News and Notes
A visionary playwright, novelist, painter, and philosopher, Stanislaw Ignacy Witkiewicz, or Witkacy, as he dubbed himself, committed suicide in 1939, just as Germany invaded his native Poland. Thirty years after his death, Witkiewicz was "rediscovered"--a dramatist who had created a theatre of the absurd decades before Beckett or Ionesco. Fittingly, many of his major plays (The Water Hen, The Madman and the Nun, The Mother) feature characters who come back from the dead.
The Writer's Almanac
The Writer's Almanac is "a daily radio program of poetry and history" hosted by Lake Wobegon's very own Garrison Keillor. If your local public radio station broadcasts the five-minute nugget (check the web site for listings) -- well, then you're lucky. Tune in for a brief dose of history and a poem read by Mr. Keillor. It's a daily joy. Past poems have included James Wright's "Lying in a Hammock at William Duffy's Farm," Ted Hughes' "Moony Art," and the work of Anne Sexton, among others.
Plays Venus in Furs and Other Velvet Underground Songs
Recorded live one night in Amsterdam in 1997, this convergence of Dutch rockers Bettie Serveert and the songs of the Velvet Underground can only be described as a match made in heaven. One might argue that this is not the most original or daring of experiments, given that the Betties' musical apple does not fall far from the V.U. tree. But it is clearly a labor of love, executed with style and respect.
Basil Twist's Symphonie Fantastique
Here we have abstract underwater puppet theatre choreographed to Hector Berlioz's colorful, romantic Symphonie Fantastique -- synesthetic multimedia that goes beyond camp all the way to whimsy. If you liked light shows with flashlights and groovy color gels when you were a kid, you're gonna love this festive immersion.
Out of Sight
This Clooney/Lopez vehicle was one of last summer's guilty delights. Rent the tape to relive the magic or, better yet, pop the soundtrack into your car stereo. You'll be treated to six classic tracks from the likes of The Isley Brothers ("It's Your Thing," "Fight the Power") and Willie Bobo ("Spanish Grease"), mixed with cool atmospheric funk from composer David Holmes.
A Series of Sneaks
While their intoxicating 1996 debut album, Telephono, invited comparisons to the Pixies, Spoon's second full-length album finds the Texas trio continuing in the direction of 1997's Soft Effects ep, toward a fully formed sound of their own. And though it may not pack the immediate punch of Telephono, A Series of Sneaks mixes the band's various influences into a heady art-pop stew that is altogether more mature, cohesive, and original.
More than a technical manual or aftermarket "teach yourself X in a wildly unrealistic amount of time" book, the "Camel Book" is a peek inside the quirky mind of Larry Wall, the man responsible for patch(1), rn(1), and, of course, perl(1). The book's opening sections, which discuss Larry's philosophy of natural language, comprise the best possible introduction to the mystery and rational elegance of programming--not as a stark, cut-and-dried binary world of Boolean yes or no, but as a human art as enthralling and fluid as humanity itself. It's a pretty good reference, too.