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by PopMatters Staff

18 Jan 2012


Here’s a great video that explains why the SOPA strike is necessary.

by Cynthia Fuchs

13 Jan 2012


Sing Your Song‘s focus on political activism—its relationship to celebrity, whether a star owns it or not—mirrors that of its subject. As Harry Belafonte recalls here, his inclination to activism was ignited early, as a boy whose mother worked as a domestic, and who sent him and his brother to live with relatives in Jamaica: “Almost all the songs that I later came to sing,” he says, “were songs that I heard among the people, the peasants, my family, at the time.” The film shows photos of Jamaican workers, children and the shoreline, as he credits his mother for making him believe “There was nothing in life that I could not aspire to.” Belafonte took Paul Robeson as a model, and the notorious official efforts to suppress Robeson’s “song”—the blacklisting, the FBI and CIA surveillance, and the revocation of his US passport in 1950—hover over Belafonte’s story, along with Robeson’s advice to him: “Get them to sing your song, and they’ll want to know who you are.” Belafonte used his popularity—his appeal to “white teenyboppers” along with other fans all over the world—to show the intersections of art and politics.

See PopMattersreview.

by Cynthia Fuchs

10 Jan 2012


“I think he thinks, ‘Somewhere, I’m gonna get out of this.’” “He” is Billy the Kid, the legendary American criminal who is the subject of American Experience: Billy the Kid. Opening on a close-up of a noose hanging over a dusty (re-enacted) street, the show speculates repeatedly as to what the man born in New York City as William Henry McCarty might have been “thinking” at any given moment. He was “extremely intelligent,” says one expert. “Escaping was always on the agenda,” says another. Billy the Kid “came of age,” says narrator Michael Murphy, “at the moment the Wild West was forged, at a time when outlaws were made famous overnight in the pages of dime novels.” Because so little evidence remains (the only known tintype of Billy the Kid appear again and again here) and because much history is built on these fictions, it’s difficult now to piece together what did happen when. As Bill Richardson puts it, “He was made into a mythical character.” The show doesn’t question the myth so much as it presents it step by step, via historians and aficionados’’ testimonies, and , American Experience‘s familiar, richly mounted reenactments to fill in the gaps. Tight shots of boots and clinking spurs, shovels digging into dirt and rifles cocking, long shots of riders astride galloping horses and men shot dead, hitting the ground in slow motion. The imagined details can be evocative and even romantic (Billy is “blending into the darkness of the New Mexico night” or “framed by the moonlight”), as can the imagined motivations: he remained devoted to his girlfriend Paulita Maxwell, to the point of endangering his life. The natural and social environments were equally harsh, indicated by wind on the soundtrack and gavels banging. “The kid is a consistent rebel,” all the way,” say historian Paul Hutton. And such, he’s been absorbed into a national self-image.

Watch Billy the Kid preview on PBS. See more from American Experience.

by Cynthia Fuchs

4 Jan 2012


“We’re really not known for winning anything except sports, so we have to fight for everything we earn.” Lamar Jordan lives in Chicago. His sense of context, his self-awareness, is hard-won. A young man in process, Lamar introduces himself in Louder Than a Bomb using his nickname, “The Truth,” and then he tells it. “When I was growing up,” says this 19-year-old, “I was a bit of a troublemaker and I did some things I regret.” Now, in 2008, he’s a member of Steinmetz High School’s slam poetry team, in Chicago. And now he has a new truth to tell. Lamar’s story is one of several told in Greg Jacobs and Jon Siskel’s film, which premieres on Oprah’s OWN Documentary Club on 5 January.

The film shows how hard the young poets work, their investments and their choices, their different roads to the slam called Louder Than a Bomb. It also shows that the contestants are well aware of the contradiction in what they do. Though poems are immeasurable, they are also subject to judgments: each performance earns points, like Olympic dives, cards held up by judges numbered one through 10. “It’s an outrageous thing, it’s a stupid thing, giving scores and numbers to poems,” admits Kevin Coval, LTAB’s co-founder. Slams are a means more than an end, a means of “learning about new people and understanding new people and really feeling inspired by people who are very different than you,” says Adam Gottlieb, from Northside College Prep. “I would like to say that that’s changing the world. And if not, it’s definitely coming much, much closer.”

See PopMattersreview.

Louder Than A Bomb - Trailer

by Cynthia Fuchs

15 Dec 2011


“If you find a way to fix this thing right here, it’ll make you better. It’ll make you better in areas you didn’t think were related to horses.” Buck Brannaman’s students listen carefully when he speaks. They stand alongside their horses, hoping they’ll hear in his instructions a solution, whether their animal is fearful or fierce, stubborn or prickly. But clinics with Buck usually end up teaching them less about their horses than themselves. “A lot of times,” he says, “Rather than helping people with horse problems, I’m helping horses with people problems.” The inspiration for the book The Horse Whisperer and an advisor on Robert Redford’s movie set, Buck reveals he has his own issues—a severely abusive father when he was young and trained up to be a rodeo performer with his brother (who is not interviewed here), as well as a measurable loneliness now on the road, when he leaves his wife and children behind. While his clients (and he) extol his wisdom, Buck is also apt to chastise them for not being self-aware, as he’s been forced to be. When he chastises a woman for her carelessness with her horses, a carelessness that leads to a bad end for one of them, the film makes clear his stakes: he’s finding and saving victims, again and again. In so doing, he saves himself. Shortlisted for the 2012 Best Documentary Academy Award, the movie screens on 19 December as part of Stranger Than Fiction’s Pre-Winter Season Special, followed by a Q&A with director Cindy Meehl.

See PopMattersreview.

//Mixed media
//Blogs

Fave Five: Alpine

// Sound Affects

"Australian sextet Alpine's newest album is a fantastic expansion of their joyous pop sound, but two members give us five records apiece that helped define their unique musical identities.

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