Friday, March 27, 2015

Staff Picks: An anthem for the legislative session, a history of the Gazette, Edgar G. Ulmer and more

Posted By , , , and on Fri, Mar 27, 2015 at 4:32 PM


Arkansas Times Recommends is a weekly
series in which Times staff members (or whoever happens to be around at the time) highlight things we've been enjoying this week.

To soothe shattered nerves after the past several weeks of watching the horror show at the Capitol, and in honor of the fact that the 2015 legislative session will be remembered as the moment in the political history of Arkansas when the state finally emerged from the ruined chrysalis of late 20th-century Democratic populism to reveal itself as a carbon copy of our western neighbor, I'll recommend the Yo La Tengo cover of the Kinks' gentle, beautiful "Oklahoma U.S.A." If life's for living, what's living for? — Benji Hardy

My recommendation this week is for Roy Reed's superb 2009 book, "Looking Back at the Arkansas Gazette: An Oral History." Based on interviews with over 100 former staffers of the Gazette, which closed in 1991 after being bought out by the Arkansas Democrat, it's a goddamn revelation of a book, instantly transporting a reader back to the smoky, clacking, sweltering, paper-strewn newsroom of one of the greatest Southern papers of all time, For a reporter who came of age in the era after the Internet had changed everything about journalism, Reed's careful weaving of history — scandals, human failure, old timers, hard-boiled police reporters, newsroom superstitions and funny lore — is a beautiful thing. — David Koon

I recommend the movies of the Austrian-American director Edgar G. Ulmer, who came to Hollywood in 1926 and spent decades making the lowest of low-budget horror, Western and sci-fi films with titles like "The Man from Planet X," "The Daughter of Dr. Jekyll" and "Isle of Forgotten Sins." Ulmer specialized in what haughty French film critics would later call films maudit — "cursed films" — films that were really troubling or weird or subversive and so were overlooked or even actively suppressed by the industry.

And Ulmer was nothing if not troubling. Right after he made "The Black Cat," maybe his highest profile film (and a horror classic starring  Béla Lugosi and Boris Karloff), he had an affair with a Hollywood producer's wife, which got him black-listed. So he worked on the periphery. He directed "Moon Over Harlem," a melodrama with all-black cast, in 1939. He made films in other languages, like Yiddish and Ukrainian. Mostly, though, he just became great at making cheap films. His 1945 noir "Detour" is a classic in the cheap films genre. It's also genuinely powerful and was the basis for a recurring nightmare I had for a couple of months in college. Before he died, he gave an interview to Peter Bogdanovich, and said, "I really am looking for absolution for all the things I had to do for money's sake." Which, who isn't, right? — Will Stephenson

click to enlarge Life Paint
  • Life Paint

I don’t ride my bike to work near as often as I used to. There is a small hand full of reasons why, but a biggy was that I was often riding home past sundown, with only a few lights and some DIY reflection on my clothing. After a few too many close calls, an overly vivid imagination, and the undeniable desire to see my kids and wife again and again, I’ve talked myself out of riding in dark until I can become greatly more visible in it. So leave it to a car manufacture to develop a paint, called Life Paint that could change all that. I recommend checking out Volvo’s new luminous paint if you ride bikes at all. Invisible during the day, unmistakable during the night. — Bryan Moats

Learned something new, thought I should share: Lomography is an art movement started in Austria by university students. After discovering the LCA camera created by LOMO PLC of Saint Petersburg, Russia, they created a student organization in Vienna, advocating for creative and experimental film photography through a traveling art exhibition. The students then became the Lomographic Society International . One of their creative and experimental methods is boiling film to produce a bubbled effect on developed photos. It's pretty neat. — Kaya Herron  

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