Reviews

'How to Live Forever', If You Really Feel You Must

While Mark Wexler’s pursuit of immortality takes him all over the world, extending one’s life emerges as a peculiarly Western, and especially American, obsession.


How to Live Forever

Director: Mark Wexler
Cast: Jack Lalanne, Ray Kurzweil, Suzanne Somers, Ray Bradbury, Phyllis Diller, Willard Scott
Distributor: Docurama
Rated: Not rated
Year: 2010
Release date: 2012-06-05

From biogerontology, laughter yoga, and small molecule drugs to the Ms. Senior America pageant and neurobics, How to Live Forever documents the science, pseudoscience, lifestyle coaching, and gimmickry of the longevity movement. Director Mark Wexler also offers a generational and personal perspective on the subject, through a candid view of aging Baby Boomers’ struggles with mortality, and his own mid-life crisis triggered by the death of his mother.

While Wexler’s pursuit of immortality takes him all over the world, extending one’s life emerges as a peculiarly Western, and especially American, obsession. For the first time in history, it seems, people who aren’t completely delusional believe that lengthening the human lifespan by tens if not hundreds of years is within reach, and many want to join the anti-aging vanguard.

Among them are biogerontologist Aubrey de Grey, a former computer scientist, and the irritatingly ubiquitous inventor Ray Kurzweil. Both embrace a mechanistic view of life—de Grey declares aging to be “a repair and maintenance problem”—and in the cocksure belief that scientists will soon engineer the elusive elixir of youth, both ignore the philosophical and environmental ramifications of large numbers of people exceeding their threescore years and ten.

Surgeon and author Sherwin Nuland calls “life extenders” like de Grey narcissistic, and speaks of the debt we owe to future generations to shuffle off this mortal coil on schedule. He’s drowned out by the slogans and catchphrases of the true believers. “The good old days are this second!” cries fitness guru Jack LaLanne, still clad in his signature jumpsuit, as he leads Wexler through a routine of restorative power walking. “Hormones are the juice of youth!” effuses a creepily perky Suzanne Somers, who ingests a battery of them every day. “Not just designer babies, but designer Baby Boomers”, Kurzweil lectures. (The idea of an immortal Kurzweil fills me with dread.) At least LaLanne admits he’s a salesman.

It all takes a toll on poor Wexler, whose emersion in what Dr. Ron Klatz calls “the anti-aging marketplace” renders him desperately aware of his own age and diminishing capacities. What really rattles Wexler, and here the 50-something expresses the quintessential Boomer fear, is becoming “uncool”.

Wexler’s interviews with the aged, though they offer mixed messages on the secret to a long life, comprise the best sequences of the film. Zenei Nakamura, 92, an Okinawan fisherman, still works in the traditional way, setting his nets in a wetsuit and goggles, without the benefit of scuba gear. Cardio-thoracic surgeon Ellsworth Wareham, 94, continues to scrub in every day, relishing the social interaction of the operating room. Pugnacious Buster Martin, 101, who works washing vans for a London plumbing company, enjoys a pint and a smoke, runs marathons, and performs in an a cappella rock group. All three exhibit remarkable physical health and mental acuity.

The other side of 100 is less uplifting. Frail Edna Parker of Shelbyville, Indiana, at 115 the world’s oldest human when the film was made—understands some of Wexler’s questions, but mostly babbles to herself as she sits in a wheelchair in her retirement home.

It falls to Wexler’s good friend, travel writer and novelist Pico Iyer, to help the director emerge from his funk. Echoing Nuland’s critique of de Grey and others, Iyer sees the desire for longevity as a “craving” analogous to the indulgent behavior of a child who can’t accept limits, and he encourages Wexler to acknowledge his.

Poet and funeral director Thomas Lynch wonders if artists don’t strive to create enduring works of art so that they can be sure something 'of them' will outlive them. Wexler closes How to Live Forever with this ancient, sobering, yet comforting notion. He moves towards accepting mortality—his own and his mother’s—when he decides to go through a storage container full of his mother’s things, including a number of her canvases. Shots of his mother’s paintings, many quite beautiful, provide the backdrop to the credit sequence. It’s a tacit rejection of the life-extenders and an invitation for viewers to make their own peace with death. Take heed, Boomers.

DVD extras include extended interviews and a few sequences with people who didn’t make the final cut of How to Live Forever, including Michael Palin, who eloquently praises the “uneventful” life, one full of work and purpose. We also learn that Kurzweil takes 150 supplements a day, in an effort to survive until science can preserve him indefinitely for the enrichment of future generations.

