveland”. Each demonstrates narratives about the people and events that shaped the complicated history of America. As I listen to the album for the first time in a long while, I am reminded in how well The Band told the Oral History of an America forgotten at the end of the commercially successful “Summer of Love”.


So that was my weekly venture to the record stacks of Dave Records on Clark and Wellington in Chicago. Without a doubt, bitterly cold days are not the norm around Chicago, but I’ll remind those who regret setting up their shacks in the Midwest that the cold days do not prevent us from heading out, grabbing some records, and returning home to some nice beers, a bump of the volume, and hockey on the TV to remind us Januarys are a state of mind around these parts.

by Diepiriye Kuku

27 Jan 2009

The 2008 remake of the 1951 film The Day the Earth Stood Still was rich in contemporary and relevant social criticism despite the regurgitating an apocalypse narrative and re-hashing Keanu Reeves as another prophetic savior. Even the ditsy, airheads Bill and Ted managed save the world. Yet, unlike most films within the apocalyptic sci-fi genre- the set of films, comics, etc. that assume humanity almost destroys itself before realizing any greater (public) good- this film’s alien has no intention of destroying the earth. Humanity is already well on the job!

Prejudice and polarization are the greatest threats to democracy. America is highly polarized, threatening to re-order the world in its wake. This is the backdrop of this film and, critically, increasingly the evening news. Naturally, the aliens land in Manhattan. Yet rather than seeing “the city” focus as typical American chauvinism- it’s true and exhausting that MOST Hollywood films take place in either New York or LA- this film ran the Jesus narrative to a tee! Many believe that Prophets only descend when and where there is total moral decrepitude. In fact, a devout, practicing Muslim friend from Mali once explained to me that this clarifies why there had been no African equivalents of Jesus or Muhammad. No better place to represent humanity’s worst than where so many global narratives of hate converge: The Twin Towers and Wall Street! It is now clear that greed, anger and stupidity enabled both the construction and destruction of these icons.

The Day the Earth Stood Still  was unrelenting in its critique of humanity’s arrogance in assuming that we’re alone in the universe, the presumption that the planet belongs to us, and the supposition of dominance/sub-ordinance in any and all inter-cultural encounters. This critique was maintained throughout the film, yet came to a head with plenty poignant points of dialogue: “Do you speak for the entire human race?” the alien Klaatu, portrayed by Reeves, asks the US Secretary of Defense Regina Jackson. She replies: “I represent the President of the United States.” Luckily, realizing that not all viewers would see the sheer arrogance and truthfulness of this response, the director played to the peanut gallery and cast Kathy Bates in the role. She was certainly miserable!

This film was a critical commentary on cultural imperialism and chauvinism, challenging humanity to refocus on what binds us rather than divides because this allows us to reconcile despite any conflict. Exactly like the latest Harry Potter, Spiderman and Batman flicks, the conflict posed in The Day the Earth Stood Still, i.e. humanity’s destruction, is resolved through reconciliation- the two main characters agree to forgive themselves and one another, thereby causing Keanu Reeves/The One/Jesus, to save us. This time the Obama narrative was unmistakable. Like the little boy who thought that Keanu should have been killed, by the end, the little tanned, bi-racial, curly haired boy is the greatest advocate for tolerance and understanding in order to save us all.

//Mixed media

Because Blood Is Drama: Considering Carnage in Video Games and Other Media

// Moving Pixels

"It's easy to dismiss blood and violence as salacious without considering why it is there, what its context is, and what it might communicate.

READ the article