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Marginal Utility
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When shopping nirvana shrivels away like the mega mall growing incrementally smaller behind you at the end of a long day, and buyer's remorse begins gnawing at your nerves, and you begin to fret the futility of it all, Rob Horning's blog, "Marginal Utility", steps in to stimulate your woefully neglected neocortex. Read, laugh, weep, but above all: realize. You'll feel smarter again in no time.

Monday, December 1 2014

A Golden Wake

I kept expecting a villain to pop up or hints of a conspiracy or some outside force that connected all the various vignettes of the story together. In A Golden Wake, there are a bunch of short term goals, but ultimately this is a character-driven narrative.


Bill Nighy Returns to Television in ‘Worricker’

When Worricker is on screen, paying attention is consistently rewarding.


Mars Is Heaven: “All New Invaders #12”

H.G. Wells' invading menace is back, this time to be met by a different sort of Invaders.


Clarence Page Provides a Stable Treatise on the Most Hot-Button Issues

In Culture Worrier, Pulitzer Prize Winner Clarence Page tackles a multitude of issues in his intelligent newspaper columns from 1984-2014.


‘Venus in Fur’ Blurs the Lines Between Character, Actor, and Director

Roman Polanksi's adaptation of David Ives' play is a layered film where the true identity of its characters, including Polanski himself, is constantly being interrogated.


Leonard Cohen: Live in Dublin

So if you want the Leonard Cohen experience, but cannot afford the $100-plus tab for the ticket, this is the next best thing


Do College Classrooms Really Need to Be More Like Video Games?

Research suggests that RTTP games provide historical education, create a sense of community, foster long-term friendships, aid in memory retention, and help create moral leaders.


David Foster Wallace and the Work That Made the Man

The posthumous The Pale King finally gets its day in court.


Wayfarer: Children of the Iron Age

Children of the Iron Age is a sturdy, dependable release that weaves a tapestry of dark magic across its eight songs.


Paul McCartney and Wings: Wings at the Speed of Sound

The Wings album on which each member of the band sings and it really doesn't matter.


Greylag: Greylag

Like the band's namesake bird, Greylag follows rather than leads, traversing domesticated grounds and tested sounds of bands that have come before.


Winterpills: Echolalia

Echolalia, a covers record, finds the band revealing its influences while still shifting them into a Winterpills' sound. Songs here become both tributes and spaces for exploration.


Henry Butler / Steven Bernstein and the Hot 9: Viper’s Drag

Jazz’s post-modern “little big band”, fronted by trumpeter Steven Bernstein, gets together with a great New Orleans pianist to bring you back in time and up to the present.


Sunday, November 30 2014

Literary History’s Best Celebrated Failures

Whether you entertain delusions of grandeur or merely write to justify alcoholism, The Biographical Dictionary of Literary Failure is a book for you.


Saturday, November 29 2014

Wonder of Wonders: A Cultural History of Fiddler on the Roof

From Jerome Robbins to an all-black school production, Solomon cherishes the Fiddler's legacy.


Friday, November 28 2014

‘Horrible Bosses 2’ Goes for the Laughs, Not the Anger

The sequel skips the original’s workers' fury and lets its comedy all-star trio play to their strengths, with mixed results.


Wednesday, November 26 2014

The Demonic Force in ‘The Whale: Revenge From the Deep’

As in its previous literary and screen incarnations, the whale here is a demonic force, producing fear in the whalers (and the audience) even when it is not visible.


John Cleese Tells Some of It in ‘So, Anyway…’

The Monty Python legend offers something completely different: a look back on what led him to his storied career in comedy.


‘The Imitation Game’ Doesn’t Pretend to Solve the Enigma That Is Alan Turing and His Machine

As visible as the Turing machine may be on screen -- and it is gorgeous, strange, and haunting, as well as sublimely mechanical and daunting -- it remains unfathomable.


David Bowie’s Affective Relationship With the Remarkable, Schizophrenic City of Berlin

Tobias Rüther’s exploration of Bowie’s artistic and personal development in mid-'70s Berlin offers few cogent insights and a confusing timeline of an artist in a city.


The Noir Traveler Returns: The Evolving Sound of Alvarius B.

The Invisible Hands have given us a glimpse of Alvarius B.'s (Alan Bishop) view of the world from the center of Cairo. It's not a happy perspective, but there's a hint of hope.


The Jesus and Mary Chain: Barbed Wire Kisses

Zoë Howe's biography of the Jesus and Mary Chain opens with a look at the band's hometown of East Kilbride, Scotland, a "dull" and "antiseptic" place that wasn't the worst place in the world.


‘Mystery Science Theater 3000: Turkey Day Collection (XXXI)’ Is Comedy Worth Being Thankful For

Featuring episodes from both Comedy Central and the Sci-Fi Channel, this Turkey Day Collection is a feast for comedy fans.


