New Music Reviews on The Skinny: Kendrick Lamar, BadBadNotGood, Gorillaz, Beach Fossils

I’ve had the chance to review some solid albums recently. All have appeared in The Skinny.

From my review of Kendrick Lamar’s DAMN.:

The themes are familiar from earlier efforts – but this is more obviously an effort, a struggle. Appropriately then, he laconically raps on YAH., ‘I’m a Israelite, don’t call me black no mo’.’ He’s mining a deep vein – many African American artists have appropriated Old Testament narratives to describe their social and political experience. Here, though, Lamar really is Israel: “he who struggles with God.”

From my review of BadBadNotGood’s contribution to the Late Night Tales project:

You may spend a lifetime searching record store new acquisitions bins; once you find voices like these, you don’t let them get too far away. BadBadNotGood have packed more than a dozen little viruses into this disk, and once you hear it, you’ll be spreading the ill, too.

From my review of Gorillaz’ Humanz:

There will be work to do, yes, and failures – but there will also always be another party to plan, and it turns out that’s a more important task than we realised. Humanz, then, is what we need right now: an interruption, a challenge, an unfamiliar encounter, a good party – a message of hope that doesn’t seem naive.

From my review of Beach Fossils’ Somersault:

Many of the songs seem to soar – self-awareness at cruising altitude – but there’s also a groundedness to the album, a sense that at least one member’s classic Adidas are never too far from the Brooklyn pavements – in no small part because of an understated but pervasive politicality. This is the band’s best yet.

 

 

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Two-Week Nonfiction Youth Workshop at Just Buffalo Writing Center

Starting Aug. 22, I’ll be at the Just Buffalo Literary Center offering a workshop for writers aged 12-18. The two-week workshop is called “Writing the Other,” and our focus will be narrative nonfiction –  the kind that calls about others, imagining oneself into the circumstances and the emotional lives of other people – or, as Joan Didion would have it, “selling somebody out.”

The workshops will run Tuesdays and Thursdays, Aug. 22, 24, 29, and 31, from 4:30-6 pm. Attendance is free.

For more information, visit the event page on Just Buffalo’s website.

Foundlings Vol. III Available in Stores and Online

Foundlings Vol. III launched on a bright day June, and poets and readers packed Nietzsche’s, a venerable Allentown bar and music venue for the party. The other editors and I were very happy to host visiting poets George Guida and Gerry LaFemina, who grabbed a righteous lunch with us at Gabriel’s Gate before heading over the party to perform.

Foundlings Vol. III also featured beloved writers from Buffalo and beyond, including Gerry Crinnin, Nathanael Stolte, George Wallace, and Joey Nicoletti. This volume also holds the honor of being poet Lilly Perry’s first ever publication. Pick up a copy and read her powerful poem “What We Make.”

You can buy the book from our Gumroad store or find it in Buffalo’s Talking Leaves or Ro Homeshop.

Theatre Review: ‘Macbeth’ at Shakespeare in Delaware Park

From my first review for Buffalo Theatre Guide: ““Macbeth” is very good Shakespeare, with everything one expects from very good Shakespeare: leads capable of leading (in the sturdy Matt Witten and the confident Lisa Vitrano), delightful dialogue, and even a Shakespearean scene-stealing fool (Gerry Maher in perfect pitch as our porter).”

Buffalo Theatre Guide

Lady Macbeth: Lisa Vitrano
Macbeth: Matt Witten
Photo by Christopher Scinta

“So ye shall not pollute the land wherein ye are,” the biblical book of Numbers warns, “for blood it defileth the land: and the land cannot be cleansed of the blood that is shed therein, but by the blood of him that shed it.”

Witches, prophesies, moving woods, and Cesarean sections are secondary: this is the plot of Shakespeare’s “Macbeth,” “That Scottish Play.”

Or, as our titular villain says in Act II, Scene IV, “blood will have blood.” Director Saul Elkin understands this much, and doesn’t need to dump buckets of the stuff to put on a fine production, one that Western New Yorkers should make every effort to see.

“. . .finely conceived and finely executed. . .

Shakespeare in Delaware Park’s mounting of “Macbeth,” one of Shakespeare’s shortest works, is happily a swift and…

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On Shakespeare’s Bigotry: An Open Letter

On Tuesday, 13 June 2017, I opened up the Buffalo News to find a perplexing letter to the editor. Someone named Gerhard Falk was calling for an end to the “literary correctness” that kept Shakespeare on our bookshelves and in our syllabi. Gerhard Falk wanted us to “ignore Shakespeare.”

This was absurd. You cannot, of course, “ignore” a force and a legacy that has shaped our culture, shaped our language, and shaped our understanding of ourselves. On top of that, Falk’s charge was a silly, tired one, something high school English teachers address as a prelude to a discussion of historical context and the importance of an author’s intentions to the value of a work of literature: namely, that Shakespeare is bigoted, and specifically anti-Semitic.

Gerhard Falk, I discovered, is a long-time Buffalo State sociology professor, and a survivor of the Holocaust.  The full text of his letter is below:

Recently I read “Hitler” by Joachim Fest. Evidently Adolf Hitler considered “The Merchant of Venice” by William Shakespeare his favorite play because it maligns the Jewish people in the most disgusting manner, thereby undoubtedly contributing to the mass murder of the European Jews.

The recent bombings in London and several other such atrocities in England and in the United States demonstrate that there is enough hatred in the world so that we need not teach our children by means of Shakespeare’s bigotry that religious hate is legitimate.

After I read “The Merchant of Venice,” I read all of his plays and discovered that his 16th century works are so remote from present day interests that it is unfortunate that “literary correctness” requires us all to pretend that Shakespeare was anything better than an antiquated bore.

There is some great literature in this world that is far more supportive of our democratic values than Shakespeare’s hate-mongering. Surely our English teachers know that and would do all of us a favor if they had the courage to ignore Shakespeare in favor of all the great American literature that our children evidently never see.

Gerhard understands the power of bigotry in a way that I never will. Still, he was wrong about Shakespeare, and wrong about the value of literature generally. I had to turn this letter to the editor into a conversation. I spent a Sunday afternoon drafting the following in longhand, and posted it to Gerhard’s address.

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