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Sunday, Aug 13, 2006

Outlaw Prophet is dead brilliant. This low budget journey into the center of David Heavener’s evangelistic mind is as flabbergastingly inventive and bizarre as the universes created by other obtuse auteurs like David Lynch and Jean-Pierre Jeunet. Like a cinematic carpet sweeper, Heavener casts his narrative net to the four winds and sweeps every last potential plot point and storyline strand out of Haroun’s sea of stories. In one film we have all of the fictional sci-fi melodramatic filaments: aliens, space, computers, radio waves, telepathy, shape shifting, brainwashing, device implantation, foster children, abandonment, trailer trashing, pre-school runaways, grilling, picking, grinning, sinning, salvation, ham radio, strange frequencies, reality television, ratings, Van Dykes, morphing, mutations, zombies, kung fu, car wrecks, The Bible, the Antichrist, the new Messiah, death, rebirth, angels, demons, disco, adoption and bad children’s programming. Yet somehow, Outlaw Prophet makes all of these divergent elements coalesce into a fine mist of monumental moviemaking. NO, really.

It takes a rare and refined talent to get this all to work, and yet Heavener finds a way to make his cockeyed Christian vision, as well as his rock and roll musicianship and personal faith, serve the final cut. What he manages is a kind of innocent idiot savant con job, an entertainment flim flam where, instead of grade Z direct to video VHS filler, you receive a strangely evocative substitute for typical street preaching channeled through an outrageously original independent movie mentality. This director dives into the same pool of sermonizing - one spicing up the brimstone with all manner of special effects and action figure permutations - that other deity die-hards indulge in. The result is an addled allegory about the second coming of Christ carved out of a reality show spoof, a smattering of Turkish Star Wars, and a whole lot of crappy hair metal. Toss in the Devil as an evil TV producer (there’s a stretch) and a trip to a zealot BBQ and you’ve got the kind of cinematic Stilton that satisfies as much as it stinks.

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Saturday, Aug 12, 2006

When I first read David Bauder’s Long Lost Listener Has to Relearn Top 40 (SF Gate, August 7, 2006), I was pretty dismayed about how sad and out-of-touch the guy sounded.  I also thought that this was so hopeless that it would just fade away.  Now that AP is syndicating this all of the place, it can’t be ignored.

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Saturday, Aug 12, 2006

The two-day weekend is something we tend to take for granted in America, as natural and normal as breathing oxygen or driving thirty miles in stop-and-go traffic to get to work. Of course it is of relatively late provenance in the history of labor, and I’m sure at the time, capitalists resisted shorter work weeks with all their collective might as if it would mean the end of all productivity gains. But now is no time to elaborate the lump of labor fallacy.

Anyway it’s interesting to read about how it can feel just as unnatural to those not acclimated to it. Yesterday the Wall Street Journal had a story about yeoga kwallisa, or leisure counselors, that the Korean government has begun to use to convince Koreans that it is okay to relax on Saturdays. Though, as the article reports, most Koreans resist the idea and worry about the economic burden leisure will allegedly impose, in truth leisure is business; leisure allows workers to work as consumers and prop up the segments of the economy that rely on free time and boredom to thrive: entertainment, services, luxury consumer goods, lifestyle accoutrements.

Though the article highlights Korea, leisure counselors are by no means limited to nations new to shorter work weeks. In America we have an entire elaborate industry that tries to tell us how to relax and entertain ourselves; because the free time is not especially organic—it’s not a product of needing to take it easy after great exertion, it’s no wonder we don’t know what to do with ourselves and look for guidance. And it’s no wonder that we feel under pressure to enjoy ourselves, constrained and compelled by the fun morality Baudrillard writes about—the imperative to manufacture distinctive signs of being leisured. Leisure, relaxation, basically don’t come naturally; I’d like to think optimistically that this means we are inherently predisposed to be productive, which is why an economy’s chief measure of success ought to be how well it provides people meaningful work, not solely how much growth it is capable of generating. This is basically a nostalgic attitude, I know, conjuring up some non-existent golden age where people worked until they were tired on things that made them happy and then enjoyed themselves with authentic folk culture, lost communal rituals. It certainly was never quite so simple, and who knows if we’d be able to experience that simple, limited life as pleasurable. The modern pleasures may have something to do with building new communities and new rituals from scratch, again and again.


