Marginal Utility
Image: Marginal Utility
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
	The Who: Live at the Isle of Wight Festival 1970 [DVD]

Thirty-four years ago, some 600,000 fans converged on the Isle of Wight to indulge in yet another massive outdoor musical festival. As tensions among gate-crashers and

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	Trashcan Sinatras: Weightlifting

It seems a quaint thing to say 10 years later, but in the mid-‘90s the advent of e-mail was a staggering advancement in technology. Never

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	The New Transit Direction: Wonderful Defense Mechanisms

Dear The New Transit Direction, Hi guys, my name is Jon. Much like yourselves, I’m a true believer. Music has been a way of

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	The Isley Brothers: Live It Up

That’s the insistent refrain of this classic Isleys title track, and you gotta wonder whether this hedonistic guilt acquired a shady significance when the

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	Michael Holland: Bootlegger’s Dreams

Well, Jeff Tweedy said it: “You’ll never hear it on the radio / Can’t hear it on the radio…” That statement may be true

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	Hearts of Darkness: Music for Drunk Driving

Today’s avant-ugly survives thanks to hard-working godfather Merzbow. His deadly immortal children-of-the-night include Wolf Eyes, Sunn, DJ Scud, Russell Haswell and Pita, probably DMX,

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28 Sep 2004 // 11:00 PM

	Tony Bennett: Cloud 7

Think of Tony Bennett now, in 2004, as both an aging legend and a still-singular entertainer, a performer who is still doing exactly what he started

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	The Black Keys: Rubber Factory

How much otherworldly noise can two guys make? Patrick Carney and Dan Auerbach—better known as the gutterstomp blues duo the Black Keys—have the

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28 Sep 2004 // 1:00 AM

The Suburban You: Reports From the Home Front by Mark Falanga

Mark Falanga's book is a non-fictional, thesis-free, made-for-TV, ADD-approved examination of American suburban life.

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28 Sep 2004 // 1:00 AM

Seeking Salamanca Mitchell by Kenji Jasper

It is fiction for our times that expertly illustrates the dualism (hustling ambition + layered versatility) of an important sect of Generation Xers.

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28 Sep 2004 // 1:00 AM

The Pagan Christ: Recovering the Lost Light by Tom Harpur

By representing both our divine and our human natures, Horus is Everyman and Everywoman; his story is the Gnostic story of human consciousness.

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28 Sep 2004 // 1:00 AM

Dylan’s Visions of Sin by Christopher Ricks

Ricks takes displaying linguistic dexterity and literary education several horizons too far -- far too often, this loses Dylan and it loses readers.

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	Various Artists: Hidden Beach Presents: Unwrapped Vol. 3

Hidden Beach’s Unwrapped series is dedicated to bridging the cultural and musical gaps between jazz and hip-hop. To do this, they have concocted a

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	The Thin Man: H.M.S. Mondegreen

Whatever happened to good old-fashioned rock-and-roll turf wars? You know, when rock scenes from different cities became rivals, or at least synonymous with quality for

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	Sweet Apple Pie: Between the Lines

Theoretically, France’s Sweet Apple Pie is a sunny power pop band, a European Sloan of sorts. Certainly, on their second album, Between the Lines,

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	Tom McRae: Just Like Blood

In the booklet for this, his second album, Tom McRae explains that the title is from a poem by Simon Armitage, a British poet—“a

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	Katie Melua: Call Off the Search

Rarely does a singer’s surname reflect the tone and feeling left with a listener, but Katie Melua (pronounced “Mellow-a”) does just that. The teen,

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27 Sep 2004 // 11:00 PM

Mastodon: Leviathan

Mastodon have turned down the sludge, and turned up the prog. Way up.

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	Thelonious Monk: Monk ‘Round the World

How many Thelonious Monk recordings does a body need, and which ones? This set presents a considerable claim on the attention, being a selection of

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27 Sep 2004 // 11:00 PM

	Jukeboxer: In the Food Chain

After a period of prolonged isolation, the world of electronic music is finally beginning to shake the artificial stigma that for so long dogged dance

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27 Sep 2004 // 11:00 PM

	Heiruspecs: A Tiger Dancing

In the 1970s, as post-industrialization drained inner cities of factory jobs and left behind a trail of gutted machinery and rotting neighborhoods, inner city youths

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27 Sep 2004 // 11:00 PM

	DJ DNA: Impressionism

DJ DNA only allows for a minute or so of Special Ed’s “I Got it Made” to spin in the background over raging heads

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	The Allman Brothers Band: The Essential Allman Brothers Band: The Epic Years

Of the numerous vintage acts still touring and recording, how many sound as good as they did at their respective peaks? The Stones? Forget it.

