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Just Arrived! June – July 2010.

Just Arrived! June – July 2010.


Innocent When You Dream – Tom Waits: The Collected Interviews (Mac Montandon, ed., 2006)

Tom Waits’ songs are instantly recognisable. With ‘a voice that could guide ships through dense fog’, and tales of losers and outsiders, dingy bar-room joints and seedy diners, his thirty-year career is as legendary as his drunken, bohemian persona. Waits has never written an autobiography so this collection of interviews and profiles is practically Tom Waits in his own words. Sensitively compiled by Mac Montandon, it features pieces from the likes of Jim Jarmusch, Elvis Costello and Luc Sante and spans Waits’ entire career. As his discerning worldview shines through, Innocent When You Dream reveals as Tom Waits who is witty, enigmatic, currently fired up about the state of America—and never less than entertaining.

The Philosophy of Andy Warhol
(Andy Warhol, 1975)

Andy Warhol is the famous alchemist of reality, forming the most trite, everyday ideas and images and altering them into genuine thought and innovation. On many levels, this book is just a collection of autobiographical text, commenting on people and places within Warhol’s social olympia. But after the gossip and celebrity status is digested, the reader is endowed with a substantial, original outlook on sex, money, art, and many other of life’s components. It’s a fabulous read, with the ‘tastiness’ of a Vonnegut and packed with irresistably sarcastic humor. This book is a step above an autobiography. It is the essence of Warhol’s addictive personality and a journey into the mind of a wonderfully eccentric human being. You don’t have to be an art buff or culture addict to enjoy Warhol’s genius in this book.

The Medium is The Massage: An Inventory of Effects (Marshall McLuhan & Quentin Fiore, 1967)

The Medium is the Massage remains Marshall McLuhan’s most popular book, perhaps as influential as Understanding Media. It is still one of the most insightful and provocative works ever to have been published on our modern culture. With every technological advance, McLuhan’s theories reveal how prescient his insights actually proved to be. His thought is a guide to understanding environments, especially new ones as they enter and pervade society, like the computer is doing to biology and science (McLuhan heralded the marriage of electronics and biology) and how the world wide web is threatening to liberate the old information monopolies from governments and big corporations. [AK Press]

Illuminating Shadows: The Mythic Power of Film (Geoffrey Hill, 1992)

I was intrigued by Geoffrey Hill’s highly creative collection of essays on the mythic power of film. These deeply felt and carefully crafted writings analyze the current tragic war on Mother Earth caused by an imbalance of patriarchal mythology. I commend Hill’s well articulated call for a cinemasophia, the wise voice of the Goddess calling for change. [Marija Gimbutas, Professor Emerita of European archeology at UCLA]

Serba-serbi Keroncong (Drs. Soeharto AH, Achmad Soenardi, Samidi Sunupratomo, 1996)

Khasanah pustaka kesenian khususnya yang membahas cabang seni musik keroncong di Indonesia bisa dibilang masih cukup langka. Kehadiran buku ini sedikit melegakan mereka yang khawatir dengan bakal punahnya musik keroncong di negeri ini. Buku ini cukup lengkap dan terinci dalam meliput sejarah dan perkembangan musik keroncong, serta pembahasan unsur-unsur dasar dari aspek musikal, cabang-cabang alirannya, harmonisasi dan pembawaan vokalnya, serta alat-alat instrumennya. [Penerbit Musika]

Videokronik: Aktivisme Video dan Distribusi Video di Indonesia (KUNCI Cultural Studies & EngageMedia, 2009)

Beberapa dekade belakangan Indonesia mengalami perubahan yang cukup drastis dalam penggunaan video sebagai alat perubahan sosial baik di ranah komunitas, kampanye isu tertentu, maupun organisasi aktivis. Alat memproduksi video semakin terdemokratisasi sekarang ini dan marak digunakan. Sejak jatuhnya rezim Orde Baru Suharto, ruang-ruang baru bagi proyek-proyek media baru bermunculan. Baik individu maupun organisasi yang bekerja untuk isu-isu seperti lingkungan hidup, hak asasi manusia, isu queer dan gender, pluralisme budaya, militerisme, kemiskinan, hak buruh, globalisasi, dan lainnya, telah menerima video sebagai alat komunikasi dengan konstituennya maupun dengan audiens baru. 14 halaman ini memuat dua versi riset (Inggris dan Bahasa Indonesia) yang di dalamnya terdapat bermacam-macam gambaran termasuk visualisasi perkembangan video aktivisme dan online video. [Engage Media]


