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.
More Recent Features

3 May 2004 // 1:00 AM

Off the Menu: The Last Days of Chasen’s (1997)

The real stars of Off the Menu are not the stars. They are the 'United Nations' of Chasen's staff, most of whom worked there for over 30 years.

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3 May 2004 // 1:00 AM

Fat Man and Little Boy (1989)

The viewer is left feeling that the Manhattan Project would have been a fantastic topic for a miniseries, but is an awful one for a 120-minute studio flick.

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3 May 2004 // 1:00 AM

Casa de los Babys (2003)

The movie, which focuses on a group of U.S. women arrived in an unidentified Latin American country to adopt children, is as much about cultural imperialism and racism as it is about women and babies.

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	Various Artists: Soul Comes Home: A Celebration of Stax Records and Memphis Soul Music [CD and DVD]

If you really care, you have a favorite. A die-hard fan of the Boston Red Sox is so consumed with his passion that there is

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	The Rooftop Singers: The Best of the Vanguard Years

Old Saw—er, Song—with New Teeth” This album is a pleasant surprise. Take as a given their one big hit (“Walk Right In”), add

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2 May 2004 // 11:00 PM

	Ray Paul: Performance Reel, Volumes 1 & 2 [DVD]

Outside of the Boston area, Ray Paul’s greatest musical accomplishment was the founding of Permanent Press Records. Toward the end of the ‘90s, the

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2 May 2004 // 11:00 PM

	The Naomi Star: self-titled

The eponymous debut album from the Naomi Star apparently will be their only release. According to their website (where an image of a tombstone haunts

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2 May 2004 // 11:00 PM

	The Magnetic Fields: i

Have you worshiped at the altar of the Magnetic Fields’ previous release, 1999’s three-part 69 Love Songs? Memorized every word to relentlessly clever country-pop tunes like “

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2 May 2004 // 11:00 PM

	George Harrison: The Dark Horse Years 1976 - 1992

For many casual music fans, the solo career of George Harrison is anchored by two distinct memories. The release of his post-Beatles solo album All

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2 May 2004 // 11:00 PM

	The Fall: The Real New Fall LP

If the Fall, or rather Curmudgeon Mark E. Smith’s Band of UK Football Fans, Beer Drinkers, and Female Keyboardists, Version 35.1, have not just released

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	Driver of the Year: Some Girls Would Say . . .

Driver of the Year has apparently spent too much time traveling down I-95. The group’s debut album Some Girls Would Say…, like the interstate,

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2 May 2004 // 11:00 PM

	Cex: Maryland Mansions

Whatever anyone might think about Rjyan Kidwell (aka Cex) and his tortuous path through music’s tangled sub-gardens, it’s quite clear that this passing-strange

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	The Cramps: Live at the Napa State Mental Hospital [DVD]

The Cramps are undeniably one of the most important bands to come out the US during the 1970s. They all but single-handedly invented the so-called “

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	Nat King Cole: Soundies and Telescriptions [DVD]

Existing for less than a decade during the 1940s, soundies were a precursor to MTV and a rival to jukeboxes. These three-minute, black and white

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	Various Artists: Amandla! A Revolution In Four-Part Harmony

Here in the U.S. (and in many other Western countries), the notion that popular music can actually effect social change is considered incredibly naive.

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	Various Artists: The Hip Hop Box

According to accepted folk wisdom, the song generally credited as hip-hop’s point of insertion into pop culture, Sugarhill Gang’s “Rapper’s Delight”, is

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29 Apr 2004 // 11:00 PM

	Candi Staton: self-titled

For those who only know of Candi Staton for her later soul-tinged disco work, this should come as a revelation. This is sweet soul music

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29 Apr 2004 // 11:00 PM

	Henry Rollins: Black Coffee Blues

Henry Rollins is such a baffling figure that the things he does to make you like him never really make him attractive enough to overcome

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29 Apr 2004 // 11:00 PM

	Mew: Frengers

The alternative rock of the 2000s has proven to be a difficult beast to pin down. Whereas the ‘90s had a constant barrage of movements

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29 Apr 2004 // 11:00 PM

	Local H: Whatever Happened to P.J. Soles?

