Music

Ra the MC - "Lost Ones" (video)

People place a log of baggage and lazy description in the word "old school" in hip-hop. It's a way to insult someone's credibility, make a crude comparison or simply use free hand for "the way I imagine my youth". I prefer to emphasize old school as the feeing you get when an MC does something spectacular from what falsely appears to be simplicity. Ra the MC Ra the MC has a double dutching tongue and fierce, self-assured charisma that emanates from the quick upper cuts of her flow. While the sample in "Lost Ones" is from Lauren Hill's song of the same name, the reconstruction here conceives the song in curt knots of piano and percussion that booms and clatters, less backdrop and more of an announcement of Ra's prowess. So few female MCs can manage to pull off hard feminity without resorting to overt violence, myna-masculinity or the suggestion of sexual accessibility. Ra brushes off roles with vison and earned bombast: she's all defense and verbal ratatat layed out in checkmate architecture.

I admit that I have a weakness for the neighborhood tour video, a beautiful reminder that the best video interpretations of a song are those that engage with its context, its era, its scene, its source of passion. In this scan and span movements of the video there's more life, verve, and sync with the song than there would be on a shoot filled with Aston Martins, champagne bottles and women synced in ass shake. Perhaps I'd rather have fantasies that simply magnify the real rather than simulate the discredited fantasies of money and the regal isolation of fame. In hip-hop, confidence can quickly morph into the despotism of the narcissist (Diagnosis: Kanye). Ra brims with seductive energy that doesn't have to be amped up or tricked out in futuristic hooker garb. It's hard to find easy touchstones for the way she shifts from hard dense lyrical cuts into easy, torn open, singing. A few obvious trendsetters come to mind: Bahamadia's zen frame of phrase, Rah Digga's weaponized delivery and even Jean Grae's cagey intellectual poetry. This D.C. up and comer has few peers to stand in the way of her becoming a defining force among the new faces of hip-hop.

So far J. J. Abrams and Rian Johnson resemble children at play, remaking the films they fell in love with. As an audience, however, we desire a fuller experience.

As recently as the lackluster episodes I-III of the Star Wars saga, the embossed gold logo followed by scrolling prologue text was cause for excitement. In the approach to the release of any of the then new prequel installments, the Twentieth Century Fox fanfare, followed by the Lucas Film logo, teased one's impulsive excitement at a glimpse into the next installment's narrative. Then sat in the movie theatre on the anticipated day of release, the sight and sound of the Twentieth Century Fox fanfare signalled the end of fevered anticipation. Whatever happened to those times? For some of us, is it a product of youth in which age now denies us the ability to lose ourselves within such adolescent pleasure? There's no answer to this question -- only the realisation that this sensation is missing and it has been since the summer of 2005. Star Wars is now a movie to tick off your to-watch list, no longer a spark in the dreary reality of the everyday. The magic has disappeared… Star Wars is spiritually dead.

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This has been a remarkable year for shoegaze. If it were only for the re-raising of two central pillars of the initial scene it would still have been enough, but that wasn't even the half of it.

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Theatre

​'The Ferryman': Ephemeral Ideas, Eternal Tragedies

The current cast of The Ferryman in London's West End. Photo by Johan Persson. (Courtesy of The Corner Shop)

Staggeringly multi-layered, dangerously fast-paced and rich in characterizations, dialogue and context, Jez Butterworth's new hit about a family during the time of Ireland's the Troubles leaves the audience breathless, sweaty and tearful, in a nightmarish, dry-heaving haze.

"Vanishing. It's a powerful word, that"

Northern Ireland, Rural Derry, 1981, nighttime. The local ringleader of the Irish Republican Army gun-toting comrades ambushes a priest and tells him that the body of one Seamus Carney has been recovered. It is said that the man had spent a full ten years rotting in a bog. The IRA gunslinger, Muldoon, orders the priest to arrange for the Carney family not to utter a word of what had happened to the wretched man.

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Aaron Sorkin's real-life twister about Molly Bloom, an Olympic skier turned high-stakes poker wrangler, is scorchingly fun but never takes its heroine as seriously as the men.

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7

There's something characteristically English about the Royal Society, whereby strangers gather under the aegis of some shared interest to read, study, and form friendships and in which they are implicitly agreed to exist insulated and apart from political differences.

There is an amusing detail in The Curious World of Samuel Pepys and John Evelyn that is emblematic of the kind of intellectual passions that animated the educated elite of late 17th-century England. We learn that Henry Oldenburg, the first secretary of the Royal Society, had for many years carried on a bitter dispute with Robert Hooke, one of the great polymaths of the era whose name still appears to students of physics and biology. Was the root of their quarrel a personality clash, was it over money or property, over love, ego, values? Something simple and recognizable? The precise source of their conflict was none of the above exactly but is nevertheless revealing of a specific early modern English context: They were in dispute, Margaret Willes writes, "over the development of the balance-spring regulator watch mechanism."

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