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JahSonic's Blog

December 2003

A daily Weblog recommending not only CDs but books and films too. -- Wire Magazine, Feb 2003

2003, Dec 30; 21:43 :::: Arthur Russell

  • Soul Jazz Records Presents The World of Arthur Russell (2003) - Arthur Russell [Amazon US] [FR] [DE] [UK]
    1. Dinosaur L - Go Bang (Francois Kervorkian mix) 2. Lola l - Wax The Van 3. Loose Joints - Is It All Over My Face (Larry Levan mix) 4. Arthur Russell - Keeping Up 5. Arthur Russell - In The Light Of The Miracle 6. Arthur Russell - A Little Lost 7. Loose Joints - Pop Your Funk 8. Arthur Russell – Let’s Go Swimming (Walter Gibbons mix) 9. Dinosaur L - In The Cornbelt (Larry Levan mix) 10. Arthur Russell – Treehouse 11. Arthur Russell – Schoolbell/Treehouse (Walter Gibbons mix) (Bonus track)

    December 2003's Wire Magazine has an extensive article on Arthur Russell by David Toop, the writer ever to interview Arthur Russell and one of the first to point out his exceptional qualities. The original plan was to release this CD on this compilation on Nuphonic, but Soul Jazz records picked up the project after Nuphonic went defunct. There is another release by Arthur Russell on Audika records. [http://www.audikarecords.com/]

    More on Audika:

    Steve Knutson, formerly of Tommy Boy and currently of Audika, has been kind enough to put in a word with Soul Jazz about our compilation, New York City Body Music, Volume One, which we hope to have out somewhere, before too long. Audika will be reissuing Arthur Russell's World of Echo next year, possibly with DVD element. How fucking gangsta is that?

    He/Audika will also be releasing Calling Out Of Context, a "complete album of previously unreleased rhythmic/song material" by Russell. Double boner! --Sasha Frere-Jones http://sfj.abstractdynamics.org/archives/000645.html

    The prize for record label of 2003 goes to Soul Jazz records.

    2003, Dec 25; 17:51 :::: Is Harry Potter gay?

  • Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix (Book 5) - J. K. Rowling [Amazon US] [FR] [DE] [UK]
    Of course Harry is gay. He grew up in a closet under the stairs; only allowed out to be useful around the house, and certainly never when visitors came. Poor orphaned Harry was destined to go to Stonewall High until an invitation from Hogwarts School of Wizardry allowed him to realise his true self — to practice pooffery (or magic then, if you like) — every suburban gay boy’s dream; dispense with your parents I mean, and then run away with the fairies. At school Harry learns to fly, and meets the lovely red-headed Ron Weasley; fairy-boy and tight companion. Harry seems doomed to court the clever if manipulative Hermione, but don’t be fooled, his true love is for Ron. --emu Nugent, http://www.nambla1.de/potter.htm

    The interplay between the world of magic and the world of Muggles in the Potter books is identical to how queer historians and sociologists describe the interplay between the closeted gay world and the mainstream world, particularly in the days before the gay-liberation movement. Homosexuals were everywhere, yet heterosexuals usually could not see them. Gay bars looked just like straight bars from the outside. Gay people invented elaborate codes, often in language, dress, and deportment, so they could recognize one another but not be seen as abnormal by the heterosexual — Muggle — world. In his book Gay New York, historian George Chauncey writes of the "invisible map" that exists in all cities that enables queers to find fellow travelers and assembling places: people and places usually invisible to the unknowing heterosexual. This is precisely the situation in the Potter books, where Hogwarts, Diagon Alley (where the magic shops are), 12 Grimmauld Place (the meeting place of Order of the Phoenix), Azkaban Fortress, and even magical buses and trains that run out of major terminals exist in the middle of large cosmopolitan cities and yet remain invisible to Muggles who simply cannot see them. --http://www.bostonphoenix.com/boston/news_features/other_stories/documents/02977459.htm>

    2003, Dec 25; 16:59 :::: Georges Bataille, dirty

  • Dirt: "The Whip Angels" and "Linda's Strange Vacation" ( Creation Books) - Diane Bataille, Marcus Huttning [Amazon US] [FR] [DE] [UK]
    About the Author
    Diane Bataille was the wife of French surrealist George Bataille, author of Histoire de l'Oeil (1928). The couple married in 1946, and this is the only work of fiction attributed to her. Marcus Huttning is almost certainly a nom-de-plume, and little to nothing is known of the author.

