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January 14, 2005 - Image 5

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The Michigan Daily, 2005-01-14

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10 Friday
January 14, 2005
arts. michigandaily.com
artspage@michigandaily.com

RTleSmwdan tadu

5

I

Political 'Bullet' hits
and misses the mark

By Jo Sasota
Daily Arts Writer
"The Bullet's Song," by distin-
guished political columnist and
writer William Pfaff, is a long argu-
mentative essay on the causes of
war in the 20th century. The book

also features
profiles on
several prom-
inent figures
involved in
wars over
the past 100
years. With
simple obser-
vations and
lighter analysis

The Bullet's
Song: Romantic
Violence and
Utopia
By William Pfaff
Simon & Schuster
than a true academic

Luther King Jr. Symposium.
Based on postmodern African
and African American move-
ment structures, Evidence reflects
socially conscious themes such as
racism and the collective mourn-
ing of communities destroyed
and reborn. Founded in 1985 by
Brown, the company seeks to
connect ancestral strife to current
experiences of loss. This pro-
found message is coupled with
optimism and a commitment to
public education.

Ronald K.
Brown/
Evidence
Sunday, Jan.
16 at 6 p.m.
Monday, Jan.
17 at 8 p.m.
$18$40 Adults
$10 Student Rush
At the Power Center

sdCourtesy of UMS
Dancers engage in physical conversation In dance company Evidence's "Walking Out the Dark."

In his mission statement, Brown declares his
dedication: "To share perspectives through modern
dance, theater and kinetic storytelling; to offer cul-
tural exchanges that develop African contemporary
dance ... to discuss issues of race, class, gender and
assimilation, through workshops, readings and the
production of new works."
"This dance thing is connected to you," Brown
insists. "It is connected to your past and your pres-
ent culture." In order to make dance conversational
and accessible to audiences, Brown chooses move-
ment phrases that are instinctive and universal - a
face covered in grief or humility, a naked torso that
is expansive, defiant and courageous. Communicat-

ing collective experience through body language,
Brown is able to reflect upon some of history's most
traumatic moments, while simultaneously commu-
nicating a sense of resilience and renewal.
Sunday evening's performance features "Walk-
ing Out the Dark," a piece in which Brown draws
on the experience of "bearing witness." In this pro-
vocative work, two pairs of dancers, arranged in a
square formation, engage in conversation. Impulsive
movements proceed in an unpredictable sequence as
one dancer provokes another. A compelling score of
spoken poetry, aggressive drumming and vocal har-
monies add another layer to the physical dialogue.
The call-and-response nature of Brown's chore-
ography is derived from West African dance, with
contemporary manifestations in hip-hop and club
dance. Deeply rooted rhythms and pulsating bod-
ies depict the social dance of the Ivory Coast and
Senegal, whereas the eclectic musical selections and
lighting depict the improvisational environment of
the Brooklyn club scene of Brown's youth.
Both evenings will feature "Upside Down," in
which Brown depicts a community in mourning.
The piece reflects chaos and uncertainty: A whirl-
wind of fierce bodies shows the energetic possi-
bilities of the company's ten dancers. The sudden

loss of a community member shakes the bedrock
of both the performers and viewers. Brown argues
that loss and grief are inevitable, "a process that
keeps one rooted."
Monday night will also feature two short piec-
es. "Grace" chronicles the spiritual journey to
acknowledge the promises of life. Originally cho-
reographed for the Alvin Ailey American Dance
Theater, this piece is set to a collection of music.
by Duke Ellington, Roy Davis and Nigerian com-
poser Fela Kuti. Brown's final selection, "Come
Ye," references revolutionaries and their pursuit
of freedom. Brown raises the question, "To what
extent are we to pick up the weapons of revolution-
aries and continue their mission?"
In reference to performing these pieces during
the MLK symposium, Brown notes, "We need this
opportunity to celebrate, to liberate each other ...
Our connection is essential." He hopes audiences
will gain "a feeling of empowerment and the desire
to become one's highest self."
Ronald Brown will also be featured in another
symposium and artist interview, "African Roots
in American Modern Dance," at the University
Department of Dance Betty Pease Studio on Mon-
day from 1 to 4:30 p.m.

