Staff Picks: Future, Kathryn Joyce, Philander Smith, Christian rock deep cuts and more | Rock Candy

Friday, May 1, 2015

Staff Picks: Future, Kathryn Joyce, Philander Smith, Christian rock deep cuts and more

Posted By , , , , and on Fri, May 1, 2015 at 3:39 PM

click to enlarge Jad Fair
  • Jad Fair

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.

As a cinema buff, my recommendation this week is a place I try to mention to every film-loving friend of mine sooner or later: the used DVD stacks at your local Game X Change store. I'm pretty sure nearly every DVD in the place is hotter than a fifteen dollar Stratocaster, all of them likely ripped off during burglaries and turned in for store credit (when the Five Finger Discounters cleaned out the home of Yours Truly a few years back, they made off with over 100 DVDs, leaving us to wonder what teenage hooligans were going to do with a seven-season box set of "The Gilmore Girls." Then we found Game X Change and it all made sense). That said, you can make someone else's loss your gain, with thousands of used DVDs for $4.95 each. They also have an excellent three-for-the-price-of-two deal, which has helped me restock my home collection in record time. It's not all copies of "Harry Potter" and "Die Hard 9: Die From an Erection Lasting More Than Four Hours" either, especially if you're willing to dig. There are quite a few classics mixed in, and it's all alphabetized so you don't have to paw through everything if you're looking for something in particular. Recently, for example, I bought a remastered super-deluxe bells-and-whistles edition of Orson Welles' "Citizen Kane" — regularly priced at north of $25 on Amazon — for less than the price of a latte at Starbucks. I'm probably shooting myself in the foot by being the John the Baptist of my secret stash, but I like to spread the love. — David Koon

Someday I hope to write a book detailing the shining gems in the otherwise treacherous and solemn story that is Christian music. That day may never come, so I’ll make do occasionally calling out the characters, albums, and events that make you say “For real this is?” Today I recommend listening to "Solid Gold Heart," the collaboration between Jad Fair and Danielson. I have a healthy surface knowledge of Jad Fair’s musical history. But my familiarity with Danielson (from my days running with the local, heavily-tattooed Christian music bookstore employees) runs deep and wide and I love this album. It’s funny, rocking, and dutifully quirky. Listen! — Bryan Moats
I recommend Future's "Codeine Crazy" both the song and the music video, a neon haze of wild horses and purple electricity. There is a world of sadness in the way Future pronounces the word "celebrate" here, on one of the loneliest and best pop songs I've ever heard about depression, addiction and altered states. He says he's "drownin' in Actavis suicide" (referring to the brand of codeine cough syrup) while wearing "diamonds colder than a glacier." He says, "I'm an addict and I can't even hide it." He says, heartbreakingly, "You thought I forgot about us?" It's the first rap song that's ever reminded me of Gus Van Zandt's "Last Days." — Will Stephenson

A few days ago, I read an article somewhere (bad journalism; I don't remember where) comparing recent fanfic-turned-novel-turned-movie juggernaut "50 Shades of Grey" with an older film, Steven Shainberg's "Secretary." I haven't seen "50 Shades," nor do I have any desire to see it, but the 2002 James Spader-Maggie Gyllenhaal film has long been one of my favorites. The story is hit-or-miss, but in terms of performances, I don't think either actor has ever been better (ditto supporting actor Jeremy Davies).

What I really love about the film, though, are the scenes shot in the law office in which the two main characters mostly interact: lush, dark wood walls, a reliance on old manual typewriters and the Spader character's meticulously-kept in-house orchid garden all give the entire movie an otherworldly, out-of-time feel that makes the atmosphere more fairy tale than erotica. Add to that one of the best uses of Leonard Cohen's "I'm Your Man" ever in a movie , and the result is a story less about sex and more about self-discovery. I'm sure that's how all these sorts of narratives would like to be known, but few sell it quite as naturally as "Secretary." Oh, and if you need some spanking and bondage, it's got that, too. — Michael Roberts

It is prom and graduation season — always an exciting time of year for pretty dresses, celebrations and family gatherings. I myself am graduating from Philander Smith College tomorrow with my Bachelors of Arts in Political Science. Graduation is bittersweet for me: on the one hand I'm glad I've accomplished my goal and am moving on, but on the other, I'm sad to see my college days come to a close. I've met some wonderful people, made good friends and networked with some of the best and brightest in Little Rock. It has been a whirlwind 4 years and an unforgettable experience. I'm so proud of what my classmates and I have accomplished and I'm excited to see what the world has in store for each of us. To Philander Smith College, my alma mater, you will always have a place in my heart, and to my professors, thank you for your dedication and counsel, you will be missed. Thank you to everyone who made my education possible and believed in me. I know now that I am capable of anything I put my mind to and I'm not afraid to try something new. Last but not least, congratulations to the graduating class of 2015, we are destined for greatness and we will change the world for the better. — Kaya Herron

click to enlarge childcatch.jpg

I recommend Kathryn Joyce's fantastic book, "The Child Catchers," which explores the underbelly of the international adoption system and its embrace by the evangelical community in the U.S.

The thing about international adoption is that it just sounds so unimpeachably good in the abstract. Orphans! Desperate kids in darkest Africa saved from the clutches of Joseph Kony and plopped down upon a tasteful sectional to watch Veggie Tales in an air conditioned living room in Huntsville, Alabama. Sometimes that's what happens — but sometimes, the salvation narrative breaks down upon closer inspection. A key problem is that many of the kids adopted to the U.S. from Guatemala, Liberia, Ethiopia and elsewhere actually have families of some sort back home. The reason they're given up for adoption is often less because they lack caretakers in their countries of origin, and more because of a combination of tragic factors: Crushing poverty, promises of monetary payments or other compensation to family members, pressure applied to birth mothers, outright deceit, differing perceptions of what "adoption" really entails across cultures, and more. And that's not even getting into the tragedies that sometimes result when kids who have been through terrible trauma in institutions overseas are taken in by well-meaning and utterly unprepared families in the U.S.

As Joyce puts it, "Despite the varied but largely altruistic motivations of evangelical adoption advocates, as a movement it is directing hundreds of millions of dollars into a system that already responds acutely to Western demand — demand that can't be filled, at least not ethically or under current law. What that can mean for tens of thousands of loving but impoverished parents in the developing world is that they become the supply side of a multi-billion-dollar global industry."

Another thing about Kathryn Joyce: She's now working for the Times on an investigative story, and she's a really nice person.

While we're on the subject of unhappy children, and Katherines, I also recommend one of my favorite short stories, "The Downward Path to Wisdom" by Katherine Ann Porter, which tracks the internal experience of a six-year-old child in the most unsentimental terms possible. No lurid tragedies — just the fearful, normal, day-to-day acid trip entailed by being a kid. I can't find the full text online, but I did find this brief audio clip of Porter reading the opening paragraphs, which gives you a sense of her language. Evidently, you can order the full recording on vinyl, if listening to a single short story over and over is the sort of thing you'd like to spend $45 on. — Benji Hardy

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