    The Whip Angels and Linda's Strange Vacation, now joined together in a single volume, are long-lost forbidden classics of explicit literary erotica. First published clandestinely in 1950s/60s Paris, and now republished and relocated amongst the most erotic, imaginative and exceptional examples of the genre. The Whip Angels is attributed to Diane Bataille (wife of Georges, author of The Story of the Eye).

    2003, Dec 25; 16:21 :::: rape

  • Evolution, Gender, and Rape - Cheryl Brown Travis [Amazon US] [FR] [DE] [UK]
    Leading a group of determined scholars, Travis-professor of psychology and chair of women's studies at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville-conducts a comprehensive refutation of A Natural History of Rape by biologist Randy Thornhill and anthropologist Craig T. Palmer (2000), which proposed that men are biologically predisposed to raping women because (in our evolutionary past) the act supposedly increased men's chances of reproducing. Contributors to this book regard the duo as evolutionary psychologists who practice unsound, narrow-minded science. The critiques aimed at Thornhill and Palmer include their dismissal of feminist arguments that rape has as much to do with dominance as it does with sex, their refusal to seriously account for sociocultural factors that affect rape rates, their use of data on scorpion-fly mating as correlational to human behavior and their lack of data comparing the reproductive success of rapists to nonrapists. Some of the thinkers offer compelling alternatives. One research team offers the theory that forces in family structures, school, work and the individual interconnect to shape rape's incidence. Most of the contributors write for fellow academics, though "Of Vice and Men: A Case Study of Evolutionary Psychology" is accessible, and "What Is `Rape'?: Toward a Historical, Ethnographic Approach" shows in clear language how biases can shape scientific observation. Even evolutionary straw mama "Primeval Pru" makes an appearance, with her perennial dilemma over choosing a suitable mate. Though the book is separated into 17 distinct sections, there's plenty of overlap in contributors' critiques, which highlights the collection's message that rape is a phenomenon that requires an interdisciplinary approach. Yet while contributors argue that media coverage of A Natural History exploited the public's desire for easy answers to abhorrent social behavior, too much of their own prose here is intimidating and unwieldy. --From Publishers Weekly, amazon.com

    2003, Dec 25; 15:04 :::: art, BLOCK

  • The Block Reader in Visual Culture (1996) - George Robertson, Melinda Mash, Lisa Tickner [Amazon US] [FR] [DE] [UK]
    "Block" was a hugely influential journal in the developing fields of visual and cultural studies. The journal's editors and contributors sought to further the critical tradition in art history, respond to the work of contemporary artists, and bring the concerns of cultural and critical theory, particularly feminist and post-colonial theory, to the study of art and design history. This volume brings together writings by leading cultural theorists and artists which were first published in the journal, to provide a resource for the teaching and study of art and design history, and theory and cultural studies.

    Between 1979 and 1989, BLOCK initiated and responded to key debates in visual and cultural studies, publishing writings by artists, art and design historians and cultural theorists. The journal's editors and contributors furthered the critical tradition in art history, responded to the work of contemporary artists, and brought the concerns of new cultural and critical theory to the study of art and design history. The BLOCK Reader in Visual Culture collects previously unavailable classic writings by leading cultural theorists and artists first published in this seminal journal, providing an invaluable resource for the teaching and study of art and design as well as theory and cultural studies. Contributors include Jon Bird, Barry Curtis, Philippa Goodall, Frank Hannah, Dick Hebdige, Lucy Lippard, Kathy Myers, Fred Orton, Claire Pajaczkowska, Griselda Pollock, Tim Putnam, Lisa Tickner, and Judith Williamson. --amazon.com