Why Looks At Animals (John Berger, 1980)

John Berger broke new ground with his penetrating writings on life, art and how we see the world around us. Here he explores how the ancient relationship between man and nature has been severed in the modern consumer age, with the animals that used to be at the centre of our existence now marginalized and reduced to spectacle. [Penguin Book]

Bandung Citra Sebuah Kota (Robert P.G.A. Voskuil, 2007)

Buku ini sebagian besar berkaitan dengan sejarah kota yang relatif muda, terutama pada periode perang dengan Jepang, tahun-tahun pendudukan dan dampaknya sampai dengan kudeta APRA. Periode ini sampai sekarang belum dibahas secara mendalam dalam pustaka modern tentang Bandung, baik dalam bahasa Indonesia maupun dalam bahaa Belanda. Pendekatan ini dipilih sebagai suatu pembaharuan. Selanjutnya banyak perhatian terhadap perkembangan Bandung sebelum perang, zaman “Parijs van Java” dan kota yang paling ke-Eropa-Eropa-an (bercitra Eropa) di Hindia Belanda. Juga cukup banyak arahan bagi rencana pengembangan kotapraja di tahun 1920-an dan 1930-an, yaitu rencana-rencana dibentuknya pusat pemerintahan baru di Bandung dan fungsi kota sebagai pusat pendidikan, keolahragaan, peranan perkebunan teh, dan besarnya arti industri berat kemiliteran bagi Bandung. [Departemen Planologi ITB]

The Ninth (Ferenc Barnas, 2010)

Click for the review and the book launch.

.Kolam (Sapardi Djoko Damono, 2009)

Kolam menjadi semacam alat bagi Sapardi untuk menegaskan pilihan estetiknya dalam bersajak. Kolam adalah “jalan pulang” Sapardi kepada arus dominan sajak-sajaknya. Kenapa “jalan pulang”? Sebab, dalam kumpulan puisi yang terbit 9 tahun sebelum Kolam, yakni Ayat-ayat Api, Sapardi seperti mengambil kelokan dari jalan estetik yang sudah ia tempuh sebelumnya. Jika sebelumnya Sapardi dikenal sebagai penyair yang jarang bicara secara cukup vulgar tentang tema-tema sosial, dalam kumpulan itu, tema berbau sosial muncul dalam sejumlah sajak. [Haris Firdaus,]


.Shadows/Faces/A Woman Under The Influence (John Cassavetes, USA, 1959/1968/1974)

All would-be hipsters know Cassavetes is revered as the grandfather of modern indie cinema. With his five-and-dime budgets, his mix of amateur and professional actors and crew, his hand-held camera and grainy film stock, today’s pauper stylists may crib extensively from his movies. And they do. But what set Cassavetes apart, in addition to being the first, is that his movies are saturated in matters of the heart. Those coarse products of a bygone era aren’t rants against an unjust world, or empty exercises in style. They’re not even particularly antiestablishment. Lo and behold, they are all about love. It seems Cassavetes was foremost a humanist who lived to record our crazy, mad ways. He more than any filmmaker merged life and art into one, or rather redefined the artifice of movies to approximate life as it is lived. [Bright Lights Film Journal]

.Zabriskie Point (Michelangelo Antonioni, USA, 1970)

Antonioni’s sorrowing, stranger’s-eye view of modern America is sadly flawed by the way his ‘story’ (a rambling, jumbled and mumbling mess scripted by a variety of writers including Sam Shepard, Tonio Guerra and Claire Peploe) is bogged down in the mood of student revolt dogging the nation in the late ’60s. Frechette, suspected of shooting a cop during a campus riot, steals a plane, meets Halprin, and makes love with her in Death Valley before returning to give himself up; she meanwhile goes off to meet prospective employer and capitalist pig Taylor. It’s clear that the director’s interest in America was less political than visual: the painted slogans and billboards seem important less for their content than for their appearance, just as the repeated metaphor of the desert is picturesque rather than telling. That said, the final explosion of a house and its contents in slow-motion is a dazzling, almost celebratory symbol of youthful dreams of ending consumerism. [Time Out Film Guide]

