Category Archives: Review

Murder in a Mystery Box

Like many people, I’ve gotten myself sucked into Serial, the new spinoff podcast from This American Life. I hesitated to do so at first, partially because I did not want to be manipulated on this grand drama that would arc out over months and then fizzle. I’m not one to normally go in for a murder mystery or a procedural thriller (there are exceptions, as we’ll later see). Basically because there’s only so many ways to tell a story of mistaken innocence or unpunished guilt, so many twists that you can add, I was sure that Sarah Koenig was simply going to give us a longer version of a story from her normal show, This American Life, a normal story that just had all the extra details put back in. And maybe some emotional manipulation of the audience. And then I listened to that first podcast episode. And I was hooked.
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Capital in the Twenty-First Century

There has been much attention given to Thomas Piketty’s recent book, Capital in the Twenty-First Century. I haven’t finished reading it myself, but its combination of economics and history make it worth examining, regardless of the author’s personal opinions. My own reading of it is, contrary to the opinions of some, not an endorsement of Marxist redistribution. In my view, the book argues that we as a civilization have been encouraging the wrong sorts of private investments.

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Beasts Of The Southern Wild soundtrack

Beasts-Of-The-Southern-Wild-SoundtrackThere has long been an assumption that high art and low art are separate things.  And to a certain extent, popular tastes had long ago diverged from those perceived to be “elite”.  But in many respects, these divisions exist only on paper, and derive more from the separate lives that educated and working class people live.  One area where these divisions can seem greatest are in the field of music.  Listening to pop music radio, and then attending a concert of the local symphony, can feel like two worlds that have nothing in common.  But every once in a while, these stereotypes over high and low art come crashing down, and in a surprising way, it is the music of modern cinema that carries it out.

The 2012 independent film “Beasts of the Southern Wild” is an example of this phenomenon.  The movie itself is a fantasy piece, of life in the bayous of southern Louisiana in the midst of a storm that resembles Hurricane Katrina.  But, in a twist, is told from the perspective of a small child known as Hushpuppy (played by the unparalleled Quvenzhané Wallis).  By having the story be told by a small child, it turns what would normally be an overt tragedy with political overtones into a nearly mythological tale with epic sweep.  (Because, let’s be honest, everything feels epic at the age of 6.)  It infuses the whole story with a sense of magic that would otherwise be impossible to done with a more adult perspective.

As one would expect, the world inhabited by Hushpuppy (nicknamed “the Bathtub”) is desperately poor.  Its inhabitants cling to a marshy bit of land outside the normal levee system, constantly at risk of being washed out to sea.  And while I may yet write a review of the film itself, this is a music review.  And the music of this film delivers.

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