ISSN 1552-5112: Journal of postmodern cultural sound, text and image
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Rainer Brambach: Collected Poems

Trns. by Esther Kinskey (Seagull:2014)

Brambach's poems read like a cool glass of water - essentially satisfying, without requiring too much thought or digestion. They should be taken just like that, for that very reason.



Pilate and Jesus

By Giorgio Agamben (Stanford UP:2015)

Agamben's theoretical and hermeneutic swan dive into the mire of the Gospels, theological commentary, dogma and philosophical polemics regarding the trial of Jesus of Nazareth does not disappoint in its brevity. Though it ends in familiar aporetic suspense of final Christological judgment, reminiscent of monophysite/miaphysite vs. dyophysite controversy, etc., it is time well spent considering one of the greatest Western ontological trials in recorded history.


The Hope Six Demolition Project

By PJ Harvey (Island/Vagrant:2016)

It's difficult to make political music that's artistically interesting. Perhaps too much effort goes into pondering the political import or message, at the expense of making interesting sonic art, which is what music is truly about - how art sounds. Harvey's effort on this record seems preoccupied with the message, rather than the overall sonic experience, which she paid far more attention to in previous records; notably, the recent recordings preceding Let England Shake (2011), Harvey's first tack toward this new political heading. Pink Floyd's The Final Cut (1983) suffered similar creative headwinds. Even with Flood on board as co-producer, The Hope Six Demolition Project lies aurally still, and feels burdened by the weight of its intellectual content. Nonetheless, the album is worth a listen, and occupies a space perhaps analogous to historic political pamphlets and 20th century anti-fascist art, the content and public appearance of which are often compelling.


Post Pop Depression

By Iggy Pop (Rekords Rekords/Loma Vista/Caroline International:2016)

A straight-forward, sonically and intellectually-engaging rock album. Like the kind people used to make, when culture, philosophy, art and music were still vital, explorable and possible - and somewhat less accountable to commerce and administration.


Blues Funereal

By Mark Lanegan (4AD Records:2012)

One of the most interesting alternative records made in 2012, and since 2012. Probably, one of the best records you've never heard.


Staying Alive: Personal Identity, Practical Concerns and the Unity of a Life

By Marya Schechtman (Oxford UP:2014)

A deep analytic philosophical encounter with the evolving notion of human identity. Pedantic, but in a healthy way.


The Fall of the Roman Empire: A New History of Rome and the Barbarians

By Peter Heather (Oxford UP:2006)

A sweeping account of the Roman demise, that figures in the Roman cost of underestimating the Goths. Required reading for anyone who would like a more nuanced understanding of the Roman empire's collapse.



By David Bowie (ISO Records/Columbia Records:2016)

This record is probably going to be the best alternative album of the year for 2016, even though we're expecting new material from PJ Harvey, Peter Gabriel and Nine Inch Nails. Could very well be a banner year for altermative music.


The Counselor

dir. Ridley Scott (Scott Free et al.:2013)

An average piece of existentialist film-making, brought to you in part by the writing of Cormac McCarthy. Strictly Orientalist, as broadly-construed - in its treatment of the macro and micro-cultures that constitute its narrative. However, the work may be appreciated in that it marks an attempt at something more literary or philosophical in kind, than is generally produced in big budget films.



Exodus: Gods and Kings

dir. Ridley Scott (Chernin, Scott Free, et al.:2014)

One part metaphysical drama to four parts Tinseltown formularies does not a hot film make. Its been said that the people get the politicians they deserve. Can the same be said of films?



Blue Ruin

dir. Jeremy Saulnier (The Lab of Madness:2014)

A slow-moving indie film excursion into underdeveloped ideas, characters and goals related to crime and retribution. In the end, I'm left with the impression that something of gravity has happened for someone related to the film; just not for the audience. Since it's a film, something then, has gone terribly wrong for its producers.



Sue (Or in a Season of a Crime)/'Tis a Pity She was a Whore (B-side) single

By David Bowie (Columbia Records/Legacy Recordings:2014)

Enabling a new vocabulary for music in an era that has painted intself into a corner - these two new offerings, which are paired with another retrospective Bowie compilation, are like sonic metaphysical beacons of light. Though his recent The Next Day came out only in 2013, sounds like there is plenty more in the queue.



