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April 18, 2006 - Image 10

Resource type:
The Michigan Daily, 2006-04-18

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10 - The Michigan Daily - Tuesday, April 18, 2006


By Lloyd Cargo
Daily Music Editor
In 1981, the music landscape was a wasteland.
There were the dying heaves of disco run ragged
by punk, which was rusting
into new wave. No wave was David Byrne
on the horizon, and Kool DJ
Herc's legendary revolutions and Brian Eno
were rumbling out of the My Life in the
Bronx's dark, dirty streets. Bush of Ghosts
The music world was turning Nonesuch
inward, getting darker and
sparser, exploring Unknown
Pleasures. Prince had unveiled his first master-
piece, Dirty Mind, a year earlier and the decade
would rightly belong to him. But in 1981, the Talk-
ing Heads were still kings of the junkyard.
David Byrne was road weary after globetrotting
behind Fear of Music. Brian Eno was spent after a
string of solo albums that began in 1974 with Here
Come The Warm Jets, and got progressively more
avant garde until Ambient 1: Music For Airports
completely dismissed vocals for lush soundscapes.
At the height of their respective popularity, both
wanted to go further out, exploring minimalism.
They were interested more in rhythm than melody,
borrowing tape splicing and sampling techniques
from pioneers like John Cage ("Imaginary Land-
scape No. 4"), Steve Reich ("It's Gonna Rain") and
Karlheinz Stockhausen (Telemusik).
At the, same time, Byrne and Eno were delving
into the surreal jazz / rock scene in Nigeria. Led
by Sunny Ade, Sir Shina Adewale and Fela Ani-
kulapo-Kuti, their cries echoed the great Nigerian
author Amos Tutuolo, whose "My Life in the Bush
of Ghosts" had been published 30 years earlier.
Full of angst and revulsion, the novel offered the

Courtesy or Samuel uoldwyn ilms

"Dance like you dancin' on the floor."

'Charm sweet, easy

By Kristin MacDonald
Daily Arts Writer
While bleeding profusely after a griev-
ous car accident on a deserted highway,
the first thing on most people's minds
would probably not be nostalgia for
some ages-past middle school cotillion.

Courtesy of Nonesuch

Not exactly Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis.
story of a young boy trapped in a weird world of
"television-handed ghosts." The tale, with these
strange images, anticipated musical Afro-futurism
- later expounded by Albert Ayler, Sun Ra, James
Brown, Sly Stone, Miles Davis, Funkadelic and
John Coltrane, among others. The project that took
its name from the Tutuola novel cobbled all those
swirling influences as Byrne and Eno side-by-side
slowly laid to tape their own Afro-inspired musique
Twenty-five years later, the effects haven't faded.
Opener "America is Waiting" still haunts, as the
Linn drum machine bangs out an icy heartbeat.
Samples play a large role in the album, with the
six-LP boxset, Music in the World of Islam, provid-
ing spectral vocal samples on multiple tracks. Not
every song is machine-dominated; Bill Laswell's
bass is highlighted on songs like the in-the-pocket
"The Jezebel Spirit" and the thunderous "Regi-
ment," while an array of talented musicians from

But Steve (John
Goodman, "The
Big Lebowski")
is late for a very
important date
with his grade-
school sweet-
heart from 1962.
He was 12. He
still "hated girls
more than liver."
And he was

Dancing &
Charm School
At the
Michigan Theater
Samuel Goldwyn Films

Mingo Lewis to Prairie Prince banged on every
imaginable surface to flesh out the complex rhythm
The seven bonus tracks add substantially to
the bulk of the album without diluting the qual-
ity. According to Byrne's liner notes, they're all
finished mixes that would've been included on the
original if not for the time limitations of vinyl. Also
included on the disc is the video for "Mea Culpa,"
directed by Bruce Connor, and reminiscent of Cor-
nelius's recent Point project.
In 2006, with every corner of the world accessi-
ble via the Internet, and the pop charts truly global,
My Life in the Bush of Ghosts is still a touchstone
for multiple genres. Its waves are felt from Public
Enemy to The Books, and its cultural relevance
overwhelms any of its aging synths. It seems odd
that two cerebral, urban, detached white men could
produce such a powerful, moving piece of music,
but the proof is in the reissue.

