Dusty's Cultural Curiosities

The Sky Has Fallen!

apocalypse_nerd

Apocalypse Nerd - Peter Bagge (Dark Horse Comics)

If R. Crumb was the preeminent cartoonist to capture the ethos of the '60s and early '70s, then Peter Bagge is his successor in capturing American culture and society in the '90s and new millennium. His frenetic, caffeinated cartoon style brilliantly exposed the dysfunctional energy of slackers and Xers alike. His first solo title, Hate -- starring everyone's favorite loser, Buddy Bradley -- was my literary junkie's fix for all 30 glorious installments. Read more »

Frosted Memories

my_winnipegDo you ever truly leave your city of birth? Especially when you carve out your youth there, physically you may move on, but emotionally you can never escape. The flood of childhood memories may certainly be reduced to a random drip of good, bad, or indifferent, but the grasp of smells, tastes, and visions remain indelibly stamped in your psyche forever.

Guy Maddin’s My Winnipeg, a lovingly twisted homage to his city, part historical documentary, part “reenacted” childhood memories, is certainly one of the most inventive portraits by a filmmaker on his youth and memories. (It won Best Canadian film at the Toronto Film Festival.) Read more »

Ashes To Ashes

ask_the_dustAsk the Dust
by John Fante (Harper Perennial Modern Classics)

Bukowski was a fan. (He wrote the Preface for the 1979 reprint.) And it is easy to see why. Here is Fante's masterful story about the pursuit of fame and fortune on the fringe in the Land of Plenty. Take into account that it was published in 1939 and it shines all the more remarkably. His first of a four-part serial The Saga of Arturo Bandini. This is a sordid tale of two dysfunctional young lovers trying to make their way in Day (and Night) of the Locust-era Hollywood. Read more »

Singles Going Steady

swamp_cabbageVery few albums have dropped me to my knees as of late. Can't really recall anything mind-blowing in the past year. Oh well, so it goes in the land of the single download. Why even bother with an entire disc when you can buy or P2P a hot MP3? Reminds me of my days combing through the 45 racks at the local record store back in Akron. I get a warm fuzzy feeling thinking about the Saturday I begged my aunt to take me to her local record store and she bought me The Beatles' "Paperback Writer"/"Rain" single on Capitol Records. Can you imagine buying a single with a "B" side that strong today? As a music fan, I want to, I really do. Read more »

Kinetic Passion

oni_danceI'm thinking of taking tango lessons. I passed a school on some side street in New York and imagined myself locked in step with my wife, reigniting our passions for each other. Why the sudden urge to dance again? Something that I'd abandoned so many years ago, something that I did just about every weekend in clubs like Danceteria or Area. Got me thinking about the world of dance in general.

Dance is unjustly ignored by most mainstream media outlets unless one counts Dancing with the Stars as a viable art form pushing the envelope of creativity. Twyla Tharp, Paul Taylor, Bill T. Jones, Mark Morris, and Alvin Ailey are the more mainstream dance troupes that continue to garner some second-tier cultural recognition outside of New York. Read more »

Horton Can You Hear Me?

horton_hearsI, like many of my peers, have a profound fondness for Dr. Seuss. His classic books taught us, and most of our children, not only how to read, but how to rhyme and dream in color. So I was more than skeptical about how Hollywood could expand, yet again -- think of the marginalized live action flicks The Grinch and The Cat in The Hat -- a sliver of a book into 90 minutes of family entertainment. I'm happy to report that Horton Hears A Who! is a joyous romp of a movie, one that the good Doctor would probably even approve. Using all of the computer-heavy advantages of the unlimited animation budget at 20th Century Fox, the folks who brought us the Ice Age franchise now present us with a world most Baby Boomers and Xers know very well. Read more »

Dear Mr. Fantasy

winwood_claptonI felt compelled to share this very heartfelt review from a dear friend of mine, Gary Miller. Gary sent me an email this morning about Steve Winwood and Eric Clapton performing at the legendary Madison Square Garden on Tuesday night.

