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January 23, 2008 - Image 5

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The Michigan Daily, 2008-01-23

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The Michigan Daily - michigandaily.com

Wednesday, January 23, 2008 - 5R

Mos Def performed at the Hill Auditorium on Monday in a tribute to Detroit's J Dlla.

Reflection and
remembrance at
show for late MC
Daily Arts Writer
When a show with the title
"Mos Def Big Band: A Tribute to
Detroit's J Dilla" comes to town,
it's hard not to have high expecta-
tions. Not only was one of the most
talented rappers performing the
work of one of hip hop's unsung
heroes, but he
was doing it on
Martin Luther MOS Def
King Jr. Day for Big Band
the University's
Martin Luther At Hill
King Jr. Sym- Auditorium
posium. While Monday
Mos's recent
track record of
rambling live shows and uneven
studio albums may have made
some concert-goers wary of the
ambitious event, Mos's impres-
sive performance put to rest any
thoughts that his rap career is
waning. Along with members of

Robert Glasper & The Experiment,
the veteran MC orchestrated a fit-
ting tribute to the late James Yanc-
ey (a.k.a. Jay Dee, a.k.a. J Dilla). At
the acoustically perfect Hill Audi-
torium, Mos delivered a series of
extended covers and brand new
Dilla-inspired cuts.
After opening with a quick
warm-up rhyme, Mos began with a
call and response chant that refer-
enced albums from Dilla's discog-
raphy and shouted out his various
collaborators. The chant included
the refrain "We keep it ghe-tto
like a plastic cup / It's fantastic" -
a blend of phrases from the intros
of Slum Village's Fantastic, Vol.
1 and Vol. 2 and Dilla's Ruff Draft
EP. Moments like this that hinted
at Dilla's past work may have gone
over the heads of much of the audi-
ence, whose attendance was more
predicated on Mos's star power
rather than the tribute itself. But
aside from some mild crowd reac-
tions, Mos and his band (dubbed
"Watermelon" during the set) did
their best to convey Dilla's spirit
to an audience largely unfamiliar
with his legacy.
Instead of running through Dil-
la's more popular works (such as

Common's "The Light" or Q-Tip's
"Breathe and Stop"), Mos focused
on the Rhodes pianos and snap-
ping drums of Dilla's trademark
early work. He paid brief tribute
to Dilla's hardcore compositions
like "The $" and "E=MC2", but left
out notable bangers like "Raise it
Up" or "Fuck the Police." Various
omissions aside, the more laidback
selections were appropriate for a
reflection on the life of Dilla.
Backed by a soul-jazz band that
has worked with Q-Tip and Com-
mon, Mos easily created a wealth
of exclusive material that refer-
enced hip-hop and R&B songs.
Highlights included Mos rhyming
about the first time he heard Slum
Village's debut Fantastic, Vol. 1
in 1996 and a version of Rakim's
verse from "Paid in Full" over Dil-
la's rumbling "The $." Perhaps the
most transformative segment was
Mos's "D Mix" - a blend of "Ms.
Fat Booty," the Pharcyde's "Passin'
Me By" and Floetry's "Say Yes"
over an instrumental rendition of
Slum Village's "Intro" from Fan-
tastic, Vol. 2.
one of the most poignant
moments was Mos's adaptation
of Robert Glasper's "Paint the

Before his first encore, Mos D
with Lester Monts, the Unive
provost for academic affairs.,
background on "one that wef
(MLK Symposium) in the cou
sented Mosswith a "King, Cha
ing ProfessorAward" and ins
to call the MC "Professor Mo
World." Over a gro
cent of the live ins
on Dilla's Welcome 2
encouraged the cro
their own artistic v
Dilla's MC'ing pers
occupied with music
material assets an
ing prowess, his pe
alike are quick to r
spirituality inherent
lime creations. As th
neled the warm text:
work, Mos emphasiz
contributions of his
laborator. In a spok
he described Dilla
beautiful," and remin
ence that "when you
things, you live forev