work, Pfaff's book is hampered by
several flaws that prevent it from
being truly compelling.
"The Bullet's Song" is hopelessly
marred by Pfaff's argument, which
asserts that World Wars I and II
were started and sustained by devo-
tion to utopian visions of man. While
emotionally moving, the argument
is not rationally compelling, Pfaff
would have been better off pleading
ignorance about the origins of war
than presenting his argument. With
this overly encompassing claim, he
underestimates the intelligence and
perceptiveness of his reader, thereby
weakening his position.
Pfaff's book spans over 300 pages
and, except for the first two chapters,
rarely seems padded with unneces-
sary material and language. "The
Bullet's Song" is not an easy bed-
time read; additionally, Pfaff is fond
of arcane adjectives and little-known
words. A major flaw of the author's
work is the lax style of the first two.
chapters, which concern utopian ideas

and man's progress. Instead of the
seriousness and specificity expected
from these heavy ideas, one finds tire-
some and unnecessary shifts into first
person and reiterated topics on art and
chivalry.
Readers that get through the initial
chapters (or skip them) are rewarded
with impressive biographical repre-
sentations of historically important
men. The lives of T.E. Lawrence, rev-
olutionary Andre Malraux, scientific
journalist Arthur Koestler and sev-
eral others are masterfully presented.
Pfaff displays them as men who lived
their lives dedicated to the roman-
tic idea that violence has a place in
an ideal world. Personal loss and the
deaths of people close to them mark
each man's life, and in the end they all
share either disenchantment, apathy or
an ironic death.
Pfaff's best writing is found in these
biographies, which (thankfully) make
up the majority of the book. The exten-
sive research is nimbly blended to pro-
duce a coherent and enjoyable account
of each subject's life.
Pfaff's writing is simultaneously
detached and intimate. He avoids senti-
ment and is able to maintain his objective
position. Surprisingly, his digressions in
the biographies are borderline brilliant.
Though these diversions are unneces-
sary to describe the life of each man,
they play an important role in the overall
quality of the book.
Despite its flaws, "The Bullet's
Song" will appeal to history buffs and
the politically savvy. The biographi-
cal depictions are fantastic and are
good second-hand references. They
alone, however, cannot save the book
from a sloppily planned argument and
poor stylistic choice in the opening
chapters. Thoughtful restructuring
or truncation would greatly improve
Pfaff's writing.

Sightings
r don't do
Justice to
genre
By Chris Gaerig
Daily Arts Writer
In 1977, the post-punk music scene
was jolted to life with the inception
of one of the most innovative albums
of the time, Suicide's self-titled first

Witty novel 'Citizen Girl' lacks focus

By Bernie Nguyen
Daily Arts Writer
Bo* REU W**k

With their best-selling

release. Suicide was
not the archetypal
post-punk group.
Their inclusion of
ambience, minimal-
ist spasms and near
psychopathic atti-

Sightings
Arrived in Gold
Load

tude changed the structure of music for
years to come. In recent history, bands
such as Black Dice, Lightning Bolt
and Michigan's own Wolf Eyes have
continued the evolution of the rapidly
growing noise-punk scene. These three
have endured criticism, mockery and
anonymity; however, with the current
expansion of the genre, more bands are
becoming key players and moving to
the foreground of the genre.
Unfortunately, Lightning Bolt label-
mates, Sightings, fail to produce on
their latest release, Arrived In Gold.
The album is seemingly devoid of the
ingenuity, vigor and integrity of other
records in the genre. Sightings appear
unable to decide what direction to ulti-
mately take Arrived In Gold. Their
attempt to integrate songwriting into
the spastic nature of their music comes
off more as an identity crisis than
something original.
In an envelope-pushing genre like
noise-punk, one of the selling points
is cohesion through anarchy. In most
substyles of music, this concept would

