Saturday, July 9, 2016

Ladies Night

An evening followed by a sleepless night led to a pleasing trio of sights and sounds, all offered up by the gals.

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Whiskey Tango Foxtrot (2016)

This adaptation of the memoir The Taliban Shuffle: Strange Days in Afghanistan and Pakistan by former Chicago Tribune correspondent Kim Barker disappointed at the box office despite generally positive reviews. The reason isn’t hard to guess. The longest war in US history – still grimly ongoing – has wearied the public in this country and around the world to the point that any movie about it faces reticent audiences. The promoters of the film were aware of this, which is why the trailers misrepresented it as a comedy. It is really not. There is a fair amount of humor, true enough, but it is of the graveyard and ironic variety.  Mostly the movie is a story of a woman’s addiction: an addiction to the intensity and otherworldliness of war correspondence. The film is not political except to the extent any absurdist movie set in a war zone (M*A*S*H comes to mind) is bound to be.

Tina Fey stars as the barely fictionalized “Kim Baker,” a correspondent for an unnamed TV network. She arrives in Kabul clueless about either the local culture or the “Kabubble” subculture of rowdy bawdy foreign correspondents. She volunteered for the assignment in Afghanistan because she was dissatisfied with her desk job and her unexciting relationship with her boyfriend, an explanation that prompted a Kabubble denizen’s observation, “That is officially the most American-white-lady story I’ve ever heard.” Danger is real and pervasive whether she is with the troops, interviewing the locals, or walking on the street. She often is unaware of just how precarious are the situations in which she places herself and her translator/guide Fahim, sometimes just by unconsciously violating local customs. At other times firefights come to her, and the bombs, gunfire, and casualties make the situation all too clear. The adrenaline from being amid all this causes her to stretch her three month assignment to three years.

Thumbs Up, but not at all what one would expect from the trailers.

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Angela Carter’s Book of Fairy Tales

Angela Carter wrote fiction and nonfiction in several genres but is probably best known for her surreal and sensual science fiction. She is often called a feminist writer, and she is, albeit with a non-doctrinaire perspective: see her book The Sadeian Woman and the Ideology of Pornography (1978), which is sympathetic both to Sade and porn.

Carter was intrigued by fairy tales: particularly the dark variety of the sort found in unexpurgated editions of Grimm. She published collections in her lifetime and was wrapping up this compilation from her earlier books at the time of her death in 1992 at age 51. A few of the tales are versions of familiar ones (e.g. “Little Red Riding Hood”) but most will be entirely new to the reader, not least because they include tales from around the world. There is, for example, a curious Inuit parallel of Pygmalion in which a young woman carves a boyfriend for herself out of blubber, a Japanese tale of a young girl who thinks she sees her dead mother’s face in a mirror thereby tearing the eyes of her father, and a North American tale (verging on urban legend) about a dangerous pet in a pet shop. Most fairy tales, deriving as they do from oral tradition, exist in multiple versions, but though Carter may select uncommon ones she denies rewriting them: “I have tried, as far as possible, to avoid stories that have been conspicuously ‘improved’ by collectors, or rendered ‘literary’, and I haven’t rewritten any myself no matter how great the temptation…” There is a theme of sorts: “All of these stories have only one thing in common – they all centre around a female protagonist; be she clever, brave, or good, or silly, or cruel, or sinister, or awesomely unfortunate, she is centre stage, as large as life – sometimes, like Sermerssuaq, larger.”

We often forget how recent widespread literacy is. For most of human history oral traditions were the way values, fears, hopes, and culture were communicated. Perrault, Grimm, and Andersen recognized this. So, too, does Angela Carter. They all recorded folk stories before they were lost forever. The tales inform us about ourselves about as well as any other literature.

Thumbs way Up.

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Dorothy – Rock Is Dead (2016)

Popular music from one's youth is notoriously dear to the heart. It is the soundtrack to so many formative “firsts” in our lives. Some people never move beyond it. I’m not immune to the impulse. While I like to sample new music, I’m still most easily drawn to the style that I liked back when – which is to say basic blues-based rock-and-roll and its variants. With the Boomer bands on Medicare and even the grunge bands turning grey-headed, it is fortunate some young bands still like and play those sounds. Among them is the Los Angeles band “Dorothy” whose debut album Rock Is Dead reached shelves in June.

Fronted by Dorothy Martin the band plays refreshingly raw rock in an era overwhelmed by overproduced electronic pop. Nor is it all one note. There is the bluesy “Dark Nights,” the hard rock “Whiskey Fever,” and the taste of Nashville in “Shelter.” Even some psychedelic licks creep in here and there. I’m pleased to see from live videos on YouTube that the audience is Millennials. But if Dorothy plays nearby, I don’t mind being outside the demographic.

Thumbs Up.

Dorothy (live club performance) – Dark Nights


  1. I would have thought Whisky Tango Foxtrot was a comedy too. I'm not a huge comedy fan, although I like some, and I've generally avoided Fey's output for no real reason other than they tend to get mixed reviews. There have been a few I should add to the NF queue.

    I've got an anthology of various fairy tales around here that I've been meaning to read. They are culled from various cultures. I'll have to see if Angela Carter was included. Sounded like you enjoyed her book.

    Lately I've been on a big electronic binge, which is mostly late night listening. It's either that or jazz here lately. I wonder if a book has ever been written on what forms a person's taste or subjectivity. I assume it's just grown and nurtured from within.

    1. Professor North at Heriot-Watt University in Scotland did quite a bit of research on music and personality. See though this summary doesn’t tell much (other than being a little hard on Indie fans).

      Tina Fey's output is all over the chart but when she is good she is quite good. Her screenplay for Mean Girls still might be her high point.