.The Edge of Heaven (Fatih Akin, Germany/Turkey/Italy, 2007)

In The Edge of Heaven, Fatih Akin draws from his own experiences as a German born to Turkish parents. Ali, a widower living in a Turkish enclave in Germany, pays a Turkish prostitute named Yeter to live with him. When Ali accidentally kills her, his estranged son, Nejat, a professor of German literature, goes to Istanbul to search for Yeterís daughter, Ayten, whose radical politics have necessitated an escape to Germany. Ayten falls in with Lotte, a young German who wants to help her return to Turkey unscathed. As the characters search for themselves by searching for each other, their desperate orbits never quite synch up, causing ruptures and tragedies. The exile mentality is one of constant flight, and Akin poignantly surveys its fallout with a pair of arresting images: One coffin boards a plane heading from Germany to Turkey; another boards a plane heading the opposite way. While the film ends on a hopeful note, the characters never quite manage to cross the edge of heaven. Instead, they endlessly tread its rim. [Paste Magazine]

.Shine (Scott Hicks, Australia, 1996)

Shine is a deceptively simple title for an amazingly powerful motion picture. Based on the life story of Australian pianist David Helfgott, director Scott Hicks’ (Sebastian and the Sparrow) film touches on themes as diverse as the nature of genius, the triumph over adversity, and the destructive power of love. And, while there are few obvious similarities between this film and My Left Foot, there is an undeniable kinship, if only in the way both portray the extreme courage of an individual. Long before its American theatrical debut, Shine had already attained the status as one of 1996’s few “must see” films. At Sundance, where it was among the hottest properties, the war for distribution rights exploded into a public confrontation between Harvey Weinstein of Miramax and Bob Shaye of New Line (Weinstein accused Shaye of “stealing” the picture from him). The movie has also earned 9 Australian Film Institute (AFI) Awards, including those for Best Film, Best Actor (Geoffrey Rush), and Best Supporting Actor (Armin Mueller-Stahl). [James Berardinelli]

Chinatown (Roman Polanski, USA, 1974)

Chinatown was a deeply personal project for Polanski, serving as a melancholy essay on Hollywood life, colored by events that transpired four years earlier when he lost Sharon Tate in the Manson murders. There’s a palpable sadness permeating the film, and time has made that even more poignant considering Polanski could never return to Los Angeles to work. But what makes the film significant is that it represents everybody involved operating at the top of their game. If it weren’t in color—with Jack Nicholson and Faye Dunaway acting on locations rather than sets—you wouldn’t guess the film to be from the ’70s. It’s never played for camp and feels as if it could have been crafted in the 1940s. The film itself is an undeniable classic, one that feels so authentic to its noir roots. It’s dark, bleak, and wonderful, rightfully singled out as the film that defined “neo-noir”, and the watermark for every movie thereafter that tried to emulate its feel. [DVD Verdict]

.Enter The Dragon (Robert Clouse, Hong Kong/USA, 1973)

Enter the Dragon is a quintessential 70s film, notable as the last movie Bruce Lee completed in his tragically short career. The film’s raison d’être is really to showcase his incredible martial arts prowess and it does so admirably. Famously, some of Lee’s moves were too fast to capture at 24 frames a second. Thus it was necessary to shoot them at high speed so that they would appear in slow motion when shown on screen. Lee’s kung-fu fighting aside, there are lots of other incidental pleasures to be had from Enter the Dragon. Most, unfortunately, fall into the “so bad it’s good” category: atrocious 70s fashions and hairstyles, piss-poor acting, a desperate overuse of the zoom lens and so forth. Lalo (Bullitt, Mission Impossible) Schifrin’s characteristically funktastic score is, however, a plus point. Certainly one of the baddest movies there is—in every sense of the term. [Edinburgh University Film Society]

.Ninotchka (Ernst Lubitsch, USA, 1939)

