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Just Arrived!
October – November 2009.

Just Arrived!
October – November 2009.


(Toby Litt, 1997)

A party in Bedford, rural England, the present. Mary meets Jack and Neal, a couple of angel-headed hipsters and self-confessed Beats. Their chance meeting leads them on a chaotic road trip to Brighton, England and finally brings them to America, where their journey from the Chelsea Hotel to the Golden Gate Bridge enlightens them in ways they could never have foreseen. The novel concerns the adventures of a group of young people who admire the Beat Writers and Musicians of the 1950s and 1960s America. []

(Dinar Rahayu, 1009)

Dinar telah menciptakan panggung yang tata busana, tata rias, dan berbagai properti lainnya sedemikian rupa sehingga memberi peluang bagi tokoh-tokoh yang diciptakannya untuk tampil sebagai makhluk “asing” di hadapan kita. Memang itulah pada dasarnya ciri dongeng: mengasingkan yang biasa. Dalam konsep ini, tokoh-tokoh Oedipus dan Kancil tidak ada bedanya. Mereka bermain di panggung yang tidak bisa kita capai, kita menjadi penonton yang membacanya, yang karenanya merasa telah terpenuhi hasratnya untuk lepas dari yang saat ini dan di sini. Lacrimosa, Igdrasil, Kasandra, Magainin dan yang lain-lain adalah tokoh-tokoh yang dimainkan oleh Dinar dengan cerdas di berbagai panggung yang memberi kesan bergeser-geser ke masa lampau dan masa depan. [Sapardi Djoko Damono]

Hocus Pocus
(Kurt Vonnegut, 1990)

The general tone of this book is that America’s prime is past-that World War II was the country’s “finale rack” (the final rack of explosives at a fireworks show). This tone is abundantly clear through direct statements rather than through subtle metaphor. Of course, Vonnegut crafts the novel so that many of these statements look just as ridiculous as those with which he is arguing, but quotes such as fellow teach Paul Slazinger’s “Being an American means never having to say you’re sorry” come across as pretty central to the book’s outlook. []

Bad Influence
(William Sutcliffe, 2004)

Sutcliffe has made his name chronicling the young, articulating the fervour of their passions. Here his dispassionate, forthright style conveys with uncanny percipience the way you felt at the age of 10: the urgency, the absolute reality of it all. Bad Influence is a curious, clever, very powerful book – though, sad to say, too short. It climaxes, after much suspense, on the penultimate page, bundling away the resolution as if the horror and shame of it disqualify it from the stark emotional scrutiny extended to everything that has preceded. []

Holz | Boiz – Wood
(Barbara Linz, 2009)

Architecture is an art. Interior design is an art. The use of wood in architecture and in interior design is as integral as is paint to a painting or stone to a sculpture. Wood is one of the most versatile elements available to architects and in Wood, author Barbara Linz draws upon superbly illustrated examples from more than forty architectural projects inspired by and beautifully showcasing the creative and innovative uses of wood as a construction material that transcends the mundane into the exotic, the merely functional into the truly magnificent. Wood is a superb addition to any academic, professional, or community library Architectural Studies reference collection. []

Graphic Design 2
(Cube Collection, 2009)

Graphic Design is the visual composition of content within the two-dimensional media. Thanks to the rapid technological process and today’s omnipresence of mass media and consumer products, graphic design has become one of the most important means of communication. Today, graphic design is everywhere. Regardless of form or material, every product, gadget, item or can be designed according to the individual aesthetic requirements. No advertisement, poster, or packaging is without graphic design. It can support the task of communication by employing more subliminal means such as colour schemes or images that convey moods and feelings. Therefore, aesthetics play an increasingly important part in our everyday life. []

Unaccustomed Earth
(Jhumpa Lahiri, 2008)

Lahiri handles her characters without leaving any fingerprints. She allows them to grow as if unguided, as if she were accompanying them rather than training them through the espalier of her narration. Reading her stories is like watching time-lapse nature videos of different plants, each with its own inherent growth cycle, breaking through the soil, spreading into bloom or collapsing back to earth. [New York Times]

The Whole Stories and Other Stories
(Ali Smith, 2003)

Smith’s genius is in the quiet details that accumulate and take on layers of meaning in a meandering fashion. At her best she is as thoughtful and meditative as Virginia Woolf, using many of the same methods Woolf used to carve out the caves behind her characters. In contemporary fiction it’s a bit old fashioned to focus on the inner life of characters, but Smith makes those inner lives fresh and refreshing. []



The Blair Witch Project
(Daniel Myrick & Eduardo Sanchez, USA, 1999)