Gary's not a music critic, just an ardent and passionate fan of music; all styles of music performed in all sizes of venues. He buys more tickets to more shows than other of my friends. He loves the communion of live music, especially when it resonates with you deep to the core. Enjoy. Read more »

Smart Culture Picks of 2007!

magic_springstreen.jpgI've got a huge beef with mastering engineers. Why do most, if not all current digital releases - rock, R&B, certainly rap -- have to red line every track and final mix in the mastering phase? They squash any and all sonic detail by pumping up the dynamic range compression. Louder is not better. Let the music breathe. Ear fatigue is a real and present danger pushing the already declining music industry closer to the ledge. I must say -- and it pains me cuz I'm a huge Springsteen fan -- that The Boss's Magic is one such release. Besides being overrated, when compared to his majestic cannon of music, it sounds dreadful. Read more »

No Rebuttal Necessary

great_debatersThe Great Debaters has so much heart and soul that it will resonate with viewers long after the final credits have faded. Moreover, it exposes social injustices that still dog some corners of our globe, and while doing so manages to sidestep sticky sentimentality. At the center of this film inspired by true events is the black poet and professor Melvin B. Tolson (Denzel Washington), who coached the debating team from Wiley College (Marshall, TX) to a national championship in 1935. Read more »

Winter Treats and Tasty Tidbits

talking_heads_77I was in college at the University of Akron when Talking Heads: 77 blindsided me. Prior to college I'd been hopelessly addicted to the English music scene, having seen Mott the Hoople, The Sensational Alex Harvey Band, and Roxy Music during my high school years at the very majestic Akron Civic Theater (a smaller version of New York's Beacon Theater). I would then latch onto progressive rock and graduate to the arena spectacles of ELP and Yes. But when punk broke, all bets were off. Read more »

Don't Look Back

adm_logoIntegrity.

Most people gravitate to people with it. There's something to be said for a person you can trust. You know he or she has your back. You know you can call them the middle of the night to ease you out of a tight jam. Read more »

The Naked Truth

touch_gorman.jpgTouch: Naked Girls Home Alone
by Peter Gorman (Goliath)

In his latest book, Peter Gorman's camera is a voyeur figuratively hidden inside a mirror. He has an extraordinary eye for capturing the day-to-day life of real New York women who aren't huffed and puffed and all airbrushed up. Their surroundings are real, not phony sets with lighting and make-up and an attending entourage of distracting assistants. As you can guess, this is not your Girl Next Door coffee table anthology. Read more »

Paying the Price for the Loss of Innocence

no_country_old_men.jpgThe loss of innocence in No Country for Old Men is so profound that you wish you could make off to a new land and start fresh. Ethan and Joel Coen examine America’s moral landscape with a dusty prairie’s long lens, riveting deathly silent close-ups, and master directing and editing (using their moniker Roderick Jaynes). It’s right vs. wrong, law vs. order, man vs. himself, illegal drugs, illegal aliens, illegal firearms; issues that still register from sea to shining sea, regardless that the movie is set in Texas in 1980. We’ve seen it before in such classics as In Cold Blood, Terrance Mallick’s Badlands, and Oliver Stone’s Natural Born Killers. Read more »

The Future Is Unwritten

joe_strummer.jpgJoe Strummer: The Future Is Unwritten
Director: Julian Temple

A few months ago I was casually listening to a Clash concert at Wolfgang’sVault.com while working on this site. Joe Strummer’s voice rose out of the speakers, imploring a screaming crowd: “You people here are still murdering these guys, I don’t know if you understand what I’m saying, but you’re crushing these guys…” I suddenly realized I was at that show. And the memory of that evening slowly started to bubble to the surface... Read more »

Memories From a Faded Era

dandelion.jpgCatherine James has lived eight lives in 57 short years and her Dandelion: Memoir of a Free Spirit (St. Martin's Press) devastates with emotional sabotages that seem so outrageous that you swear you must be reading fiction. I read the advance copy in one sitting, blown away by the poignancy and ease with which Miss James shares her years of perilous plight. The abuse she suffers at the hands of her Hollywood femme fatale mother Diana reads like Mommy Dearest meets Piper Laurie’s character in the movie adaptation of Stephen King’s Carrie. Chapter after chapter she is left pummeled by another emotional battering from someone close to her. Even when she’s able to finally run away from tortuous reality, which is one of her early blessings, she encounters emotional hardships that rival any I’ve read or seen in film. Read more »

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