Artists of the Year

If smell, as Dali once said, is intimately connected to memory, music holds the key to unlocking emotion. That's the premise of Heddy Honigmann's wrenching wartime documentary Crazy--it screened in April's Minneapolis/St. Paul International Film Festival--which pairs Dutch peacekeepers with the music they listened to while stationed in war zones.

Cpl. First Class Peter Veeke, who was posted in Bosnia, recalls listening to Guns N' Roses' "Knockin' on Heaven's Door." "Each time we drove down Bomb Alley we had to play that song," he says. "We turned up the music and the fear was gone." After returning from the operation, Veeke set fire to his house, then climbed the stairs and went to sleep. He served nine months in military prison before being diagnosed with posttraumatic stress disorder. Throughout his recollections, Veeke rubs his hands, kneading the sweat that flows endlessly from his palms. "That will always happen," he says.

Pvt. Peter Van Dullaert also served in Bosnia. He downs four beers during the course of his account, one of which he opens with his teeth. "You could say that throughout the war...I've been through a mincing machine," he says, "and another person has emerged."

No. No.

Michael Tortorello is the arts editor at City Pages.

 

Al Jazeera
By Peter S. Scholtes

 

"The Arab CNN" keeps to a C-Span pace. Interview subjects speak at length. Irate-sounding callers go on and on. And on. You don't have to know Arabic (I can't speak a word) to notice that the anchors and talk-show hosts of Al Jazeera are in no hurry to cut anyone off. The slogan of the Arab world's first uncensored 24-hour satellite news network is "the view and the other point of view." And whether or not this spells "balance," the debates undeniably release genuine heat; they flow more freely amid the notable scarcity of commercial interruptions (I counted four ads in 90 minutes, three of them for Chevrolet). Saudi Arabia, you see, has led an advertiser blacklist against the five-year-old, Qatar-based outlet, which features female anchors (sans hajib) and interviews with Arab dissidents, Israeli officials, and other absentee figures in the Arab media. Tunisia and Libya have recalled ambassadors over Al Jazeera's content. Kuwait banned the station for a month after an Iraqi caller insulted the country's emir. Iraq protested the coverage of Saddam Hussein's extravagant birthday celebrations. Touring the tiny studios one day, Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak quipped, "All this trouble, from this matchbox?"

Now the matchbox stands accused of fanning "the flames of Muslim outrage" (according to the New York Times). The network makes cause with the Palestinians ("martyrs" when killed by Israelis). It exclusively reported from Taliban-controlled territory during the war, but received no management directives to back off reports on civilian casualties, as CNN staff did. Al Jazeera had extensively covered the attacks on America. But it never accepted the phrase "war on terrorism," and aired bin Laden's tapes over U.S. objections. Hence, when the channel's Kabul office building was bombed by the U.S.--hours before the Northern Alliance took over--I was skeptical of official claims that no one knew the station was there. Someone tell our leaders that Qatar's flawed but revolutionary experiment in open media isn't our enemy. If a clash is at hand, it will be one within civilizations, not between them--and you can bet Al Jazeera will air every contentious minute.

Peter S. Scholtes is a staff writer at City Pages.

 

Tina Fey
By Ernesto Quinonez

 

Dorothy Parker clearly didn't have Tina Fey in mind when she wrote, "Men seldom make passes at girls who wear glasses." Tina not only makes glasses look good; she also revived Saturday Night Live's Weekend Update, which had been about as exciting as playing bilingual Scrabble with my parents.

SNL's first female head writer officially put an end to the show's boys-club mentality. She took Michael O'Donohue's observation that "when writing comedy, it helps to have meat between your legs" and did laundry with it. Her jokes aren't just funny, they're shrewd, precise, letter-perfect. Tina's surgical delivery is laden with Armageddon wit. In a show whose tradition is to be coked up during endless Thursday rewrites, sketch-by-sketch Friday rehearsals, and Saturday last-minute polishing sessions, Tina Fey makes it look effortless. She has SNL in her DNA. She ends each anchor segment with Jane Curtin's "Good night and have a pleasant tomorrow." She brought back the land shark. It wouldn't surprise me if one day she erupted, "Jimmy, you ignorant slut!"

Yet her jokes are original and up-to-date: "What's happened to affirmative action in this country? Hugh Hefner is dating seven blondes...when are we going to have a Hefner harem that looks like America?" she jabbed on one episode. Her shtick on Britney Spears's ass should be immortalized and engraved on every future teen pop star's dressing-room mirror: "Britney, in about five years that area is going to blow. So enjoy it now. Have it photographed as much as possible."

When the show is about to end and that sad piano begins to play that piece that makes me think of SNLs past, when the host thanks everyone and the cast waves goodbye, I look to see where Tina Fey is and whom she's hugging. She's always laughing, looking intelligent, and making glasses sexier and hipper than ever.

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