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by Rob Horning

22 Mar 2010

Marisa Meltzer has an interesting piece at Slate about teenage girls who make “hauls”—videos of the stuff they bought on shopping trips. Meltzer compares hauls to tech-unboxing videos; they reminded me of when I freelanced at Lucky.

Making haul videos probably seems entirely natural, like it might have seemed to form a garage band in past decades. The consumer society’s great achievement is turning shopping into the viable medium for creativity and social connection. It seems natural, inevitable even, to relate to other people that way. Meltzer makes her own haul video and concludes, “With a camera on me, everything I bought felt inherently important.” The way to intensify our feelings is to film them and launch them into the world, imagining someone will watch and care enough to judge us. That fantasy is not new, but the means for seeming to fulfill it are (you don’t have to, say, start a band, practice, and try to book gigs at the VFW), and they are of course going to be commercially exploited. That’s one way to interpret the long-term game plan of Facebook and YouTube.

It was predictable that hauls should start happening, considering the commercial inflection of online sharing—and also because shopping is always getting harder and harder. There’s inherently a vague dread in making the commitment to spend, considering the way that consumerism relates to identity, and these sorts of decisions are being logged permanently online. It’s a semiotic jungle out there; the meanings are multiplying and teens especially want advice on how to buy what will send the messages they want to send in the appropriate way. Adults have more leeway in inventing their own meanings, or have come up with disassociative strategies about what we all have to do in terms of self-presentation. Teens have fewer defenses.

The sample that Meltzer provides is pretty polished; the girl shows the pieces she bought, models them, and explains why she pulled the trigger on them. I imagine there are less polished versions, that are more desperate or more ostentatious. Bourdieu-style analysis could break such videos down by class; you’d predict that as you move up the hierarchy, the more pretenses at being disinterested in the presentation there would be, the more likely the discussion would be couched in aesthetic terminology.

The rhetoric in the video is straight out of Lucky, in fact, and reminded me of the weird admiration I had for the copy there, the quixotic optimism in all products, that there was something unique and redemptive to say about everything if you were ingenious enough and mined the thesaurus thoroughly enough for new adjectives. I enjoyed the way the editors there would heedlessly and inventively transform nouns and verbs into adjectives to invent entirely new criteria by which to evaluate boots and jackets and lipstick shades. Here’s a more or less random example that gets at what I mean: “The structured sweetheart neckline combined with the blousiness makes it super flattering—and the unusual mosaic pattern is so cool. To offset the girliness I’m going to wear it with some thick gray tights, these futuristic BCBGMaxAzria platforms and Diesel’s oversize boyfriend blazer.” (Before I worked there, I never had heard of “boyfriend” clothes.” The paradoxical conundrum implied by that appellation—clothes for women made to simulate clothes for men that women would borrow under intimate and cozy conditions?—made me want to break out my copy of Barthes’s The Fashion System to figure out what it meant. But I think this Sociological Images post shows how the phenomenon has reached dizzying ironic heights well beyond interpretation.)

Lucky taught me how shopping could be a vector for unfeigned enthusiasm strong enough to entirely mask the underlying cynicism. People who love shopping are not in bad faith, and they seem to honestly want others to experience the joy and confidence it can intermittently bring them. That same hopeful tone animates the haul video; she’s not out to exclude anyone, though that could certainly be the effect. Instead, she is aping the mass-media tone of inclusion and eager solicitude. She’s not doing anything wrong; she seems successfully well-adjusted. Meltzer notes that girls like the one in the video “resemble the popular girls at any high school, which is precisely why they are so appealing to other teens.” The popular girl doesn’t have to snub you, she can just make you a follower without following you back.

Anyway, that’s what is so disheartening about online sociality to me: the likable girl in this shopping video is the face of marketing’s future. Marketers will seem more well-intentioned than ever; they will be our peers. And we won’t notice that our peers talk like a commercial because we’ll be using the same idiom ourselves. 

by Michael Landweber

22 Mar 2010

What do 24, Lost and Ugly Betty have in common? Nothing. Except that I’ve been watching them all from the beginning of their runs, and they’re all ending this season. 