forced by his mother to attend cotillion.
In his stead, the injured Steve sends
Frank Keane (Robert Carlyle, "Trainspot-
ting"), the passing driver of a bread truck
who had stopped to call 911. If few peo-
ple would want to think about a ballroom
dance, even less would deign to go. But
Frank is a lonely man without much else
to do than knead that bread. Habitually
quiet, the socially anxious Frank even
stammers with his own name.
But Frank finds himself drawn back to
Marilyn Hotchkiss's Ballroom Dancing
and Charm School, though he doesn't
find Steve's grade-school sweetheart
there. As governed by the satin-gloved
Marienne (Mary Steenburgen, "Phila-
delphia," plying her patented icy grace),
devoted daughter of the deceased Mari-
lyn, Hotchkiss's school teaches a sweetly
archaic sort of formal dance. Girls line
up on one side of the room, boys on the
other; flirting is rampant, smiles are coy,
but all sexual frankness is channeled
safely into the suggestiveness of the
moves on the floor.

Even an adult dance course can't
escape the need for a class bully. The
resident hotshot comes in the form of
Randall (Donnie ,Wahlberg, recently of
"Saw II" but mor- famously of Marky
Mark's family). tfie rare self-described
bad boy who does'Wt bat an eye at con-
sistently outfitting himself in a flam-
boyantly tight an , s-through shirt.
Randall is the be aver in class and
knows it. Naturalld takes personal
offense when Keane's personal blos-
soming starts to "stl on his toes."
But giving the bad guy a soft side
fits in surprisingly well with the rest of
"Marilyn." For once ir a romantic com-
edy, it's the men who yine for lost loves
- Goodman for his gr4de-school crush,
Randall for his maltreate-d step-sister and
Frank for his dead wife.
Despite the ready playfulness of"Mar-
ilyn Hotchkiss," the wholle film builds
around a story which sinply doesn't
merit its high production value. Frank's
plight doesn't come off like ,subtle drama
- the movie's commitmert to cinema
formula almost seems to 'mock him.
Even the unflaggingly consi tent Good-
man is wasted, constantly rhap sodizing
life-is-short epigrams. 1
But writer-director Randall Miller
clearly has a soft spot for the mate-
rial, having worked it once beforein
a 1990 short which he also wrote a d
directed. By way of Goodman's flash-
backs, he incorporates some ofthe
short's grade-school cotillion footage
(which amusingly includes Michael
Bower, everyone's favorite fat kid, bet-
ter known as Donkeylips on Nickelode-
on's "Salute Your Shorts"). Toward the
end of the dance, one little hair-gelled
boy slouches tuckered out on a sideline
couch. "I'm tired of being charming,"
he sighs. Though "Marilyn Hotchkiss,"
at 100 minutes, keeps things fairly
concise, it's a sentiment you wish the
movie would share.

An excerpt from "My Life in the Bush of Ghosts" by Amos Tutuol-
All kinds of snakes, centipedes, and flies were living on every part of his body. Bees wasps and uncountable mosqi4toes were also flying round hin and it was
hard to see him plainly because of these flies and insects. But immediately this dread ful ghost came inside this houtsefrom heaven-knows-where his smell and also
the smell of his body first drove us to krng distance before we came back after a few minutes, but still the smellsdid not let ever'y one of the settlers stand still as all
hisboay was full of eicreta, urine, and also wet with the rotten blood of all the animals'that he was killing for his food. His mouth which was always opening, his
nose and eyes were very hard to look at as they were very dirty and smelling. His name is "Smelling-ghost." But wlwt made me surprisedgand fear most was that this
smeling-ghost" wore many scorpions on his finger as rings and all were alive, many poisonous snakes were also on his neck as beads and he belted his leathern
trousers with a very big and long boa constrictor which was still alive.

r I

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