So what did happen to P.J. Soles? Unless you happen to be a member of what writer Robert Lanham calls the Waitstaff and Service

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29 Apr 2004 // 11:00 PM

	Toby Lightman: Little Things

To paraphrase the Barenaked Ladies, in music, it’s all been done before. Yet, in the sea of homogeneity and mediocrity that is the current

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29 Apr 2004 // 11:00 PM

	Buddy Holly & The Crickets: The “Chirping” Crickets

To quote one of the lesser pop masters of all time: “only the good die young”. Best line that guy ever uttered, and a truer

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29 Apr 2004 // 11:00 PM

El-P: High Water

Quite simply, whether you’re a Matthew Shipp groupie, a Def Jukie or even a Roc soldier, you need to hear this record, as it’s probably the biggest step forward for hip-hop as a musical art form since Endtroducing.

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29 Apr 2004 // 1:00 AM

Mean Girls (2004)

In Girl World, as in any feral environment, 'When you get bitten by a snake, you're supposed to suck the poison out.'"

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Monty Python’s Life of Brian (1979)

This time around, Life of Brian might be seen for what it is: an icon of irreverent comic brilliance.

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The Laws of Attraction (2004)

Daniel inhabits a universe where his judgments, his desires, and his insights (no matter how obnoxious, self-serving, or willfully blind) are always right.

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29 Apr 2004 // 1:00 AM

Godsend (2004)

Jessie is slow to react to all this weirdness, feeling understandably protective of her child and unfathomable trust in Richard.

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29 Apr 2004 // 1:00 AM

Envy (2004)

Scheduled to open a year ago, Envy is as dopey, uninventive, and smug as you'd expect from a movie that's 'all from shit'.

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28 Apr 2004 // 1:00 AM

It was only recently that I realized that in every fight between Magneto and the X-Men, they've been having the same damn conversation for the last 30 years!

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28 Apr 2004 // 1:00 AM

Christopher Chance, the Human Target, is pure Hollywood.

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28 Apr 2004 // 1:00 AM

This year at the Philadelphia Film Festival, the movies are the focus, from a 30th Anniversary screening of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre to Control Room, a documentary on Al Jazeera filmed during the takeover of Iraq.

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Kanye WestPhoto credit: Nabil Elderkin Dilated Peoples Rhymefest Who is Kanye West anyway? I know that when I bought Talib Kweli’s album Quality almost

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28 Apr 2004 // 1:00 AM

Read Yellow Read Yellow, a four-piece from Amherst, Massachusetts, is a punk band that bursts forth with temperamental energy and vein-bulging spaz-outs both on and

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Blackalicious DJ Shadow Lifesavas Lyrics Born Halfway through the Quannum Tour’s recent stopover in Toronto, DJ Shadow grabbed a mic and broke things down

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28 Apr 2004 // 1:00 AM

David Bowie The Polyphonic Spree There are a few warnings I feel obliged to offer as a preamble to this review—a caveat lector, if

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Drive-By Truckers and Bubba Sparxxx share a similar aesthetic, a defiantly rednecked aesthetic that caterwauls and rebel yells, demanding that their listeners put down their bottle of Dasani and pick up a fifth of Wild Turkey. Both acts have exploded out of the musical ferment of Athens, becoming part of what can only be called a red neck chic, a fascination with the low-down South that can be seen in everything from the jokes of Jeff Foxworthy to the popularity of NASCAR.

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28 Apr 2004 // 1:00 AM

The language of 'world cinema' is highly reductive, often compressing all artistic decisions made in a film from another country into irreversible inferred statements about the singular essence of that entire country or culture itself.

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28 Apr 2004 // 1:00 AM

John Lennon's Swiss-made, KB Discomatic can now be seen and heard with this TV programme and CD, and it's a beautiful thing.