This was Greta Garbo’s first comedy and second last film. And it’s a unique role for her, first because she starts off as a dour, cold comrade with no sense of humour, and second because she laughs herself into a love of capitalist vices. Director Ernst Lubitsch and the writers give everyone sparkling dialogue. But it’s a love story above all, put together with sophistication and wit. The film was nominated for four Academy Awards (but no wins; this was the year of the victorious Gone With the Wind), including Best Picture, Best Actress (Greta Garbo with her fourth and last unsuccessful nomination), Best Original Story (Melchior Lengyel), and Best Screenplay (co-writer Billy Wilder’s first of a career 21 nominations). [Urban Cinefile]

.Dazed and Confused (Richard Linklater, USA, 1993)

Like George Lucas’ American Graffiti, Richard Linklater’s Dazed and Confused is an affectionate look at the youth culture of a bygone era. While Lucas took aim at the conservative 1950’s, Linklater jumps ahead a generation to the bicentennial year of 1976 to celebrate the joys of beer blasts, pot smoking and Frampton Comes Alive. Set on the last day of the academic year, the film follows the random activities of a sprawling group of Texas high schoolers as they celebrate the arrival of summer, their paths variously intersecting at a freshmen hazing, a local pool parlor and finally at a keg party. [All Movie Guide]

.Tampopo (Juzo Itami, Japan, 1985)

Tampopo is one of those utterly original movies that seems to exist in no known category. Like the French comedies of Jacques Tati, it’s a bemused meditation on human nature in which one humorous situation flows into another offhandedly, as if life were a series of smiles. As it opens, the film looks like some sort of Japanese satire of Clint Eastwood’s spaghetti Westerns. The hero is Goro (Tsutomu Yamazaki), a lone rider with a quizzical smile, who rides a semi instead of a horse. Along with some friends, he stages a search for the perfect noodle restaurant but cannot find it. Then he meets Tampopo (Nobuko Miyamoto), a sweet young woman who has her heart in the right place, but not her noodles. The movie then turns into the fairly freestyle story of the efforts by Tampopo and her protector to research the perfect noodle and open the perfect noodle restaurant. Like most movies about single-minded obsessions, this one quickly becomes very funny. It might seem that American audiences would know little and care less about the search for the perfect Japanese noodle, but because the movie is so consumed and detailed, so completely submerged in noodleology, it takes on a kind of weird logic of its own. [Roger Ebert]

.The Apartment (Billy Wilder, USA, 1960)

It’s been said more than a few times in the last week that Jack Lemmon was one of the most prodigiously talented actors of his generation. Sometimes, the chattering classes get it right. A sort of anti-Brando, Lemmon projected self-effacing vulnerability; in Some Like It Hot, he was out-glammed not only by Marilyn Monroe but by Tony Curtis as well. Where actors before him had played the everymans as stoic, plain but noble, Lemmon’s was just plain; he had to scrounge for nobility any way he could. C.C. Baxter, The Apartment’s nebbishy accountant, is almost too much of a regular Joe; his spineless toadying is too real to be funny. Though Billy Wilder’s dark 1960 comedy — newly issued to DVD in a fabulous transfer — has its proponents, I’ve always found it wobbly in tone, unlike Wilder masterpieces like Some Like It Hot and Sunset Blvd., or even superior genre films like Double Indemnity. [Philadelphia City Paper]


.The Kinks – The Kinks Are the Village Green Preservation Society (Reprise, 1968)

In 1968 The Kinks released The Kinks Are The Village Green Preservation Society, an album curiously closer in spirit to that year’s new sitcom hit, Dad’s Army, than to the more familiar rock ‘n’ roll preoccupations of the day. While his contemporaries were revolting in style or getting mystic, Ray Davies spent much of the summer putting together a concept album steeped in nostalgia for an ‘Olde England’ of corner shops, custard pies and steam trains; an album which seemed to draw as much on the prewar music-hall of Max Miller as it did the blues. While the rock mainstream embraced Satanism and free love, Davies sang about preserving virginity and Sunday School. The Kinks’ latest heroes were, apparently, Desperate Dan and Mrs Mopp, rather than Abraham, Martin or John. It was seriously out of step with prevailing trends. [BBC Music Review]

.Kocani Orkestar – Alone At My Wedding (Crammed, 2002)