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Vive le Métro: The Paris Underground Resistance

In a city of millions where you are bound to rub elbows with those who rub you the wrong way, the availability of a healthy cathartic outlet is crucial. If, like Americans, Parisians could reach for a gun every time they stepped in some shit, which is as ubiquitous on the sidewalks as boulangeries, murder would reach pandemic levels. Thus, it is understandable why the government tolerates a certain level of transgression in exchange for a more sustainable peace.

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United We Stand? Dividing Lines in the Land of Albion

In modern-day England, dedication to your locality, however creaking and crumbling that metropolis may now be, is more important than commitment to queen and country. Liverpool and Manchester, a mere 40 miles apart from one another, have always been, and most resolutely always will be, rabid rivals.

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27 Sep 2004 // 1:00 AM

Ignore This City

Among the most economically depressed cities in the EU, Glasgow is trying to get its citizens back on their feet, again, with a pep-talking campaign. But is this feel-good campaign just 'spit 'n shine' style over substance in a city that is firmly rooted in the manufacturing of substance?

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27 Sep 2004 // 1:00 AM

Best Kept at Arm’s Length

When you live in the target zone of terrorists, the "distant future" is simply the present plus five minutes. One lesson of 9/11 was that, ultimately, real power comes with the ability to terrify. In that context, the concept of powerlessness felt by this disenfranchised population takes on fresh meaning. Staying here is one step toward manifesting the kind of strength that, as a DC resident, we aren’t normally allowed to have: a sliver of dignity in a humbled place.

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27 Sep 2004 // 1:00 AM

Shanghai Snapshot

Shanghai's entry into the global market is an ambivalent mixture of imitation and excess. Strolling the parks, a few old men still wear blue Maoist worker's uniforms, but they are anachronisms among scores of trendy young hipsters sporting their own sassy blend of Japanese, American, and European fashion. Shanghai is on its way up, but even in its own eyes, it hasn't quite arrived. The older housing, and the era it represents feel endangered, about to be swept away in a typhoon of construction.

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27 Sep 2004 // 1:00 AM

Madrid Hoy

In Madrid the spirit of La Movida, a liberating time comparable to Swinging London, lives on: well after the death of Franco; through the terrorist activities of the Basque separatists; and it will continue, in spite of 11 March 2004, when Al Qaeda killed civilians -- Spaniards, Moroccans, Ecuadorians, people from the Dominican Republic, Cuba and China -- during their morning commute.

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27 Sep 2004 // 1:00 AM

Rainer MariaPhoto: Danielle St. Laurent The Japanese don’t like to do anything, how can I put this eloquently, “half-assed”. Generally speaking, for them it’

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27 Sep 2004 // 1:00 AM

Jay Farrar Has there ever been a singer who shied from his spotlight like Jay Farrar? During his recent show at Boulder, Colorado’s Fox

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27 Sep 2004 // 1:00 AM

BraidPhoto: Nathan Keay After six years, three full-length recordings, a whole whack of 7"s, and countless shows, Braid decided to call it quits in August 1999.

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27 Sep 2004 // 1:00 AM

Bitter Bitter Weeks Philadelphia’s Khyber is one of those small slash cum concert venues that you find in every city. Not too clean and

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Bonnie “Prince” BillyPhoto credit: Florent Mazzolini Purplene A few weeks ago you couldn’t spit on a street music rag in Sydney without hitting an

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27 Sep 2004 // 1:00 AM

North Shore

The truth is that I watch North Shore because I have an affinity for trash, or opala, as we call it in the 50th State.

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27 Sep 2004 // 1:00 AM

Green Wing

Green Wing shows us that life is often stranger than fiction, if we let it be.

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27 Sep 2004 // 1:00 AM

CSI: NY

Ground Zero, the address -- spoken here as goal, location, memorial, toxic vapor -- is also necessarily disturbing as such.

