Before he became the “bad boy” of British cinema, middle aged maverick Russell was making amazing musical biographies for UK television. This masterful boxset contains six of his best - Elgar, The Debussy Film, Always on Sunday, Isadora Duncan: The Biggest Dancer in the World, Dante’s Inferno, and Summer of Song. Sadly, his slam on Richard Strauss, The Dance of the Seven Veils, was pulled at the last minute. Still, with famous faces like Oliver Reed and Vivian Pickles along for the ride, this collection is a revelation, and a testament to one of the most criminally underrated directors of all time.
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Impressively comprehensive and stunning in scope, The Soul of Rock and Roll is also a beautifully packaged boxed set. Its presentation befits the image, the voice, the legend of Roy Orbison. The limited edition comes in a gorgeous white linen-covered casing holding a collectible reproduction of the 1953 Wildcats of Wink High School yearbook, and a 95-page booklet filled with an extensive biography, clippings, a discography and hundreds of striking photos. The astounding four disc collection spans Orbison’s more than 30-year career with 107 tracks of classics, covers, ‘50s demos and live performances, 12 of which are previously unreleased. Each and every one of these 107 tracks is special, and the collection as a whole is phenomenal. You’d be hard-pressed to find any box set, by any artist, that is as thoroughly comprehensive and as lovingly presented as this one is. So, for that, it is remarkable. But Roy Orbison doesn’t really need all of those extras to make this box set unique. His music and his voice, his legend and his legacy, the long shadow he casts over every rock and roll singer to step into a spotlight, are a testament to the man who truly was the Soul of Rock and Roll.
Horror film has never been more popular and so the timing of this collection of frightful stories from the pages of Creepy magazine’s vaults is right on target. This first volume goes back to 1964 and winds up in 1966, reproducing the first five issues of the magazine in the exact size of the original, including the full-color covers. Another great contribution to the preservation of comics history from Dark Horse.
While it’s been called “Grand Theft Auto: Africa”, Far Cry 2 only shares the most basic of traits with the Rockstar game—it’s a sprawling open world shooter with vehicles. But what sets Far Cry 2 apart is the beautiful and distinct African world it’s set in. If Grand Theft Auto vaguely resembles a movie like Goodfellas, Far Cry 2 is Blood Diamond meets Hotel Rwanda—a somewhat terrifying look into the complicated, Machiavellian world of African politics where mercenaries and arms dealers seem to rule. It’s into this anarchic world that your character is thrust, ambushed by malaria with no friends and no weapons. You must then contend and interact with various warring factions, merchants, the church, and fellow mercenaries, as you freely roam the African countryside by car, jeep, and riverboat. Sure, the bottom line of the game is the same as most of this kind—shoot or be shot—but the atmospheric Far Cry 2 is a cut above the average first-person shooter.
This is something to consider as the U.S. prepares to bailout its hapless auto industry. Jon Garvie reviews Tom Vanderbilt’s Traffic for the TLS and highlights some of the problems with car culture that Vanderbilt elucidates. Driving allows us to travel faster than the speed of human thought while expecting us to interpret the intentions of the other people we must interact with while traveling. Unable to communicate and process what is happening fast enough, we outsource our conscientiousness to the system of signs, a textbook case of moral hazard. Our trust in the system belies the real dangers. And the signs seem to supplant our need to recognize the humanity and frailty of other drivers—it’s as though the signs do it for us and take them into account. “A line of vehicles crawling along congested roads at 20 miles per hour imitates nature. That speed is the maximum at which even Olympians can run. It is also the limit beyond which humans cannot maintain eye contact and other, vital, non-verbal forms of communication.” At higher speeds, we can no longer comprehend one another. The faster we go, the more isolated we become.
Though we experience driving as freedom (when there is no traffic, that is, to remind us of other people’s wills), driving nonetheless requires great amounts of coordination and cooperation; it’s probably one of the last things we should go into expecting to be liberated from the hassles of other people. In our car-fostered feelings of isolation, interpersonal mores no longer seem to apply and we regard it as alone time—“me time.” Meanwhile, we should feel terrified:
In order to absorb the gulf between the risk of death and the reward of a trip to the supermarket, we require elaborate coping strategies. Economists have suggested that a dagger attached to the steering wheel and pointed at the driver’s chest would represent an automobile’s “negative externalities” accurately. Instead, we have tended to buy SUVs (more likely to crash than smaller cars), with airbags and computerized gizmos which provide illusions of control. Often, while driving, we eat, text, talk, or drink as if to quell the panic which similarly dangerous situations produce.
In spite of all the danger, we cling to our cars in America and insist upon their overriding convenience, and the independence they allegedly supply. We transform them into overriding status signifiers, emblems of our autonomy. Garvie cites Margaret Thatcher’s statement that “Any man who rides a bus to work after the age of 30 can count himself a failure in life,” which I certainly experienced as truth when I lived in Arizona. If I told someone I rode the bus, they would assume I was either joking or was on some sociological do-gooder mission to see how losers live. This kind of attitude becomes a near-insuperable barrier to change. Grown-up people I knew in Tucson truly believed that it was “impossible” for them to ride the bus. Not only did they not know how it could be done, where the stops were or how to get a schedule, but it struck them as a physical impossibility—they would just as soon jump off the roof and start to fly to their destination. And I basically felt the same way. I had a car, because that is what you did as a middle-class adult. Anything else would be making a statement, and I just didn’t have the energy or the investment to be constantly making that statement as I went about my life, let alone the hours to waste on the inferior mode of transit. I wasn’t going to burn a few hours getting to and from the grocery store.
But the independence implied by the car way of life, the class privilege it seems to codify and attribute to our own pluck or inborn entitlement, is illusory, since in reality, of course, it requires a massive infrastructure to allow us to get our motors running and head out on the highway. Politics must direct public funding in that direction, presumably at the expense of more social and collective modes of transit. And this infrastructure makes possible further isolating modes of signifying class—suburbans detached homes, yards, exurbs, etc.
Perhaps that movement to protect ourselves from the terror of everyday life by embracing a faux convenience happens more generally—that we try desperately to relabel alienation, anomie, angst (the three A’s of late-stage capitalism) as something more amenable, or even something we regard as positively beneficial. “It’s so awesome that I have so little human connection in my life—fewer interruptions while I am watching TV!” Convenience (generally the avoidance of hassling with others) is often the recompense for social isolation. Every moment we experience as convenient, then, is a disguised moment of terror.