The Velvet Underground: The Velvet Underground - 45th Anniversary Super Deluxe Edition

Few bands ever had a year like the Velvet Underground did in 1969. Even fewer have a set that documents a year like that as beautifully as this one.


Alex Capus’ Latest Book Is a Wild Ride Through the Wild West

Filled with six charming tales about the American West in the 19th Century, Skidoo is an off-the-wall history lesson about the American Frontier most of us were never taught in school.


Pink Floyd: The Endless River

On The Endless River, Pink Floyd sounds as strong as it did during some of its best years. On this almost entirely instrumental album, however, the lyrics are sorely missed.


Foreigner: The Complete Atlantic Studio Albums 1977-1991

No more head games: there are some true pop gems worth uncovering on Foreigner's first few albums, but a single-disc best-of would just as well satisfy anyone else.


Swans: Oxygen EP

Revealing the true horsepower behind the Swans’ "Oxygen", this four-song collection should be handled by a professional driver on a closed course.


Locust: After the Rain

Mark Van Hoen is not one-offing his Locust resurrection. Not by a long shot.


Game Theory: Blaze of Glory

Game Theory's nervy debut album gets to baffle another generation of listeners with this bulky reissue.


Tuesday, November 25 2014

It’s Hard to Love the Pieces: “The Multiversity: Pax Americana #1”

This is a complex and, perhaps, technically perfect comicbook. So why is it, I wonder, that I am unmoved?


The ‘Penguins of Madagascar’ Is Terminally Cute and Cuddly

It seems right that Werner Herzog narrates the start of Penguins of Madagascar, concerning the overwhelming cuddly cuteness of penguins and the absurd value humans attribute to them.


Myrkur: Myrkur EP

If you want to hear black metal music that’s heartfelt and from the womb, this is as good of a starting point as any.


In an Underground Bar With America’s First Bohemians

Rebel Souls tells how Walt Whitman and a cast of colorful characters helped define American culture from a dark, 19th century basement bar in Manhattan.


‘The Binding of Isaac: Rebirth’: More Grotesque, More Fun

Grotesque, strange, and difficult, Rebirth offers a fantastic vision of what might be the ideal roguelike.


The Adventures of Two Boys and an Elephant

At its best, Maya serves as a window into an era of kids' adventure series with unusually authentic production values and undercurrents of thoughtful attention to cultural differences.


May the Force (of Narrativity) Be With You

The Star Wars universe is a microcosmical example of the long-standing battle over the necessity of narrativity in shaping our lives.


The Postal Service: Everything Will Change

Surprisingly, a bunch of sentimental laptop pop songs from ten years ago (Give Up) make for a dynamic and engaging live show.


Andy Stott: Faith in Strangers

With an astonishing lead single and an enveloping album besides, the Manchester producer offers the most vivid expression of his ghostly, brooding vision yet.


The Bug vs Earth: Boa / Cold

This collaboration between legendary producer the Bug (Kevin Martin) and legendary metal band Earth promises, fulfills, and then promises so much more.


Is ‘Gimme Indie Rock’ Another One of Those Essential Guidebooks?

At its best, Gimme Indie Rock shows enough joy to remind its readers why books like these are made in the first place.


Parkay Quarts: Content Nausea

In the age of too much information, Parkay Quarts (AKA Parquet Courts) harness the power of the enigma.


Restorations: LP3

Let’s call Restorations what they are: an American rock band. And a damn fine one at that.


Stevie Nicks: 24 Karat Gold: Songs from the Vault

Stevie Nicks is back and she's still singing about angels, gypsies, and Lindsey Buckingham.


Markéta Irglová: Muna

Working in Iceland pays off for the Oscar-winning piano player from Once, who takes a major sonic step forward on her second album.


Monday, November 24 2014

DOC NYC 2014: ‘Enquiring Minds’ + ‘The Last Impresario’

Two documentaries about surprising success stories: the men behind the National Enquirer and Rocky Horror Picture Show.


‘Major Crimes’: Watching People Watching People

The sheer frustration of watching the nearly immobile Major Crimes is compounded by the glimmers it offers of alternative roles for women in primetime television.


Anatomy of an Inversion: ‘Magneto #12’

Magneto's transformation gives form and substance to the concept of inversion.


‘The Vanishing’ Tells the Horror of Privileged Lives in Prosperous Counteries

The evil is both banal and terrifying in George Sluizer's 1988 labyrinthine thriller.


Žižek Continues His Love Affair With Hegel in ‘Absolute Recoil’

Absolute Recoil is less a "major philosophical intervention" and more a natural continuation of Žižek's decades-long project of interpreting the world through Hegelian and Lacanian analysis.


Skype Dates and Ski Jumps: Johannes Kuhnke on the Role of a Lifetime

Force Majeure is a brutal film, and not just because of the avalanche. Johannes Kuhnke stretched himself for this awards season buzz pick, and often in very surprising ways.