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27 Sep 2004 // 1:00 AM

Blue Collar TV

When I watched Blue Collar TV, I couldn't help but think of how homogenized images of 'working class' folks have become.

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26 Sep 2004 // 11:00 PM

	The Smiths: Hatful of Hollow

There aren’t many bands within modern English language pop music that can elicit heartfelt sighs, and much less in today’s mainstream. Often it

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26 Sep 2004 // 11:00 PM

	Maria Muldaur: Love Wants to Dance

Could it be that, after more than 30 years of honestly and interestingly making a living in the business while skirting the various formal boundaries of

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	Insight: The Blast Radius

The track order of The Blast Radius means that the first letters of the song titles actually spell out the album’s name. Now, when

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26 Sep 2004 // 11:00 PM

Interpol: Antics

It has a sort of hit-and-run playability, and it paints an intriguing picture of the band’s future, one free from comparisons. Of course, even if that never happens, fans of the band should be pleased. Antics is a winner.

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	Various Artists: Afrique C’est Chic 2

As a wise man once said, “It began in Africa-ca-ca-ca” (OK, maybe it was the Chemical Brothers who said that, but they’re pretty wise

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23 Sep 2004 // 11:00 PM

	Winterbrief: Tickets for a Peek

OK, so the first thing I think—make no mistake, this is the very first think I think—when putting this Winterbrief CD into my

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23 Sep 2004 // 11:00 PM

	Heidi Saperstein: Zara

Is this the new 4 Non Blondes? Okay, so that was an unnecessary cheap shot, but a good starting point for understanding why this record only

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23 Sep 2004 // 11:00 PM

	Ian Moore: Luminaria

Back in the mid- to late ‘90s the music landscaped was littered with hotshot blues-rock guitarists who, despite badass guit-chops and their otherwise best efforts,

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	The Manhattan Transfer: Vibrate

Björk has mentioned during interviews that part of her inspiration for her new, all-vocal album Medulla came from getting drunk and listening to Bobby

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	Lisa Loeb: The Way It Really Is

Lisa Loeb has been an overlooked artist for most of her recording career. After the meteoric rise of “Stay” from her first CD, Tails, Loeb

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	Down to Earth Approach: Another Intervention

Being sensitive, male and in a rock band has become very en vogue. Dashboard Confessional, Death Cab for Cutie, the Postal Service, and Modest Mouse

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23 Sep 2004 // 11:00 PM

	Dizzee Rascal: Showtime

The sophomore album is always a fascinating one, but especially when the artist’s debut release is one of the most highly praised albums of

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	Kate Campbell: The Portable Kate Campbell

Kate Campbell has been quite busy recently. The folk singer has opted to re-release material but with a different twist. The Portable Kate Campbell is

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23 Sep 2004 // 1:00 AM

The Sex Pistols would sing of 'no future' with rage and desperation, wearing their fury against adult culture and the failing English economy as a badge; the Ramones turned their alienation into a joke.

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23 Sep 2004 // 1:00 AM

Who'd have thought that burnout kid would grow up to be the legendary Johnny Ramone? Damn, I miss him already...

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The Ramones offered rebellion, but they didn't work all that hard at it. They just were that way.

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23 Sep 2004 // 1:00 AM

The World According to Shorts this year offered punchy films organized so their rhythms meld into a syncopated pulse.

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Whether they reflected something true-to-life or were just bizarre, these films united a whole community of queer people who might not otherwise feel connected to each other.

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23 Sep 2004 // 1:00 AM

SCTV Network/90: Volume 1

These were smart people who figured out a way to make sketch comedy work in a 90-minute format.

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23 Sep 2004 // 1:00 AM

7th Heaven: The Complete First Season

7th Heaven is at once comforting for its predictability and 'niceness' and irritating for how poorly it reflects the world.

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23 Sep 2004 // 1:00 AM

What the #$*! Do We Know? (2004)

Cultural creatives share a worldview shaped by the social movements of the 1960s.

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23 Sep 2004 // 1:00 AM

Shaun of the Dead (2004)

Casting Bill Nighy as a zombie -- or more accurately, a zombie to be -- may not be precisely innovative, but it's clever and wholly enjoyable.

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23 Sep 2004 // 1:00 AM

Outfoxed (2004)

Outfoxed makes the case that Fox News is the video component of the Republican National Committee.

