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Wednesday, Dec 6, 2006

The Rough Guides to Music and Film [Rough Guides - $14.99 - $28.99]


Virtually any place on the planet that can host human life, any place on the planet affected by human life (see the guide on climate change, or the one on environmentally-conscious shopping), and any form of cultural expression that can be identified, categorized and celebrated, is gist for the mill in these broad reaching, artfully arranged compositions.  Indeed, The Rough Guides to Music and Film alone would make any culture junkie salivate.  A single The Rough Guide or an armful of ‘em would make the perfect gift for anyone you know who has both a brain and a heart. New music titles include: Punk, Soul and R&B, World Music: Africa and Middle East; new film titles include American Independent Film, Chick Flicks and Westerns.  Just a couple of the new titles that we perused here at PopMatters are:


The Rough Guide to British Cult Comedy by Judy Hall (October 2006) is, well, funny, even to those who avoid stand up comedians and turn their noses up at sitcoms, and it’s funny even though its meant to be a guide to comedy – not necessarily a source of comedy.  Read this and not only get a good laugh, but get some really good trivia, too (“Highest average punch line delivery: 12 punch lines per minute, Phyllis Diller”).  Bios of comedians are found in “The Icons” section, complete with samples of their humor, from the wry to the rude, e.g., “I came on the train today, though I think I managed to pass it off as an asthma attack” from the cheeky Jenny Éclair.  You’ll get a good read on canonical televised comedy shows, the coolest live acts in cult comedy (#1 is Eddie Izzard, but of course, humor is relative), venues, festivals, and comedic terms, defined (look up “the rhythm method”), to a section on how to deal with hecklers (Jim Tavare’s “I’m schizophrenic” gag has been greeted with “You can both fuck off”).  In true guide fashion, after nearly every entry readers are directed to additional books, DVDs, and online resources on the subject.  With each giggle rendered, a history lesson, too, is painlessly applied. Humor may be relative, but this book crosses all divides. [Amazon]


The Rough Guide to Chick Flicks by Samantha Cook (September 2006) opens with a play list that will surprise you “. . . because there’s more to chick flick soundtracks than ‘I Will Always Love You’ . . .”  Let’s start with “Do Your Thing” by Basement Jaxx in Bend it Like Beckham.  “‘And a boom boom boom and a bang bang bang, boom bang, boom bang and bang’”.  That’s a good ass-shaking start to a not-so-tear-jerky look at movies that move the estrogen ridden.  Sure, Pride and Prejudice makes mention in the ‘The Lit/Flick Crossover” chapter (a fun section on women-authored books made into ‘women’s movies’, including Virginia Woolf and Alice Walker, of course), and doe-eyed Audrey Hepburn and sunny girl Doris Day get their respective (and respected) curtsies; but so, too, portrayals of haughty Katharine Hepburn and fearless Susan Sarandon.  Steel Magnolias is of course, an entry, but I’d never have guessed The Red Shoes—or why.  Men women love to look at and the movies they’re in get room in these pages; Rudolph Valentino, Cary Grant, Brad Pitt . . . An all too brief mention of films from India, Iran, Italy and New Zealand compel the reader to start out with this guide in hand and look a little further.  I don’t think you’ll find any other resource for “chick flicks” than this, but you will expand your vocabulary—and your respect – for this genre. [Amazon]


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Wednesday, Dec 6, 2006

It was an idea so outlandish it shouldn’t have worked –- a midseason replacement series that used a single day in the life of a federal agent as the basis for its dramatic narrative. After all, how much could happen in a mere 24 hours? Well, if you’re Jack Bauer (the terrific Kiefer Sutherland), the answer is amazingly intricate. Season Five, available in an impressive DVD set overflowing with added content (including a preview of Season Six) presented Bauer with his most baffling case yet –- a series of assassinations and a nerve gas threat that, at first, appeared linked to some rogue Russian and a recently signed anti-terrorism treaty. But the truth was far more terrifying, as he eventually learns of a link to…well, you’ll just have to watch to find out.  [Amazon]



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Wednesday, Dec 6, 2006

Waylon Jennings: Nashville Rebel [Columbia/Legacy - $49.98]


Waylon Jennings’ name is synonymous with “outlaw country.” That’s one Waylon Jennings story: about the Texas-born, hard-living country singer with a stubborn streak, who in the ‘70s broke with record-company convention to take creative control of his career, and who bonded with Willie Nelson and Kris Kristofferson and other independent-minded country-music rebels, together taking an outlaw stance of artistic nonconformity and determination. Nashville Rebel, the title of the new Jennings four-disc box set, came not from his breaking with Music City-rules in the ‘70s, but from the songwriter/cowboy role he played in the 1966 B-movie of the same name. But at the same time, the title works as the perfect descriptor of his career, because that how he’s remembered: as a county music rebel. [Amazon]


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Wednesday, Dec 6, 2006

BlackBook List: Jet Set 2006 by BlackBook editors [BlackBook Media - $9.95]


Chuck the Fodors and scratch the Lonely Planet: today’s US traveler needs naught but BlackBook’s Jet Set in their backpack. The best bars, clubs, hotels, and restaurants in America’s hippest metro centers are only a page-flip away. The book provides detailed maps to help you find the right spot for the perfect bourbon and Coke, and offers brief, chirpy overviews of each listed venue. It’s cheap, it’s handy, it would suit just about anyone looking for a break. [Amazon]


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Wednesday, Dec 6, 2006

Savage Cinema from Down Under [Subversive Cinema - $29.95]


Australian cinema has had an erratic history. After initial forays into the artform at the turn of the century, the nation let American and British film dominate its marketplace for several decades. Finally, in the ‘70s, directors from Down Under started making their mark, and none have done so as spectacularly as Mark Savage. Combining a love of all things movie with the emerging DIY scene of the ‘80s and ‘90s, his creative output consists of typical genre fare (The Marauders) to experiments in tone (Defenceless) and approach (SNAK – Sensitive New Age Killer). In a remarkably comprehensive box set from Subversive Cinema -– including a bonus disc offering Savage’s astounding look at child pornography, Stained –- we can literally witness the growth in creativity and confidence of an amazingly accomplished outsider artist. [Amazon]


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