    2003, Dec 24; 10:56 :::: art

  • Matthew Barney: Cremaster Cycles (2003) - Matthew Barney, Nancy Spector, Neville Wakefield [Amazon US] [FR] [DE] [UK]
    The definitive user’s guide and then some to Matthew Barney's epic five-part epic film series, The Cremaster Cycle is filled with hundreds of Barney’s fantastical images and surveys the project, which uses the biological model of sexual difference as its conceptual departure point. Three essays by Barney experts articulate the series’ diverse themes and explore the artist’s innovative aesthetic vocabulary; interviews with key collaborators, a composer, costume designer, make-up artist, technicians and actors reveal his working process. In addition to stills from the five films--including the final episode, Cremaster 3--the book features related sculptures, photographs, drawings and storyboards. For anyone intrigued by the Wagner of contemporary art, this is an atlas to his enticingly hypnotic worlds. --amazon.com

    [B]arney had plenty of stories to tell, and they were all eccentric. People began referring to him as the Wagner of contemporary art because, like Wagner, Barney operated in a mythological language that seemed willfully irrational, and he had a plan for a cycle of works (the five "Cremaster" films) that would take years to complete. The hubris alone seemed Wagnerian. --Miohael Kimmelman, New York Times, 1999

    2003, Dec 23; 22:05 :::: nazism, German expressionism, Siegfried Kracauer

  • From Caligari to Hitler: A Psychological History of the German Film (1947) - Siegfried Kracauer [Amazon US] [FR] [DE] [UK]
    A landmark, now classic, study of the rich cinematic history of the Weimar Republic, From Caligari to Hitler was first published by Princeton University Press in 1947. Siegfried Kracauer--a prominent German film critic and member of Walter Benjamin's and Theodor Adorno's intellectual circle--broke new ground in exploring the connections between film aesthetics, the prevailing psychological state of Germans in the Weimar era, and the evolving social and political reality of the time. Kracauer's pioneering book, which examines German history from 1921 to 1933 in light of such movies as The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari, M, Metropolis, and The Blue Angel, has never gone out of print. Now, over half a century after its first appearance, this beautifully designed and entirely new edition reintroduces Kracauer for the twenty-first century. Film scholar Leonardo Quaresima places Kracauer in context in a critical introduction, and updates the book further with a new bibliography, index, and list of inaccuracies that crept into the first edition. This volume is a must-have for the film historian, film theorist, or cinema enthusiast. --Princeton University

    2003, Dec 23; 18:38 :::: speed, Paul Virilio

  • Speed & Politics - Paul Virilio [Amazon US] [FR] [DE] [UK]
    With this book Paul Virilio inaugurated the new science whose object of study is the "dromocratic" revolution. First to use the concept of speed as a definining concept for contemporary civilization, Virilio unveils his theories of dromodology here for the first time. Understanding the disappearance of power into a vector of speed where knowledge-power is eliminated to the benefit of moving-power, Virilio discovers the new terrain of "virtual" war long before its popularization in the Gulf War of the early 1990s. Building on the work of Morand, Marinetti, and McLuhan, Virilio presents a vision more radical politically than that of any of his French contemporaries. Speed as the engine of destruction....In these pages the reader surveys dromocratic aesthetics with its eloquent X-ray of speed flesh, speed wars, speed power, and speed fetishism. This work prevents the reader from becoming the "last man" drifting in all those "metabolic vehicles."

    2003, Dec 22; 10:22 :::: absurd

  • Six Characters in Search of an Author - Luigi Pirandello [Amazon US] [FR] [DE] [UK]
    Play in three acts by Luigi Pirandello, produced and published in Italian in 1921 as Sei personaggi in cerca d'autore. Introducing Pirandello's device of the "theater within the theater," the play explores various levels of illusion and reality. It had a great impact on later playwrights, particularly such practitioners of the Theater of the Absurd as Samuel Beckett, Eugene Ionesco, and Jean Genet, as well as Jean Anouilh and Jean-Paul Sartre.--The Merriam-Webster Encyclopedia of Literature

    The theme Pirandello's Six Characters in Search of an Author has been weaved into film a number of times: the Lickerish Quartet by Metzger, Pasolini's Teorema. Francois Ozon's Sitcom is said to be based on Teorema.

