“More is good. A hell of a lot more can be bad.” National security expert Richard Clarke’s pithy observation comes near the end of Top Secret America: From 9/11 to the Boston Bombings, the repurposed Frontline episode airing on 30 April on PBS. And after watching the show—again, for those of you who saw the previous iteration in September 2011—you may be feeling the “more” in multiple ways. The report’s repetitions are in themselves disturbing, first that the costly ramping up of top secret America has gone on and on since 9/11, and second, that the results look negligible. It’s true that it’s hard to measure what doesn’t happen, but still, as the program lays out, the past decade’s efforts to “secure the homeland,” however tremendous, not only leave the homeland insecure, but also, in some cases, increase the risks. This is not only because advancing surveillance technology is ever incomplete, though it is, but more urgently, that some programs, say, drones or black sites, incite frustration, anger, and resistance in affected populations.
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“It has a mind of its own,” says Tim Wakefield, once of the Red Sox. “You let it go and see where it takes you.” It is the knuckleball, and Wakefield was one of the few major league pitchers to make it his. As Wakefield does his best to explain the pitch - the idea of it, the mechanics, the effects—the scene cuts from his interview to a shot of his silhouette walking away, framed by a narrow doorway and dissolving into the bright yellow sunlight of the ball field beyond. The image—blurred and intriguing—sets up the story of the knuckleball, in Ricki Stern and Annie Sundberg’s terrific documentary, in Knuckleball!, a story that’s both utterly specific and enticingly elusive. Now available on VOD and DVD, the film considers the quirky history and ongoing mythology of the pitch, as well as the men who accept its challenges it. These men comprise a club with precious few members, and seeing them together is one of this documentary’s great pleasures. Mets knuckleballer R.A. Dickey won last year’s Cy Young Award, but still, the pitch remains a puzzle to most observers, a slow pitch that doesn’t spin, that tricks batters and sometimes, pitchers too. Knuckleballers might strike out multiple opponents in a game, stunning rival teams and drawing the media’s hot spotlight. And they might not.
See PopMatters’ review.
The black and white photos that fill the screen at the start of Neighboring Sounds (O som ao redor) call up a history at once personal and collective, possessing and possessed by the northeastern Brazilian city of Recife. A family stares into the camera, an old woman gives an interview, her face gaunt and poster straight, a group of workers stand with tools raised high, their sandals and hats indicating they toil in heat, perhaps in the fields that appear in some shots that follow, and likely not in the fine homes that loom in others.
Portland duo Lilacs & Champagne, whose self-titled debut was one of 2012’s underrated gems, have announced an upcoming sophomore release entitled Danish & Blue, out on April 23 via Brooklyn label Mexican Summer. The trailer for the album, directed by band member Emil Amos, continues in the tradition of psychedelic spy movie paranoia that was dominant on Lilacs & Champagne, though there’s a tantalizing incorporation of piano that already shows a slight shift in sonic from that record. At only two minutes, the trailer is a definite tease, but the excellent control of mood that made the duo’s debut so memorable is still present.