Reviewed Elsewhere [Vol. 2, #25]

June 19, 2009

 

THE NY TIMES Reviews the New Documentary
FOOD, INC.

http://www.nytimes.com/2009/06/07/movies/07seve.html


MOVIES about food used to make you want to eat.

The decade that spanned the mid-1980s to mid-1990s was particularly fruitful. It took heroic resolve to walk out of the Japanese spaghetti western “Tampopo” and not head directly to a ramen bar.

Cooks spent entire months trying to recreate “Babette’s Feast” and dreamed of rolling out pasta with Stanley Tucci in “Big Night.”

By the time Ang Lee’s “Eat Drink Man Woman” came out in 1994, moviegoers had come to expect food films filled with glistening dumplings, magical dessert and technically perfect kitchen scenes.

But that was then, before Wal-Mart started selling organic food and Michelle Obama planted a vegetable garden on the White House lawn. Before E. coli was a constant in the food supply, before politicians tried to tax soda and before anyone gave much thought to the living conditions of chickens.

Into this world comes “Food, Inc.,” a documentary on the state of the nation’s food system that opens in New York, Los Angeles and San Francisco on Friday.

“Food, Inc.” is part of a new generation of food films that drip with politics, not sauces. It’s eat-your-peas cinema that could make viewers not want to eat anything at all.

Read the full review:
http://www.nytimes.com/2009/06/07/movies/07seve.html


BOOKS AND CULTURE Reviews
John Yow’s THE ARMCHAIR BIRDER

   
http://www.christianitytoday.com/bc/columns/bookoftheweek/birdingfromthebackporch.html

 Tim Gallagher, editor of the Cornell Ornithology Lab’s Living Bird magazine, spent decades glassing the cypress swamps and bayous of eastern Arkansas, looking for the ivory bill woodpecker—a bird presumed to be extinct. Pulitzer Prize-nominee Scott Weidensaul tramped South America, searching for the elusive cone-billed tanager. Every year, people spend thousands of dollars voyaging to Antarctica to see penguins and unusual water birds.

Hacking through jungles, freezing in Arctic seas … it seems there are no remote areas that passionate birders won’t venture to in hopes of seeing something exciting. But writer John Yow finds he can see plenty of interesting birds by journeying no farther than his back porch deck chair amid 40 acres of northwestern Georgia woods. Yow is a self-confessed “armchair birder,” which he defines as a person “too lazy to get up and ‘go birding.’ “

In his charming The Armchair Birder: Discovering the Secret Lives of Familiar Birds, Yow shares folklore, life habits, and enjoyable personal anecdotes about 42 species of birds that are commonly seen in and around the backyard. As he puts it, “What I do, mostly, is hang feeders and watch the birds that come to me.” When he spies a new species, he is, as Keats says, “some watcher of the skies / When a new planet swims into his ken.”

Read the full review:
http://www.christianitytoday.com/bc/columns/bookoftheweek/birdingfromthebackporch.html

THE ARMCHAIR BIRDER:
DISCOVERING THE SECRET LIVES OF
FAMILIAR BIRDS.

John Yow.

Hardcover: Univ of NC Press, 2009.
Buy now: [ Amazon ]


“Field of Dreams”
The WaPo review of Outcasts United.

   
http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2009/04/17/AR2009041701377.html

You can read this book or wait for the movie, but the book is worth the effort. This story is too textured, too filled with layers of light and dark, for Hollywood to capture its complexity.

In January of 2007, New York Times reporter Warren St. John wrote about the Fugees, a team of soccer-playing misfits from a dozen war-ravaged countries transplanted to the small Georgia town of Clarkston. The article prompted a huge response — tons of donated cash and equipment, plus a book contract for St. John and a movie deal that financed a team bus and a new school, the Fugees Academy.

The film will undoubtedly portray the Fugees’ extraordinary coach, Luma Mufleh, a native of Jordan, as a tough-but-tender soul who forges an adorable group of multi-colored young athletes into a cohesive unit and teaches them the Meaning of Life and the Joys of Diversity. And it’s all true. Watch for the scene when two players say pre-game prayers in their own languages (the Christian speaks Swahili, the Muslim Albanian).

But the book also conveys the larger context in which these kids play games and say prayers. Clarkston became a dumping group for relief agencies looking to relocate refugees from Burundi and Bosnia, Iraq and Afghanistan. There was good public transportation and plenty of affordable housing, but throwing kids from 50 different countries into an all-white high school was crazy, “and the result was a raw and exceptionally charged experiment in getting along.”

Read the full review:
http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2009/04/17/AR2009041701377.html

Outcasts United: A Refugee (Soccer) Team, An American Town.
Warren St. John.

Hardcover: Spiegel & Grau, 2009.
Buy now: [ Amazon ]