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February 14, 2008 - Image 11

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The Michigan Daily - michigandaily.com

Thursday, February 14, 2008 - 3B

Returning to the


ven if you have read "The
Call- of the Wild," I sus-
pect you can't tell me much
about it.You might recall that it's by
Jack London - so it's a love letter
to dogs - and that it reminds you of
a musty grade-school library. But
that's probably as far as it goes.
That's because you haven't seen
the book since fifth grade, if you
recall it at all.
Still, the other
day, for a reason
I still can't pin-
point, I picked
up a $4 copy at
the bookstore
and got into it
soon after I got JEFFREY
The tendency
here would be to wax childhood lit.
Instead, once I actually started to
read "The Call of the Wild" again,
itreminded me why I hate pop nos-
talgia. For one thing, I am not an
enthusiast of ha-ha grab-bag psy-
chology, in which you try to navi-
gate your social ills on the basis of
which Nickelodeon sitcom youused
to watch. More to the point, for this
column's sake, I heed the words of
Tony Soprano: "'Remember when'
is the lowest form of conversation."
It's not a bad a philosophy to screen
your entertainment by, and Lon-
don's raspy tome finally solidified
why I hate the way people consume
the leisure oftheir childhoods once
they're older.
I concede that I bring up "Wild"
because it was that book for me,
the one that was most revealing
when I was young. Even people
who self-consciously don't read for
pleasure have these books, usually
"The Giver" or some such morality
play designed to teach you about
life. But when I picked up "The
Call of the Wild" recently, I read
and felt the first sentence anew:
"Buck did not read the newspa-
pers, or he would have known that
trouble was brewing, not alone for
himself, but every tidewater dog,
strong of muscle and with warm,
long hair, from Puget Sound to San
Diego." It's so good, so quietly ele-
giac that I didn't even have time to
wonder what I must have thought
about it when I was 11 years old.
As I read on through this story
of Buck, the proud dog of a judge
kidnapped from the Santa Clara
Valley and shipped north for labor
inthe Alaskan gold rush, my expe-
rience was unique. This is layered,
intense storytelling, and it occurs
to me that a lot of the most popular
texts intended for adolescents are
no different.
In any case, I responded to it.
This might be because I'd read it
before, or, as I think, because it
ostensibly adopts a framework so
transparent that I have a tendency

to write it off as formulaic. The plot
of "The Call of the Wild" is indeed
easy to follow and sustains most
of the hallmarks of its canon, but
there are complexities I wouldn't
have expected, and it's so shrewdly
observed I was often taken aback
with its intelligence.
Granted, the book is widely
remembered as a classic, and prob-
ably for good reason. Here's the
thing: Since I've been reading it,
I've casually started to watch old
episodes of "Doug" on YouTube
(get them before Viacom does) and
might have flipped on "10 Things I
Hate About You" the other night,
and I've gotta say, they're not half
I pull no punches here. From
the, ahem, few minutes of "10
Things" I watched, I saw a well-
structured movie that intones a lot
about the culture of high schools,
however crassly, and crafts char-
acters more complex than genre
convention requires. And "Doug,"
though totally bizarre, strikes me
now as an ingenious reinvention of
the old-school shows that inspired
it, like "The Wonder Years."
I'm not saying this because I
liked these things when I was
younger, though Lord knows I did.
Instead, they finally made clear to
me why I rally against nostalgia. It
may be prudent to remember any
work for why it was important to
its contemporary audience, but the
way that most of us - college stu-
The things you
enjoyed as a kid
are better than
what you like now
dents in particular - rifle through
old fictions is with a giggle and an
eye-roll, which isn't fair to the art
that reared us. The oldbook, album
or movie that never left your sight
as a child might seem painful in its
conceit when you go back to it now,
but look past the associations and
you'll discover that much of it is
still legitimate.
Don't shower me with the fads.
I'm talking about the stuff that
really meant something to you, not
just the junior high obsessions. My
request is simple: The next time
you pop on, say, "Clueless," don't
laugh at the characters' throwback
platitudes - just watch the movie.
You mightbesurprised atwhatyou
E-mail Bloomer at