The band has undergone a complete change of personnel since their debut, with leader Naat Veliov and his brothers gone and Ismael Saliev, on alto sax and vocals, now heading the ensemble. The liner notes describe the various quaint wedding customs: At dawn on the second day, everyone jumps in the river; the women get drunk, men paint their faces with lipstick, rip off each other’s shirts and start a bonfire, etc. But the music component is what we are here for: the brass band parades through town collecting the participants and then is replaced by smaller combos, and here Kocani provides all the parts. The party builds in intensity as the album progresses. The rhythms become more complex. A truly satisfying hour of arabo-turkic-romany boogie. []

Charles Mingus & Eric Dolphy – Immortal Concerts: Jazz Festival, Antibes, July 13, 1960 (Giants of Jazz, 1996)

This was one of Mingus’s best bands, captured live before an attentive and involved audience in 1960. Eric Dolphy, reed and flute wizard, figures prominently throughout, but all the musicians are engaged and highly animated. The musical chemistry is palpable. Charles Mingus was an explosive person. He was known for a bad temper, but could verbally cheer on fellow musicians in touching and exhilerating manner. You can hear him do so throughout the pieces. The group arrangements are challenging and sometimes complex, with several tempos changes and unexpected ensemble forms, all of which I find deeply satisfying and worthy of repeated listening. The group was in top form, the music is essential Mingus. [Douglas Groothuis,]

.The Cubby Creatures – Who Remembers Kathy Barra? (Rodent Records, 2001)

Ok, the stuff that I did not like about this EP first – the title track bugs me, it’s an apologetic/tribute song about a girl that the writer teased (by calling her a capybara, a large rodent from South America. Kids, I swear they can be so mean!) when they were younger, and I just didn’t find it especially amusing or musically interesting. Hey, it happens. Also, I could do without the between song spoken stuff, like most between song filler it’s ok on the first listen but after that it rapidly becomes distracting. Other than these qualms, there were several songs that I quite liked. “Knitting Bee” is a catchy slice of Beatles-esque pop that brings the Olivia Tremor Control to mind, and both “Diseases” and “Samy” remind me of the oddly structured avant pop of the Monks of Doom or Camper Van Beethoven, complete with some nice violin, and clarinet accompaniment. The final track, “Bean (Is Just a Super Rodent)” is a return to the goof inside-joke humor of the title track, but I found the song to be more interesting. There are a couple of little short songs that are not titled (at least as far as I can tell) that are almost fragments, but sound pretty cool. Overall the vibe of mid-eighties college rock is very strong here, and that’s not a bad thing. [Aural Innovations]

.The Beatles – A Hard Dayís Night DVD (Richard Lester, UK, 1964)

The film, directed by Richard Lester, is unrelentingly kinetic. From the first scene on, the Beatles are on the run, fleeing from the screaming victims of Beatlemania, diving into taxi cabs and trains, and the fracas never stops. There is something vaguely resembling a plot involving Paul’s Grandpa (Wilfrid Brambell), a mean-spirited old geezer out for trouble, and a TV performance by the Fab Four, but what carries the film is the spirit of hilarity. The anarchy extends to the form, which is full of holes, set pieces, and nonsense interludes that never go anywhere in particular and are all the more charming for it. In today’s climate, a movie as goofy as A Hard Day’s Night is unimaginable for a hot property as the Beatles in 1964, nearing the first cusp of their fame and poised to take America by storm. Surely, the marketing department would have insisted on a more experienced director than Lester (who had virtually nothing but The Goons TV show to his credit, a precursor of Monty Python’s Flying Circus, and the film would have been focus-group tested and streamlined into blandness. That Lester and the Beatles got away with the irreverent and superb Hard Day’s Night is, by today’s standards, a miracle. []

.Leonard Cohen: Live In London DVD (2009)

The Live in London DVD is taken from a show on July 17th at London’s O2 arena. The show, which runs over two hours long, is split into two sets. Cohen is not a poet of sorrow. Yes, many of his songs are about leaving, breaking up, or tragedy, but Cohen himself is never po-faced about. He doesn’t revel in sadness for its own sake. Instead, he uses all experience, good and bad, as grist for the mill of poetry. This is especially evident on this DVD. As Cohen sings we can see the joy he brings to even the saddest songs, the way his phrasing shows relish for the words he’s polished over the years. His work is really a lesson in perseverance. Listening to it, and especially watching him perform it, shows that beauty can be wrested from the most tragic of circumstances. Cohen also exhibits a joy in performance that few artists, no matter their age, can match. He literally bounds on stage and appears happy to be there for every moment in the spotlight. In fact, watching this disc, it’s amazing that he could stay so long away from performance. [DVD Verdict]

