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The Month Ahead

What to see, read and listen to in August

An epic film’s long-awaited follow-up

For nearly two decades, Baraka, the non-narrative masterpiece shot in 25 countries on 70mm film by Ron Fricke and Mark Magidson, has stood as perhaps the most visually arresting documentary ever made. As film critic Roger Ebert put it, “Baraka by itself is sufficient reason to acquire a Blu-ray player.” Its beautifully rendered portraits of humanity on a vast scale, intimate glimpses of world cultures and stunning time-lapse photography rightly earned the film a dedicated following.

So when Fricke and Magidson set about making their follow-up, Samsara—which, like Baraka, is billed as a “nonverbal guided meditation”—they went with what worked for them the first time around, right down to the type of camera. “With digital, there’s always something better within a year or two,” says Magidson. “Even though it’s difficult moving film stock over borders, film allowed us to bring the images back in a format that is going to hold up over time.”

Five years in the making, Samsara weaves among 25 locations as disparate as Mecca’s Grand Mosque and New Orleans’ Ninth Ward. In only one place were the filmmakers denied access: North Korea. “They have this mass performance that’s done in the summertime every year, where they have tens of thousands of performers in the stadium,” Magidson says. “We got close, but that was the big one that got away.” Maybe they’ll have better luck in 2032. AUG. 24 — SAM POLCER

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Three new albums that hark back

Havoc and Bright Lights, Alanis Morissette
The singer-songwriter who catchily muddled the concept of irony for an entire generation is back with her first album in four years. It’s a gentler affair this time, featuring the single “Guardian,” an anthemic ode to motherhood. AUG. 28

Hot Cakes, The Darkness
This throwback British metal band would be easily dismissed as a novelty act (the leather! the hairspray!) if they weren’t so good, merging AC/DC-grade horsepower with a Queenly theatricality. Their new release includes a Radiohead cover, and will be supported by a tour with Lady Gaga. AUG. 21

O’ Be Joyful, Shovels and Rope
Shovels and Rope is a country-folk duo from South Carolina playing rousing and ragged music with old-timey overtones on acoustic guitars and junkyard drums. Keep an ear out for the powerful single “Birmingham.” JULY 31

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There are a million or so words available in the English language, and New York Times scribe Verlyn Klinkenborg has built a considerable reputation by choosing among them with elegant precision. To mark the Aug. 7 release of his guide to the craft, Several Short Sentences About Writing, he shares with us a few characteristically succinct insights on how it’s done.

“Forget what you’ve been taught about writing. Most of it was hearsay, rumor and the well-intentioned plans of people who can’t write. … Almost everything you’ve heard about how writers work is a myth.”

“Don’t let what you want to say prevent you from discovering things you didn’t know you could say. Discovery always trumps intention. There’s more in your thoughts than you think.”

“Anyone who’s impressed by long sentences, jargon and complex, formulaic phrases knows nothing about writing but a lot about how to hide things—especially responsibility— with words.”

“If writing feels like hard work, relax. It is.”

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