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	Robin and Linda Williams: Deeper Waters

For every Richard and Linda Thompson, there seems to be a Robin and Linda Williams. While the Thompsons were creating great albums at the height

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27 Apr 2004 // 11:00 PM

	Squarepusher: Ultravisitor

Tom Jenkinson is an old man. He is a young man, a man of indeterminate age. The title of his most recent album asked the

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	Rasputina: Frustration Plantation

It doesn’t make sense. Maybe I dreamed it. When I first saw Rasputina, they were opening for… Ben Folds Five. I dunno, maybe it

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27 Apr 2004 // 11:00 PM

	The Mighty Stars: The Mighty Stars Are Go!

When legendary jack-of-all-trades gonzo Kim Fowley calls you “godlike geniuses of dumbass rock ‘n’ roll” as he did for Bristol’s the Mighty Stars, you

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	Mötley Crüe: The Best of Mötley Crüe (20th Century Masters: Millennium Collecti

When Mötley Crüe first burst on the hair metal scene in the early ‘80s, they were the kind of guys fathers told their

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	Lostprophets: Start Something

Lostprophets are within the bastion of nü-metal or Americanized hard rock. When you’re Welsh, outsiders immediately think of the Manic Street Preachers or

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27 Apr 2004 // 11:00 PM

	Kiss: Alive!

If one goes by the music itself, it would be hard to explain the sway the double live album held over the American imagination in

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27 Apr 2004 // 11:00 PM

	Azita: Life on the Fly

Azita Youssefi is doing her best to escape classification. Her jazz-infused, yet occasionally catchy post-punk pop songs don’t really fit into any neatly defined

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27 Apr 2004 // 1:00 AM

A Ship Made of Paper by Scott Spencer

Spencer's novel has been billed as a love story, and while that is the heart of the plot, his character development is so complex as to outstretch the trappings of one singular romance.

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The Last Crossing by Guy Vanderhaeghe

Just like Oprah has her vested interests in promoting a certain style of literature, the CBC Radio panel appears to have picked an overlooked book with which everyone would find some familiarity.

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Everyone Comes to Elaine’s by A. E. Hotchner

Henry Kissinger once said that the best thing about celebrity is that when you bore people, they think it's their fault. But what happens if celebrities bore each other?"

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27 Apr 2004 // 1:00 AM

Dreamland by Newton Thornburg

Any redeeming corruption, sleaze and seduction of California in Thornburg's hands fails to sustain any kind of punch.

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	Various Artists: Ultimate ‘80s

It’s difficult to conceive of the market niche for this two-disc, 30-song compilation of Top 40 hits from the decade that brought us such enduring

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	Grant-Lee Phillips: Virginia Creeper

At a recent show in Chicago, Grant-Lee Phillips and band performed his latest album almost in its entirety, playing 10 of 11 songs. This is not unusual

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	The New Normal: The Sprightly Sounds of the New Normal

It’s no secret that the ridiculously prolific power-pop collective the Young Fresh Fellows is fond of side-projects and one-offs. Frontman Scott McCaughey alone seems

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26 Apr 2004 // 11:00 PM

	The Hold Steady: Almost Killed Me

Craig Finn is a cyclone of words. Like early Springsteen, Finn seems dead set on cramming as much English as possible into three-and-a-half-minute chunks of

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26 Apr 2004 // 11:00 PM

Fennesz: Venice

Venice gives a peek at his enduring penchant for pop, shows him breaking out into other areas of digital territory, and allowing his listeners to see the guitar anew, with its most glimmering elements shining like sunlight through cracks in a wall, sharp as diamonds.

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	Evening: Other Victorians

Other Victorians must be titled after those strange people from 100 or so years ago who never got in touch with their id, who lay on

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	Catie Curtis: Dreaming in Romantic Languages

Catie Curtis is one of a dozen roots singer/songwriters that gracefully enters the pop-rock mold without embarrassing herself or her fans. Working for over 15

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The Kids in the Hall: Season One (1989-1990) (2004): CAST - PopMatters Film Review

The Kids in the Hall are notable for some of the most fascinatingly experimental misses in comedy history.

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26 Apr 2004 // 1:00 AM

Timeline (2003)

For a group of scientists, they are almost shockingly inattentive to details and to historical facts.