    2003, Dec 16; 22:08 :::: DJ Spooky

  • Dubtometry (2003)- DJ Spooky [Amazon US] [FR] [DE] [UK]
    A companion piece to last 2002’s DJ Spooky/Matthew Shipp collaboration Optometry, Dubtometry features a hodgepodge of techno, turntablism, and experimental trip tunes. Despite its title, Dubtometry features little of that familiar rumble, though dub master Lee "Scratch" Perry does drop in on "Jungle Soldier" and "Sequentia Absentia." The album, however, is concentratated around clever samples from the likes of Karsh Kale, I-Sound, and Negativland. The jazz-oriented material on Optometry survives only in spirit, as Spooky's reinterpretations keep the emphasis squarely on the electronic. While John Coltrane fans will appreciate lithe lines in "Parachutes" and "Rosemary," this dreamy, extraordinary effort has a heart made of Spooky’s natural medium--wax. --Matthew Cooke, Amazon.com

    2003, Dec 16; 17:21 :::: Bart Plantenga

  • Yodel-Ay-Ee-Oooo: The Secret History of Yodeling Around the World (2003) - Bart Plantenga [Amazon US] [FR] [DE] [UK]

    Bart Plantenga is a widely published author, having written journalism, fiction, and non-fiction. His writings have appeared in Reggae, Rasta Revolution: Jamaican Music from Ska to Dub , and he has contributed to many musical and pop culture journals, including the American Music Research Center Journal. He lives in Amsterdam.

    Yodel-Ay-Ee-Oooo is the first book to address the question: How did a centuries-old, Swiss mountain tradition make its way into American country music? Along the way, the reader discovers that yodeling is not just a Swiss thing--everyone from Central African pygmies, Nashville hunks-in-hats, avant-garde tonsil-twisters like Meredith Monk, hiphop stars De La Soul, and pop stars like Jewel have been known to kick back and release a yodeling refrain. Along the way, we encounter a gallery of unique characters, ranging from the legendary, such as country singer Jimmie Rodgers, to the definitely different, including Mary Schneider ("the Australian Queen of Yodeling") who specializes in yodeling Mozart, Beethoven, and Brahms, and the Topp Twins, a yodeling lesbian duo who employ the sound in their songs aimed at battling homophobia. The book is both a serious study of the history of yodeling around the world and a fun look at how this unique sound has worked its way into popular culture. Yodel-Ay-Ee-Oooo promises to be a classic for fans of music and popular culture.

    2003, Dec 16; 15:46 :::: hip hop

  • Elephunk (2003) - Black Eyed Peas [Amazon US] [FR] [DE] [UK]
    Black Eyed Peas have at times been accused of sounding too Tribe for their own good, but this time out Will.i.am and crew have consciously expanded their horizons. Problem is, perhaps they've tried too hard. As the title suggests, Elephunk borrows from every single element of funk known to man and (with the exception of the one straight-out rock & roll track, "Anxiety") tries to cram them all into a semi-hip-hop format. While such willingness to experiment is admirable, in this case the attempt comes off as slightly desperate and too diffuse. Elephunk settles itself into a groove when BEP's newest member Fergie's lush girlie vocals are allowed to dominate, as they do on the discofied "The Boogie That Be." --Rebecca Levine, Amazon.com

    2003, Dec 16; 12:21 :::: Fontella Bass

  • Les Stances a Sophie (1969) - Art Ensemble Of Chicago [Amazon US] [FR] [DE] [UK]
    In 1969 the newly formed Art Ensemble left their home city and headed for France, there acquiring drummer Don Moye and a more precise title. Their two-year stay yielded some 15 albums, including this glorious oddity, a soundtrack to an obscure French New Wave film recorded before an inch of footage was shot. The film is now forgotten, but the music is superb. Many will know "Theme De Yoyo"--a glorious R&B romp with off-the-wall vocals from Fontella Bass, she of "Rescue Me" but also wife of AEC trumpeter Lester Bowie--from its inclusion on the The Universal Sounds of America compilation some five years ago. That track, however, is untypical of the ebullient, riotously inventive mix of abstract soundscapes, anthemic statements and idiosyncratic solos that make up the rest of this set. "Theme Armour Universal" shows a strong Joujouka influence, while a more formal side to the Ensemble is revealed in two variations on a Monteverdi theme. Elsewhere, walls of percussion--all AEC members were drummers as well as hornmen--give way to steely sax or trumpet solos that scorch a passage before them. This set might be 30 years old, but age has not lessened its impact. --Simon Adams, Amazon.co.uk Review