seem absurd; however, the main prob-
lem with the majority of these tracks is
the presence of structure. Not only does
Sightings fall short of this ideal, but the
jangly, harsh guitars, combined with the
cryptic vocals, create nothing more than
confused guitar-rock.
Another problem is the singing and
its presentation. Noise-punk vocals
often assert themselves into the fore-
ground of the song. The screeches
and moans are an integral part of each
song's atmosphere. On Arrived In
Gold, the incomprehensible screams
just clutter the tracks. Sightings once
again fall short; often, the lyrics seem
forced and out of place.
Although Sightings generally miss
the mark, they show promise on the
stellar track "One Out of Ten." The
pitter-patter of fingers tapping on a
microphone precedes sparse, shrill
feedback and muffled croons. The song
crescendos and recedes several times,
creating tension rarely to be repeated
on the record. "The Last Seed," the
only other standout track, creates
the same ambience. Harsh electronic
noises and jumpy, sparse bass line
give the song the minimalist essence
indicative of the genre's ringers. The
album would be greatly improved if
Sightings were able to reproduce even
an iota of these tracks' nature.
Noise-punk is by no means an unorigi-
nal genre, nor does it lack musical quality.
However, Arrived In Gold is not a testa-
ment to the power and ability of Sight-
ings' colleagues. While the album has its
bright spots, Arrived In Gold would be
an unfortunate introduction to such an
innovative and interesting genre.

novel "The Nanny
McLaughlin and
debuted as clever,
intelligent young
women who wove
their real-life
experiences into
witty satire about
upper-class Man-
hattanites. "Citizen
Girl," their second

book, follows the same model: The
novel is driven by social observation
and turns a critical eye on the absur-
dities and hypocrisies of today's cos-
mopolitan working world.
The main character, Girl, is on the
lookout for a life of her own. Two
years out of Wesleyan University and
working for a nonprofit activist who
has turned her life into hell, she is
fired (or quits, depending on who's
telling the story). After a grueling
search, she takes a job at My Com-
pany, a web portal whose interests
at first seem to mesh perfectly with
DAILY ARTS.
PUBLISHING
OBSCURE
NOISE-ROCK
REVIEWS SINCE
.004.

Diaries," Emma
Nicola Kraus
Citizen Girl
By Emma
McLaughlin and
Nicola Kraus
Atria

her principles, as well as her need
for a salary. However, the job later
leads her into dangerous waters, and
she finds herself conflicted between
her ethics and her desire for success.
With the voices of people who have
been there, McLaughlin and Kraus
imbue Girl with the idealistic traits
of a fresh college graduate looking
for a life of her own in the increas-
ingly hectic and unforgiving environ-
ment of metropolitan business.
"Citizen Girl" is humorously writ-
ten, and the authors successfully
maintain a witty voice as they chron-
icle Girl's mishaps and emotional
ups and downs. Her nail-biting wor-.
ries drolly and accurately reflect the
concerns hitting college graduates as
they enter the workforce today. How-
ever, Girl always seems to exist in a
perpetual haze of action.
Though McLaughlin and Kraus are
understandably trying to replicate the
dizzying pace of twenty-something
metropolitan life, the book seems too
fast-paced and harried. Where Girl's
character should be the strongest
focus of the book, the writing con-
centrates instead on the rush of events
that surround her. Simply detailing a
character's reaction to outside events

does not create a three-dimensional
identity for that character, and the
novel's impact is considerably less-
ened because of this central flaw.
Aside from Girl, McLaughlin and
Kraus's other characters also appear
strangely flat. Girl's frenzied, unpre-
dictable new boss Guy and her lov-
able but undependable new boyfriend

Buster somehow lack the presence of
fully formed characters - not sur-
prising in a novel without a sharp
focus on its protagonist.
The novel's oddly abrupt finish
is another flaw. The authors leave
issues unresolved, and despite the
entertaining writing, the novel's cli-
max is, unfortunately, unsatisfying.
Its ending is insufficient to fulfill the
expectations set forth by the authors'
use of such sophisticated and cosmo-
politan prose.
The main strength of "Citizen
Girl" is undoubtedly the writing.
McLaughlin and Kraus pinpoint
their audience, using a voice that will
appeal to young women in the world
of employment today. Its weakness,
however, is due to overambition.
In trying to include all the aspects
they see as relevant to Girl's life,
McLaughlin and Kraus spread the
plot development too thinly over a
storyline that would benefit from a
sharpened focus. Despite its weak-
nesses, however, the book retains its
appeal. It is good fiction, if not good
literature, and puts a new face onto
the legions of young women emerg-
ing from college full of hope and
ready to take on the world.

Congratulations
Odo mGross
Account Executive of the Week
Dinner is on us for
a job well done!I
-D'Amato's
"4 stars"
-Detroit Free Press
734-623-7400
www.domatog.com

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