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Wednesday, Dec 6, 2006

Ghostface Killah (feat. Amy Winehouse)—"You Know I’m No Good" (Windows Media)
From More Fish on Def Jam


Reviewing Ghostface Killah’s Spring 2006 release Fishscale, Dan Nishimoto commented, “Who brings the grit to an R&B hit? Not, Meth, but Ghost. Who works the underground circuit? GZA, kinda, but not like Ghost. And who still finds life in those ol’ synthetic, trampish, skull snappin’ breaks? You guessed it. Unlike his compatriots who became instant vintage, Ghostface has slowly raised his work from a coiling simmer to a bubbling boil.”  And now Ghost is back for the second time this year with the forthcoming More Fish, released in the US on December 12.

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Wednesday, Dec 6, 2006

I’ve had an on-again, off-again relationship with the Times Literary Supplement for several years now. I first encountered it when I was roped into housesitting for one of my English professors, and it seemed like the kind of publication you’d subscribe to if you were going to take the belletristic life seriously (not recommended). This cycle then ensued and has since repeated itself several times: At first I find the range of books covered interesting, and I think how well-rounded it’s making me to be reading reviews of biographies of 17th century naval geniuses and overviews of minor authors like Ronald Firbank and round-ups of the latest work in analytic philosophy or what’s new on the rare-manuscript auction scene or what have you. And the stuffy, priggish tone of the magazine is amusing at first—it can found in its most concentrated form in the NB column in the center pages, where the editors mock recent publishing trends, hold court on punctillos of usage, and report haughtily on trivial yet erudite diversions—cataloging translations of an “untranslatable” Beckett poem, for instance. I always get laughs reading this, but sometimes they are nervous sniggers of relief that I can still recognize a distance between my own attitude and the proud pedantry on display there.


But reading it week after week (it starts to feel like a Sisyphean task to keep up with each issue) starts to weigh on me, and I start to wonder why I ever renewed my subscription. Usually it starts when I notice one too many A.S. Byatt appreciations, or I get exasperated by a series of reviews of textbooks and anthologies and books about botany. but what clinches it is my noticing a piece of tut-tutting on the letters page from some academic whose peacock feathers have been ruffled by a reviewer and who now feels the need to do some score-settling.


Sir, – Since Lucy Beckett admits to having found my book Being Reasonable About Religion confusing, perhaps I may correct a couple of inaccuracies in her review of it (November 10). First she complains of “one page of unexplained symbolic logic”. In fact, the four short logical formulae I give on page 147 are all explained quite straightforwardly. Second, she twice charges me with “relativism”. The Vatican is always thundering against relativism, but it refrains from identifying anyone guilty of it, and Lucy Beckett, whose loyalty to Rome is shown by her recommending a recent papal encyclical to my readers, apparently imagines she has detected a culprit.


Sometimes the correspondent, with simmering outrage at the affront to his honor and dignity, usually offers a terse defense (Sir,—I am grateful to Frederic Raphael for correcting my quotation from the Martin Scorsese film, The Departed, in my review of October 20. With first-run movies, one can’t always cite exactly, unless privy to the screenplay—and this would compromise the viewing experience in innumerable ways”) or a condemnation of some misstep, which is only fair because a surprising number of reviews turn on a paragraph that comes near the end, after the obligatory lengthy summary, where the reviewer takes the author to task for some petty oversight in research (”... would have been surprised to see his name spelled Lee rather than Leigh…”, etc.) or for typos and things like that. It always seems utterly beside the point to point these things out, but then the TLS probably considers itself the journal of record for these kinds of mistakes, a home for this kind of academic umpiring, the place where the errata can be noted and scored. It depresses me that extremely smart people spend their formidable mental powers worrying about this stuff, about whether Wordworth was two years older than Coleridge or vice versa, whether they were falsely accused of reversing the numbers on an address where someone was supposed to live, or some such unimportant fact. I begin to feel myself swinging over to the other side of the reactionary pendulum and see why liberal arts academics are regarded as impractical ivory-tower cuckoos, and maybe if they were disciplined by market forces they would be investing some of that considerable human capital elsewhere.


