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Monday, Jul 14, 2014
Despite the film’s hipster soundtrack and depiction of twenty-something malaise, it ultimately embraces the human spirit and all of the sentimentality that goes with it.

The year was 2004. I was a freshman in high school, and I was on the cusp of discovering my passion for cinema. I ditched class on a Tuesday and snuck into the local theater to see Zach Braff’s Garden State with a friend, not knowing that this would change my life and convert me to the church of cinephilia.


For those who haven’t seen the film, it’s about Andrew Largeman (Braff), an emotionally detached 26 year old who returns to his hometown of New Jersey for his mother’s funeral after living in Los Angeles for ten years. Andrew intends to visit for a few a days, and in the process reconnects with old friends, struggles to resolve issues with his distant father (Ian Holm), and forms a romantic relationship with Sam (Portman), a local young woman with problems of her own.


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Friday, Jul 11, 2014
Sometimes, reality TV lives up to its name and casts "by the numbers". Most of the time, however, it casts according to race and sexual orientation.

Since their launch onto the American television landscape (c. 2000, with the debut of season one of Survivor), the great appeal of reality TV programs have been their promise of unpredictability. 


For various generations raised on television (which, at the moment, is almost everyone), so many fictional series had, by the time of reality TV’s arrival, become so predictable that it created a chasm large enough for reality to root itself and foster, offering up an unexpected type of TV where villains often triumphed (see: Richard Hatch in Survivor‘s first season), “good guys” had feet of clay, and “right” and “wrong” became irreparably muddled.


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Friday, Jul 11, 2014
The kinds of choices that force us to define what we value and how a game is about what we value are best implemented at the end of that game.

A couple of weeks ago here at PopMatters, Eric Swain wrote about a more complex form of moral choice in games.


It’s not a question of right or wrong, but a question of priorities. The player is offered up two rights and asked to make a choice between them ... The morality here isn’t based on abstract rules, but on the individual player—what they would do and why is up to them” (Eric Swain, “More Thoughts on a More Complex Form of Moral Choice in Video Games”, 24 June 2014)


I agree with everything Swain has written, but I’d also like to add an important caveat to the conversation. These kinds of complex moral choices, the kind that force us to choose between two philosophical truths that will go on to define who we are, what we value, and how the game is about what we value, these kinds of choices are best implemented at the end of a game.


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Friday, Jul 11, 2014
The Yugos deliver a nugget of lo-fi indie pop perfectly suited for the summer.

If you’re finding your summer in need of a sun-bleached, indie pop ditty, the Yugos have served up something to fill the void. “Follow You” is a rambunctious slice of lo-fi rock, catchy as hell in its up-tempo rhythms and noodly guitar work. With unabashed optimism, the Covington, Kentucky, quartet delivers a feisty paean that, despite their musical similarity to acts like Pavement and Archers of Loaf, is entirely sincere.


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Friday, Jul 11, 2014
You give your hand to me, and then you say goodbye. I watch you walk away beside a lucky to never, never know the one who loves you so. Because you haven't listened to this week's Counterbalance. Ray Charles' 1962 landmark this week.

Klinger: The Great List, that mathematical compendium of critical rankings that has served as our lord and master for the past four years, is an incredible resource for both discovering musical milestones and inspiring beer-fueled arguments. It also helps point out certain blind spots in the critical canon. One of the main issues we see is that it doesn’t really get going until about the mid-‘60s when writing seriously about rock music first became an semi-legitimate profession. As a result, many of the forefathers and foremothers of rock ‘n’ roll have been given short shrift. The case of Ray Charles is a prime example.


Modern Sounds in Country and Western Music, which came out in 1962, marks Ray Charles’ first appearance on the Great List, clocking in at No. 240. That’s a respectable placement, but hardly befitting one of the architects of popular music. I’d do a lot more grumbling about that fact, but luckily for rock critics I’m too busy being enthralled by this masterpiece, which manages to do so much more than just apply Charles’ gospel-infused R&B to the country format. There’s a wealth of influences coming together here, and the end result is a brilliant, understated statement on the state of pop in 1962. But it may not immediately reveal itself right away. Or does it? Mendelsohn?


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