catapult magazine

catapult magazine

Vol 7, Num 4 :: 2008.02.22 — 2008.03.07


Kirstin’s recommendations 2.22.08

MUSIC: Poison and Snakes by Liz Janes

Sometimes, we re-visit art at just the right time.  We liked it—maybe even loved it—the first time around, but after a hiatus, it hits us again in a new way for a new time in our lives.  I was recently struck by timeliness when I re-visited Liz Janes’ Poison and Snakes, which is a delightful collage of musical genres, femininity, biblical texts and good ol' fashioned anger n' protest.  For a sample, download “Wonderkiller,” the first track on the album, at Janes’ pages on the Athmatic Kitty web site. "Wonderkiller" in fact enlivens my wonder with its contemplation of belief and mystery set against verses twinkling with doo-wop and choruses crashing with punk.


FILM: Monster’s Ball

Starring Halle Berry and Billy Bob Thornton, Monster’s Ball offers a powerful example of how love, as opposed to intellectual argument, can transform a person's prejudices. The racist defenses of prison guard Hank Grotowski begin to melt as he enters into a relationship with a black woman, Leticia Musgrove, while Hank’s father maintains his grotesque commitment to white supremacy only to end up alone in a nursing home. For Hank, recognizing the absence of love in his life contrasted with Leticia's deep, deep love of her son transforms him and he sees the world with new eyes. There's no sermon. No anti-racist training. No persuasive magazine article. He simply learns to see himself in the other, a black woman, and likes her so much better than he likes himself, motivating him to care for her and aspire to her giving spirit.  The episodic pacing of the film is a bit forced, but long moments of suffering and awkwardness make viewers appropriately uncomfortable.  Sub-themes of anaesthetizing pain with substances, the effects of prison on families outside, the struggles of low-wage workers and the callousness of capital punishment emerge naturally and compellingly.


FILM: The Story of the Weeping Camel

Inspired to check out this film by Jeffrey Overstreet’s review and book, as well as several other recommendations I’d received, I appreciated the unconventionality of this documentary that’s as much about life for rural Mongolians as it is about the weeping camel herself.  The Story takes viewers on a gentle journey outside ourselves toward remembering that there are infinite possibilities for human culturing of creation—the Western, American, materialist lifestyle is just one choice of many, most of which live in much greater harmony with the rhythms of nature and the reality of mystery.  However, Western culture is powerfully seductive and widespread, which is portrayed, but not necessarily commented on in the film.  We’re simply left with a lot of ‘what if’s’ in the end, along with an awe at the wisdom contained in a particular indigenous Mongolian culture.  Not heavy-handed, nor hand-holding, The Story of the Weeping Camel makes me sad for the communal knowledge we’ve lost about how to be fully human, but hopeful for the persistence of that knowledge both in spite of and because of technology.

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