Welcome to Artcetera. Arts-and-entertainment writers and critics post movie news, concert updates, people items, video, photos and more. Share your views. Check it daily. Remain in the know. Contributors: Mary Abbe, Jon Bream, Tim Campbell, Colin Covert, Laurie Hertzel, Tom Horgen, Neal Justin, Claude Peck, Rohan Preston, Chris Riemenschneider, Graydon Royce, Randy Salas and Kristin Tillotson.
William Souder at The Loft in Minneapolis Monday night to launch his new book about Rachel Carson.
Fifty years after her famous book "Silent Spring" -- and 48 years after her death from breast cancer at age 56 -- Rachel Carson still sparks controversy.
Minnesota writer William Souder, who has just published his Carson biography, did a call-in show on National Public Radio Monday morning. A caller asked "what do you say about the millions who died in Africa because of Carson's efforts to thwart the fight against malaria?"
Souder, a longtime Twin Cities journalist, talked about Carson at a publication party Monday night for the book, "On A Farther Shore" (Crown).
First of all, he said, the caller's accusation, a long-running one in conservative circles, was false. Carson was careful to say that while she opposed the indiscriminate use and overuse of such pesticides as DDT, she did not favor an all-out ban on chemical pesticides. Further, while the U.S. did ban domestic use of DDT in the 1970s, partly as a result of her research and writing, it did not ban its export, and the pesticide continued to be manufactured outside the United States for decades.
A recent story on Slate by Souder offers a fuller account of this aspect of the Carson story.
At the book launch gathering on Monday, Souder showed slides that revealed how popular and widespread the use of DDT became. Its use in the U.S. peaked in 1959, when 80 million pounds of the chemical was applied, in sprays, fogs, dusts and aerosols. One old photo showed a row of suburban lawns being dusted with DDT as shoolchildren ran behind the truck. A magazine ad of the time called DDT "a benefactor for all humanity."
Carson's "Silent Spring," published in 1962, raised the specter of widespread environmental degradation caused by overuse of DDT. The book had a huge impact. It was excerpted in the New Yorker magazine and became an instant bestseller as a book. Souder called its author "the founder of the modern environmental movement."
Carson, who was diagnosed with breast cancer while she was writing "Silent Spring," died two years after its publication.
"Farther Shore" is Souder's third book. He was a finalist for a Pulitzer Prize in biography for "Under a Wild Sky," his biography of John James Audubon. He also wrote "A Plague of Frogs." He lives in Grant, Minnesota.
Here is the Star Tribune review of "On a Farther Shore."
Someone get this Melancholy Hall of Fame playlist onto Spotify, stat.
A new book by Brooklyn-based writer Adam Brent Houghtaling lists, disccusses and analyzes the saddest, most miserable songs ever written.
"This Will End in Tears" is subtitled "The Miserabilist Guide to Music." It concludes with an annotated tally of "The100 Saddest Songs."
Just one tune by a Minnesota native makes the list: Bob Dylan's "Not Dark Yet," from his 1997 record "Time out of Mind."
The song is "a late-career summit" for Dylan, and "is as bleak as the inventive Mr. Zimmerman has ever been," Houghtaling writes.
He also includes "Nothing Comparies 2 U," as recorded by Sinead O'Connor, though written by Prince.
A sampling of others on his Gloomiest 100 includes such obvious choices as "I'm So Lonesome I Could Cry," by Hank Williams, "Twilight," by Elliott Smith, "Marie," by Townes Van Zandt, "Strange Fruit," by Billie Holiday and "Crying," by Roy Orbison. There are a few classical selections ("Adagio for Strings," by Samuel Barber), and some more obscure picks ("Song to the Siren," by This Mortal Coil").
These lists are always good for engendering outrage over omissions and inclusions, as well as endless music-head debates. I would have included "Redondo Beach," Patti Smith's saga of "sweet suicide," and the surefire funeral favorite "Keep Me In Your Heart" by Warren Zevon, for two examples.
Bao Phi was almost at a loss for words – and that’s rare for the acclaimed Minneapolis poet. Last week, the Loft Literary Center received a $150,000 grant to sustain and expand its spoken-word poetry programming, which Phi oversees. “We’re just really happy,” he said. “It’s a huge relief.” The money, awarded by the Surdna Foundation of New York, comes at a critical time for Phi’s decade-old spoken word showcase, Equilibrium (called EQ for short). The series, which books nationally-known poets of color, has been a vibrant and reliable space for spoken word in the Twin Cities. But with a tough economy, grant money has been tough to come by.
“Before we got the news, I was a little bit nervous that our time was up at EQ,” Phi said. “Part of me was trying to come up with a Plan B.”
In recent years, much of EQ’s budget has come out of the Loft’s general operating costs. “To their credit they didn’t cut the program, even through the thin times,” Phi said.
The Surdna grant will fund EQ for the next two years, with four shows annually. It will be a welcomed return to regular programming. Less funding meant fewer shows during the past couple years.
Part of the $150,000 grant will go toward a new, ambitious spoken word immersion fellowship. Phi called the fellowships an effort to deepen the Loft’s poetry programming. The fellowships will be awarded to six to eight artists who will immerse themselves in a community (such as a Native American reservation) and design a project built around engaging that community in spoken word. The goal, the Loft says, is to “buy artists time to work, to advance and catalyze their artistic development, and to increase exposure to the art of spoken word.” Each fellow can apply for up to $8,000 (the fellowships will be open to national artists, as well). Phi will coach them through the year of their immersion and then co-curate an EQ show.
I wrote about EQ back in 2007, on the cusp of its 5th anniversary. At the time, I asked Phi if he thought the program would last another five years.
“I hope so,” he said.
EQ’s next show will be in September, exactly 10 years from its debut in 2002.
(Photo by Charissa Uemura)
Dylan Hicks signed books at The Loft Thursday night, alongside his son, Jackson / Photo by Claude Peck
Dylan Hicks launched his debut novel, "Boarded Windows," at The Loft in Minneapolis with a reading Thursday night. Hicks, also a musician, recorded a full CD of new songs to accompany the novel, which is published by Coffee House Press.
Hicks, who fronted a band in the 1990s, described the music as "procrastinatory" -- a distraction at a time when he was stalled on writing the book. He joked about "bundling" the book and CD, saying he learned about doing that at a marketing seminar "that cost more than my advance against royalties."
Hicks read several scenes from "Boarded Windows," including a set piece from late in the book in which the narrator, his girlfriend and two others celebrate a 21st birthday with drinking, pot smoking and a wild night of dancing at a Minneapolis apartment.
The book launch continues Saturday at Bryant-Lake Bowl in Minnepolis, where Hicks and his old band The Toughies will play more music from the new CD. Showtimes are 7 and 10 p.m.
Hear two songs from the new CD and read Chris Riemenschneider's story about Hicks, the book and the CD here.
Reincarnation is par for the course in the mystical world of Twin cities area writer Neil Gaiman. His popular 2009 Newbery Medal winning children’s fantasy “The Graveyard Book” has been on the verge of life as a film a couple of times in the past. The story, following an orphan raised from infancy by the ghosts, werewolves and other spooks inhabiting a cemetery, was under development by Miramax Films with writer/director Neil (“The Crying Game”) Jordan at the helm shortly. When the project expired, “Harry Potter” director Chris Columbus' 1492 Pictures and CJ Entertainment (the South Korean studio behind “The Host,” “Thirst” and “Mother”) joined forces to try anew. That effort expired as well.
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