BIOS: Biopolitics and Philosophy

By Robert Esposito (UMN Press:2008)

One part historical and one part theoretical, Esposito offers 'immunization' as a conceptual tool for further developing Foucault's biopolitics. It comes across in a familiar and mechanical sense; working much like the dialectically thetic, antithetic and then synthetic applications we've seen produced in a variety of ways in the modern/postmodern period. That being said, I'm not sure there is much here that is truly new to think about.



Religion, Politics and Polarization: How Religiopolitical Conflict is Changing Congress and American Democracy

By William V. D'Antonio, Steven A. Tuch and Josiah R. Baker (Rowman and Littlefield:2014)

A cogent analysis of religious denomination and Congressional voting behavior. It's quite interesting to see how the roll call votes of Congress members often reflect religious views, which continue to evolve over time in the United States. Faith and policymaking, and their relationship with partisanship, are inextricable from a proper understanding of much Congressional activity. This text shows exactly how so.



The Fight for the Four Freedoms: What Made FDR and the Greatest Generation Truly Great

By Harvey J. Kaye (Simon and Schuster:2014)

A cursory review of FDR's legacy in the American national context. Too many books do this better, to suggest this text offers any reason for pursuing it over others. It's certainly a suggestive offering, in the sense that it implores one to take a New Deal position in today's politics. I already agree that's the case, but doubt Kaye's particular siren call, however well-meaning, will inspire others to action.


Anti-Judaism: The Western Tradition

By David Nirenberg (Norton:2013)

This truly is a remarkable critical review of a great store within the humanities, rendered with the express purpose of revealing a deeply rooted, historic and mutlicultural antipathy toward Judaism. If the scope of its somber thesis runs intellectually tangential to equally sobering works in the study of antisemitism, that is as it should be, given its exhilaratingly panoramic view of quite diverse cultural histories.




Written and dir. by Francis Ford Coppola (American Zoetrope:2011)

There's a sense of wonder, curiosity and spirit of exploration in Twixt that's hard to resist. In a sense, it glows with that spark that is missing from so much art today. It's a campy piece of postmodern American Gothic work, but in a suprisingly sophisticated and intellectual way, reminiscent of Tim Burton's work. I enjoyed it.



Zbigniew Herbert: The Collected Poems 1956 - 1998

Trns. by Alissa Valles et al., Ed. by Alissa Valles (Ecco:2007)

At times heady, other times visceral, and elsewhere abstract; and sometimes sentimental or hopeful - at any rate, Herbert's work is philosophically museful and artistically rejuvenal. It's hard to imagine anyone could walk away from this poetry unmoved.



Against the Day

By Thomas Pynchon (Viking:2006)

An ad denseum, ad nauseum literary abstraction may or may not make for good theory-fiction...this does not.



Push the Sky Away

By Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds (Bad Seed Ltd.:2013)

This is the album, that David Lynch was really trying to make.



Bonded Labor: Tackling the System of Slavery in South Asia

By Siddharth Kara (Columbia UP:2012)

Think you understand the interlocking parts of the global economy, and your participation in it? Dig a little deeper. From whole villages of adults and children enslaved as carpet weavers in Northern India, to child labor shrimp farming in Bangladesh - globalization and its demands currently proceed under the darkest of skies. Kara takes you there.



Europe Before Rome

By T. Douglas Price (Oxford UP:2013)

A wonderfully illustrated, site by site account of Prehistoric Europe. From a 30,000 year old, fired mammoth figurine in the Czech Republic to a 5,000 year old Dutch grave of a mother and child, both covered in powdered red ochre, the newborn boy buried with a flint knife and placed on a swan feather - the book is nothing short of essential for anyone with a significant curiosity of the prehistoric. A real nice find.



Pessimism: Philosophy, Ethic, Spirit

By Joshua Foa Dienstag (Princeton UP:2006)

Given Western culture's ancient, medieval, modern and postmodern fascination with apocalypse and eschatological redemption, an exploration of the breadth and depth of the pessimistic spirit is perhaps more well placed than you might think, to explain just how we arrived here. Or as Dienstag intimates, eating from the tree of knowledge is not a one time affair. Have another taste, won't you?