6

From genre-busting electronic music to new highs in the ever-evolving R&B scene, from hip-hop and Americana to rock and pop, 2017's music scenes bestowed an embarrassment of riches upon us.


60. White Hills - Stop Mute Defeat (Thrill Jockey)

White Hills epic '80s callback Stop Mute Defeat is a determined march against encroaching imperial darkness; their eyes boring into the shadows for danger but they're aware that blinding lights can kill and distort truth. From "Overlord's" dark stomp casting nets for totalitarian warnings to "Attack Mode", which roars in with the tribal certainty that we can survive the madness if we keep our wits, the record is a true and timely win for Dave W. and Ego Sensation. Martin Bisi and the poster band's mysterious but relevant cool make a great team and deliver one of their least psych yet most mind destroying records to date. Much like the first time you heard Joy Division or early Pigface, for example, you'll experience being startled at first before becoming addicted to the band's unique microcosm of dystopia that is simultaneously corrupting and seducing your ears. - Morgan Y. Evans

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Music

The Best Dance Tracks of 2017

Photo: Murielle Victorine Scherre (Courtesy of Big Beat Press)

From the "shamanic techno" of Parisian duo Pouvoir Magique to Stockholm Noir's brilliant string of darkly foreboding, electro-licked singles, here are ten selections that represent some of the more intriguing dance offerings of 2017.

In June of 2016, prolific producer Diplo lambasted the world of DJ's in an interview with Billboard, stating that EDM was dying. Coincidentally enough, the article's contents went viral and made their way into Vice Media's electronic music and culture channel Thump, which closed its doors after four years this summer amid company-wide layoffs. Months earlier, electronic music giant SFX Entertainment filed bankruptcy and reemerged as Lifestyle, Inc., shunning the term "EDM".

So here we are at the end of 2017, and the internet is still a flurry with articles declaring that Electronic Dance Music is rotting from the inside out and DJ culture is dying on the vine, devoured by corporate greed. That might all well be the case, but electronic music isn't disappearing into the night without a fight as witnessed by the endless parade of emerging artists on the scene, the rise of North America's first Electro Parade in Montréal, and the inaugural Electronic Music Awards in Los Angeles this past September.

For every insipid, automaton disc jockey-producer, there are innovative minds like Anna Lunoe, Four Tet, and the Black Madonna, whose eclectic, infectious sets display impeccable taste, a wealth of knowledge, and boundless creativity. Over the past few years, many underground artists have been thrust into the mainstream spotlight and lost the je ne sais quoi that made them unique. Regardless, there will always be new musicians, producers, singers, and visionaries to replace them, those who bring something novel to the table or tip a hat to their predecessors in a way that steps beyond homage and exhilarates as it did decades before.

As electronic music continues to evolve and its endless sub-genres continue to expand, so do fickle tastes, and preferences become more and more subjective with a seemingly endless list of artists to sift through. With so much music to digest, its no wonder that many artists remain under the radar. This list hopes to remedy that injustice and celebrate tracks both indie and mainstream. From the "shamanic techno" of Parisian duo Pouvoir Magique to Stockholm Noir's brilliant string of darkly foreboding, electro-licked singles, here are ten selections that represent some of the more intriguing dance offerings of 2017.

10. Moullinex - “Work It Out (feat. Fritz Helder)”

Taken from Portuguese producer, DJ, and multi-instrumentalist Luis Clara Gomes' third album Hypersex, "Work It Out" like all of its surrounding companions is a self-proclaimed, "collective love letter to club culture, and a celebration of love, inclusion and difference." Dance music has always seemingly been a safe haven for "misfits" standing on the edge of the mainstream, and while EDM manufactured sheen might have taken the piss out of the scene, Hypersex still revels in that defiant, yet warm and inviting attitude.

Like a cheeky homage to Rick James and the late, great High Priest of Pop, Prince, this delectably filthy, sexually charged track with its nasty, funk-drenched bass line, couldn't have found a more flawless messenger than former Azari & III member Fritz Helder. As the radiant, gender-fluid artist sings, "you better work your shit out", this album highlight becomes an anthem for all those who refuse to bow down to BS. Without any accompanying visuals, the track is electro-funk perfection, but the video, with its ruby-red, penile glitter canon, kicks the whole thing up a notch.