Horror is the realization that things you don’t know can hurt you. The Blair Witch Project brings horror back into theaters at a time when most “horror” movies are displays of gory special effects or self-referential humor (as in the Screams). Using techniques that would make the guys in Dogme 95 proud, The Blair Witch Project makes you see yourself projected on screen, anxious and afraid of the unknown: it’s coming, that’s all you know. The rest is a waiting game, as you can imagine what happens when the invisible inevitable takes its toll. In this way, the movie suggests, we are all naive, strutting around and denying a fundamental truth: we can be fooled. But the film is no mere practical joke: it reveals that in “reality” (we’ve got to watch out for that word), we only fool ourselves, we decide what is fact or fiction in any given situation. []

Variety Lights
(Federico Fellini & Alberto Lattuada, Italy, 1950)

Co-directed with established neo-realist Alberto Lattuada, 1950’s Variety Lights marked the directorial debut of Federico Fellini. The directors’ deep affection for their characters, even the self-involved but essentially good-natured Del Poggio, comes through in every moment of this charming film, which places one foot in Italian filmmaking’s neo-realist recent past and one foot toward Fellini’s future, neatly anticipating the fruitful years before he became his own favorite subject. With a light touch and an unmistakable sadness, he and Lattuada use a group of not-so-beautiful losers as an illustration of human resiliency and a demonstration of how even perpetual disappointment has its comic side. That turns Variety Lights into a moving, funny, formative work that should be of interest to more than just Fellini aficionados. []

Maya Deren Experimental Films
Maya Deren, USA, 2002)

The DVD includes all 6 complete films by Maya Deren, the chief proponent and practitioner of experimental or avant-garde film in the United States in the 1940s-1950s. The films are almost in chronological order, beginning with Deren’s most recognizable and influential film, the haunting Meshes of the Afternoon (14 min), filmed by her second husband Alexander Hammid in Hollywood in 1943. The film was originally silent, but this version includes music by Deren’s third husband Teiji Ito that was added in 1957. Meshes of the Afternoon succeeds admirably in reproducing “the way in which the subconscious will develop, interpret, and elaborate an incident”, as Deren claimed. What amazes me is how this discontinuous, repetitive film manages to build suspense and create intrigue in addition to its striking visuals and provocative themes, making it the most accessible and enduring of Deren’s films. []

2001: A Space Odyssey

(Stanley Kubrick, UK/USA, 1968)

A characteristically pessimistic account of human aspiration from Kubrick, this tripartite sci-fi look at civilisation’s progress from prehistoric times (the apes learning to kill) to a visionary future (astronauts on a mission to Jupiter encountering superior life and rebirth in some sort of embryonic divine form) is beautiful, infuriatingly slow, and pretty half-baked. Quite how the general theme fits in with the central drama of the astronauts’ battle with the arrogant computer HAL, who tries to take over their mission, is unclear; while the final farrago of light-show psychedelia is simply so much pap. Nevertheless, for all the essential coldness of Kubrick’s vision, it demands attention as superior sci-fi, simply because it’s more concerned with ideas than with Boy’s Own-style pyrotechnics. [Time Out Film Guide]

New York Stories

(Martin Scorsese, Francis Ford Coppola, Woody Allen, USA, 1989)

The greatest strength of New York Stories is the contrast among three very different views of New York as seen by three directors who have used the Big Apple as the setting for many of their greatest works. In this respect the film is greater than the sum of its parts; although the individual stories are interesting on their own, each one is colored by the biases of its creator. The true diversity of such a complex city could only be accurately portrayed by a collaboration of high-caliber talents, which is indeed the case. New York Stories shows off “the city that never sleeps” with all its quirks and diversity. The film is full of glamour, mystery, and comedy, and it would be difficult to mention something that New York Stories, or New York City itself, doesn’t contain. [The Tech]

Donnie Darko

(Richard Kelly, USA, 2001)

This first film by 26-year-old Richard Kelly strikes an unusual balance between such overbearing sweetness and tedious screamfests. Here high school is undoubtedly unnerving, even surreal, but it’s also tentative and complicated, a time of constant negotiation between well-meaning but oblivious adults, and distressed but capable, intelligent kids. That the film includes elements of science fiction, horror, and dry, dark comedy makes it not only eminently fun, but also somewhat disturbing to watch, for this is much the way high school tends to loom in individual memory, no matter the collective obfuscations. Cleverly metaphorical and sometimes frighteningly literal, Donnie Darko connects memory with the local and broader cultures that shape it, and never lets you forget that recollection is a process of questions and permutations, not a fixed and absolute answer. []

Memories of Murder
(Bong Joon-ho, Korea, 2003)

10 women raped and brutally killed in Korea in the mid-eighties by the country’s first serial killer serve as the inspiration for director Bong Joon-ho’s police thriller. From the morbidity of the gruesome murders to the unexpected humor found in the massive ineptitude of the police investigating the case, Joon-ho’s feature film blends genres without batting an eye. For an American audience spoon-fed on CSI and Law and Order, some of the rudimentary tactics may be outrageously outdated, but the film is quite engrossing and surprisingly edgy. []