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26 Apr 2004 // 1:00 AM

Osama (2003)

Siddiq Barmak says, 'People of the world, of Afghanistan and other people of the world, they need to drink pure water.'"

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Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World (2003)

When the men's opposition is revealed in its tenderest moments, you recall that Weir's work can be supple and strange.

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26 Apr 2004 // 1:00 AM

Doggy Poo (2003)

Doggy Poo is the tale of a newborn mound of mutt mush that questions its place in the cosmic pecking order.

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26 Apr 2004 // 1:00 AM

Day of the Dead (1985)

The 'domesticated' zombie Bud has learned to appreciate the most important elements of modern culture: classical music, Stephen King novels, and handguns.

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26 Apr 2004 // 1:00 AM

Big Fish (2003)

Edward's persistent self-inflation frustrates Will, just as its contradictions appeal to Burton.

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	Al Ashley: These Are Them

Dave Liebman sits and fits in with the trio of a drummer legendary among the knowledgeable: a sometimes surprising top-drawer guitarist and an organist whose keyboard can be a tenor saxophone and his pedals a double bass.

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23 Apr 2004 // 1:00 AM

Wilbur (2002)

Danish director Lone Scherfig is an expert at balancing melodrama and comedy.

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23 Apr 2004 // 1:00 AM

13 Going on 30 (2004)

13 Going on 30 is best when it's adorable.

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23 Apr 2004 // 1:00 AM

Man on Fire (2004)

Man on Fire means to distress. Punctuated by mobile subtitles and assaultive editing, the movie underlines the daily threat of living in places where kidnapping is a sort of business, organized and ongoing.

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23 Apr 2004 // 1:00 AM

The Agronomist (2003)

Jonathan Demme's documentary spends less energy lamenting or even raging than it does extolling the vitality and resilience of its subject.

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22 Apr 2004 // 11:00 PM

They Might Be Giants: Indestructible Object

While Indestructible Object is pleasant but brief, these five tracks are not essential except perhaps to fans of They Might Be Giants who can’t wait until the full-length CD is released later this year.

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22 Apr 2004 // 11:00 PM

	Modest Mouse: Good News for People Who Love Bad News

Modest Mouse are one of those rare bands whose fragile but spirited music constantly seems to teeter precariously between brilliance and catastrophe. Since their inception

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22 Apr 2004 // 11:00 PM

	Harold Melvin and the Blue Notes: self-titled

One quick skim read through this re-release’s liner notes and you’re met with a lengthy description of its times. In the early ‘70’s,

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	Boban Markovic Orkestar: Boban I Marko—Balkan Brass Fest

Sometime in about 1981, a friend of mine gave me a cassette tape of Serbian brass band music that he had just brought back from his

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22 Apr 2004 // 11:00 PM

	Movietone: The Sand and the Stars

There’s something about Movietone’s The Sand and the Stars that exudes warmth. In its organic, natural delight, The Sand and the Stars actually

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	George Cables: Looking for the Light

George Cables is a supremely sensitive pianist, musically and indeed humanly, to judge from at least one recorded live performance I can think of where

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	The Brilliant Mistakes: Dumb Luck

A ton of groups take the highbrow route when it comes to naming their bands, taking detailed phrases from obscure songs of their forefathers to

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	Baby Dayliner: High Heart & Low Estate

What drew me initially to this album isn’t the artist so much as the label. Home to the likes of the National, this Brooklyn-based

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	The Breakup Society: James at 35

On paper, it’s a recipe for disaster: a concept album encompassing South Dakota, Cheap Trick, and Ronnie Spector. But, fortunately, nobody bothered to tell

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22 Apr 2004 // 1:00 AM

In the decade since Pulp Fiction's release, fans and detractors alike have had difficulty reconciling the film's spiritual aspect with its violent imagery, ironic tonal fluctuations, stylized dialogue, and ubiquitous pop culture references.

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Somewhere in the country, a black woman who has no use whatsoever for the Bush administration's approach to global politics watched Rice on the witness stand and chanted, 'You go, girl.' Political and economic progress be damned, we still live vicariously through our celebrities.