.Nick Cave And The Bad Seeds: Live At The Paradiso/The Road To God Knows Where DVD

Seeing Cave at ease with his bandmates in Uli M. Shueppelís documentary film, The Road to God Knows Where, confirms that yes, Nick Cave is far more than a humorless caricature. For all his brooding, heís just as comfortable dancing to Madonna’s Papa Don’t Preach before soundcheck as he is belting out rockabilly noir. More important, we see him talking on a giant (it was 1989) cellular phone, which confirms that yes, Nick Cave is of this time period, despite seeming more at home in Yoknapatawpha County circa 1929. Originally out on VHS in 1991, Schueppelís film has been re-released on DVD accompanied by two short films and a second DVD of concert footage. Schueppel filmed the documentary in February and March of 1989, during the Bad Seedsí North American tour in support of Tender Prey, and it stands now as Cave’s Meeting People Is Easy, dramatizing his clashes with the culture industry. Cave is seen visibly suffering as he speaks with and is photographed by journalists. [Pop Matters]

.Keith Jarrett – Mysteries (Impulse!, 1975)

At two marathon three-day recording sessions in December 1975 and October 1976, the finest group that pianist Keith Jarrett ever led (his quartet/quintet with tenor saxophonist Dewey Redman, bassist Charlie Haden, drummer Paul Motian and, on the first sessions, percussionist Guilherme Franco) recorded enough material for four memorable albums: Shades, Mysteries, Byablue and Bop-Be. This four-CD 1996 box set has the complete sessions, including 11 previously unreleased alternate takes. Jarrett’s inside/outside music (his unisons with Redman had a unique sound) both held onto the tradition of chordal improvisation and were reminiscent of Ornette Coleman’s earlier acoustic groups. There are a few brief exotic sound explorations, but most of the music (best shown on the opening “Shades of Jazz”) extends the swinging tradition into complex areas that have yet to be fully explored by others. Continually fascinating music. []

.Espers – II (Drag City, 2006)

The biggest testament to II’s success is that this all feels naturally fitting, elements taken from the worlds of sludge and noise fitting in perfectly with the pretty vocals and folk tropes. It’s not as if the band’s disparate sources haven’t been assembled before (e.g. the recently reissued Comus records), but they’ve rarely been assembled this skillfully. One of the corollaries of the old “mediocre artists borrow, great artists steal” chestnut is that really great artists not only steal but make you completely forget that fact. There are shocks to the system hidden within II, but they’re so pleasingly cushioned you never notice until afterwards. It’s an album that leaves you both soothed and disturbed, lulled and shaken by the group’s masterful blend of the comforting and the uncanny, slightly dazed as if returning from time travel or a knock on the head. [Stylus Magazine]

.Pavement – Slanted & Enchanted (Matador, 1992)

Slanted & Enchanted is a left-field classic, a record that came out of nowhere to help establish a new subgenre of rock & roll. Pavement had already sketched out their sound, as well as their amateurish lo-fi aesthetic, on a series of indie singles before recording their debut, but Slanted & Enchanted is where they pulled all of their disparate sounds together into a distinctive style. At first, the primitive sound of the record is the most gripping thing about Slanted, but soon the true innovations of the record appear through the songs themselves. Stephen Malkmus and Spiral Stairs subvert conventional pop structures, turning melodies inside out, reinterpreting and reworking older songs, and bending genres together. It’s a complex, enthralling record, filled with fractured riffs, strong melodies, and cryptic melodies, and with all the hiss and static, Slanted & Enchanted sounds like listening to a distant college radio station — melodies and hooks keep floating in and out of the mix, with individual lines instead of full lyrics surfacing through the murk. This unique song structure as much as the sound of the album itself makes Slanted & Enchanted an individual, signature work and one of the most influential records of the ’90s. []

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