Oh, the humanity!
W e were driving into an unsubstantiated sense that
the city to see an something was about to happen
artist friend and just as the screen turned black,
had started joking about the it acknowledged that life is life
stereotype of the flamboyantly and that "The Sopranos" is a TV
tormented artist. "Maybe art- show. It showed us how badly we
ists don't think happiness is the wanted the TV show to give us
most important thing," I said. My an answer. We don't know what
companion, someone close to me, the import of the final shot is, we
laughed briefly and said "That's don't know the story. But the shot
why I'm glad I'm not an artist." happens all the same. Such is life.
I had begun to suspect that A work like this has so much to
art might be detrimental to do with the reality of death and
happiness. the uncertainty that gives to life.
This past It makes me feel more aware of
summer I'd being alive; it makes me feel more
been reading human. In the philosophy that
"Buddhism provoked this line of reasoning,
without going beyond the human condi-
Beliefs" by .' tion is kind of the point. Maybe
Stephen ' art that increases our sense of
Batchelor, ABIGAIL B. humanity pushes its viewers to
a book on COLODNER something beyond happiness.
Buddhist I read an essay - under ten
principles of pages long - by Kurt Vonnegut
living, and had been struck by its on creative writingin which his
observation that we spend much narrator diagrams classic sto-
of our energy and time "reliv- ries as line graphs. He arrives at
ing an edited version of the past, "Hamlet," whose graph is blank
planning an uncertain future ... since, as he argues, we don't
Who 'tIam' appears coherent only know whether the events (the
because of the monologue we ghost's appearance, for instance)
keep repeating, editing, censoring are positive or negative. Von-
and embellishing in our heads."
The book presented this mental
process as a common habit, one W hat if art
RiGO GAYA/Day that ties us to suffering.
The alternative - as I under- makes people
stood its explanation -is to live
instead of to rehearse. unhappy?
But what is the practice of
art - something I've held to be
a purely redemptive feature of
a world where anguish of some negut concludes: "the truth is,
kind is everyone's lot - if not a we know so little about life, we
ASS IS NOW IN repeated, edited, censored and don't really know what the good
embellished extension of indi- news is and what the bad news
viduals' experiences? I've been is ... And if I die - God forbid - I
lef took the stage mulling over a logical chain: If would like to go to heaven to ask
rsity's senior vice art makes us more human, does it somebody in charge up there,
After giving some also make us more unhappy? 'Hey, what was the good news
feel is the largest We tend to rehash our experienc- and what was the bad news'? "
ntry,' Monts pre- es as stories. They have begin- Hamlet, toois concerned with
ta ed the crowd nings, middles and a moral that the lack of resolution life holds
os Def. wraps the end - and there is an while we live it and with our
end - up nicely. Many stories try need to make sense of it anyway.
to filter experience as though our? Appropriately, play-watching
memory of it can end up a little self-consciously replicates this
ove reminis- closer to the truth. Stories edit a concern in the audience.
trumentation non-editable past and imaginean I'm beginningto believe th ,
Detroit, Mos uncertain future. part of what people do when they
wd to fulfill I hope, and I think I can seek out works of art is search
isions. While believe, that great art finds a for narratives that feel more
ona was pre- way around this delusion. Some "telling" of their lives than the
ngs about his enduring works acknowledge not facts of their lives do. Facts exist
d beat-mak- only the limits of our capacity to as briefly as they occur, but the
ers and fans resolve the world, but our dogged desperation of our inner mono-
ecognize the impulse to try. I'm thinking of logue endures. By deliberately
in his sub- plays thatremind us thatwe're constructing meaningful stories
e band chan- watching a play instead of try- using "untruths" (which is in
ures of Dilla's ingto seduce us into a fabricated fact the activity of any attempted
ed the lasting reality, literature that in its struc- work) Tim O'Brien in his novel
peer and col- ture makes us confront what we "The Things They Carried" takes
en interlude, want out of reading this story in responsibility for the subjectivity
as "raw and the first place. of the story he narrates to him-
tded the audi- While researching the play- self and to others. By grounding
do beautiful wright Samuel Beckett for anoth- it so obstinately and so obviously
er." er column, I came across the in human fallibility, he tran-
playwright Harold Pinter's evalu- scends his own life and creates
ation of Beckett's work: "He's not something others look to. It
leading me up any garden path, makes his novel a work of art.
he's not slipping me a wink, he's Once a piece admits to its
not flogging me a remedy ... he's willing fictionality, when it
not selling me anything I don't "conceals" the man behind the
want to buy ... he leaves no stone curtain in atransparent cloth,
unturned and no maggot lonely. it reflects on an intrinsically
He brings forth a body of beauty." human dynamic. We gather a
Although I can find emotional sense of relief in what great art
relief in music, when I truly feel expresses and we discover that
low I resent its beauty. I resent we require artistry to access that
its articulation of emotions into feeling. It is up to individuals,

meaningful wholes, when in then, to decide whether they
life, catastrophe flummoxes. Art want to reside in humanness or
.r that acknowledges its limits in whether they want to eclipse it.
describing life and how we can
use it to grasp at answers has Colodner thinks sunsets
the greatest insight into its own are prettier than art. Discuss
i w modus operandi - it may not, at abigabor@umich.edu
though, provide the greatest For a more in depth
comfort. When the series finale of discussion of the topic visit
"The Sopranos" left viewers with michigandaily.com/thefilter