But this time what has me irked is this snotty piece of sexist complacency and entitlement from the editors in the NB section:


When we get round to updating the TLS Reviewer’s Handbook we intend to confront the issue of the non-gender-specific personal pronoun. What to do in a sentence like “As the reader turns the page, he finds that…”? Use “he” or “she”? Use “they”? Or the egregious “she”? The last is the choice of the lily-livered male and the sexist female. Whereas a non-gender-specific “he” in this context means “the human race in general”, sanctioned by centuries of use, the common reader naturally takes “she” to refer only to females.


You see, women are exceptions to the general rule that only men are worth considering and would be reading and participating in public life in general. Using she to refer to a random person is “egregious” not only because tradition (“Centuries of use” also “sanctioned” the horse and buggy and the slave trade—perhaps we should never have tried to alter those practices) and nature (it’s perfectly natural to be jarred by an egregious she in our book-review reading—who let her out of the kitchen?) tell us it is odd, but because it would be so unlikely that a woman would be doing something worthy of public notice. Maleness is the default status of the “human worth mentioning”. Women’s experience is always exceptional, peculiar, other—not quite human in the abstract. And if you are a man who undermines this fundamental natural fact of the invisible omnipresence of the masculine, you are a “lily-livered” pansy, possibly an egregious she in disguise. I am glad the TLS has taken the time to straighten this out.


Are pronouns the most pressing front in the feminist struggle? No. But when you bear down to the minutiae the TLS likes to preoccupy itself with, you can see how sexism roots itself in small things and attempts to branch out from there and spread as a flourishing of simple common sense. This argument makes plain the petty concerns of antifeminists, who are willing to write out of everyday public life an entire gender for all of history just to prevent their having the odd stumbling moment of confusion in their idle reading.


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Wednesday, Dec 6, 2006
by PopMatters Staff

PHAROAHE MONCH
Desire
[SRC Records]


Stream: “Desire” [Real Audio | Windows]


 


“Raised on the infamous Southside of NYC’s Queens borough, a young Monch caught the hip-hop bug early as the culture born in the Rotten Apple. It would be while attending art school that Pharoahe would find his calling as an emcee, and eventually co-founded the rap duo Organized Konfusion. It was here that a still young Pharoahe began to display his full potential for the first time, transforming himself into a superhero emcee, painting vivid verbal pictures on cuts such as “Stray Bullet” whilst amazing listeners with his unpredictable-but-flawless flow on the jaw-dropping “Hypnotical Gases”.

 


Now settled at Steve Rifkind’s SRC Records, Pharoahe Monch, one of hip-hop’s most gifted lyricists, is ready to reintroduce himself to a rap world crying out for genuine artists with his long-awaited album, Desire. At a time when a rapper’s image and financial status appear to capture the attention of fans more than lyrical content and creative production, Pharoahe has refused to “dumb-down” his new project, choosing instead to adhere to the rules and principles he learnt growing-up in hip-hop’s golden age—be original, be true to yourself and be as skilful as possible on the mic device. But that said; don’t expect to hear Monch stuck in a time-warp on Desire. With beats from the likes of Mr. Porter (Kon-Artist of D12), The Alchemist, Detroit’s Black Milk and long-time collaborator Lee Stone, the lyrical king from Queens is definitely looking to move the art form of Hip-Hop forward with this album. “I think the approach I took to making some of the songs is still underground,” offers Monch when asked about the creative process behind Desire. “But in terms of the arrangements and the song-writing, I wouldn’t say it’s commercial, but it’s a bigger approach than I’ve taken in the past.” Aside from lyrics about politics, love, sex and survival in the modern world, it’s the sheer sonic scale of Desire that’s impressive. There’s a cinematic quality to the music, with the album’s central theme developed through a series of dramatic interludes linking tracks together. Desire finds Pharoahe Monch wanting to be labeled only as an emcee and a true artist. But even if he achieves that goal and receives the mainstream critical acclaim his talent deserves, you still get the impression that Monch will never rest on his laurels.”—SRC Records



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Wednesday, Dec 6, 2006

Turns out that not all’s fair in war… Despite the wave of RIAA lawsuits, one particular parent is not going to be serving court time because his kid stole some music.  By coincidence, it just so happens that the parent of the criminal is a label head.  There’s this Wired story about it: Warner Music CEO Admits His Kids Stole Music, Didn’t Get Sue and also a Slashdot discussion.  I’m sure the kiddies got a stern talking-to but even if he had to go to court, I don’t think a few thousand dollars in settlement would upset his bottom line.  We can only hope that other parents who are being sued will cite this as precedent.


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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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