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23 Sep 2004 // 1:00 AM

Naked in New York (1993)

Naked in New York tries to distinguish itself through flights of fancy, but these are too brief, as if director Daniel Algrant can't commit.

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I Married a Monster From Outer Space (1958)

It's difficult to know what to do with hideous alien invaders who only want to be daddies.

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23 Sep 2004 // 1:00 AM

Ghost in the Shell 2: Innocence (2004)

By subtly subverting our assumptions about the opposition of nature and technology, Oshii suggests that the two may not be so different after all.

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23 Sep 2004 // 1:00 AM

The Forgotten (2004)

In The Forgotten, the ethical terms are laid out: it's good to remember, fervently, and it's weak and bad to forget.

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23 Sep 2004 // 1:00 AM

First Daughter (2004)

These 'times' are somehow exponentially more dangerous, but no one refers to 9/11 or the Bush administration, apparently erased in this alternate non-reality.

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23 Sep 2004 // 1:00 AM

A Dirty Shame (2004)

While such a fantastic love-love-love, all-pleasure-all-the-time scenario hardly seems likely in our near future, A Dirty Shame remains hopeful and even sweet.

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23 Sep 2004 // 1:00 AM

Carandiru (2003)

Carandiru is about how stories are told, what they mean to different listeners, how they create identities and communities.

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	Various Artists: 13 Ways to Live

Red House Records’ 13 Ways to Live is the latest addition to the seemingly endless onslaught of compilations (not to mention films and books) declaring an

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	Denny Zeitlin: Slickrock

Slickrock is apparently a classification of naturally occurring stone. Its surface is said to afford various exciting advantages for mountainbikers, two of whom seem to

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	Shadows Fall: The War Within

A well-known band in metal circles for years, Shadows Fall are officially ready to make a stab at the big time. For the past couple

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22 Sep 2004 // 11:00 PM

	Landing: Sphere

Ten years ago, if one heard the term shoegazer, it evoked images of bands lost in the moment of their music (and pondering their own

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	Charlie Hunter Quintet: Right Now Live [DVD]

A DVD release from the Berkeley, CA-based guitarist Charlie Hunter is not only long-overdue, it’s quite essential: Hunter is one of those performers you

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22 Sep 2004 // 11:00 PM

	Diplo: Florida

DJ Shadow’s Endtroducing was released in November of 1996, almost eight years ago. It would have been impossible, at the time, to predict the extent

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22 Sep 2004 // 11:00 PM

	The Charlie Daniels Band: Essential Super Hits

I’m a Southern boy / Southern born and bred / I got ‘Sweet Home Alabama’ buzzing all around in my head / I’m right at home

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	Coyote Shivers: Gives It to Ya. Twice.

If the name Coyote Shivers means anything to you, I’d lay down a sizeable wager that your recognition comes solely from his appearance in

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Ayatollah Khomeini's regime had, in effect, manipulated the results of the 1980 US elections by ensuring Reagan's victory. Such on-again/off-again, under-the-table 'I'll scratch your back, you scratch mine' politics continue to this day.

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22 Sep 2004 // 1:00 AM

The rich may have their opulent holiday spots, such as Monte Carlo, but it is the emerging class of the café society; younger, multicultural and trendy, that truly knows how to have fun in the cosmopolitan cities of the world.

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22 Sep 2004 // 1:00 AM

The X-Files: Resist or Serve

It was certainly the kind of show that openly invited believers and skeptics to tune in and enjoy. And one would think that such a terrific show would be a goldmine of ideas for a video game spin-off, no? Well, yes and no.

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Burnout 3: Takedown

The more cars you wreck, the higher your points and more cars you unlock. That's it. Death and destruction is rewarded, and it's a bloody good time!

