Aaron Sorkin’s signature sharp, snappy dialogue and historically and pop-culturally adroit characters who can pull an educated pun out of thin air, lickety-split, is so much more fun than the conversations we have with most people in everyday, real life. Studio 60‘s lefty sensibility struggles in a period—that is, the present—when the socio-political culture has taken on a frightening hue of red. Among other things, a respectful bow to the artists who briefly walked the halls of the studio before, until succumbing (although not without a fight) to the bulldog bite of the McCarthy era, is given in some form in virtually every episode. The modern-day equivalent faced by the Studio 60 staff, of course, involves dodging a hail of bullets shot from the Far Right. Naturally, any fan of Sorkin’s West Wing will want this in their collection. One episode serves as a stiff tonic for the all too stiff times we inhabit, these days.
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The layout of Dreams to Remember: The Legacy of Otis Redding makes for a disc that’s as much a heartfelt tribute as it is a documentary. Rather than delving a great deal into analysis of Otis’ place in the pop landscape, Otis’ career, starting with the Stax Records story is told through interviews with those close to him. Otis’ wife Zelma and his daughter are interviewed, as well as Steve Cropper of Booker T. and the MGs, horn player Wayne Jackson, and rarely filmed Stax Records founder Jim Stewart, in between footage of Otis’ classic live performances. Instead of pushing technical and conceptual boundaries like Hendrix, the boundaries Redding pushed were ones of feeling, the way he attacked simple love songs with furious soulful sincerity. It’s interesting to think, had Otis Redding lived, how he would have deepened and widened the intangible elements of popular music, its spirit and its soul.
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.
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.
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.