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Roger Ebert, Film Critic, Dies

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Roger Ebert, Film Critic, Dies

Roger Ebert, the popular film critic and television co-host who along with his fellow reviewer and sometime sparring partner Gene Siskel could lift or sink the fortunes of a movie with their trademark thumbs up or thumbs down, died on Thursday. He was 70.

(via NYTimes.com.)

There are other film critics, and new ones come along all the time.  But it is hard to imagine another film critic achieving the stature of Roger Ebert.

Pauline Kael is very popular and influential, but outside the circle of film buffs doesn’t have the sort of impact and recognition that Ebert has and I hope will continue to have, through his books and online access to his reviews and other writing.

And while the interwebs have opened up new spaces for film reviews and criticism, and allowed new voices to be heard, they have also made it hard for any one voice to build the kind of audience that Ebert had for so many years.

Some people, while mourning the loss of such a generally decent guy, may feel that his passing will open up more space for those other voices, many of whom disagree, directly or indirectly, with Ebert. I don’t think so. In recent years, Ebert has probably done more to bring attention to other, lesser known film reviewers than any other force in the public sphere, and has always been unfailingly gracious to respectful dissenting views.

I disagreed with many of his reviews. Perversely, I sometimes thought him both too accepting of mainstream fare and too willing to overlook the difficulties, flaws, and obscurantism of independent and avant-garde fare. But I knew he was smarter than me, and knew more about film than I ever would, and that he would be the first person to agree that issues of taste were always open.  He was very good, though, at making the case for his point of view, and distinguishing between personal preferences and some sort of shared cultural space in which films could be evaluated and criticized.

His show with Gene Siskel, “Sneak Previews,” will be – probably forever – the model for film reviewing on television, and we’re lucky to have had such a model. And with any luck, Ebert’s writing will continue to serve as model for intelligent film reviewing aimed at a general audience.  If we’re even luckier, Ebert’s internet presence will also be a influence on discourse in the still new, and still pretty raw and vicious, public sphere of the interwebs.  He was a smart, sensitive, honest public voice, and he will be missed.

Filed under: Events, Movies

Halloween Critical Mass ride in SF (updated)

“Tonight is the night of the annual Halloween Critical Mass in San Francisco…” (via Cycle Chic™ – The Original from Copenhagen.)

Update: Now over, obviously, since San Francisco’s “Critical Mass” bike ride is always held on Friday evening.

Demotix – the website that distributes photo journalism by amateur photographers from all over the world – has a wonderful collection of images from last night’s ride by Steve Rhodes:

Halloween Critical Mass in San Francisco | Demotix.com

More photos, and some video, are available from Indybay a “non-commercial, democratic collective of bay area independent media makers and media outlets,” part of the IndyMedia network:

Thousands Ride in Halloween Critical Mass in San Francisco, 10/30/09 : Indybay

For more…

Filed under: Events, , ,

Event: Music critic Alex Ross in Berkeley this Thur, Oct 14

A couple days ago I posted a bit of a review of Listen to This, the most recent book from New Yorker music critic Alex Ross – consistently one of the most exciting and informative voices in music criticism today, who writes as well about punk as he does about Bach. I’m a huge fan.  Ross is speaking this Thursday at Wheeler Auditorium on the UC Berkeley campus. Tickets start at $28. A full description of this Cal Performances event is below.

If you’re not familiar with Alex Ross, you should check out his work in The New Yorker. Anyone with an interest in music should read his previous book, The Rest Is Noise: Listening to the Twentieth Century, a truly engaging piece of critical commentary that will be as much fun for general readers with little or no background as for academics and critics.

Alex Ross, Chacona, Lamento, Walking Blues: Bass Lines of Music History: “Alex Ross, music critic of The New Yorker and author of the award-winning international bestseller The Rest Is Noise, conducts a whirlwind history of music as told through bass lines. In an audio-rich lecture based on a chapter of his new book, Listen to This, Ross shows how lusty Spanish dances were transformed into somber masterpieces of Purcell, Bach, and Fats Waller; he also explores the fascinating link between figures of lament in Eastern European folk music, Renaissance Masses, Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony, and the songs of Bob Dylan and Led Zeppelin. This is an extraordinary tale of the interconnectedness of musical language and the universality of human emotion.” (via Cal Performances.)

Filed under: Events, Music

I’m So There

I knew there was a reason for giving up and moving back to San Francisco:

Janelle Monáe – appearing live for an in-store performance at Rasputin Music in Berkeley, next Friday, June 18, at 4pm, and then in concert with Erykah Badu that evening at the Paramount Theatre in Oakland.

For info on other upcoming shows and live appearances, see Janelle Monae | Concerts | Tour Dates – jmonae.com.

Filed under: Events,

Event (NYC): An Ethics Occurs at the Edge / of What We Know

An Ethics Occurs at the Edge / of  What We Know

May 29, 2010
1:00pm-3:00pmA

Author of Practical Water, among other poetry books, Brenda Hillman discusses poetry and activism, writing about the elements and ecopoetics, and the writing process in relation to political commitment and spiritual ideas.

Poets House
10 River Terrace, New York, NY 10282

212-431-7920

via bookforum.com / outposts.

Filed under: Events, NYC, Poetry, ,

Digital Detox Week

Did you just have to click on a link? What is it about our technology that is so addictive? As much as we hate to admit it, we are hooked on the digital world. Whether it is texting, gaming, downloading or emailing, so much of our time is spent in the virtual realm.

Luckily, the off button is easy to find. Take a week to cut back on digital stimulation as much as you can. The goal is not to dwell on the pitfalls of our electronic devices but to reflect on ourselves. And who knows, if the magic begins to creep back into your life, the digital detox may never end.

Digital Detox Week – April 19-25, 2010

via Digital Detox Week | Adbusters Culturejammer Headquarters.

Filed under: Events, Tech,

Dan Bellm – poetry at Moe’s

Thursday, April 15th:
Poetry Flash presents Barbara Ras & Dan Bellm
Moe’s Books, Berkeley

“Dan Bellm’s new book of poems is Practice. Alicia Ostriker says, “I am in awe of how Bellm’s poems perform a dance with and against Holy Scriptures. Practice is like a long prayer of wonder, gratitude, pain and loss and tenderness.” His two previous collections are One Hand on the Wheel and Buried Treasure, which won both the Cleveland State University Poetry Center Prize and the Alice Fay DiCastagnola Award from the Poetry Society of America.”

details at Readings & Events – Moes Books.

Dan’s an old friend from Squaw Valley and a wonderful poet – should be a good reading.

Filed under: Berkeley, Events,

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zerode

is an over-caffeinated and under-employed grad school dropout, aspiring leftwing intellectual and cultural studies academic, film buff and occasional reviewer, and former private detective. Raised in San Francisco on classic film, radical politics, burritos and soul music, then set loose upon the world. He spends his time in coffee shops with his laptop and headphones, caffeinating and trying to construct a post-whatever life.

 

What's in a name... The handle "zerode" is a contraction of Zéro de Conduite, the title of Jean Vigo's 1933 movie masterpiece about schoolboy rebellion.

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