    2003, Dec 15; 11:54 :::: Sun Ra

  • Sun Ra - Space Is The Place DVD (1974) - John Coney [Amazon US] [FR] [DE] [UK]
    This peculiar, rather warped feature is a product of the highly original mind of the late "musician-thinker" Sun Ra (the former Herman "Sonny" Blount, an accomplished jazz pianist and bandleader). The 82-minute, 1974 film melds effects that are straight out of '50s Japanese sci-fi, politics reflecting '60s racial radicalism, and the overall vibe of '70s blaxploitation films, with some African-Egyptian mythology thrown in for good measure. It isn't exactly a masterpiece of cinema; the production values are mediocre, the story is thin (Ra, who co-wrote, portrays an alien who offers oppressed African Americans the opportunity to seek their "alter-destiny" in outer space; complications ensue before his spaceship departs with true believers on board), the acting amateurish. But it's entertaining--Ra's array of costumes (especially his headgear) is impressive, and we do at least get a taste of his Intergalactic Solar Arkestra's heady brew of avant-garde jazz. --Sam Graham, amazon.com

    2003, Dec 10; 11:17 :::: hypertext
    Jahsonic.com has been called a wiki by Blanketfort:
    JahSonic.com - Sharing Tastes. best wiki i've seen in a while. cultural smörgåsbord. --http://www.blanketfort.com/v2/archives/2003_11.html#001137

    I looked up what a wiki is in wikipedia. And it says: The terms wiki is used to identify either a specific type of hypertext document collection or the collaborative software used to create it. --http://en2.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wiki

    Jahsonic.com appears to be neither because it is a one-man project and it uses no special software to create it.

    2003, Dec 09; 21:15 :::: house music

  • Kish Kash (2003) - Basement Jaxx [Amazon US] [FR] [DE] [UK]
    A squiggly, delirious house-pop classic that’s easily among the best albums of 2003, this British production duo’s third album is an interesting parallel to Outkast’s Speakerboxxx, as both albums make their funk the P-Funk, Parliament and Prince looming large throughout, but always in innovative ways. No album (and it is an album, a satisfyingly cohesive and narrative whole) of any genre in recent memory has done the guest vocalist thing as perfectly or as eclectically. Meshell Ndegeocello delivers two of her finest and sexiest performances yet; Lisa Kekaula from garage-soul rockers the BellRays revs up her delicious, Tina Turner -y vocals to near bursting point on "Good Luck." Meanwhile, ‘N Sync's JC Chasez remakes himself as a sort of electro-punk Michael Jackson on "Plug It In"; and speaking of electro-punk, on the anthemic "Cish Cash," Siouxsie Soux herself returns to show all the Liquid Sky’d-out denizens of Williamsburg and Berlin what a postpunk diva really sounds like. This is joyous music as innovative as it is bootylicious. With all its genre-defying tricks, Kish clearly owes a debt to the millenarian bootleg craze, but these songs are more than novelty mash-ups, they’re songs, and this is an album you’ll play years from now. --Mike McGonigal, amazon.com

    2003, Dec 08; 22:33 :::: Dada

  • Flesh Unlimited - Guillaume Apollinaire, Louis Aragon [Amazon US]
    Flesh Unlimited is a compendium edition of three classic erotic/ surrealist novellas: Les Onze Mille Vierges and Les Mémoires d'un Jeune Don Juan by Guillaume Appollinaire and Le Con d'Irène by Louis Aragon.

    Dadaist poet Guillaume Apollinaire fine-tuned his uniquely poetic and surreal vision to produce these two materpieces of the explicit erotic imagination at the turn of the century, works which compare with the best of the Marquis de Sade. In Les Onze Milles Vierges, debauched aristocrat Mony Vibescu and a circle of fellow sybarites blaze a trail of uncontrollable lust, bloody cruelty and depravity across the streets of Europe. Whilst in Les Mémoires d'un Jeune Don Juan, a young man reminisces his sexual awakening at the hands of his aunt, his sister and their friends as he is utterly corrupted in a season of carnal excess.

