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July 31, 1984 - Image 11

Resource type:
Michigan Daily, 1984-07-31

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The Michigan Daily - Tuesday, July 31, 1984 --Page ii


The Dead Girls
Jorge Ibarguengoitia
Avon/Bard, 156 p., $2.95
Reminiscent of Faulkner's sleazy
Southern characters and settings, The
Dead Girls, by Jorge Ibarguengoitia, is
an excursion through the suffocating
smallness of isolated rural Mexico.
The book depicts a sub-culture within
a sub-culture, revealing as many
preconceived notions and attitudes of
the sub-sub-culture as it does the larger
community's .
The decadence in Ibarguengoitia's
novel is similar to the degeneration
described in Gabrien Garcia Marquez's
fiction. Their novels concern sheltered
communities trapped by accepted
standards of conduct, politics, myth,
and religious illusions. We enter a
surrealistic world where all paths lead
to disaster.
Written in investigative-journalism
style, The Dead Girls reveals and
examines the course of events leading
to the downfall of bordello madames
Arcangela and Serafina Baladros, and
several of their accomplices.
The novel is pieced together from fac-
ts about the whores and the towns they
worked, the author's speculation on
events and motivations, police station
confessions, and courtroom testimony.
Except for the prostitutes - whose
mischieviousness is central to the
book's events, all the other characters
remain largely anonymous. The focus
is on the Baladros sisters bungling their
own survival and that of their whores
after the government closes the
As a result of the closure, we witness
the collapse of a miniature social and
Wham-A-Rama - (Shut up
and Kiss Me' (Flipside)
The Wind - 'Guest of the
Staphs' (Cheft)
There are those who oppose my pop
bequeathals with cries of "Wimpy!"
and/or "No substance!" Often, I sway
them from their opinions by cueing up a
hot track or two; but in the case of this
duo of independently-released EPs, I
toss in the towel.
Here, "Wimpy" is the through-line.
Both Wham-A-Rama and the Wind have
little in the melody department, next to
nothing in the vim and vigor section,
and songwriting talent is practically
null 'n' void. Let's face it - these
records are dull.
Even more amazing is the presence
of Mitch Easter, he of rock-solid
production tendencies, the wizard of
non-digital simplicity. If these discs
prove anything, then it's that Easter
truly does make the use of his Drive-In-
Studio as easy as pie, and at a fraction
of the cost of megadollar facilities - his
hands on the budget-priced knobs are
also as negotiable. Let's see egotistical
asses like Robert John, "Mutt" Lange,
or Mike Chapmann make a claim
nearly as in-the-ballpark as mitch's -
c'mon, let's!
The problems with these records are
multifold. In both cases, the songs are
plain boring. Neither Jim Boylston (of
Wham-A-Rama) nor Lane Steinberg

economic unit. Once orderly and
pleasant while in business, the brothel
family becomes increasingly spiteful
and violent; dying and desperate as the
Baladros' money dwindles.
Faulkner wrote novels giving several
viewpoints of the same events, as has
Garcia Marquez in A Chronicle of a
Death Foretold. Faulkner and Garcia
Marquez found subjects to ponder,
probe and produce insights on human
thoughts and behavior.
While Ibarguengoitia also shows
several viewpoints of the same events,
he does little more than present notable
characters armed with their actions,
and throws in speculative snippets for
his character's motivations.
His stand-offish writing device, a disin-
terested third-party report, gives the
prose a coolness that works against the
book's power.
Here, coolness used for under-
statement creates a distance denying
many scenes the dramatic or ironic pull
that could put vice grips on the reader's
involvement. Because of this distance,
only the most dramatic and ironic
scenes make one more than detachedly
Distanced but never dull, The Dead
Girls is a quick and interesting
specimen of writing from south of the
border. Branded as whores, without
any skills other than pleasing men, and
some too old to take on other work, the
women do the best they can under the
circumstances - illogical and ignorant
as their best may be.
- Tom Bowden

Strangers On A Train
(Alfred Hitchcock, 1951)
In perhaps one of his best films,
Hitch maintains suspense and drama
in every one of the one hundred
minutes. The suspense begins when a
rich momma's-boy (Robert Walker)
proposes a murder exchange to a
stranger he meets (where else?) on a
train (Farley Granger). The logic
being, one assumes, that the "ex-
change" will leave no trace of the
murderer because each man has no
motive for the others' murder. This is
surely one not to be missed.
(Michigan Theater, Wednesday
August 1, Thursday, August 2, 7:40)
To Catch A Thief
(Alfred Hitchcock, 1955)
This fabulous Hitchcock farce stars
Cary Grant and Grace Kelly as
vacationers on the French Riviera.
Cary plays a retired cat burglar who
must discover the person behind
similar copycat (excuse the pun) rob-
beries. Grace is the Ice Princess who
heats up to the idea that Cpry wants
her jewels. This one is also famous in
that Grace met her prince while
filming on location. (Michigan
Theater, Wednesday August 1, Thur-
sday August 2, 9:30)
Family Plot
(Alfred Hitchcock, 1976)
In what appears to be Hitchcock
Week here in good old A-squared, the
Film Co-op offers one last taste of the
grand master of suspense. Family
Plot was Hitch's finale as a film-
maker and unfortunately, it's not one
of his best. Barbara Harris plays a

