Anyone who keeps in touch with current events could tell you either one of the two stories of Amy Winehouse’s life. She was a retro-styled singer who was admired by critics and fans, who wrote her own songs about her own life. In a time when a vast majority of female singers got a record contract because they either starred in a TV show or was related to the right people, she marked a trend towards a refreshingly old-fashioned type of recording artist. Unfortunately, there was also the other side to her fame, which kept her as “the bad example” in countless media reports. Every other week there was a new story about how many bars she had gone to, what kind of drugs she was said to have taken, how unhealthy she looked, her ongoing medical problems, canceled tours, and a follow-up album that would never seem to get completed due to her addictions. A stint in rehab along with a scheduled world tour seemed to signal a return to the proper spotlight for Winehouse, but a botched Serbian concert where she was reportedly booed offstage for erratic behavior led to a cancellation of the entire tour.
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In recent months, the Flaming Lips have released songs on a USB encased in a gummy fetus, recorded a cover version of The Dark Side of the Moon, collaborated with Prefuse73 and Neon Indian for EPs, toured their 1999 album The Soft Bulletin, released a song in 12 parts on YouTube, performed at Lollapallooza in Chile, reissued their Zaireeka 4XLP to be played simultaneously on mobile devices, and handed over their long-delayed Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots Broadway play to the guy who did Jersey Boys. Not every one of these ideas may be a goldmine (who can keep track of them even?), but no one could accuse the band of a dearth of creative juice, even as they trek on into their 50s. Their latest is an EP with Providence, Rhode Island noise duo Lightning Bolt. You can view their video for their latest “I Want to Get High, But I Don’t Want Brain Damage” below. Judging by the video, it may be too late though.
The legalization of medical marijuana in California has led to a Green Rush, or, as attorney Bill Panzer puts it, a “wild, wild west.” As revealed in Frontline: The Pot Republic, premiering 26 July on PBS, an expansion in production, in Oakland specifically, led to political and legal controversies. Reported by KQED’s Michael Montgomery, the show tracks the ways that Prop 215 has been used as a cover for non-medical use growers and dealers, who regularly ship product out of state. As sheriffs and other local authorities try to keep track of who’s growing what, they’re typically frustrated by legal “grey areas.” The program follows enforcement officers who seek to stop Mexican growers who are not working for cartel bosses per se, but come to California and then leave on a seasonal schedule. In Mendocino County, Sheriff Tom Allman has been trying to differentiate between growers who have been “tagged,” or have proper paperwork, and those who are skirting laws to make major profits. “We’re not a bunch of Cheech and Chong law enforcement officers that are encouraging people to grow marijuana,” Allman insists. And yet, he knows his enforcement of local laws may also come under scrutiny by federal agents. “If they can give me a rational alternative, I’ll be their best friend. But there’s not,” says Allman. “The voters have approved medical marijuana. I haven’t seen it going the other way by the voters.” And so he waits for the laws to become coherent. As this report suggests, he may be waiting for some time.
Lucy Bailey and Andrew Thompson’s documentary traces the legal case that white farmer Mike Campbell brings against the Zimbabwean government. He’s a white farmer trying to keep his land in the face of the Lancaster House Agreement, signed into law in 1979, by which white-owned land was to be redistributed among the disenfranchised black population and the whites who ruled the nation for 100 years, from 1890 until Robert Mugabe’s election in 1980. While other African nations (Ethiopia, Kenya, Namibia, and South Africa) have long since initiated land reform, Mugabe’s government shifted in the 1990s from a typical “willing seller, willing buyer” model to a more aggressive strategy that, the film notes, has evicted some 4,000 white farmers. The “popular seizure” of property by armed gang affiliated with the government has increased (or exposed) ongoing racial tensions. As Mike Campbell’s son-in-law Ben Freeth puts it, “This is very much a racial issue, sparked by a very racist black man running this country.” If Mugabe’s brutality and dishonesty are well known, their effects are made especially painful here when Campbell and Freeth, along with Mike’s wife Angela, are assaulted by men invading their farm. This occurs off screen, as the camera instead focuses on the reception of the news by Ben’s parents in Kent, but follow-up images of the victims in hospital ensure your sympathy and outrage. As the legal case goes forward, the film makes increasingly dramatic music and formal choices, reinforcing the righteous position of this “white African” and omitting the past colonial context that continues to confuse and confound today’s efforts to set records and rights “straight.” The questions of national and raced identities remain unresolved. Mugabe and the White African airs as part of POV beginning Tuesday, 26 July. The film will be available to view online from 27 July through 25 October 2011.
See PopMatters’ review.
Spike Jonze, who directed the classic ‘90’s Beastie Boys video “Sabotage” (and has worked on videos from everyone from Weezer to R.E.M. to Ludacris to Arcade Fire), has been called upon to transform the new single “Don’t Play No Game That I Can’t Win” (featuring Santigold) into another presumably prize winning video (script by Adam Yauch aka Nathaniel Hörnblowér). This time you won’t find the Beasties in police costumes or controlling giant robots. Here they have been plasticized so that their action figures can serve as avatars for some hilarious and action packed “continuingly ill” adventures. With their performance interrupted by an anti-Beasties group out to assassinate them, the Beastie Boys make a quick escape before their vehicle flips and a shootout begins. It definitely deserves a few repeats in order to observe the nuances in the “costumes” and “scenes”.