To be honest, the way I’m watching the swan song seasons of these three shows is not even remotely similar either. Lost has taken TV storytelling to a new level with its final act, solidifying its place as one of the best shows ever. I will miss it dearly when it goes. 24 has me riveted again (against my will) with its high wire antics, even as I scorn the perpetually silly contortions required to sustain 24 episodes. I’m interested to see how the writers will get themselves to the end of another day, but am also relieved that I don’t have to spend another 24 hours in real time next year wondering why Jack Bauer never eats or goes to the bathroom.   

Then there’s Ugly Betty. Look, let’s be honest here. We all knew how Ugly Betty was going to end the day it started. You don’t call a show Ugly Betty unless the Betty in question is going to transform into something that we know is most certainly not ugly. That’s what’s been happening over this season. New glasses, new outfits, new attitude. The transformation is occurring on a weekly basis. And with two episodes left, everyone knows those braces are coming off and Betty’ll probably get contacts. Ugly Betty will end her run just as Betty (or even Attractive Betty). Finally.

by PopMatters Staff

22 Mar 2010

In the midst of SXSW madness, Air played Jimmy Fallon’s stage to showcase “Love” off the similarly titled album Love 2 from last year. It’s a trippy mellow track, not surprising for the French band and they simplify matters on this live take, keeping the gentle groove front and center.

by Jennifer Cooke

22 Mar 2010

There’s no other way to put it:  Donovan Leitch is cool. With a cool dad (‘60s folkie Donovan), a cool sister (actress Ione Skye), a cool brother-in-law (singer Ben Lee), and even a cool ex-brother-in-law (Beastie Boy Adam Horovitz). Leitch is an actor who plays quirky characters in wonderfully offbeat movies, like the Xanadu-obssessed Darius in Allison Anders’ Gas, Food, Lodging, and Gerard Malanga in I Shot Andy Warhol. Hell, he was in Breakin’ 2: Electric Boogaloo. His wife is supermodel Kirsty Hume, and they have been married for over 12 years, which is ridiculously cool, and practically unheard of by Hollywood standards. 

Leitch is the longtime lead singer for Camp Freddy, a loose amalgamation of L.A. musicians that has hosted every cool artist under the sun, from Chrissie Hynde to Ozzy. In the mid-1990s, Leitch fronted a band called Nancy Boy that recorded one brilliant self-titled record and was never heard from again, but what a record it is. Almost 15 years later I still listen to it all the time, and marvel at how fresh and contemporary it is, how visionary, how ahead of its time. 

A cheeky mish-mash of Britpop, power pop, glam, and new wave, all served up with a load of lipstick and Leitch’s way-over-the-top English accent, it’s full of hooks and fabulously wonky lyrics like “I’m disappointed / The wolf was good to Riding Hood / It’s co-dependency / He’s more human than Gary Numan.” One can just imagine a pimply Brandon Flowers conjuring such a band in his daydreams years before he went on to form the Killers. If Nancy Boy emerged today, they could play Coachella tomorrow and the hipsters would run there as fast as their ironic white jazz shoes could carry them.

The video for “Deep Sleep Motel” was directed by Roman Coppola, of course. Because for Nancy Boy, only a future elder statesmen of cool video directors would do.

by Matt Moeller

22 Mar 2010

I’ve always been a little conflicted when it comes to playing first person shooters online. On one hand, it is a special brand of visceral fun which is filled with camaraderie and tasteful competition. On the other hand, it can be a disappointing playground of angry, maladjusted morons. In the upcoming first-person shooter Brink from Bethesda they highlight both sides. The game boasts the ability to customize your very british looking roughnecks in to a myriad of different muscle-bound scary looking killers. It also features an interesting movement mechanic that will level the playing field by automatically move your character to cover.

Enjoy the newest trailer in which a crap load of ugly Brit meatheads kill each other.

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