In Defense Of ... Not Wanting to Hear Your Band Perform a Favorite Album Live

When a band performs its best album at shows, over and over, it's like they're admitting that they'll never achieve that particular level of greatness again.


I Sacrifice, Therefore I Am Good: Young Adult Fiction Heroines and Self-Destruction

Veronica Roth's Divergent series undermines all that we try to teach our young women about self-worth and the importance of maintaining autonomy and control over one’s body and mind.


A Newsroom in an Apocalypse: ‘The Day the Earth Caught Fire’

Val Guest's newsroom drama take on the apocalypse is a product of its nuclear war-obsessed times and a prescient commentary on the present day.


Flake Music: When You Land Here, It’s Time to Return

The reissue of the debut album from the band that would become the Shins showcases a raw indie rock sound that bridges that gap between '90s alternative and poignant post-millennial indie pop.


Can’s Impossible Music

German rock band Can's masterpiece album is the subject of yet another thinly-veiled memoir in the 33 1/3 series, but the approach fits the enigmatic subject better than expected.


Ty Segall: $ingle$ 2

Segall's collection of cast-off numbers is a slow burn build to the single stand-out track.


Raspberry Bulbs: Privacy

Privacy is an album that makes us question our expectations of heavy music and, at the same time, our relationship to the scene around it, to social expectations, to people.


Future: Monster

Future's latest mixtape proves to be the sonic equivalent of a 40-degree day.


Bonobo: The North Borders Tour - Live

The audio version of British producer Bonobo's latest concert video carries far less value than the DVD and fails to provide a worthwhile supplement to the studio albums.


Banda Los Recoditos: Sueño XXX

Pinup banda provides forum for drinking stories and sex dreams; its brass lines tangle together like sweaty bodies.


Sunday, November 23 2014

‘Crazy Rich Asians’ Will Have You Seriously Considering That the Rich Really Should Be Eaten

This tale takes pains to emphasise the difference between the crass newly-rich mainland Chinese (yay!) and the rich-for-like-forever distinguished Chinese families (boo!).


Saturday, November 22 2014

‘Foxcatcher’ Is Another Tale of Men Being Men

None of the men in this telling of John du Pont's murder of Dave Schultz are able to say what's going wrong -- they might not even know themselves.


The Heavy Absence of Star Presence

If trying to grasp screen presence is like reaching for the stars, James Harvey shows noble reach in his book, Watching Them Be.


Friday, November 21 2014

In ‘The Hunger Games: Mockingjay - Part 1’, Propaganda Wins

This penultimate installment of The Hunger Games film saga is all about perception, the film frequently has you watch someone watching someone while being watched by someone.


In ‘Extraterrestrial’, Cliché Counts as Comedy

Extraterrestrial's "formula-as-purpose" style doesn't make it the "meta" movie it wants to be; instead, it's just grating and mired in cliché.


‘Never Alone’: The Rise of the “Docu-Platformer”

Never Alone feels like an old Discovery channel special in game form.


Worldbuilder: The Paul Duffield Interview

At a time when we failed to fully understand the implications of webcomics, Paul Duffield helped define the new medium, both as a cultural phenomenon and as a commercial vehicle for artists.


The Meaning and Power of Memory Are at the Heart of ‘There Was and There Was Not’

As the 100th anniversary of the Armenian genocide approaches, a new generation struggles to understand its meaning, and role, in their lives


Houndmouth + The Drive-By Truckers: 30 October 2014 - Athens, GA

Houndmouth and the Drive-By Truckers brought a healthy dose of rock to a Halloween-captivated Athens, Georgia audience.


Gay Berlin: Birthplace of a Modern Identity

Robert Beachy's study of gay life in pre-Weimar Berlin reveals just how much influence that subculture had on our current understandings of sexuality.


The Moody Blues: Masters of the Mini Epic

While so many of their progressive rock contemporaries were writing novels in the form of side-long suites, the Moody Blues were masters of the short story.


‘To the Ends of the Earth’ Is a Metaphor for Benedict Cumberbatch’s Career

The timeless adventure of Edmund Talbot, who undertakes a journey from England to Australia to find a new life is also part of the career adventure of the Benedict Cumberbatch.


Captain Beefheart: Sun Zoom Spark: 1970-1972

Sun Zoom Spark gives us a chance to re-evaluate the post Trout Mask Replica-era of the Captain Beefheart story.


Angel Olsen: Burn Your Fire For No Witness (Deluxe Edition)

Angel Olsen expands her 2014 triumph with five bonus tracks that further exemplify her reliable talent for passionate, powerful songwriting.


Angaleena Presley: American Middle Class

Angaleena Presley steps away from the Pistol Annies for a solo album that cements her status as country music's great moralist.