All About Lily Chou-Chou

(Shunji Iwai, Japan, 2004)

All About Lily Chou-Chou focuses on a young boy’s (Yuichi) struggles growing up in contemporary Japan — violence, bullying, and cruelty are everyday aspects of his existence. Yuichi’s only outlet is a pop chanteuse, Lily Chou-Chou, who articulates his innermost thoughts. What is most unusual about Lily Chou-Chou is how drastically it differs from American teenage-problem films like Thirteen (2003); rather than focusing on realism to exact the heaviest shocks from its viewers, the film takes a fluid, symbolic approach to its material. The charm and beauty of Lily Chou-Chou lie in its deliberate pace and wispy frailty. It’s a dream woven from scraps of the title character’s songs and from vignettes that cover several years in the lives of the young and emotionally isolated. When Lily Chou-Chou succeeds, it soars; when it falters, the missteps threaten the tenuous elegance upon which the film’s theme—the fragility of real communication and connection—depends. []


Joy Division – Martin Hannnett’s Personal Mixes

(Interstate, 2007)

Discovered by friends of Martin Hannett recently and with input from one of his relatives, these recordings give a rare insight into his production ideas for Joy Division and his relationship with the band, the strange things/sound effects they recorded in the studio together. The studio chit chat and interplay between Hannett and Joy Division members is all here as Martin left his own tape machine running throughout studio sessions. On this album we have rare alternative mixes of Joy Division that were Martin’s personal favourites and he had the fore thought to get the band members to give him control of these recordings. A must for all Joy Division fans. []

David Helfgott – Rachmaninoff: The Last Great Romantic

(RCA Victor, 1996)

David Helfgott was a child prodigy. If one were being kind, one would say his was unable to develop into a mature virtuoso pianist because of his own mental instability. The truth is, however, self-evident on listening to the awful recordings on this CD. The bulk of the disc is taken up with a recording of Rachmaninoff’s Third Piano Concerto. It is regarded as one of the most challenging pieces of music ever written, in terms of technique, stamina and interpretation. But it is also a beautiful piece of music, excellently crafted and, when heard at its best, breathtakingly exciting. []

The Bird and The Bee – Ray Guns Are Not Just The Future
(Blue Note Records, 2009)

The Bird and the Bee are characteristically shy about revealing details about their new album, but if the duo’s eponymous debut (2007) and subsequent handful of EPs are any indication, Ray Guns are Not Just the Future will feature another set of immaculately-produced, Francophilic retro-chamber pop. With twelve new songs to work with, producer Greg Kurstin and lead chanteuse Inara George have plenty of room to stretch out in the bachelor pad. Also expect a couple familiar favorites: “Polite Dance Song” shows up from the Please Clap Your Hands EP (2007), and “Birthday” is reprised from the digital-only One Too Many Hearts EP (2008). []

Sharon Van Etten – Because I Was In Love

(Language of Stone, 2009)

Sharon Van Etten has a soft, strong soprano that trembles with slight vibrato in the long sustained notes. High, angelic, disembodied, without audible strain or breath, she traces out melodies, yet just when the tone seems too pure, she slips into the smallest earthy slides, the slightest Appalachian catches and yodels, an angel trying out the blues. You could imagine her as one of the 1960s’ long-lost flower children—more grounded than Vashti Bunyan, less overtly jazzy than Linda Perhacs, but in the same family. Still there’s a touch of modernity, of self-direction and self-reliance in her work that places her firmly in the here and now. []

Onda Vaga – Fuerte y Caliente

(Union De Musicos Independientes, 2008)

Read the review here.


Free Design – Umbrellas

(Siesta 104, 1998)

Compiled from their first six albums, and covering the years 1967-1973, the 20-track Umbrellas is one of three top-notch Free Design retrospectives on the Siesta label, and it offers a fine showcase of the quartet’s subtly complex blend of ethereal harmonies and cinematic arrangements. Siblings Chris, Bruce, Sandra, and Ellen Dedrick gingerly arrange their chorale-styled vocals over a Bacharach-inspired backdrop of organ, brass, flutes, and percussion, and in the process helped create the kind of nouveau easy listening the Carpenters would subscribe to throughout the ’70s. Amidst a sea of ballad and mid-tempo material penned by Chris Dedrick — including their most successful single, “Kites Are Fun — the band nicely expand on perfect-fit covers like “Eleanor Rigby,” “Happy Together,” and Francis Lai’s movie theme “A Man and a Woman.” Blessed with clean production by lounge innovator Enoch Light, Umbrellas is the perfect way to breathe in Free Design’s rarefied air. []


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