The Play Ground

The Play GroundThe Play Ground

Around the beginning of February we always take time from plays and concerts and sit in front of the TV and watch the Westminster Dog Show. It will be broadcast on two different channels: Monday, February 9, 8-9 p.m. on USA Network and 9-11 p.m. CNBC. On Tuesday, February 10 it will run from 8-11 on USA Network. A little confusing, but dog people can figure it out. Hey, most dogs can probably figure it out! As is our custom, we are rooting for the Highland Terrier to win.

The Midwest Hip Hop Summit

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The Midwest Hip Hop Summit comes to the Michigan Union on UM's campus this weekend. Starting Friday night at 8pm, catch Atlantic recording artist, Little Brother, along with OneBeLo, Invincible, and DCM co-founder and 4REAL host, Sol Guy, live in concert. Then on Saturday, join workshops teaching other facets of hip-hop culture, including breakdancing, MC'ing, graffiti art, and DJ'ing. These events and several panels on issues of race, gender, and the state of hip hop today will be held throughout the day at various locations in the Union. For current literature addressing these issues, try The Hip Hop Wars, or Hip-Hop Revolution: The Culture and Politics of Rap, or All About the Beat: Why Hip Hop Can't Save Black America, all available at the AADL.

Andrew Bird Releases Album, Plays Michigan Theater in April

Rare as it is to hear a record investigate topics like the status of the plecostomus and the plight of the "harmless sociopath," what makes Andrew Bird's latest release, Noble Beast, worth digging into is the artist's gift for arranging this cornucopia of ideas into irresistible pop tunes. Stylistically, Bird plucks from flamenco and jazz as he did on The Mysterious Production of Eggs and The Swimming Hour, but whereas previous records were concerned with evoking the emotions of a situation, Noble Beast is more of an experiment with the duplicity of language. Ergo, the whistling wunderkind and former Squirrel Nut Zippers violinist treats his audience to snippets such as, "In the salsify mains of what was thought but unsaid / All the calcified arhythmitists were doing the math," and "The seemingly innocuous plecostomus / Though posthumous / They talk to us." Catch Andrew Bird playing live at the Michigan Theater on April 8 at 8pm.

Animal Collective -- Merriweather Post Pavilion

On Ok Computer, Radiohead made rock audiences want to climb into alien spacecrafts and learn the meaning of life from those they met on board. Now just over ten years later, Animal Collective reverses that impulse by bringing what might be the closest thing to alien psychedelia down to us mortals. The most anticipated record so far this year, Merriweather Post Pavilion is being released in the U.S. today to massive critical applause. By combining the heavily textured synth lines and bleating bass undertones -- long a signpost of Animal Collective's work -- with sequenced pop hooks that would make Phil Spector cry, the avant-garde Brooklyn band has captured a sound that will be inexorably imitated in the coming years. Check out Strawberry Jam, the band's 2007 release, or Person Pitch, by Panda Bear, a primary songwriter and vocalist for Animal Collective.

The Thrill Isn't Gone Yet

Eight films from director Alfred Hitchcock are featured this month as part of Michigan Theater's Great Directors series, and although most of the films were shown earlier this month, you can still catch three of his best on the big screen. Watch Tippi Hedren duck and cover in The Birds this Friday, January 16 at midnight, or see if Jimmy Stewart can snare his suspicious neighbor in Rear Window next Monday, January 19 at 7p.m. If dark comedy is your style, then watch Barbara Harris swindle the gullible in Hitchcock's final film, Family Plot, playing the following Monday, January 26 at 7p.m. The AADL also owns Psycho, North by Northwest, Vertigo, and The 39 Steps if you missed them at the Michigan Theater this month.

To delve into the director's psyche and his unconventional relationships with the actresses in his films, try the 2008 book, Spellbound by Beauty: Alfred Hitchcock and His Leading Ladies.

AAFF Goes Green, Sees Submissions Rise

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When the Ann Arbor Film Festival finished receiving submissions for this year's March 24-29 festival, they had collected works from over 40 countries that crossed every imaginable genre, with total submissions surpassing 2,600 films, up 25-percent from last year. In an effort to improve the festival's sustainability, the AAFF also waived the press kit component for filmmakers and requested eco-friendly packaging, such as paper cases and recyclable mailers. With the Oscar nominations being announced January 20 and awards given February 22, film auteurs and aficionados have some exciting events to look forward to throughout the cold months ahead.

Blood Done Sign My Name: A True Story

On January 16 come to the Downtown Library at 7 pm to hear prize-winning author and historian Timothy B. Tyson talk about Blood Done Sign My Name: A True Story, a carefully researched memoir of a 1970 racial murder in Oxford, N.C. The book is being made into a movie. I'm eager to hear the author speak. I'm also wanting to respectfully ask his opinion of The New Republic article about the unfortunate book Angel at the Fence: the true story of a love that survived.

There's No Place Like Alone

At some point this winter, I will fight off an impulse to move to a remote cabin in the northern Wisconsin wilderness with my battered copy of Thoreau's Walden and try to write and record a set of brilliantly simple folk-pop songs that captures the beauty of isolation. Inevitably, I'll come down off the ledge and throw on Bon Iver's For Emma, Forever Ago instead and live vicariously through the stories, characters, and timbre of these nine songs. Justin Vernon (aka Bon Iver) lived out my flight of imagination during the winter after his band broke up, turning out tunes that are immediately familiar in a Nick Drake vein of hushed thought, but deceptively rich in reclusive imagery and emotional detachment, making this record not merely a fanciful escape, but a meditation on the nature of solitude.

...And A Headbanging New Year

Enough Ella Fitzgerald, Burl Ives, Frank Sinatra, and the other silky smooth standards this holiday season. The AADL has the holiday record with more muscle, less string overdubs, and a title that pretty well sells itself (to metalheads everywhere): We Wish You a Metal Xmas and a Headbanging New Year. Fans of Testament's guttural vocals will appreciate the band's exceptionally heavy rendition of Silent Night, while the Kiss audience rocks out to God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen, and Foo Fighters fans hear Dave Grohl chase the red-nosed one in Run Rudolph Run. This holiday CD might not be right for the entire family, but for those about to rock, this one's for you.

Winter Shadow Art Fair This Saturday

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The Winter Shadow Art Fair, featuring more than 40 local vendors and artists, is this Saturday from noon to midnight at the Corner Brewery in Ypsilanti. Stop by the PLAY Animation Station at the Ann Arbor Film Festival's table to make your own animation right on site. If you like what the Animation Station has to offer, then check out Terence Sacks' Opportunities in Cartooning and Animation Careers available at the Library. The AAFF will also be selling and playing their new DVD, Time Pieces, which highlights last year's winning film submissions. The Art Fair costs 2 cents for admission (so remember your shiny Abe Lincolns), and if you're under 21 you will need to be accompanied by an adult.

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