Daily Arts Writer
I first saw Vampire Weekend last July in Los
Angeles. They were the first band on a bill of
five at some ASCAP songwriters' showcase, and
while I commented on their already growing
buzz on my subsequent blog post (Tobey Magu-
ire wasthere!), saidbuzz prettymuch amounted
to nerding out about it in the office and posting
a few blog posts about their self-released debut
album - the one on theblue CD-R. In fact, when
I bought the band's "Cape Cod Kwassa Kwassa"
7-inch after the show, lead singer Ezra Koenig
off-handedly promised to play at my house dur-
ing their next tour. Alas, those plans blew up
as soon as they were profiled in the New York
Times, Rolling Stone and every other arts publi-
cation of note. Last Tuesday at the Blind Pig, the
hype machine and Vampire Weekend's undeni-
able accessibility produced a line that wound
around the block, despite only So available tick-
ets, relentless snow and delayed start time.
As can be expected of anything that becomes
so popular so fast, Vampire Weekend has
already been the subject of much backlash and
derision. The fact that they formed at Colum-
bia University escaped no journalist looking for
an easy angle, and their preppiness was blown
way out of proportion. They've been accused
of everything from appropriating African riffs
to being inarticulate (keyboardist Rostam Bat-
manglij used the word "awesome" 18 times in a
recent interview). A coworker of mine has taken
to calling their two-week-old debut album as
"the biggest musical crime of 2008." As much as
I'd like to pile on and bash an easy target, you'd
have to be a total cynic or a complete idiotto not
refute any of the above accusations.
has turned into their defining characteristic.
Instead of focusing on the deft blend of witty
but unpretentious lyrics, with African rhythms
and addictive melodies, writers and critics have
beaten their boat shoes and khakis to death. If
I'd only read about the band before I actually
heard them, I might hate them too, because just
about every description of them, no matter how
well-meaning, reeks of classism, douchery and
lazy writing. Seeing them live, or even just lis-
tening to what they're actually saying on their
album, gives a totally different impression. Sure,
these guys are super-smart and sort of dorky,
Thing" is
DETROIT Though th
From Page lB circle righ

This is not a dramatization. This is really their room.
but they're also unassuming and genuinely tal-
ented musicians. The oft-quoted rhyme scheme
of "Benetton," / Louis Vuitton" and Reggaeton"
is rarely mentioned in context - it's a self-aware
dig at their social dispositions.
It's also a shame that their musical style has
been tainted by constant comparisons to Paul
Like all of your friends:
If you hated them and
they went to Columbia
Simon's Graceland. And yes, while Vampire
Weekend and Paul Simon do have something
in common, it's more along the lines of both of
them listening to the same African musicians
than Vampire Weekend copping Graceland.
Despite all the accusations of cultural appro-
priation that have been leveled at them, the lone
new song they debuted at the Blind Pig displayed
more Benga influences than anything they've
pure musical drama. the bands was gonna b
e story didn't come full Anthony said. "It was
ht away, the brothers be more of a fairytale.

done before. Going with more of what works is
generally a winning formula, and after all, how
could a jam-packed Blind Pig singing along to a
song called "Cap Cod Kwassa Kwassa" ever be
a bad thing?
When Koenig introduced lead single "A-
Punk" by saying, "This is one for you to dance
to," the crowd obeyed. Nearly every chorus
was a shout-along and when Koenig asked for
assistance with the "Blake's Got A New Face"
refrain, the response was overwhelming. It cer-
tainly helped thattthey sounded great, achieving
the rare complimentary mix at the notoriously
difficult Pig. The drums loomed large and the
harmonies were blended just right. And to top it
all off, the set length was perfect. Although that
has more to do with the fact their repertoire
consists of a dozen songs.
Near the end of their set, the girl next to me
noticed me taking notes on my arm, grabber! my
pen and scribbled a heart and "I'm so happy." It
effectively rendered everything else I'd writ-
ten irrelevant. Moments like that are rare, but
they're the reason a lot of people feel compelled
to seek out new music, and for whatever reason,
Vampire Weekend is full of them.
e famous," ca-n come again," Anthony said.
s going to "We think it has a lot of charac-
Then Kid ter, very visual, and when you're
ploded and watching the film there's no ques-
ending." tion about that."
't like Kid The brothers liken the film to
iing" may being a sort of mash-up of "Blade
he man. Runner," "Taxi Driver," "Rocky"
1m, you're and "It's A Wonderful Life." The
Anthony movie sounds mixed enough,
he's a real and maybe that's a good thing.
Whether or not the brothers or
so quick to the bands make it is still up in the
troit. Shot air, but Ann Arbor has the good
selves, the fortune of being able to see the
beautiful- director's cut and firsthand look
rd, captur- at "Detroit."
nd tragedy "I mean, what other cities in
America do you think are simi-
the movie lar to Detroit?" Anthony asked.
ke an aging "Electronic, Motown, Iggy Pop,
'ect it, we Bob Seger, Bowie, Kiss, Detroit
great days Rock City, MCI."

