A Box Opera, A Poetry Olympiad & Hiphop’s Silver Anniversary

Written by Adam Heimlich on . Posted in Arts & Film, Posts.

So let’s enjoy this
week’s dazzling bounty of events, which crackles underfoot like a blazing
carpet of leaves. But hey, don’t step on those boxers. Yeah, they’re
actually performance artists, but don’t think for a second that the bout
between Jonathan Ames and David Leslie is one of those acrobatic
nonplays that rope tourists in every holiday season–y’know, The
White Man Group
–no, it’s real. It’s at least as real as the
Holyfield-Lewis fiasco, the rematch of which will be broadcast on pay-per-view
Saturday night. For those who haven’t read in Ames’ NYPress
column about Wednesday’s somewhat-lighter-weight fight, know that he and
Leslie are training with actual boxing trainers–grizzled old guys like
Mickey from Rocky, as I understand–and both want very much to prevail.
No matter who triumphs, "Box Opera" is certain to win the all-time
title for most sponsors of any downtown event–plus a special mention for
being the very first one not funded in part by Time Out New York since
the wannabe bible’s logo-happy launch. (11/10, 8 p.m., at Angel Orensanz
, 172 Norfolk St., betw. Houston & Stanton Sts., 477-5829,
$20, $50 ringside.)

Some ways to satisfy your
God-given bloodlust less literally, more literarily, include Saturday afternoon’s
Poetry Olympiad, which pits students from various New York MFA-in-poetry
programs against each other in a lively team slam. The prize is an engraved
beer keg called the Silver Barrel, currently in the possession of the New School.
But don’t just go to root for your favorite grad school (I know), because
Olympiad host Brooklyn Brewery will also award four $500 prizes for the best
beer-related poems and artworks created on the back of Brooklyn beer coasters,
and you may have entered this competition and forgot all about it (deadline
was Sept. 30). If not, just cheer heartily, especially for Sarah Lawrence–the
only team whose name fits the reliably stirring four-syllable, five-clap singsong
sports chant. (11/13, 2 p.m., at the Brooklyn Brewery, 79 N. 11th St.,
betw. Wythe & Berry Sts., Williamsburg, 718-486-7422, free.)

An even less raucous,
yet no less hotly contested, battle will be staged Wednesday at the Museum
of Television and Radio
. As part of their new "Television and the Cold
War" series, the museum is hosting a live panel discussion on the "The
Culture of the Cold War," with William F. Buckley Jr. across the
table from Nation publisher Victor Navasky. Not as entertaining
as it would be if they boxed ("Will-iam Buck-ley!" Clap, clap–clap
clap clap!), but still. (11/10, 7:30 p.m., 25 W. 52nd St., betw. 5th & 6th
Aves., 621-6600, $10.)

Those old 50s arguments
can seem pretty live in an age where intellectual dispute rages over such Cheez-It-vs.Cheese
Nip issues as whether hiphop turned 20 or 25 years old this year. It depends
on whether one counts from the first hit records or, as the venerable Zulu Nation
chooses to, from the date of the first birthday of the venerable Universal Zulu
Nation: Nov. 12, 1974. Parties thrown by the Nation are to Gang Starr heads
as The Nation is to Fugazi fans–which is to say they’re potentially
very enlightening. Thursday’s Silver Anniversary bash, at the Cooler,
will feature Dujeous? and Poor Righteous Teachers. PRT’s last scheduled
appearance, at Wetlands back on Erev Yom Kippur, turned out to be a blistering,
mostly a cappella set by MC Wise Intelligent–the most righteous rapper
to ever bless a mic, and apparently the only Poor Righteous Teacher left standing.
(11/11, 9 p.m., 416 W. 14th St., betw. 9th & 10th Aves., 229-0785, $10.)

Conveniently for transition-sentence-mongering
me, both old commies and young conscious hiphoppers will enjoy visits from major
musical heroes this week. Pete Seeger will discuss "Music in the
History of Struggle," as part of a celebration of his 80th birthday, Friday
at the Martin Luther King Jr. Labor Center. (11/12, 7 p.m., 310 W. 43rd
St. betw. 8th & 9th Aves., 229-2388, $12, $10/adv., $5 for persons at least
62 years younger than Mr. Seeger.) And mighty-voiced, Gang-Starr-produced Jeru
the Damaja
will perform at the next SubVerse showcase, Tuesday at S.O.B.’s.
Co-headlining this show is Bahamadia–another brilliant MC long past due
for a new album. (11/16, 204 Varick St. at Houston St., 243-4940, $15.) If you
don’t know about Jeru or Bahamadia, consider picking up the recent compilations
Best of D&D Studios Volume One or Soundbombing II, which are
excellent and include historic contributions from those two, respectively.

