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November 02, 2004 - Image 10

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The Michigan Daily, 2004-11-02

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4

10 - The Michigan Daily - Tuesday, November 2, 2004

ARTS

Citizens guided to
success by 'Action'

Kidman's 'Birth' fails miserably
By Phononzell Williams
Daily Arts Writer

4

By Sarah Zarowny
Daily Arts Writer
Trained by Saul Alinsky, whose own
book, "Rules for Radicals," is widely con-
sidered the citizen's blueprint for grass-
roots organizing, Michael Gecan has
worked as an organizer with the Industrial
Areas Foundation for the past 25 years.
He has helped citizen groups get off the
ground in Chicago,
Philadelphia, Bal-
timore and, most Going
prominently, was a Public: An
founding organizer Organizer's
of the East Brook- Guide to
lyn Congregations Citizen
(EBC) in New Action
York. His book' By Michael Gecan
"Going Public: An
Organizer's Guide Anchor Books
to Citizen Action,"
contains anecdotes and advice from his
experience as an organizer to those who
wish to become leaders in their own com-
munities.
Speaking from his time with the EBC,
Gecan emphasizes that the mostimportant
ingredient for a successful citizen group is
power. This power is gained from build-
ing support for the organization within the
community through one-on-one meet-
ings with local leaders and citizens. He
argues that too often action groups are
more interested in catchy slogans, raising
money and working on the bureaucracy of
the organization before they have any sig-
nificant framework of support. Building
a firm base takes time, energy and com-

mitment, but the power gained by having
popular support can be wielded to coerce
the government into providing the desired
results.
Gecan emphasizes that such power is
essential because of the divide between
the world "as it is" and the world "as it
should be." He claims that most citizens
who take action believe that if their cause
is just, they will find help, but the reality
is that "merit means (almost) nothing."
He insists that organizations lobbying
for improvements in their neighborhoods
must force officials to recognize and
respect the power of the citizens. The
author offers many personal examples of
times when the local government was not
interested in doing the right thing, but his
action groups were able to create media
attention and force the right thing to be
done, albeit for the wrong reasons.
Gecancloses thebook with an explana-
tion of what he sees as the three sectors
of society: the market, the public and the
"relational." He defines the relational sec-
tor as the area he works in, consisting of
jobs in which people work to help other
people. Presenting the strong and weak
points of both the market and public sec-
tors, he argues that each could gain from
becoming a little more like the other.
However, the relational sector needs to
guard against becoming more like either
the public or the market. Too often, Gecan
claims, those who need assistance are
forced to deal with an unbearable bureau-
cracy, or find their needs divided into
different categories with a different orga-
nization for each need, like an assembly
line, where they become unknown to their
case workers - a faceless consumer.

Depite being an interesting and easy
read, as a how-to-guide "Going Public"
leaves something to be desired. Gecan
offers some general guidelines and funda-
mentals to organizing: Build your power
base, pick your fights, protest calmly and
disband or regroup around another issue
once the organization has accomplished
its goal. However, the book may be more
accurately described as a memoir, with
significant portions dedicated to Gecan's
own experience organizing EBC. Gecan
also seems more interested in suggesting
what issues are worthy of organization
than in giving readers the tools to form
their own action groups for whatever
purpose they see fit. Nevertheless, stories
of citizens' successes in improving their
communities after long neglect from the
government are heartening, and leave the
reader feeling optimistic about the pos-
sibility of change through citizen action.
Those who are interested in challenging
the status quo and implementing changes
in local communities will find the book
reassuring and empowering.

One person dies; Another is born.
Where does the soul go? Does it take
form in the new life? "Birth," the
new Nicole Kidman film attempts
to answer these
questions, and
while the prem- Birth
ise is superfi- At Quality 16
cially intriguing, and Showcase
the plot falls flat. New Line Cinema
Somewhere along
the way the story
takes a fatal turn to pedophilia, infi-
delity and psychological detachment
from reality.
In the opening minutes of "Birth",
a 10 year-old child, Sean (Cameron
Bright), shows up at a birthday party
claiming to be Anna's (Kidman)
husband who died exactly 10 years
ago. day. This immediately compli-
cates Anna's plans to wed her fiance
Joseph (Danny Hutson) and leads to
a great deal of astonishment among
Anna's friends and family.
The juvenile Sean is creepy, and
director Jonathan Glazer does a
great job revealing the emotions of
the characters in. The constant use
of close-ups and scenes void of dia-
logue allow the viewer to indulge
in the film's images and raises the

4

Ah, poetry. Yes, this is what I want. Naughty words!

tension of the plot. But after a bit,
overusage of the close-up becomes
ineffectual. The film begins to
digress to a tale of insane, illogical
events that completely destroy any
measure of realism and makes the
viewer withdraw completely into
fantasy.
In the film's most contreover-
sial scene, Sean gets in the bathtub
with Anna. From here on, "Birth"
becomes excessively bizarre. This

pattern of absurdity continues as
Anna kisses the young Sean really
believes that he is her husband rein-
carnated.
The script for "Birth" does a good
job emphasizing the symbolic theme
of birth, though it often truly seems
unrelated to the main drivers of the
plot itself. And, while the film has a
few high points, the need to suspend
reality while watching "Birth" ulti-
mately makes the movie a failure.