The Who: Who Hits 50!

It's not a perfect intro nor a set for the hardcore, but this anniversary set shows the Who are still vital after 50 years.


Dana Stephens: Peace

A rare saxophonist who is comfortable playing baritone, tenor and soprano records an album that is, simply, beautiful.


I Love You But I’ve Chosen Darkness: Dust

I Love You's... attempts at wedding theatrical, celestial rock with low-down, pulsing post-rock is a miss in many ways.


Thursday, November 20 2014

DOC NYC 2014: ‘The Great Invisible’ + ‘Tales of the Grim Sleeper’

These two excellent documentaries examine failed state systems: an unresponsive police department and a negligent oil safety regime.


TCM Classic Film Festival 2014

Unlike Sundance Channel or IFC, Turner Classic Movies' original manifesto remains as solid as Gibraltar.


“Sarge, should we hate the Jerries?”: Examining ‘Charley’s War’

There is a corner of the British comics industry that is forever devoted to the portrayal of warfare.


Joyce Carol Oates’ ‘Lovely, Dark, Deep’ Is Not Bad, Pretty Good, Okay

A line in one of the stories here neatly summarizes Oates’ works: “In private, a nervous collapse is an illness. In public, it can be a career.”


New Riffs From Jazz Lips: From Eminem to Sun Ra

There's an unending flow of vocal jazz these days, which is a blessing and a curse. Beyond the glut of rehashed standards from 50 years ago, some original work shines.


“There’s Always a Streak of Cold in the Warm”: An Interview with iamamiwhoami

In a rare interview, iamiwhoami's Jonna Lee opens up about the project's development, its future, and the two full-length albums she scrapped along the way to making the stunning blue.


‘The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug Extended Edition’ Is a Movie Outstripped by Its Extras

The extended edition of Desolation of Smaug turns the film into a flabby affair, but the ten-plus hours of bonus features could still make this purchase worthwhile for Tolkien fans.


Bryan Ferry: Avonmore

Bringing along a few old friends, Bryan Ferry returns to form, crafting a sophisti-pop masterpiece.


Foo Fighters: Sonic Highways

Sonic Highways is based around a high-concept idea, but the result is an affirmation of the Foo Fighters' core appeal.


Orson Welles: The Lion in Winter, and at Lunch

Taken from long-lost recordings and filled with Hollywood gossip and personal revelations, this collection of transcripts proves why Orson Welles was one of the great conversationalists of all time.


Swingin’ Utters: Fistful of Hollow

Fistful of Hollow doesn't retread the ground laid out on past records, but instead offers a new path through genres Swingin' Utters continue to explore and, yet again, renders the band's sound fresh and dynamic.


The Chills: BBC Sessions

These songs from New Zealand skim and dip, within waves of oceanic imagery, full of Pacific calm or pending storm.


Christopher Owens: A New Testament

In light of Christopher Owens' never-a-dull-moment backstory and back catalog, the last thing you'd expect is that A New Testament would be as monotonous as it is.


Jessie J: Sweet Talker

Jessie J fails to reach the glory of high-flying single "Bang Bang" on third album Sweet Talker.


Wednesday, November 19 2014

DOC NYC 2014: ‘Citizenfour’

Citizenfour is exquisitely filmed and carefully reported, but its greatest effects have to do with what you don't see, such as the plans and ambitions that underlie surveillance.


‘Costume Quest 2’ Is a Light-Hearted, Breezy Take on Halloween

Why the plot of Costume Quest 2 doesn’t really matter is simple enough. We know the bad guy can never succeed; Halloween can never be truly destroyed. Any kid could have told you that.


From ‘Great White Father’ to Loisel’s Waif: The Troubled Tropes of Peter Pan

Loisel’s retelling is a gorgeous one. But it’s a contribution to a troubled tale. Is Neverland about rejecting adults – or just women?


Modern Romance and Skype Sex: An Interview with Kate Lyn Sheil

Many films this year have dealt with how the internet and social media has changed the romantic landscape, and Kate Lyn Sheil, star of The Heart Machine, has more than a few thoughts of her own on the subject.


‘Walesa: Man of Hope’ Is a Beacon of Hope for Future Conflicts

Wałęsa: Man of Hope is a reminder that out of the Soviet shadow emerged a heroic and powerful story of the individual capable of being a force of change to reshape the future.


Scott Walker and Sunn O))): If You Don’t Beat Me, the Stasi Will

Soused’s trapped, bleating circus elephants are harbingers of the prison-planet drones and transhuman monstrosities yet to come. Prepare for heightened beatings, motherfuckers.


TV on the Radio: Seeds

The painful loss of their friend and collaborator haunts TV on the Radio's newest album. However, the tortured and torturous love of Seeds are all products of a grieving band refusing to recede into themselves, brazenly choosing to affirm life.


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