    Louis Aragon's Le Con d'Irène is the intense story of a man's torment when he becomes fixated upon the genitalia of an imaginary woman and is reduced to voyeuristically scoping her erotic encounters in-between describing various events in brothels and other sexual adventures.

    Translated from the original, complete and unexpurgated versions by Alexis Lykiard (translator of Lautréamonts Maldoror), Flesh Unlimited has a general introduction and notes section. --amazon.com

    Author Profile: Born Wilhelm Albert Vladimir Apollinaris de Kostrowitzky in Rome, Italy, he was one of the many great artists who worked in the Montmartre district of Paris during an era of great creativity. One of the most popular members of the artistic village at Montparnasse, his friends and collaborators during that period were Pablo Picasso, Jean Cocteau, Erik Satie, and Ossip Zadkine. --http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Guillaume_Apollinaire

    2003, Dec 08; 17:15 :::: Pierre Louys

  • La Femme et le Pantin/The She Devils (1898) - Pierre Louys [Amazon US]
    A mother and her three daughters...sharing their inexhaustible sexual favours between the same young man, each other, and anyone else who enters their web of depravity. From a chance encounter on the stairway with a voluptuous young girl, the narrator is drawn to become the plaything of four rapacious females, experiencing them all in various combinations of increasingly wild debauchery, until they one day vanish as mysteriously as they had appeared.

    Described by Susan Sontag as one of the few works of the erotic imagination to deserve true literary status, The She Devils remains Pierre Lous' most intense, claustrophobic work; a study of sexual obsession and monomania unsurpassed in its depictions of carnal excess, unbridled lust and limitless perversity.

    [T]he Devil Is a Woman, a title forced on von Sternberg, is adapted from Pierre Louys’ 1898 novel Le Femme et le pantin, as was Bunuel’s That Obscure Object of Desire. It’s set during a hallucinatory Spanish carnival during which all rules are suspended and license reigns. Von Sternberg’s most synthetic film, it brims with delirious artifice: in lighting, décor, costume, performance, narrative movement. At times, the dialogue makes sense only if one assumes that Dietrich and her director are speaking directly to each other about their cinematic collaboration. --Kathleen Murphy

    2003, Dec 07; 20:30 :::: Hollywood

  • Hollywood Babylon : The Legendary Underground Classic of Hollywood's Darkest and Best Kept Secrets - Kenneth Anger [Amazon US] [FR] [DE] [UK]
    Like any newspaper article, events are turned into "stories." These "stories", like any silver screen biography, tells the dramatic tale of a life in turmoil. Kenneth Anger's book, "Hollywood Babylon" takes the angle of a tabloid and digs up some old dirt of famous celebrity lives and puts it into a full collection of grime, grease and oil. This collection takes a chronological look at Hollywood's finest at the time beginning in the early twenties with such big names as Fatty Arbuckle whose drinking problem got out of hand at one of his big parties after signing a lucrative deal. Moving through time to the 30's, 40's, right up to the Sharon Tate murder, which Anger recognized it was no longer "Old Hollywood."

    The book reads like a gossip column mixed with sleazy tabloid journalism, yet with the wit and humor of a prankster. It's an exploitation of exploited lives. To mimic tabloids further, the pages appear with large and sometimes disturbing photos of stars at their most inopportune moments.

    While much of the material has already had its heyday in newspapers of the times, it has a new life today where many of these actors and actresses are virtually unheard of by the general public and rekindled new interest in their films. Just as watching and old O. J. Simpson football game may have the same appeal as watching Lana Turner in her debut "They Won't Forget."

