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READ - The Rough Guides to Music and Film

Karen Zarker

The Rough Guides to Music and Film [Rough Guides - $14.99 - $28.99]

Virtually any place on the planet that can host human life, any place on the planet affected by human life (see the guide on climate change, or the one on environmentally-conscious shopping), and any form of cultural expression that can be identified, categorized and celebrated, is gist for the mill in these broad reaching, artfully arranged compositions. Indeed, The Rough Guides to Music and Film alone would make any culture junkie salivate. A single The Rough Guide or an armful of ‘em would make the perfect gift for anyone you know who has both a brain and a heart. New music titles include: Punk, Soul and R&B, World Music: Africa and Middle East; new film titles include American Independent Film, Chick Flicks and Westerns. Just a couple of the new titles that we perused here at PopMatters are:

The Rough Guide to British Cult Comedy by Judy Hall (October 2006) is, well, funny, even to those who avoid stand up comedians and turn their noses up at sitcoms, and it's funny even though its meant to be a guide to comedy – not necessarily a source of comedy. Read this and not only get a good laugh, but get some really good trivia, too ("Highest average punch line delivery: 12 punch lines per minute, Phyllis Diller"). Bios of comedians are found in "The Icons" section, complete with samples of their humor, from the wry to the rude, e.g., "I came on the train today, though I think I managed to pass it off as an asthma attack" from the cheeky Jenny Éclair. You'll get a good read on canonical televised comedy shows, the coolest live acts in cult comedy (#1 is Eddie Izzard, but of course, humor is relative), venues, festivals, and comedic terms, defined (look up "the rhythm method"), to a section on how to deal with hecklers (Jim Tavare's "I'm schizophrenic" gag has been greeted with "You can both fuck off"). In true guide fashion, after nearly every entry readers are directed to additional books, DVDs, and online resources on the subject. With each giggle rendered, a history lesson, too, is painlessly applied. Humor may be relative, but this book crosses all divides. [Amazon]

The Rough Guide to Chick Flicks by Samantha Cook (September 2006) opens with a play list that will surprise you ". . . because there's more to chick flick soundtracks than 'I Will Always Love You' . . ." Let's start with "Do Your Thing" by Basement Jaxx in Bend it Like Beckham. "'And a boom boom boom and a bang bang bang, boom bang, boom bang and bang'". That's a good ass-shaking start to a not-so-tear-jerky look at movies that move the estrogen ridden. Sure, Pride and Prejudice makes mention in the 'The Lit/Flick Crossover" chapter (a fun section on women-authored books made into 'women's movies', including Virginia Woolf and Alice Walker, of course), and doe-eyed Audrey Hepburn and sunny girl Doris Day get their respective (and respected) curtsies; but so, too, portrayals of haughty Katharine Hepburn and fearless Susan Sarandon. Steel Magnolias is of course, an entry, but I'd never have guessed The Red Shoes -- or why. Men women love to look at and the movies they're in get room in these pages; Rudolph Valentino, Cary Grant, Brad Pitt . . . An all too brief mention of films from India, Iran, Italy and New Zealand compel the reader to start out with this guide in hand and look a little further. I don't think you'll find any other resource for "chick flicks" than this, but you will expand your vocabulary -- and your respect – for this genre. [Amazon]

In the wake of Malcolm Young's passing, Jesse Fink, author of The Youngs: The Brothers Who Built AC/DC, offers up his top 10 AC/DC songs, each seasoned with a dash of backstory.

In the wake of Malcolm Young's passing, Jesse Fink, author of The Youngs: The Brothers Who Built AC/DC, offers up his top 10 AC/DC songs, each seasoned with a dash of backstory.

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Pauline Black may be called the Queen of Ska by some, but she insists she's not the only one, as Two-Tone legends the Selecter celebrate another stellar album in a career full of them.

Being commonly hailed as the "Queen" of a genre of music is no mean feat, but for Pauline Black, singer/songwriter of Two-Tone legends the Selecter and universally recognised "Queen of Ska", it is something she seems to take in her stride. "People can call you whatever they like," she tells PopMatters, "so I suppose it's better that they call you something really good!"

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Morrison's prose is so engaging and welcoming that it's easy to miss the irreconcilable ambiguities that are set forth in her prose as ineluctable convictions.

It's a common enough gambit in science fiction. Humans come across a race of aliens that appear to be entirely alike and yet one group of said aliens subordinates the other, visiting violence upon their persons, denigrating them openly and without social or legal consequence, humiliating them at every turn. The humans inquire why certain of the aliens are subjected to such degradation when there are no discernible differences among the entire race of aliens, at least from the human point of view. The aliens then explain that the subordinated group all share some minor trait (say the left nostril is oh-so-slightly larger than the right while the "superior" group all have slightly enlarged right nostrils)—something thatm from the human vantage pointm is utterly ridiculous. This minor difference not only explains but, for the alien understanding, justifies the inequitable treatment, even the enslavement of the subordinate group. And there you have the quandary of Otherness in a nutshell.

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A 1996 classic, Shawn Colvin's album of mature pop is also one of best break-up albums, comparable lyrically and musically to Joni Mitchell's Hejira and Bob Dylan's Blood on the Tracks.

When pop-folksinger Shawn Colvin released A Few Small Repairs in 1996, the music world was ripe for an album of sharp, catchy songs by a female singer-songwriter. Lilith Fair, the tour for women in the music, would gross $16 million in 1997. Colvin would be a main stage artist in all three years of the tour, playing alongside Liz Phair, Suzanne Vega, Sheryl Crow, Sarah McLachlan, Meshell Ndegeocello, Joan Osborne, Lisa Loeb, Erykah Badu, and many others. Strong female artists were not only making great music (when were they not?) but also having bold success. Alanis Morissette's Jagged Little Pill preceded Colvin's fourth recording by just 16 months.

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Frank Miller locates our tragedy and warps it into his own brutal beauty.

In terms of continuity, the so-called promotion of this entry as Miller's “third" in the series is deceptively cryptic. Miller's mid-'80s limited series The Dark Knight Returns (or DKR) is a “Top 5 All-Time" graphic novel, if not easily “Top 3". His intertextual and metatextual themes resonated then as they do now, a reason this source material was “go to" for Christopher Nolan when he resurrected the franchise for Warner Bros. in the mid-00s. The sheer iconicity of DKR posits a seminal work in the artist's canon, which shares company with the likes of Sin City, 300, and an influential run on Daredevil, to name a few.

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