4

0

Nightwish dons orchestrated metal

Swans seek hope in emo-heartbreak

By Evan MacKinder
For the Daily
The Black Swans' debut, Who Will Walk In the Darkness
With You?, is an attempt to subtly attain the fluidity of jazz
while remaining faithful to the South-
ern comfort of country heartbreak. The
album uses pianos and guitars to estab- The Black
lish a sound that reflects the broadness Swans
of heartbreak and refracts it into 12 Who Will Walk
emo-country ballads. Unfortunately, In the Darkness
the debut is marred by hackneyed lyr- with You?
ics and Jerry DeCicca's dreary sound, Delmore
which sends sweet, sorrowful harmo-
nies into the backdrop of the record. DeCicca's quivering
chin even leads the listener to question if his love, his life

and his dignity did not all leave him behind in the parking
lot of the studio just before the Swans pressed "record."
Songs like "Black Swan Blues" and "Blue Skies" offer
sounds that carry a softness with haunting guitar notes,
subtle, reverberating bass lines or delicate percussion giving
way to soulful violin interludes. But, while the sounds of
the Swans successfully establish music that is more prone
to celebrate the beauty of sadness than exploit it, they spiral
into the background with lyrics like, "You say you still love
me / But not like before / I'll never see blue skies anymore"
Listeners might think that by combining the recent popu-
larity of emo with the ubiquitous presence of country music
would bring two sets of fans together. But Who Will Walk In
The Darkness With You?, while having the potential to be a
good album musically, finds itself stifled by trite lyrics that
exploit the sadness of heartbreak. And with such a wealth of
potential music and inspiration, such exploitation is not only
a sin, but an extreme annoyance.

By Garrick Kobylarz
For the Daily
Take the music of John Tesh or Yanni,
add some eye makeup, black leather, dis-
torted guitars and a female vocalist, and
the result is Finnish rockers Nightwish.
On their latest
release Once,
Nightwish attempt Nightwish
to combine the Once
sweeping orches- Roadrunnert
tration of classi-
cal music with the
crunching, fierce sound of heavy metal.
The problem is that Nightwish simply
layers these two genres on top of each
other, failing to combine them in new
and innovative ways that would vault
the individual styles to another plateau.
Consequentially, the songs grow cheesy
and mundane, displaying nothing more
than basic musical competence on the

part of the band. The songs might be
good background music for an animated
sci-fi movie, but fail to hold listeners for
a 70-minute, standalone album.
Predictability should be the enemy
of a musical group, not its bedfellow.
There's a big difference between being
a band that consistently operates within
a particular style of music, and being a
band that does the same damn thing in
every song. Lead singer Tarja Turunen's
voice is unquestioningly beautiful and
solid, sounding more appropriate for
operatic work than this metal-sympho-
ny amalgamation, but her inflection is
always the same and every song is guar-
anteed to be doubled up multiple times.
Things only seem to get worse when
bassist Marco Hietala provides backup
vocals in songs like "Wish I Had an
Angel" and "Planet Hell." His voice
makes one wonder if former Styx front-
man Dennis DeYoung was invited to the
studio to drop a few lyrics in homage to
"Mr. Roboto."

When a band has a keyboardist, a
whole new world of sounds that opens
up. Unfortunately, pianist Tuomas Holo-
painen does not bother to explore this
range, settling instead for unaltered,
preprogrammed samples or bland piano
lines. Much like the keyboards, guitar-
ist Emppu Vuorinen strums phrases that
are nothing more than overly exploited
power chords with the occasional run up
the fret board and high-pitched wham-
my-bar dive. The guitar solo in "Ghost
Love Score" only serves to reinforce the
mediocrity of Vuorinen's playing.
The more than 50 members of the
orchestra neglect to add anything more
than rudimentary chords and tawdry
accents. The light, delicate timbre of
the orchestra takes too much away from
the biting crunch of the guitar, water-
ing down any potential interest the
riffs may have. Potential is the keyword
with Nightwish. They have it, but need
to expand their chops and abandon the
basics-of-metal safety net.

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