Rock music provocateur Lou Reed passed away this week at age 71. Best known for his work with the proto-punk band The Velvet Underground, Reed supplied tough, gritty lyrics while John Cale offered up a dissonant musical journey unlike any heard at the time. Reed and Cale went on to make some transcendent solo albums as well, but my favorite collaboration of theirs will always be Songs For Drella.
Wes Anderson's eighth feature-length film, The Grand Budapest Hotel, is set to premiere early next year. A writer and director of comedies since the mid-nineties, Anderson has traveled from the open roads of Texas to the top of the Himalayas and back. I personally cannot wait to see where he takes us next.
Punk: The Best of Punk Magazine follows the history of New York City's Bowery music scene with actual reprints of the homemade zine's existence from 1976 to 1980. What's captured on these black and white pages is an anti-movement—a reaction against the well-intentioned but ultimately toothless peace and love ethos of the late 60's.
New York was a dump, seemingly destined for ruin. Rock music was gasping for air, trying to find sustenance from the softly vacant likes of Toto, Bread, or Seals and Crofts.
John Holstom and Legs McNeil did not expect things to improve. But when they heard a new band called the Dictators, a change started to manifest. The Dictators wrote songs about hanging out at burger joints, drinking Coca-Cola for breakfast, and being "Teengenerates." It was stupid enough to also be absolutely brilliant, and it encapsulated Holstrom's and McNeil's lives like no other music they were hearing at the time.
Primates captures the fascinating study of several great ape species in the 1960's and 70's. Three women—Jane Goodall, Dian Fossey, and Biruté Galdikas—found their calling and approached their research in very different ways.
Jane Goodall revolutionized animal study with her focus on the chimpanzees in Gombe Stream National Park. She discovered the chimps using tools such as sticks to reach termites, a tasty snack. Before that discovery, the use of tools was thought to be only a human characteristic. Becaue of her work, our definitions have since changed.
If there is one universal truth in life, it's that everyone loves pizza, even raccoons. One raccoon in particular is obsessed with pizza. All he wants is a Secret Pizza Party.
He stands outside the pizza parlor, eyes locked on the gooey, cheesy slices. Nothing can break him away from that desire, except for the owner, who chases him with a broom. A secret pizza party would be oh-so-much better.
Lucy Knisley's graphic novel Relish: My Life in the Kitchen zigzags between biography, cookbook, travelogue, and manifesto of all things culinary. What's more, her fun, vibrantly colorful artwork often made me very hungry. This is the mark of success for such a book.
Relish explores every aspect of food's vast appeal, whether it is for purposes of comfort, nourishment, or to just satisfy that insatiable craving for sautéed mushrooms.
Richard Feynman was one of the younger scientists entrusted to work on the atomic bomb, but the graphic novel biography Feynman shows that there is so much more to his life than just those few years.
For one thing, the Nobel-winning physicist was equally fascinated with art, using diagrams to explain his science in a way for which he could not always find the right words. What better representation for an artistic scientist's life than a graphic novel?
Stuck in that static rut? Looking for a fix when imagination is on the fritz? Unbored: The Essential Field Guide to Serious Fun is the book for you.
Essential is the right word. Broken up into easy-to-read sections and articles, Joshua Glenn and Elizabeth Foy Larsen's title is a complete guide to inspiration and suggestion. Looking for a great animated movie you haven't already seen a thousand times? Unbored has some tips. Want to play in a band but you don't know where to start? This book can get you on the right path.
For someone who loves independent movies, it sure took me a heck of a long time to watch anything directed by John Cassavetes.
Maybe that is because I had heard how emotionally intense his films were, tapping into a vein of real life and forgoing any sense of escapism that most movies offer. Despite that hesitation, I am deeply satisfied that I took the time to watch four great films by this stalwart of early independent film, who took many menial acting jobs so he could make something great.
Shadows, Cassevetes' first film, is a defiant statement against mainstream culture, both in terms of cinema and society. It follows three African American siblings living in New York City, two of whom are trying to pass as white. The film was shot without a script, and its black and white, 16-millimeter film stock lacks the gloss of Hollywood pictures of the same year (North by Northwest or Ben-Hur for example). With its jazz score by Charles Mingus and its focus on urban youth in 1950's, Shadows is a must see for any fans of Beat writers or early independent film.
Being dubbed "The Queen of Folk" is no small feat. Having Martin Luther King, Jr. give you that title is something else entirely. That is how strongly affecting the music of folk pioneer Odetta is.
The Tradition Masters is a collection of Odetta's most invigorating traditional songs. Born in Birmingham in 1930, Odetta Holmes helped to embody both the Civil Rights and the Folk Revival movements of the 1950's and 60's. One could say that she was in the right place at the right time, but that would fail to credit her heart-stopping talent as a musician and vocalist.