catapult magazine

catapult magazine

Vol 6, Num 23 :: 2007.12.14 — 2007.12.28


Grant’s recommendations 12.14.07

LITERATURE: The Rest is Noise: Listening to the 20th Century

Long-time music critic for The New Yorker Alex Ross has written the book I’ve been looking for, a history of the 20th Century through music.  Ross’ book is grounded in the author’s belief that music is history.  Though music itself does not deal in scientifically verifiable facts and statistics, it captures the spirit of a time and records the way time felt for people who lived it.  On this assumption, Ross writes a history that follows the influential musical artists who inspired everyone from Hitler to Lou Reed to Sufjan Stevens (yes, Sufjan is now officially one of the major players of music history!).  Ross provides the detailed facts that help put 20th Century music in its time and place.  But Ross reminds us that music is the time and place, too.  So maybe it would be better to say Ross puts the 20th Century in its proper musical context.  Ross also takes advantage of the digital age to support his argument by providing a playlist so you can hear what he’s talking about.  This book is for people who love 20th Century music, which of course includes rock, hip hop, jazz and classical.  This is a musical history of the 20th Century that brings the past to life in a way that makes you glad to be part of an exciting history.


FILM: A Mighty Heart

Based on Mariane Pearl’s memoir of the same name, this account of the real-life kidnapping and eventual beheading of American journalist Daniel Pearl by a terrorist group in Pakistan is very journalistic.  It builds the story one fact at a time without focusing too much on the emotional drama until the ordeal comes to its tragic conclusion.  I assume this was Mariane’s own experience of events.  Her character (well-acted by Angelina Jolie) maintains an objective detachment from events that no doubt comes from her journalism background and practice of Buddhism.  The most striking aspect of the film is the way it maintains a respect for all people and an acknowledgement of the misery of everyone involved, including the terrorists that the film along with Mariane refuses to dehumanize.  The search for “Danny” becomes the center of political and international media pressure, allowing the film to explore one of its major themes: the way tragedy strangely brings people together.  I won’t say this was an uplifting film, but it is a helpful meditation on the cultural tensions that keep people apart. 


FILM: No End in Sight

This is a 2006 recap of what went wrong in the occupation of Iraq.  In hindsight, the Bush administration made several glaring mistakes.  This film painstakingly reconstructs them all.  Unfortunately a few of the major players declined to be a part of the film which makes it quite heavy-handedly in favor of critics of the Bush administration.  But there are enough facts provided by the people who were interviewed to give credible evidence as to why things went so wrong.  I recommend this film as a course in mankind’s overwhelming capacity for error, especially when so much is at stake.

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