The brothers have an under-
standing for that kind of work
ethic and diversity of resources.
Having done music videos, band
management, CD production and
other miscellaneous projects, the
Brancaleones have always kept it
musical - all within Detroit. And
though only the brothers them-
selves are currently showing "A
Detroit Thing," the film is being
reviewed by Paramount Vantage
for mass distribution.
Taking the American dream
of making it big, crossed with
the hard work ethic that defines
unknown bands, "A Detroit

knew that sooner or later, one of Rock was signed, he ex
the bands they were filming was there was this natural'
going to make it big. For those who don
"Shooting all these bands ... sta- Rock, "A Detroit Tb
tistically, one of them was gonna change your mind on tI
make it," Anthony said. "We actu- "After seeing this fi
ally shot what happened, and going to respect him,
were there to grab someone going said. "You'll see thatI
from ordinary to extraordinary, authentic." '
right before our eyes." The brothers were al
The aforementioned trans- admit their love for De
formation resulted from years of by the brothers them,
trailing Kid Rock. The brothers film is meant to act as a
attended the concerts and wit- ly contradictory postca
nessed the backstage antics and ing both the majesty a
boast some of the actual paper- of the city.
work that made him the name "We have a line in
he's become today. that looks at Detroit li
"We had the idea of what the grandparent. We resp
storywasgonnabebecauseoneof love it, we hope that

Modern art designer

For The Daily
In 1981, Rei Kawakubo debuted
her unique collections on the run-
ways of Paris
despite a lack of ReFUSING
formal training.
In recent years, FASH-
she's retreated ION: Rei
from the limelight
and refuses to talk Kawakubo
to the press. Feb. 8 through
But her work Apr.20
has arrived at A MOCAI
Detroit's Museum
of Contemporary
Art and Design.
Kawakubo's most notable collection
is from 1997, which consisted of gar-
ments patterned with stripes of bold
colors. Distorted shapes were placed
within the clothing to remove any
trace of the female form. Comment-

ing about the collection, the label
responded to cultural interests in
1998:"(The)humanoutline is morph-
ing: cell phones, Walkmen ... extend
our shape in public." Kawakubo did
not see these items as accessories
but almost as parasites that became
part of the user's being.
The exhibit is remarkably inti-
mate. Each display is designed to
resemble a trash dump: Graffitti on
the walls and crumpled paper on
the ground serve asthe backdrop for
Kawakubo's clothing. She's famous
for constantly inventing new sil-
houettes. In comparison, the rest of
the fashion world represents some-
thing of a wasteland. Going beyond
the clich6 of reinvention, each one
of Kawakubo's collections comes
across as a fluid transformation of
ideas, instead of forced change.
Purposely designed likea cocoon,
the exhibit was built to mirror

Kawakubo's aesthetic - placing
a lot of detailing on the inside of
clothes and then fade to simplicity
on the outside. Most of the more
complex displays are toward the
center of the exhibit, and as you
spiral outward, television moni-
tors and white signs display the
history behind the brand.
The collection as a whole is
almost indescribable - it cannot
be classified as any particular
style. ManyVictorian dresses are
displayed in pastel colors, with
frayed hems and tears; and in
stark contrast, a crisp checkered
trench, made out of clear vinyl is
present in the midst of torn news-
papers and magazines. To change
direction again, gray voluminous
capes are draped on mannequins
that could easily fit into the world
of Neo and Morpheus in the

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"Undeniably Fun and Refreshingly un-P.C.!"
"Wildly Entertaining! Sharp, Hilarious
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/ Ha s


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