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Friday, Feb 10, 2012
In the ever-evolving world of advertising, there is a trend rising in, quite literally, every direction: 3-D Mapping Projection.

Though I do cringe at paying extra, I admit that I’ll go to the occasional 3-D movie in theaters, just to see how different the experience is. What I didn’t realize until very recently, was that I could get a similar experience for free, just by standing on the sidewalk at the right time and place.


In the ever-evolving world of advertising, there is a trend rising in, quite literally, every direction: 3-D Mapping Projection. This technology, which is certainly too complex for me to understand, much less explain, is simplified by Wikipedia as “any method of mapping three-dimensional points to a two-dimensional plane”.


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Tuesday, Feb 7, 2012

Stanley Nelson’s exceptional documentary tells the story of the Freedom Rides, from their initiation in May 1961, by James Farmer and the Congress of Racial Equality (CORE), to the Interstate Commerce Commission’s (ICC) ruling that September, that passengers on interstate buses could sit wherever they wanted, “the first unambiguous victory in the long history of the civil rights movement.” Freedom Riders—airing on PBS on 7 February—offers some incredible images from the period to show how this victory was the result of months of struggle, including assaults on the freedom riders by angry citizens as well as police officers. Boarding commercial buses (Trailways and Greyhound) in Washington, DC and intending to ride through the Deep South, the riders set out deliberately to violate Southern segregation laws. Each CORE member signed a formal agreement, stating, “I understand that I shall be participating in a nonviolent protest… against racial discrimination, that arrest or personal injury to me might result.” They had little expectation of the violence that would be inflicted on them.


See PopMattersreview.


Watch Freedom Riders Theatrical Trailer on PBS. See more from Freedom Riders.


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Thursday, Jan 26, 2012

“President Reagan has fought long and hard to prevent Congress from imposing new economic sanctions on South Africa. Recently, even leaders of his own party begged him to stop. He didn’t. Today, he lost.” Footage of Dan Rather’s report on CBS in October 1986 serves as a kind of exclamation point when it appears in Have You Heard From Johannesburg. Before and following this clip, the film shows member of the Black Congressional Caucus then and now, recalling their fight to support the ANC against the racist South African government. When at last the Senate and the House voted to override the president’s veto, the movement was approaching its goal, the end of apartheid, the release of Nelson Mandela from prison (still three and a half years away, in 1990), and the official recognition by Western nations—the US, Britain, France, and others—that apartheid was, in fact, a threat to world peace.


This moment was an overlong time coming, of course, but still, when it does come in “Free at Last,” the fifth and final PBS installment of Connie Field’s documentary on 26 January, you’d be hard-pressed not to feel at least a bit of relief. As the film reveals, the strategies to get to this moment shift over the years, as the ANC is joined by other organizations, based in in South Africa and elsewhere. The ANC continued to represent through Oliver Tambo in exile (who says in an archival interview that even as bomb attacks were escalating in South Africa, “We continue, of course, to calculate on what this means for civilians” as well as Mandela (who became the movement’s most recognizable “name and face”). When an interviewer asks him, “Does your wife worry about you?”, Tambo patently responds. “Of course she does. I expect I really do expect that I will be killed by the regime or its representatives.”


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Wednesday, Jan 25, 2012

I went to Disney World for the first time in my life in November 2011. At that time, I saw, in person, the Joy Division Mickey Mouse T-Shirt. Since I spent the days after the trip attempting to suppress all memories of dancing and singing animals, copious amounts of fried food, and dancing and singing animals eating copious amounts of fried food, I never wrote anything about the truly bizarre nature of this souvenir. So, of course, Pitchfork scooped me.


No matter. The more press this story gets, the better.


All I can add is that the thought of every roller coaster in the park playing Joy Division music—“It’s getting faster moving faster now… Lights are flashing, cars are crashing…”—is either one of the most horrible or most awesome thoughts ever. As they say in an election year, you decide. Cast your votes in the comments section.



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Monday, Jan 23, 2012
The DocYard in Boston showcases "what is innovative, interesting, and inspiring in documentary." Space Coast is all of that.

“Here’s me in pink stretch pants,” notes Mary Bubb. She’s a space reporter in Cape Canaveral, Florida, at the moment sharing some of her memorabilia with filmmakers Ross McElwee and Michel Negroponte. She smiles as she remembers a friend telling her, “Not everybody has their pink ass on the cover of Newsweek.” Mary’s recollections as a pool reporter provide something of a background for Space Coast, a film McElwee shot while he was still a graduate student at MIT in 1979. Like his subsequent, more famous documentaries, this one appears mostly observational, with subjects occasionally speaking directly to his camera, addressing him as Ross. As it shows the early version of what came to be his signature visual style—handheld, amiable, incisive—the film also indicates his inclination to see in everyday stories the significant rhythms and substance.


And so: even as Mary pursues her work, showing up at each launch (always with a new hat of her own devising, fashioned to be “very symbolic of the mission,” she explains), the film follows two other residents of the Space Coast, Papa John Murphy and the Reverend Willie Womack. All offer their wisdom on the landscape changing around them, the declining economy, the closing of launch pads, the frustrations of the community, the way the world works. For the most part, Papa John keeps himself distracted with TV and his family, wrestling with his daughter Diane (currently unable to find a job) and watching Happy Days and religious programming. “Jesus had to have been an extremely rugged individual,” he submits, “He lived the life of a fisherman, he wasn’t no pansy.” Willie takes his sons hunting, narrates McElwee, in “an abandoned housing development.” Each scene in the film offers a small glimpse of the various lives in Cape Canaveral, and together, they reveal the reshaping of a culture, built on ambitions unmet and options unknown.


Space Coast screens on 23 January at The DocYard at the Brattle Theater in Cambridge, followed by a Q&A with McElwee and Negroponte. It’s the first in this season’s terrific biweekly documentary series, conceived to showcase “what is innovative, interesting, and inspiring in documentary.” Space Coast is all of that.


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