At the moment, your local
corporate record store is well on its way to being packed to the gills with
brand-new releases from market-tested rock stars. Either Rage Against the Machine,
Foo Fighters, Nine Inch Nails, Beck, Metallica and Korn all coincidentally completed
their big projects at once, or a whole lot of record company assholes are having
the exact same fantasy about a huge fourth quarter. Despite what the music magazines
are reporting, the new albums by each of the above are very much like the last
hit albums by each of the above. Rage, for instance, can still only write sort-of-heavy
riffs, and have again come up with so few of those as to require strict rationing–one
per song. The Battle of Los Angeles was produced by Brendan O’Brien–an
expert at crafting the hard sound that’s not too hard for radio assholes,
as he did for Pearl Jam and Stone Temple Pilots–and has about as much going
on in the low end as a Maxim covergirl.

Foo Fighters’ There
Is Nothing Left to Lose
is also lightweight, though intentionally, and with
the big plus of some songwriting talent behind it. With this new one Dave Grohl
joins the ranks of Paul McCartney and J. Mascis as another self-motivated star
driven to put out top-notch solo singer-songwriter material under a band’s
name. Nothing is every bit as polished and fun to listen to as Band
on the Run
or Green Mind.

I’ll get to the rest
of the hyped new releases as they hit the shelves. In the meantime, some hype
of my own, for techno CDs no less: this group called Daddylonglegs, which is
a Howie B project (he’s the guy who helped U2 with Pop and Bjork
with Homogenic), has a new album called Horse, which I recommend.
Hard to describe–it’s warm, lush and pulsating like My Bloody Valentine
or ambient Aphex Twin, but with modern disco-Brit and triphop beats. Lemme just
call it instrumental dance music you can get your head all the way into–dense
and dubbed-out like Underworld or Orbital but with the abstract emotive weight
of, say, Tricky without the rapping, or Pink Floyd without the heavy hand.

Another electronic album
that’s been getting my blood flowing is Death in VegasThe
Contino Sessions
, which seems to be designed for people who grew up on Bowie
and Iggy, then moved on to Joy Division and the Pet Shop Boys. Like Spiritualized
but not so Northern-soul striving, Contino features deeply hypnotic,
almost gothic, dirge-rock. It’d be awesome if Death in Vegas could perform
live in a domed room with lots of red velvet couches, but instead they’re
playing not-quite-so-lush Irving Plaza, next Wednesday, Nov. 17. (17
Irving Place at 15th St., 777-6800, $17/$15 adv.) For those who prefer not to
move on, there’s the Pet Shop Boys’ 80s-classicizing new album
Nightlife–as good as any other Pet Shop Boys album–as well
as the Boys themselves, performing Thursday at Hammerstein Ballroom.
(11/11, 311 W. 34th St., betw. 8th & 9th Aves., 564-4882, $35-$45.)

And speaking of blood
flowing, Film Forum is showing Roman Polanski’s famously X-rated
version of Macbeth starting Friday. (11/12-18, 209 W. Houston
St., betw. 6th Ave. & Varick St., 727-8110.) As for other film happenings,
there’s the Mix Film Festival of gay and lesbian underground works.
Opening night, Wednesday, will include a screening of the promising Gang
Girls 2000
. The first film by badass-chick photographer Katrina del Mar,
it’s a Super-8 short featuring Kembra Pfahler from Voluptuous Horror of
Karen Black, Squid from the Lunachicks and, so far as I can tell, every single
stunning, pierced and tattooed female bartender in the East Village, all playing
murderous gangsters. (11/10, 9 p.m. at Anthology Film Archives, 32 2nd
Ave. at 2nd St., 505-5110; see mixnyc.org for festival schedule.)

And speaking of squids,
there’s a 25-foot-long, 250-pound one newly on display at the American
Museum of Natural History
. They’re billing this particular Architeuthis
from New Zealand as the world’s best-preserved specimen of the
largest invertebrate on Earth. Check it out on your way to the 23rd-annual Margaret
Mead Film and Video Festival
, at the AMNH from Friday until Nov. 20. This
year’s offerings include about 80 works, many followed by discussions with
the directors. Documentary junkies like me do not want to miss American Gypsy,
a five-years-in-the-making chronicle focusing on Romani civil rights battles
in Spokane (11/16, 8:45 p.m., and 11/19, 6:30 p.m.); The Specialist,
on the trial of Adolph Eichmann (11/18, 6:30 p.m.); or Dutch Harbor: Where
the Sea Breaks Its Back
, about life in a town on one of the Aleutian Islands
and featuring an incredibly evocative soundtrack by the Boxhead Ensemble (11/18,
6:30 p.m.). Dammit–those last two are at the same exact day and time. (11/12-20,
enter at 79th St. & Central Park W., 769-5305 or amnh.org/mead99 for info,
$8 per program–90-120 minutes’ worth of material–or four programs
for $28, 10 for $65.)