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21 Apr 2004 // 1:00 AM

For me, seeing Rasputina is like reuniting up with an ex. I adored them during my youth, but time passed and we drifted apart. Yet

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21 Apr 2004 // 1:00 AM

S E T    L I S T Bone MachineNo. 13 BabyCactusU-MassRiver EuphratesWhere is My Mind?Here Comes Your ManHoliday SongNimrod’s SonVamosHeyCaribouI BleedVelouriaMonkey Gone

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21 Apr 2004 // 1:00 AM

It’s been 10 years since his death, but the specter of Kurt Cobain is still haunting popular music. Modest Mouse peddles their misanthropy on a

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Lambchop The Pernice Brothers Pairing the kitsch countrypolitan collective Lambchop with the earnestly melancholy Pernice Brothers for a tour seems an inspired choice, since both

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21 Apr 2004 // 1:00 AM

Photo credit: Jasper Coolidge It’s a recent Friday night at Sin-e. The crowd is overloaded with tastemaker types—which the guy in front of

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At its most arresting, the music of Calla hums with tension along the line between polarities.

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21 Apr 2004 // 1:00 AM

Columnist Colin Harvey writes that video games suggest we may be altogether more Renaissance -- and less of a divided mind -- than we give ourselves credit. On the one hand we have video game players: art lovers who aren't allowed to say it and science buffs who don't realize it. On the other hand we have the creators of games: mathematicians and scientists who are really artists, and artists who are really scientists.

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21 Apr 2004 // 1:00 AM

It seems the Atlantic causes distortion in the sound waves flowing between the continents. Musically speaking, America and Europe are just not hearing each other very clearly.

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21 Apr 2004 // 1:00 AM

Madness Interactive

The heart and soul of Madness is homicide, and lots of it. It is as basic and primal as a video game can get.

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21 Apr 2004 // 1:00 AM

MTX: Mototrax

The good news for the uninitiated out there is that there is still a solid game underneath all the extras.

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21 Apr 2004 // 1:00 AM

MLB 2005

While certainly reflecting today's world of global capitalism within baseball, the ubiquitous advertisements are both overwhelming and bothersome.

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City of Heroes

Americans lack any real connection to mythology in the classical sense. All our stories of heroes and monsters -- religious and mythological -- are imports.

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TV on the Radio: Desperate Youth, Blood Thirsty Babes

We know that TV on the Radio started with a brilliant debut, but we just have to hope that the band figures out where to point its gun.

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20 Apr 2004 // 11:00 PM

	The Goldstars: Gotta Get Out!

I was attracted to this CD because it was on the Pravda label, home of one of my all-time fave bands, the New Duncan Imperials.

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20 Apr 2004 // 11:00 PM

	Fuel: Natural Selection

Fuel provides the perfect bridge between the commercial leanings of most modern rock acts and the bruising intensity of old school metal bands. As a

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	Decahedron: Disconnection Imminent

With their first album Disconnection Imminent just under their belts, Decahedron have lived through enough drama for a veteran band. Originally performing and releasing their

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	Ambulance LTD: self-titled

There may not be a more carefully crafted debut release this year than the eponymous offering from Ambulance LTD. Full of sweet melodies, neat hooks,

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20 Apr 2004 // 11:00 PM

	Terry Allen: Juarez

I am going on record here: Terry Allen‘s Juarez, a country-rock album recorded in 1975, is the best concept album ever recorded. That’s right:

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20 Apr 2004 // 11:00 PM

Fred Anderson and Hamid Drake: Back Together Again

Back Together Again finally documents an amazing working relationship between two friends and musicians.

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The Night of Akhenaton: Selected Poems by Ágnes Nemes Nagy

The key themes of history as closure, a kind of irreversible process sealed by death into a possibility of resurrection, are never far away in Nagy's poetry.

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More Recent Features
//Mixed media
//Blogs

Moving Pixels Podcast: Highbrow, Middle Brow, and Lowbrow in Free-to-Play Gaming

// Moving Pixels

"From the charmingly trashy to the more artistically inclined, there is a wide variety of gaming options in the free-to-play market.

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