One is the
loneliest number

DailyArts Writer
There's nothing quite like the
happiness of others to remind
you of your own misery. For Jane
(Katherine Heigl, "Knocked Up"),
relationship-based misfortune is
stuffed away in
her hall closet:
27 bridesmaids ***
dresses, each
more ridiculously 27 Dresses
hideous than the At Showcase
next. Jane, who and Quality16
at age eight devel-
oped a deep love Fox 2000
for the ceremony
of matrimony, lives vicariously
through her friends. She plans
their showers, acts as moral sup-
port and even serves as a stand-in
at dress fittings for the bride-to-be.
No, she's not a wedding planner,
just a pushover.
Of course, a girl so unlucky in
love has to have an unrequited
crush. Jane's boss George (Edward
Burns, "One Missed Call") fills the
role of the nice guy who is pain-
fully oblivious to her adoration.
Even worse, her blonde bomb-
shell sister Tess (Malin Akerman,
"The Heartbreak Kid") steamrolls
into town and into George's arms,
soon saddling Jane with the pros-
pect of fitting one more dress into
her already jam-packed closet. In
between handling every aspect of
Tess's wedding, Jane also has to

deal with constant phone calls and
interruptions from writer Kevin
(James Marsden, "Enchanted"),
who is looking for a way up and out
of the "Commitments" section of
his paper.
"Dresses" is first and foremost
a romantic comedy. It's chock full
of moments designed to make the
audience melt - like Jane's wid-
owed father serving his daughters
smiley-faced pancakes. However,
the performances, especially by
Heigl and Marsden, place the film
on a more respectable level. The
two actors, neither with much


"Look at me now, my career's almost over already.

well al
lous alc
bar - s
good w:
the se:
Jane an
to rais
why Jq

nce in leading roles, do now-engaged boss. He might be a
ongside each other. The mountain-climbing entrepreneur,
nce of cliched scenes - the but he's too boring. While part of
that lameness could be attributed
to Burns's lack luster acting, the
.m i film barely tries to create suspense
A romantic about who will end up as Jane's
ywith too Not that it matters. "Dresses"
dresses and is all about fulfilling the romantic
fantasies of women who haven't
enough laughs yet found the One. Luckily, lest the
film gets too cloying, cynics get a
breakfromthelove-festinthe form
of a strong supporting cast. Judy
on clothes and dancing Greer (TV's "Arrested Develop-
e and the always fabu- ment") stands out as Casey, every-
ohol-fueled singing at the one's favorite drunk and slutty,
till come off reeking (in a but always loyal, friend. Watching
ay) of adorableness. In fact, Jane bounce from party to party
xual chemistry between like she's trapped in a G-rated ver-
ad Kevin is strong enough sion of "Wedding Crashers" can
e some questions about make one wonder what the point
rne is so set on wooing he is? It's nice to know sgneone else

in the movie is somewhat doubt-
ful of the optimistic blind faith
that rules Jane's life. Akerman
also does her part as the typical
"other woman." She looks hot and
is blissfully unaware of her own
sister's feelings, but there's a little
bit of humanity buried deep, deep
inside. You come off not hating her
too much - just enough to always
root for Jane.
Which, of course, means you
are rooting for Heigl. Clearly, the
girl has her eyes on the treasured
title of "America's Sweetheart,"
currently held by the Reese With-
erspoons and Julia Roberts of Hol-
lywood. You can practically see the
beads of sweat on Heigl' forehead
as she strives to come off as a beau-
tiful, yet relatable, character. Luck-
ily, she pulls it off. Too bad you can't
say the same for the dresses she's
forced to wear.

Heath Ledger, the 28-year-old Australian actor known alternatively for raw
prestige work in movies like "Brokeback Mountain" and "Monster's Ball" and as
a box-office pin-up in others like "A Knight's Tale," was found dead ina Manhat-
tan apartment yesterday afternoon. The actor, increasingly respected in critical
as well as commercial circles, had been the subject of intense speculation for
his forthcoming stint as the Joker in the "Batman" sequel "The Dark Knight."
Though the details of his death remain unclear - Web conjecture produced
several rumors discounted by the star's publicist - many noted last night that
the rabid media response to his death recalled the instant pop mythology that
followed the haeath of other rising young actiors like liver Phoenix.

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