Sorry folks. It was a longer hiatus than I had planned. Yet it was unavoidable due to some unfortunate circumstances that ultimately led me to retire from active film reviewing (more on that in a later blog). While I’m going to miss the daily flow of excitement and disappointment that comes with responding to new work, I’m not going to miss the business of film reviewing itself (more on that later, too). In the meantime, much is afoot. In December, myself, plus a few former critics, will be launching a blog site called Critics at Large. Our hope and desire is to provide views on a variety of subjects that are untainted by the rampant patronage and blatant careerism so much in evidence in certain professional reviewing circles today. Updates will follow as the site is now being assembled.
On Sunday November 15, 2009, the CBC Radio documentary series "Revolutions Per Minute," which John Corcelli and I conceived, continues with an incisive look at Symphony in Effect by Maestro Fresh Wes. Released in 1989, this was the first Rap/Hip Hop album in Canada. Maestro's "Let Your Backbone Slide" and "Drop the Needle" became the inspiration for many Canadian Hip Hop artists over the past 20 years. Guests include, Wes Williams, Farley Flex and Classified. I invite you to tune in your radio sets to Inside The Music with Patti Schmidt CBC Radio 2 at 3PM. CBC Radio One at 9PM. You can also listen on line in a variety of time zones, in case you miss the local broadcast, at cbc.ca/radio.
In the winter, I’ll also be teaching a course at Ryerson’s LIFE Institute based on my book Artificial Paradise: The Dark Side of The Beatles’ Utopian Dream. My decision to do this is partly due to a need to try something new away from teaching film. Being forced into retirement as a professional film critic has currently tainted my relationship to movies in much the same way that a sour love affair can sometimes affect your outlook on love. In order to reclaim and redefine that passion, I’ve decided to momentarily move in a different direction. Secondly, since the book publishing world is becoming as addled as the world of print journalism, I needed to make more people aware of Artificial Paradise than the publishers (Greenwood-Praeger) have been doing. Although I’m grateful for their generosity in allowing me to write a longer work on The Beatles than originally agreed, they have sadly done little to actually publicize it. (One critic, who did review it, had to spend over a month begging them to send a copy – which they finally did, only leaving him to cover the cross-border duty expenses.)
Part of the problem of availability and poor publicity is due to the fact that Greenwood-Praeger is an academic press rather than a trade publisher. Basically, they do expensive hard-cover books destined for libraries rather than the commercial market. Secondly, just as my book was coming out, they were bought up by a West Coast group called ABC-CLIO. When I contacted those folks recently about the possibility of negotiating cheaper paperback rights with a trade press, they asked me to let them know if I find somebody. (Isn’t “finding somebody” supposed to be the marketing department’s job?) I originally went with Greenwood-Praeger because I couldn’t find one publishing house in Canada, despite having published four previous books, to consider it. Even with the massive response to the recent remastering and re-release of The Beatles’ recording catalogue and the continued fascination with the band in literature, the reaction was mute (and, I fear, moot). I wrote a book about the world’s most popular rock band, attempting to consider how and why The Beatles, who were objects of intense love and adoration, also drew towards themselves hatred and murder. I provided a view on the band that I believe is a unique addition to the canon of Beatles material out there, and yet nobody is interested in making it more readily available. (Is it any wonder more and more people are turning to self-publishing?)
So in the spirit of the termite philosophy I’ve embraced, I decided to shift my position in the wood and adapt the text to an 8-week lecture series in January (exactly one year after the book’s “release”). For those interested in taking the course, Artificial Paradise is currently available at the Ryerson Book Store at Victoria & Gould, but good luck in finding it. (They have it stocked in the fashion (?!) section. Don’t ask.) As a teaser for the course, I’ve constructed a sampler from Artificial Paradise which I’ll post tomorrow. It’s called Nowhere Land, the original title of the book, the current title of the LIFE course, and metaphorically the constituency in which the book itself now resides.