Friday, August 20, 2010
I like to collect old road maps, and when the need arises for me to draw a map for a visiting friend or relative, I'll admit I fancy myself a pretty good cartographer. But sometimes I find myself the artist of a bizarrely scaled and oddly detailed map which names all the trees, statues, and potholes in the vicinity but omits important details like street names.
Wednesday, August 18, 2010
Before yesterday, I had never heard of Bill Savory. For this, I'm thankful: If I had known about Savory, I would have wasted a lot of time and energy being very upset with him. As a sound engineer in the 1930s, he made nearly 1,000 unique recordings of seminal jazz musicians -- and refused to let anyone hear them.
Monday, August 16, 2010
House of the Devil uses a familiar horror movie plot of a babysitting gig gone horribly wrong and turns it into something surprising. Samantha has no idea that her employers are raving Satanists -- but before the night is over, she'll become painfully aware. Rather than confuse torture and gore for genuine scares, director Ti West creates an atmosphere of terror that relies almost entirely on what you don'tsee. There will be blood, but not for nearly two-thirds of the film, in which practically nothing 'happens.' It's the most scared you will ever be by an (almost) empty house.
Friday, August 13, 2010
The biggest piece of bad news of the last 4 months seems to be getting less bad: the Deepwater Horizon oil well is plugged, and the spill is disappearing from the surface of the Gulf fast. As the catastrophe fades the photographer Zoe Strauss is doing her part to keep our focus on the disaster – and how it continues to affect people who live on the Gulf.
Monday, August 09, 2010
An Alzheimer's patient in South Africa gets addicted to a machine that reboots lost memories. A dying woman's seizures force her to relive the time she spent at an orphanage in Nazi Germany. These stories and more make up Memory Wall, a collection of short fiction by Anthony Doerr. Doerr focuses on intensely private, emotional narratives in mostly-alien locales, but the effect on the reader isn't one of exclusion. Memory Wall draws you deep into the lives of its characters with heart-wrenching prose, making you briefly forget where and who you are.
Wednesday, August 04, 2010
Tuesday, August 03, 2010
Like most moviegoers after Inception, I left the theatre with a lot of questions about the movie. Last week, we were presented with yet another. Inception's soundtrack is comprised of two elements: composer Hans Zimmer's largely ambient, stringy score, and “Non, je ne regrette rien' – the classic chanson sung by Edith Piaf, which Leo and his crew use to communicate with their dreaming teammates. It is just a tiny bit more complicated than that: Zimmer used a sample of the Piaf tune in the making of his score, which he confirmedlast Wednesday (after Internet speculation).
Friday, July 30, 2010
The Winnebago Man video is the granddaddy of all viral. Foul-mouthed, vitriolic outtakes from a real promotional shoot starring an RV salesman named Jack Rebney, it circulated underground on VHS tapes in the 1990s, before YouTube turned “the angriest man in the world” into a phenomenon. Spike Jonze is rumored to have sent out copies of the video as Christmas gifts; Conan O’Brien named it as one of his all-time favorites; and Larry David cited Rebney as inspiration for Curb Your Enthusiam.
Monday, July 26, 2010
Matt Schickele is a tragically underrated songwriter who has put out a handful of solo records of piercing strangeness and beauty. Delicate and jagged, Schickele's harmonies constantly edge toward the dissonant while staying just this side of earworm. On The Badger Game, he sings over perfectly realized small chamber arrangements, but there's nothing trendy about it. Son of the composer and educator Peter Schickele, Matt comes to his classical eclecticism by birthright, and he has composed an opera (in progress), a large number of published bagpipe tunes, and music in many other genres. Fans of Sufjan Stevens and Andrew Bird should all take note: this record bears repeated -- obsessively repeated -- listening.
Friday, July 23, 2010
Over the last few days, the internet has ooed and aahed over a viral marketing campaign from Old Spice. In just two days, a production team and a charming actor named Isaiah Mustafa created 183 short videos; instead of paying for TV airtime, Old Spice simply uploaded them to YouTube. It was the kind of bombshell that the creative minds at Sterling Cooper could only dream of.
Wednesday, July 21, 2010
You wouldn't guess that Infra, an ambient-classical piece by Max Richter, was originally conceived as a score for Britain’s Royal Ballet; nothing about it screams 'dance' to me. While the music leaves the choreography to our imagination, it translates into an album quite nicely. Richter contrasts melodic chamber arrangements with subtle swaths of static and electric ripples. Yet the colors don't clash: on record they gel to suggest a painting, rather than a dance.
Monday, July 19, 2010
Friday, July 16, 2010
Illustration is hardly a new art form -- after all, it's been around for just about as long as stories have, although it's generally been confined to children's literature (where it's thrived). But illustration has recently had a bit of resurgence in the grown-up art world. Take Zak Smith's exhaustive project to depict every page of Thomas Pynchon's dizzying epic Gravity's Rainbow. But my favorite is the cleaner and more colorful vision of a different American classic: Moby-Dick.
Wednesday, July 14, 2010
A lot of the time they go unnoticed, or we simply fast forward through them like advertisements, another obstruction between us and our favorite TV show. But sometimes, when they're done properly, they are a thing of beauty. They can provide provide skillfully disguised plot indications, and give you valuable character insights, all wrapped up in a stunning sensory parcel that sets the mood for the coming show.
Tuesday, July 13, 2010