    The title to me is entirely fitting, as Hollywood is the "Babylon" of our society, one in which everyone has all their wants at their disposal. A place where hedonism is the religion and tragedy is only the end of a scene, for we know by the end of the movie everything will be all right. My only disappointment in the book is its cursory glance at such stars as Marylyn Monroe, Jayne Mansfield and many other stars that became almost a tally only to be put under a heading of how they died. "Hollywood Babylon" still fits the bill, however, as an enticing and racy read of the darker seedy side of that strange and secret society. --mygotta, amazon.com

    2003, Dec 07; 17:49 :::: queer

  • Epistemology of the Closet - Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick [Amazon US] [FR] [DE] [UK]
    Since the late 1980s, queer studies and theory have become vital to the intellectual life of the U.S. This has been, to no small degree, due to the popularity of Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick's critically acclaimed Epistemology of the Closet. Working from classic texts of European and American writers--including Herman Melville, Henry James, Marcel Proust, and Oscar Wilde--Sedgwick delineates a historical moment in which sexual identity became as important a demarcation of personhood as gender had been for centuries.

    Sedgwick's literary analysis, while provocative and often startling (you will never read Billy Budd or The Picture of Dorian Gray the same way again), is simply the basis for a larger project of examining and analyzing how the categories of "homosexual" and "heterosexual" continue to shape almost all aspects of contemporary thought. Epistemology of the Closet is a sometimes-dense work, but one filled with wit and empathy. Sedgwick writes with great intelligence and an eye for irony, but always makes clear that her theories and critical acumen are in the service of a politic that seeks to make the world a better and more humane place for everyone. An extraordinary book that reshapes how we think about literature, sexuality, and everyday life. --Michael Bronski

    2003, Dec 06; 15:51 :::: cool

  • The Conquest of Cool: Business Culture, Counterculture, and the Rise of Hip Consumerism - Thomas Frank [Amazon US] [FR] [DE] [UK]
    In his book-length essay The Conquest of Cool, Thomas Frank explores the ways in which Madison Avenue co-opted the language of youthful '60s rebellion. It is "the story," Frank writes, "of the bohemian cultural style's trajectory from adversarial to hegemonic; the story of hip's mutation from native language of the alienated to that of advertising." This appropriation had wide-ranging consequences that deeply transformed our culture--consequences that linger in the form of '90s "hip consumerism." (Think of Nike using the song "Revolution" to sell sneakers, or Coca-Cola using replicas of Ken Kesey's bus to peddle Fruitopia.)

    This is no simplistic analysis of how the counterculture "sold out" to big business. Instead, Frank shows how the counterculture and business culture influenced one another. In fact, he writes, the counterculture's critique of mass society mimicked earlier developments in business itself, when a new generation of executives attacked the stultified, hierarchical nature of corporate life. Counterculture and business culture evolved together over time--until the present day, when they have become essentially the same thing. According to Frank, the '60s live on in the near-archetypal dichotomy of "hip" and "square," now part of advertising vernacular, signifying a choice between consumer styles.

    2003, Dec 05; 23:03 :::: fiction

  • Dead Souls : A Novel (1842) - Nikolai Gogol [Amazon US] [FR] [DE] [UK]
    A socially adept newcomer fluidly inserts himself into an unnamed Russian town, conquering first the drinkers, then the dignitaries. All find him amiable, estimable, agreeable. But what exactly is Pavel Ivanovich Chichikov up to?--something that will soon throw the town "into utter perplexity."

    After more than a week of entertainment and "passing the time, as they say, very pleasantly," he gets down to business--heading off to call on some landowners. More pleasantries ensue before Chichikov reveals his bizarre plan. He'd like to buy the souls of peasants who have died since the last census. The first landowner looks carefully to see if he's mad, but spots no outward signs. In fact, the scheme is innovative but by no means bonkers. Even though Chichikov will be taxed on the supposed serfs, he will be able to count them as his property and gain the reputation of a gentleman owner. His first victim is happy to give up his souls for free--less tax burden for him. The second, however, knows Chichikov must be up to something, and the third has his servants rough him up. Nonetheless, he prospers.