phony medium who inadvertently
becomes involved in murder. Also
starring Karen Black and Bruce
Dern. (MLB 3, Thursday August 2,
(Walter Lang, 1960)
This wonderfully frivolous musical
stars Frank Sinatra and Shirley
MacLaine (pre-Terms of Endear-
ment, of course) as an American
couple in gay Paris during the Can-
Can rage. MacLaine is a club owner
who allows her girls to do the dance
despite police orders to stop. Great
Cole Porter tunes round out the
evening's entertainment. (Lorch
Hall, Friday August 317:30)
My Favorite Wife
(Garson Kanin, 1940)
A wild and wacky screwball
comedy about a woman explorer
(Irene Dunne) who returns home to
her husband after years of supposed
death. Cary Grant plays the husband
who is dumbfounded to see his wife
just as he is about to marry another
woman. Grant and Dunne are simply
marvelous together. (Nat. _sci.
Auditorium, Friday August 3,7:30)
New York, New York
(Martin Scorsese, 1977)
This is the restored version of the
Liza Minelli-Robert DeNiro vehicle
about two young musicians trying to
balance careers and marriage. Scor-
sese restored a 20-minute production
number which supposedly makes the
whole film worthwhile. (Michigan
Theater, Saturday August 4,9:30)
Smiles Of A SummerNight
(Ingmar Bergman, 1955)
Bergman successfully tried his
hand at romantic comedy with this
story of sexual mores during a
weekend at a country estate in the late
19th century. Swedish with subtitles.
(MLB 4, Saturday August 4,9:15)


and Steven Katz (of the Wind) know
how to pen truly transcendental odes to
teenhood, love, and all that other good
stuff. If anything comes close to a
"masterwork" for the dudes, it'd be
Boylon's "Shut Me Out," a sprightly
rejection - reflection, and Stein-
berg/Katz' "House On Fire," the lead
off track from Guest of the Staphs. If I
had heard both these songs on indepen-
dent singles, I might wrinkle my nose
less disdainfully and chalk it up to first-
record jitters (Truth to tell, the Wind
does have an earlier single, which I
haven't heard); as it is, though, it just
ain't enough.
Shut Up and Kiss Me suffers from a
very hollow sound, no doubt due to the
band's insistence on playing everything
so clean! The Easter oomph is om-
nipresent, but it doesn't suffice for
thread-like music. Likewise, Boylon's
voice is deep and demure, but he just
doesn't have the chops to keep one's at-
tention riveted. In fact, the best thing
about Shut Up . . . happens to be,
paradoxically, the worst as well: On
"December," Boylon mourns tunefully
about a lost romance, all to the plain-
tive backing of an out-of-tune acoustic
piano! Such outright casualness is
pretty funny, especially in light of the
current compu-techno-Fairlight CMI-
synthesized perfection binges we've
seen (er, heard), but the song overall is
just too feeble to be inspired.
The Wind fare better, but only by a
hair. Their songs are a little fuller, and

they give 'em a sound, energetic ac-
companiment that can't be denied -
yet it can be beat, and has been already
by hoards of others. Aside from
"House On Fire," with its oooh-ooohs
and choppy rhythm, the next best breeze
comes with "The Outgoing Type,"
which is still predictably stupid
The rest of Guest of the Staphs (What
a great title! What a great cover!) lim-
ps along like the carnival barker in The
Incredibly Strange Creatures Who
Stopped Living and Became Mixed-Up
Zombies, each song at the same relen-
tless pace, with the same vocal quirks
and instrumental touches. Again, there
just isn't enough going on here to
warrant interest.
Still, these two releases provide en-
couragement for independent com-
panies. Not because they're wonderful
and will sell a hundred-zillion copies
each so that the Wind and Wham-A-
Rama can gather together their
brothers and set off on a whirlwind tour
of big cities with tickets going for $30
apiece (Wait, this sounds familiar... ),
but because it means there's still a lot
of stuff going on out there - good or bad
- finding an audience, thanks to in-
dependents. So let's bite our bullets
with tenacity and await the next batch,
(Flipside Records, 105 Ventura Dr.,
Sanford, FL. 32771; Cheft Records, 211-
15 50th. Ave., Bayside, NY. 11364)
- Larry Dean

One of the two current masters
of the ancient Siddha Meditation
tradition will give a lecture and
meet the public.
Wednesday, August 1
7:00 p.m.
FREE 994-5625
Siddha Meditation Center
of Ann Arbor
1520 Hill Street

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