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Friday, Aug 11, 2006

Michael Tolkin’s amazing The Rapture is a work of powerful ideas. It challenges the stance of traditional religious belief as it questions the concept of the contemporary lifestyle. It attempts to illustrate the epic ideas in the Final Days while it keeps its story in the personal, not the ephemeral realm. It takes events of cataclysmic scope and boils them down to a select story of individual endurance. With it’s seemingly simple chronicle of a sinner – in this case, a sexually adventurous Information operator named Sharon – adrift in a world of one night stands and self-serving sin The Rapture asks you to identify with and sit in judgment of a beleaguered soul in development. It also has you wondering to yourself if you could withstand the same verdict as well. It then takes the mandatory leap of faith, moving its lead along until she, too, is faced with ultimate blessing, eternal damnation or something far, far worse.

As a film, it contains acting performances from Mimi Rodgers (as the suddenly spiritual Sharon) and David Duchovny (as her lover and future spouse) of subtle power and unusual invention. And as a writer/director, Tolkin never talks down to or up at his audience. he doesn’t expect you to know the Christian concepts inherent in the storyline, but does provide hot button frames of reference (sexual cynicism, disgruntled employees on killing sprees, child endangerment) as a way to make the inhuman tests within religious conviction seem comprehensible. At its core, The Rapture is one woman’s journey to personal enlightenment, a post-modern pilgrim’s progress through the basic tenets of devotion. But there is a deeper, more depressing notion to what this movie has to say. Beyond all the prophecy and puzzles, in between the testimonials and the tribulations, The Rapture seems to be asking two competing questions: Is God really worth it, and more shockingly, are you worth it to God?

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Friday, Aug 11, 2006
by PopMatters Staff

Ani Difranco—"Millenium Theater"
From Reprieve on Righteous Babe Records
Every new album from singer/songwriter/guitarist Ani DiFranco gives listeners a reason to get excited about music all over again, and her latest, Reprieve, is certainly no exception. Across 12 tracks, DiFranco ignites more of her signature blend of poetry, politics and musicianship.

PopMatters review: Reprieve

Ani DiFranco—“Hypnotized” [Live on The Henry Rollins Show]

Evangelicals —"Here Comes Trouble"
From So Gone on Misra Records
Evangelicals have an uninhibited approach to making music that sounds spawned not from some scene or gaggle of influences, but a place that’s otherworldly and totally of the moment. Recorded using various four track machines and broken-down computers, So Gone sometimes sounds like a happy accident of sounds and songs, a collision of melody and atonality, a battle between tunefulness and dissonance.

PopMatters review: So Gone

  Stella (U.S.) —"NYC"
From American Weekend on Yesman Records
Though officially unreleased since its recording in 1999, Stella (U.S.)‘s American Weekend album has maintained a clandestine life of its own. Bootleg copies passed between friends and fans, and seemingly the only way to hear the album was through a pirate copy. Until now. Yesman Records is proud to announce the long awaited second release from this superlative rock band.

Hot One —"Do The Coup D’etat"
From Hot One on Modern Imperial Recordings
Hot One observes and aims to continue the tradition of music as a medium for social protest, a la the Clash, Public Enemy, Psychic TV, Woody Guthrie, Minor Threat, the MC5. As well, Hot One fully intends to bring the rock, regardless of content. Hot One takes a bead on both your mind and your crotch, and hopefully hits you somewhere in between.

Spoon —"Mountain To Sound"
From Soft Effects EP | “Telephono” on Merge Records
For legions of Spoon fans that have discovered the band only recently, through the success on albums such as Gimme Fiction, Kill The Moonlight, and Girls Can Tell, the first two Spoon recordings have been out of print. Now Merge Records is incredibly proud to reissue Telephono and Soft Effects, bringing the entire Spoon catalog under one roof for the first time.

PopMatters review: Soft Effects EP/Telephono

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