9. Touch Sensitive - “Veronica”

The neon-streaked days of roller rinks and turtlenecks, leg warmers and popped polo collars have come and gone, but you wouldn't think so listening to Michael "Touch Sensitive" Di Francesco's dazzling debut Visions. The Sydney-based DJ/producer's long-awaited LP and its lead single "Lay Down", which shot to the top of the Hype Machine charts, are as retro-gazing as they are distinctly modern, with nods to everything from nu disco to slo-mo house.

Featuring a sample lifted from 90s DJ and producer Paul Johnson's "So Much (So Much Mix)," the New Jack-kissed "Veronica" owns the dance floor. While the conversational interplay between the sexed-up couple is anything but profound, there is no denying its charms, however laughably awkward. While not everything on Visions is as instantly arresting, it is a testament to Di Francesco's talents that everything old sounds so damn fresh again.

8. Gourmet - “Delicious”

Neither Gourmet's defiantly eccentric, nine-track debut Cashmere, nor its subsequent singles, "There You Go" or "Yellow" gave any indication that the South African purveyor of "spaghetti pop" would drop one of the year's sassiest club tracks, but there you have it. The Cape Town-based artist, part of oil-slick, independent label 1991's diminutive roster, flagrantly disregards expectation on his latest outing, channeling the Scissor Sisters at their most gloriously bitchy best, Ratchet-era Shamir, and the shimmering dance-pop of UK singer-producer Joe Flory, aka Amateur Best.

With an amusingly detached delivery that rivals Ben Stein's droning roll call in Ferris Bueller's Day Off , he sings "I just want to dance, and fuck, and fly, and try, and fail, and try again…hold up," against a squelchy bass line and stabbing synths. When the percussive noise of what sounds like a triangle dinner bell appears within the mix, one can't help but think that Gourmet is simply winking at his audience, as if to say, "dinner is served."

7. Pouvoir Magique - “Chalawan”

Like a psychoactive ayahuasca brew, the intoxicating "shamanic techno" of Parisian duo Pouvoir Magique's LP Disparition, is an exhilarating trip into unfamiliar territory. Formed in November of 2011, "Magic Power" is the musical project of Clément Vincent and Bertrand Cerruti, who over the years, have cleverly merged several millennia of songs from around the world with 21st-century beats and widescreen electro textures. Lest ye be worried, this is anything but Deep Forest.

In the spring of 2013, Pouvoir Magique co-founded the "Mawimbi" collective, a project designed to unite African musical heritage with contemporary soundscapes, and released two EPs. Within days of launching their label Musiques de Sphères, the duo's studio was burglarized and a hard drive with six years of painstakingly curated material had vanished. After tracking down demos they shared with friends before their final stages of completion, Clément and Bertrand reconstructed an album of 12 tracks.

Unfinished though they might be, each song is a marvelous thing to behold. Their stunning 2016 single "Eclipse," with its cinematic video, might have been one of the most immediate songs on the record, but it's the pulsing "Chalawan," with its guttural howls, fluttering flute-like passages, and driving, hypnotic beats that truly mesmerizes.

6. Purple Disco Machine - “Body Funk” & “Devil In Me” (TIE)

Whenever a bevy of guest artists appears on a debut record, it's often best to approach the project with caution. 85% of the time, the collaborative partners either overshadow the proceedings or detract from the vision of the musician whose name is emblazoned across the top of the LP. There are, however, pleasant exceptions to the rule and Tino Piontek's Soulmatic is one of the year's most delightfully cohesive offerings. The Dresden-born Deep Funk innovator, aka Purple Disco Machine, has risen to international status since 2009, releasing one spectacular track and remix after another. It should go without saying that this long-awaited collection, featuring everyone from Kool Keith to Faithless and Boris D'lugosch, is ripe with memorable highlights.

The saucy, soaring "Mistress" shines a spotlight on the stellar pipes of "UK soul hurricane" Hannah Williams. While it might be a crowning moment within the set, its the strutting discofied "Body Funk", and the album's first single, "Devil In Me", that linger long after the record has stopped spinning. The former track with its camptastic fusion of '80s Sylvester gone 1940s military march, and the latter anthem, a soulful stunner that samples the 1968 Stax hit "Private Number", and features the vocal talents of Duane Harden and Joe Killington, feels like an unearthed classic. Without a doubt, the German DJ's debut is one of the best dance records of the year.

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