On China

By Henry Kissinger (Pengiun Press:2011)

A concise historical rumination that attempts to consolidate Chinese political history and American foreign policy into a theoretical impression of a fairly realist bent. Coming from an author that has long been source, reference and interpretation for much of the understanding shared in it, nothing unexpected lies herein. However, it is a worthwhile snapshot of China and the U.S. - in terms of the short time necessary to engage this extraordinarily readable text.



King Animal

By Soundgarden (Seven Four Entertainment:2012)

This is the kind of record that would have rendered more art, under the stewardship of the appropriate producer and engineer. There are alot of good ideas going on here, but it was cut and burned in too straightforward a way to make it great. Under the guidance of, say Flood, or Brian Eno, this record could really have sung. Alas, in its current incarnation - it's decent, even good at times, but not great.



Where are we now?

By David Bowie (ISO Records:2013), single

Exceptional music for unexceptional times.




dir. Oliver Stone (Universal Studios:2012)

An orgiastic exercise in the banality of filming forms of greed, violence and uninterrupted narcissism for its own sake, while eschewing content. Savagely so.



Is This Desire?

by PJ Harvey (Island Records:1998)

One of the most passionate and literary art rock recordings ever made. There are books that must be read, art that must be seen, and music that must be heard in order to enable, even a base understanding of the human condition. This is one of those few records.



Private Empire: ExxonMobil and American Power

by Steve Coll (Penguin Press:2012)

Coll comprehensively renders the cultural and political landscape of one of Big Oil's major players. Fascinating, alarming and well worth the time.




edited by Lisa Le Feuvre (MIT Press:2010)

A collection of artistic and philosophical communicata rendering a critique of the concept of failure, broadly construed. Ambitious and creative, artists and writers come together to produce an intriguingly aphoristic journey into society's failures..



The Norton Anthology of Theory and Criticism

edited by Vincent B. Leitch et al. (Norton:2010)

The best comprehensive review of literary and social critical theory on the market. While not all things to all people, it is certainly something useful to everyone.



Theories of International Politics and Zombies

by Daniel W. Drezner (Princeton UP:2011)

Apart from providing a cursory pop culture experimentation with already hackneyed derivations of political science postures, this little text is like wading through Zizek's refuse. This style rarely works for Zizek, let alone Drezner. Try again; this time, with feeling.



Carnival and Cannibal

by Jean Baudrillard (Seagull:2010)

Where has the Other gone? Disappeared, yet in plain view? In this short book of two essays, we find a man reflecting upon where, hegemonic perspectives might say, all the 'good times' of certain identities have gone. A serious consideration, if playful at once, of what may happen when the Good succeeds - but in the wrong way.



Aftershock: The Next Economy and America's Future

by Robert B. Reich (Knopf:2010)

As wealth and political power become increasingly concentrated, more and more U.S. citizens find it difficult to maintain a well-rounded and reasonable standard of living relative to recent historical standards in the United States. It's a long-standing rational argument that has long had the ear of the progressive Left: political, economic and corporate mismanagement artificially creates and maintains the scarcity of jobs, capital, wealth, credit, political power and opportunity thus enabling citizen abuse of poorer citizens by wealthier citizens. Reich's book offers a critique of this political and economic process, and he even contributes some reasonable policies that could ameliorate the problems of disparity. The question is: who will implement such policies?



The Origins of Value: The Financial Innovations That Created Modern Capital Markets

edited by William N. Goetzmann and K. Geert Rouwenhorst (Oxford:2005)

A veritable landscape of all the concept of capital has been, and with a bit more egalitarian imagination and vision, may yet become. From exploitative usury and 'payday' style, short term loans in ancient Iraq; to King Leopold II's bond financing scheme for his colonial invasion of the Congo for its natural resources (e.g. rubber); to Benjamin Franklin's innovative transatlantic paper and currency styling - so much rides upon what we expect capital can and should do. The book, printed on heavy photo-style paper with many color images of ancient and modern financial instruments, is a treasure.