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	Saturday Looks Good to Me: Every Night

Last year, the loose conglomeration of people known as Saturday Looks Good to Me released its second album, All Your Summer Songs to great critical

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	Ramsey Lewis Trio: Time Flies

In 1965 Chess records released a Ramsey Lewis Trio best-of album called Choice!. Featuring the original Trio of pianist Lewis, bassist/cellist Eldee Young and drummer

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21 Sep 2004 // 11:00 PM

	Gonga: self-titled

An acquaintance, perhaps uneasy with the term, once asked me the exact definition of “stoner metal”. I really could not respond. After all, when lazy

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	Frog Eyes: The Folded Palm

Ask a Canadian what they think of when they hear the name, “Victoria, British Columbia”, and you’ll get responses like “flowers”, “old ladies”, “bed

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21 Sep 2004 // 11:00 PM

	Fiver: Let It All Fall Down

Some music is just too pretty. Yes, this does happen. The debate starts when one must decide whether each person’s saccharine saturation level is

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21 Sep 2004 // 11:00 PM

	DJ Krush: Jaku

Jaku is Japanese for “tranquility”. Considering that DJ Krush is representin’ for the hip-hop nation by way of his native land of Japan, it is

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21 Sep 2004 // 11:00 PM

	Cris Aflalo: Só Xerêm

What were the odds, coming into this year, that the first album by a young Brazilian singer featuring thirteen songs by her grandfather, a folksinger

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21 Sep 2004 // 10:00 PM

Whether you are a philanthropist or a desultory sadist, you get to name and nurture or abuse and ignore your new pet according to your generous spirit or whim... much like real parenthood, dare I suggest.

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21 Sep 2004 // 1:00 AM

Since You Ask by Louise Wareham

In recounting Betsy's dynamic and destructive connections, Wareham has crafted a novel that portrays a complicated character and her multifaceted mind with deep empathy.

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21 Sep 2004 // 1:00 AM

Moscow 1812 by Adam Zamoyski

Zamoyski blames Napoleon's tactical leadership with the campaign's failure, and the list of errors the author attributes to the emperor looks surprisingly like the kinds of mistakes that continue to doom military campaigns to this day.

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Hoax: Why Americans are Suckered by White House Lies by Nicholas von Hoffman

Von Hoffman rings the death knell for the 'American Century', claiming that despite its current braggadocio and so-called victories in Afghanistan and Iraq, the US has failed in its effort to bring any stability to the region.

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	Various Artists: Italia Nova: The Rough Guide to Italia Nova

You’ve seen this trick a hundred times before. It has many manifestations, but it’s all the same cheap stitching. Country-rap? Billie Holiday drum ‘

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20 Sep 2004 // 11:00 PM

	2Pac: Live

Live hip-hop is a traditionally dicey prospect. There are certainly a few acts famous for their live performances—the Roots, Public Enemy, Run-DMC—but most

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	The Six Parts Seven: [Everywhere][And Right Here]

Early last winter, the Six Parts Seven released a remix album of sorts entitled Lost Notes From Forgotten Songs. Collaborating with some big names in

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	The Radiators: Earth Vs. the Radiators: The First 25

The title of the latest release from the Radiators, Earth Vs. The Radiators, is no a joke. The Radiators have managed to do something that

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	Morning 40 Federation: self-titled

New Orleans has long been a city shrouded in a murky air of mythical decadence. From its sinking foundations and swampy surroundings to the jazz

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20 Sep 2004 // 11:00 PM

	Mouse on Mars: Radical Connector

The music scene, like politics, is made up of hundreds of groups, factions, committees, subcommittees, and the like. Some artists are bound together by the

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	Terry Gibbs: 52nd and Broadway: Songs of the Bebop Era

Curious but happy, this. Quite why the venerable Mr. Gibbs got together a stunning set of jazzmen and added in effect a standard chamber orchestra

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20 Sep 2004 // 4:00 PM

	Rah Bras: EPS

Rah Bras' new collection is a little too much like an inside joke -- the band and its fans are laughing hysterically while the rest of us scratch our heads.

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Selling the Past: Heritage Tourism in Charleston, South Carolina

Since heritage tourism is Charleston's lifeblood, and the city's main attraction for heritage tourists is its status as capital of the preserved antebellum lifestyle, it might be said that Charleston still profits from slavery. Almost as soon as slavery ended, Charleston's plantations fell into disrepair. It was only in the 20th century that these dubious monuments were restored to financial viability as tourist attractions. Charleston may sell a cotton candy version of its history, but Yankees consume it as enthusiastically as southerners.

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More Recent Features
//Mixed media
//Blogs

'Steep' Loves Its Mountains

// Moving Pixels

"SSX wanted you to fight its mountains, Steep wants you to love its mountains.

READ the article