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by Cynthia Fuchs

17 Oct 2011


“Mariachi is a man’s world,” says José Hernández. And so, he explains in Compañeras, Elizabeth Massie and Matthew Buzzell’s 2006 documentary, he founded the first all-female mariachi band in the US. The 12 members of Reyna come from all sorts of backgrounds and musical interests, including Pearl Jam and Aaron Copeland. For them, Reyna is something of a calling. Premiering this week on Global Voices, the film features interviews with the women, describing their passion for the music and their devotion to their instruments, their appreciation of the form’s supple, melodramatic storytelling. No surprise, the band has overcome numerous obstacles: at first, it was hard even to find members, in part because girls are less likely than boys to take up the trumpet or the guitarrón (both “very male instruments,” notes Karla). Carmen, who plays the vihuela, recalls, “I experienced sexism at a very early stage in mariachi, when my teacher told me that I couldn’t play guitarrón because it was too heavy and… It would bother my stomach and if I ever like, planned to have kids in the future…” The members of Reyna rehearse regularly, scheduling the rest of their lives to accommodate gigs. Even Hernández seems to miss what’s at stake for them, as he insists that men are more committed to the life of the mariachi. Men, he says, see the music as “‘My job, I’ve got to provide for my family.’ And women, you know, they’re emotional, ‘I wanna get married, I’ve gotta have kids.’ They put it on the backburner, the music and their careers.” The film suggests otherwise.
 
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by Cynthia Fuchs

17 Oct 2011


“I took my husband’s life in a public parking lot,” remembers Brenda Crosley. She’s been in the California Institution for Women since 1988 for that murder, and still, she ponders how she got there. Like other women interviewed in Olivia Klaus’ 2009 documentary, Sin by Silence, Crosley was abused by her husband for years. At the time she was convicted, there was no legal mechanism for her attorneys to bring this background into her defense. The film, which premieres 17 October on Investigation Discovery, reveals that changes in the law were brought about in part through efforts by the group CWAA (Convicted Women Against Abuse). Formed by another inmate at the prison, Brenda Clubine (incarcerated since 1983), the group helps inmates to see the patterns that shaped their lives—for instance, it’s typical that abuses of children in the home produce abusers and also abuse victims—with the hope that their work inside will help others, in particular, women now living outside. The film is built of interviews with CWAA members, as well as some experts (a policeman who deals with domestic abuse cases, doctors and lawyers, and also a juror who now feels remorse for the lengthy sentence his trial imposed on a battered woman). All agree that abuse is multifold (emotional, psychological, verbal, sexual, and physical) and afflicts everyone in a household. Since 1992, when Battered Women Syndrome became legally defined, some women inmates have appealed their sentences. But, as epilogues to this film report that interviewees have been denied parole, it’s clear that the legal system remains slow to change.

by Jonathan Kosakow

17 Oct 2011


Paul Simon’s had quite a busy year. He’s been on tour most of the time since the release of his album So Beautiful or So What in April, having played 51 shows in nearly as many cities. Having just returned in July from an international leg that took him through most of Western Europe, the United Kingdom, and as far as Tel Aviv, you’d think his battery would need some recharging, especially after turning 70 at the beginning of the month.

But you’d be wrong. Today, he starts the fall leg of his US tour in Phoenix and will be traveling straight through to December. He’ll play 31 more shows in as many cities ranging from the southernmost tip of California, though the Rocky Mountains and Midwest over to New Jersey, and then back down to Hollywood, Florida, where he’ll close up shop for the year. And from what we’ve heard, he’s still sounding pretty good.

by Steve Jansen

13 Oct 2011


There comes a point – some call it, the tipping point – at which the next musical revolution has to happen. A moment akin to ten seconds before the Sex Pistols jolted into life, when the past is just, well, not good enough anymore. And I felt it roughly the same duration into “The Ghost of Her” by Hurricane Bells: The inner-rage as my aging rock id sat bolt upright and howled at the injustice of our world right here, right now, synched as it clearly has become to the aesthetic parameters of the average cell-phone advert. 

Two minutes and 27 seconds later, “The Ghost of Her” had me feeling like I should go out and busy something corporate: A soft-drink or some ecologically-sound chinos, maybe the first 3G thingummyjig I see at the local store. And clearly it wasn’t just my will to think that was sapped, seeing as the video editor didn’t even bother to synch the gold-fishing vocal footage or the drummer to the track.

by Jeff Strowe

12 Oct 2011


It’s with great fanfare that Ryan Adams’ highly anticipated new album, Ashes and Fire, is released this week. The past two years have found Adams basking in the glow of marriage to Mandy Moore (who makes some guest appearances on this album), conquering some damaging dependencies, and struggling to combat Meniere’s disease. A few years before that, a stage fall and subsequent wrist injury forced him to completely relearn the guitar. So, needless to say, life is never dull for Adams, and he is back with a sparsely elegant album full of the acoustic balladry that has taken him about as far into rock stardom one can get these days.

This ‘50s inspired black and white video that accompanies first single, “Lucky Now”, finds Adams alternating between periods of brooding introspection while performing the song and then later navigating the vintage boulevards of a throwback Los Angeles in a fine looking classic car while being suspiciously eye-balled by a group of tatted-up, letter jacket clad cuties. The “Fire” of the album’s title is well-represented as both the burner on the stove and the fire in the fireplace is left alone to engulf Adams’ house in flames as he dismissively leaves through the front door. What’s less unclear is whether the gal pack from the street, wracked by vengeful thoughts, is partially responsible for the arson. Regardless, the imagery suits the regretful longing of the song’s tone well, and Adams’ voice is in fine form throughout.

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