    Dead Souls is a feverish anatomy of Russian society (the book was first published in 1842) and human wiles. Its author tosses off thousands of sublime epigrams--including, "However stupid a fool's words may be, they are sometimes enough to confound an intelligent man," and is equally adept at yearning satire: "Where is he," Gogol interrupts the action, "who, in the native tongue of our Russian soul, could speak to us this all-powerful word: forward? who, knowing all the forces and qualities, and all the depths of our nature, could, by one magic gesture, point the Russian man towards a lofty life?" Flannery O'Connor, another writer of dark genius, declared Gogol "necessary along with the light." Though he was hardly the first to envision property as theft, his blend of comic, fantastic moralism is sui generis.--Kerry Fried, amazon.com

    2003, Dec 03; 22:47 :::: Raymond Williams

  • The Raymond Williams Reader - Raymond Williams, John Higgins (Editor) [Amazon US] [FR] [DE] [UK]
    This volume provides a unique insight into the formative influence of one of the century's most distinguished oppositional public intellectuals. Raymond Williams' concern with the dynamics of all forms of writing transformed the ways in which we read the world and its text. His formidable oeuvre helped to create and form the conceptual space of contemporary literary and cultural studies. This carefully-structured Reader presents a survey of the whole body of Williams' existing work, providing new readers with the opportunity to explore his ideas and existing readers with a new perspective on his writings. A detailed introduction places Williams' work in the broader national and international context of literary and cultural theory. The selections which follow balance the familiar with the unfamiliar, including extracts from key works such as Culture and Society, The Long Revolution, Modern Tragedy, Orwell, Marxism and Literature and The Politics of Modernism, equally powerful but less known texts like Film and the Dramatic Tradition and seminal essays such as Base and Superstructure in Marxist Cultural Theory and The Bloomsbury Group. The Raymond Williams Reader is essential reading for all those interested in contemporary literary theory and cultural studies.

    John Higgins is Associate Professor in the department of English at the University of Cape Town. He is the author of Raymond Williams: Literature, Marxism and Cultural Materialism (1999) and Founding Editor of the South African Journal, Pretexts: Literature and Cultural Studies. Contents: Introduction: The Contemporary Raymond Williams. 1. Film and the Dramatic Tradition (1954). 2. Culture is Ordinary (1958). 3. The Masses (1958), excerpt from The Conclusion to Culture and Society. 4. Images of Society (1961), from The Long Revolution. 5. Modern Tragedy (1966), excerpt from the introduction to Modern Tragedy. 6. Bertolt Brecht (1968), from Drama from Ibsen to Brecht. 7. Thomas Hardy and the English Novel, from The English Novel from Dickens to Lawrence (1970). 8. Being a Writer (1971). 9. Lucien Goldmann and Marxism's Alternative Tradition (1972). 10. Base and Superstructure in Marxist Cultural Theory (1973). 11. Language (1977), from Marxism and Literature. 12. Ideas of Nature. 13. The Bloomsbury Group (1978/80). 14. The Writer: Commitment and Alignment (1980). 15. Crisis in Literary Studies (1981). 16. Distance (1982). 17. Towards 2000 (1983), from The Conclusion to Towards 2000. 18. Writing, Speech and the Classical (1984). 19. Mining the Meaning (1985). 20. Writing, Speech and the Avant-Garde (1986), from The Politics of Modernism. --D Williams, amazon.com

    2003, Nov 30; 16:56 :::: photography

  • Irina Ionesco[Amazon US] [FR] [DE] [UK]
    Irina Ionesco was born in Paris in 1935, the daughter of Romanian immigrants. She spent her childhood years in Constanta, Romania, at the threshold between East and West, before returning to France in 1946. Her first photographs appeared in the 1960s. Since 1970, her work has been exhibited in France, Italy, Spain, Belgium, England, Egypt, the US, Japan and Germany. Irina Ionesco lives and works in Paris. "I adore all that is excessive, dreamlike, curious. So I have adopted as my own these words by Baudelaire: 'In art, only the bizarre is beautiful.'"

    For Irina Ionesco, photography is a poetic medium. The pictures of female nudes collected here are witness to genuine encounters between women and, because Ionesco's daughter Eve is frequently the subject of her photography, between mother and daughter. Born in Paris, Ionesco spent her childhood years in the port city of Constanta, Romania. Deeply affected by the loss of her mother in childbirth, her photography is also the pursuit of the motif of suffering: the painful experience of the absence not only of her mother's affection, but of the memory of her image. This desire for an encounter with a mother's face is a dual one: Ionesco strives to recreate a sense of both visual recognition and affection in an ethical sense. --http://www.children-in-art.com/eva/en/irina_ionesco.html

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