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Thursday, Nov 20, 2014
by PopMatters Staff
David Baldacci’s books are great gift options for everyone on your holiday list and we are giving some away just in time for the holidays.

One (1) winner will receive:
·      David Baldacci’s new thriller, The Escape
·      His new Young Adult fantasy, The Finisher (ages 10+)
·      plus a $100 Visa gift card for holiday purchases


David Baldacci Book Giveaway + $100 VISA Gift Card in PopMatters's Hangs on LockerDome

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Thursday, Nov 20, 2014
The latest tune from the Long Beach trio Bella Novela, "Four Walls", is a classic rock-esque number in the vein of Heart and Pat Benatar with the tonality of a James Bond theme.

Long Beach, CA rock trio Bella Novela is one of those bands that is able to pull off the tricky task of sounding like classic rock without merely imitating the genre’s tropes. Frontwoman Jackie Laws’ vocals bring to mind Heart and Pat Benatar, but she also sounds undoubtedly contemporary, her voice coalescing perfectly with guitarist Jacob Heath’s Muse-esque leads. On its newest tune, “Four Walls”, Bella Novela amps up the drama with a chord progression and vocal line that sound ready to be the next James Bond theme. But rather than go for the classic Bond theme pace of slow and sultry, the trio amps up the energy, due in large part to drummer Jannea McClure’s rapid fills. This sense of bombast is a fitting one for the group’s forthcoming LP, Telemetry, a concept album based on a popular Mexican telenovela. The new prog influences on Bella Novela’s music, especially on “Four Walls”, make it a distinctive voice in the Los Angeles music scene.


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Thursday, Nov 20, 2014
The stylized violence of kung fu and the lawless conflicts of the spaghetti western genre coalesce in this action-packed 1973 hybrid.

The Fighting Fist of Shanghai Joe (1973) is the last of ten spaghetti westerns that director Mario Caiano made before moving on to the horror genre. It is also the oddest, most violent, and arguably the best of the bunch. Chronicling a Chinese immigrant’s arrival to the American west in 1882, where racists run rampant and anyone with skin darker than the inside of a potato must literally fight for survival, it was the perfect plot to cash-in on the rising popularity of the kung fu genre in the ‘70s and the international stardom of Bruce Lee.


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Thursday, Nov 20, 2014
By addressing real world themes too cautiously, Advanced Warfare wastes an opportunity and subverts one of the few positive narrative trends established in the Call of Duty franchise as a whole.

Warning: This post contains spoilers for Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare.


Kevin Spacey doesn’t come cheap. In Call of Duty’s latest action tentpole Advanced Warfare. Spacey is billed as the star and for good reason. More so than Jack Mitchell (even though Troy Baker tries his hardest), Spacey’s character, CEO and military dictator Jonathan Irons, is the focal point of the conflict in Advanced Warfare. Every Call of Duty game since Modern Warfare in some way has incorporated the political issues of our time in its narrative, and this time the unsettling protagonist represents the fear of an easily exploitable political landscape.


That isn’t to say Advanced Warfare has a clear and consistent political message—quite the opposite in fact. Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare is easily one of the most thematically inconsistent stories in the franchise, generally bungling any attempt at addressing the state of affairs on the global stage with tact. However, I do commend it for trying—on occasion—to elevate a narrative that too easily falls into the “bro-shooter” category of storytelling.


Let’s take a look at the campaign’s first supposed threat to the safety of American citizens, the KVA. Advanced Warfare describes this as a Chechen-birthed global terrorist organization led by a man who calls himself “Hades”. Nevermind the comically evil nom de plume or the fact the game never bothers to explain the KVA acronym. The KVA purports to stand against humanity’s increasing dependency on technology by blowing up nuclear power plants and, uh, using the most high-tech weaponry they can find. Their rhetoric fails to match reality.


Additionally, the motivation for joining the KVA is still entirely unclear. While the Cordis Die movement in Black Ops 2 is more of a loose social collective than a terrorist organization, KVA appears as a powerful standing military that is able to execute simultaneous strikes around the globe. Who does the KVA recruit? What motivates these individuals to agree to their techno-phobic message? Considering the KVA meets in a luxurious tower in beautiful Santorini, Greece, I find it hard to believe that they accurately represent an underground fear of technological progress.


Advanced Warfare revels in its own depiction of our technological future. The new weapon tech is a fundamental part of the game’s selling point. Jetpacks and grappling hooks amp up the traditional shooter and at least in the marketing campaign make war more fun than it’s ever been, which is fine, really. But this glorification of its own technological candy undermines any attempt to address its larger narrative themes. During our recent podcast debrief on the game, my PopMatters colleague Scott Juster rightly pointed out what a disappointment it was when Irons, the ultimate villain in the game, chooses to break the protagonist’s biotic arm instead of turning it against him.


Even so, Irons is the closest that Advanced Warfare gets to addressing real world politics as well as its predecessors. The President of Atlas, the mega-corporation and private military contractor becomes a fascist regime with Irons as its leader, and it’s not hard to connect the state of corporations globally to the story of Advanced Warfare.


Irons is a war profiteer, but more than that, he is one created and even lauded by the countries that rely too heavily on corporate power to exist. During one overwrought announcement at the United Nations (an organization Call of Duty has never treated positively) he states, ““The United Nations is a relic from a different time when nations were unique in their ability to solve the world’s problems. That just isn’t the case anymore. Primarily because you have outsourced the job to me.”


This mistrust of outsourcing and America’s dependency on corporations is by far the game’s most interesting theme. Recovering from a devastating economic crisis, and with numerous critics calling Citizens United a travesty that gives even more rights to corporations with no interest in communities let alone countries, the idea of a company like Atlas with the power to exploit our own international political landscape is an understandable fear.


Irons is an extreme realization of a real fear of “corpocratic” control over governmental rule. Our villains have changed from fascists to terrorists to ourselves. It is telling that the ruins of Detroit feature prominently in one of the campaign’s settings. Many parts of the city, once bolstered by an automotive industry that many believed a permanent fixture, literally sit abandoned. The belief that corporations have the nation’s best interest at heart has increasingly eroded. Advanced Warfare tries, at times, to tap into these concerns by creating an extreme case in Atlas, a company that eagerly exploits our international landscape politically and economically.


Advanced Warfare stops shy of embracing its own themes. Despite Iron’s “evil” rhetoric and demeanor, he is not actually wrong about much. Politics as usual has set the stage for wars across the country. After the devastation of KVA’s attacks, Atlas really does provide a safety net for thousands of suffering citizens. Even New Baghdad, a city we associate with the ruins of war, is built gloriously anew through Atlas funding. If it weren’t for the forces of good (or so the game seems to say), we might actually be better off with a little more corporate rule and a little less political fanaticism. The game mixes its message. It expresses fear towards an over reliance on technological and international corporations, yet glorifies them both as well. By addressing real world themes too cautiously, Advanced Warfare wastes an opportunity and subverts one of the few positive narrative trends established in the Call of Duty franchise as a whole.


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Thursday, Nov 20, 2014
With a career as illustrious as Sir McCartney's, it is no surprise that these ten performances hit it as far out of the park as they do.

Throughout Paul McCartney’s illustrious career as a member of both the Beatles and Wings, as well as his solo career, he has released over a dozen live albums and concert films. Clearly, the man has had many memorable live performances. These videos span over five decades and feature obscure rarities as well as some of rock ‘n’ roll’s greatest hits. As he celebrates his 72nd birthday with a break from his current touring schedule, it is a great time to take a look back at his greatest live recordings.


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