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by Dave Heaton

14 Dec 2009

That Dolly Parton’s first hit, in 1967, was called “Dumb Blonde” seems appropriate in retrospect, because she spent her career defying that image while visually embodying it. It and subsequent hits caught Porter Wagoner’s ear, which took her to the Grand Ole Opry, to a successful career as a singer, and beyond. Way beyond, to a career as one of country music’s legendary performers and best songwriters, to the status of larger-than-life pop-culture icon.

This four-CD set Dolly starts even before that beginning. “Dumb Blonde” is the 11th track in what amounts to a comprehensive musical biography of Parton’s career. The earliest songs were recorded in 1959, when she was just 13. Dolly starts this early in Parton’s life because it is the music-product equivalent of the bio-pic (or auto-bio-pic, truly), taking us from the humblest of beginnings to the highest of heights. It’s all capture here, beautifully.

by Rob Horning

14 Dec 2009

I have a new post up at Generation Bubble about consumerism as disguised labor, uncompensated peer production. It draws heavily from “multitude” theory, and Paolo Virno in particular. The gist is that we don’t have much labor to offer that could be exploited in terms of operating machinery or that sort of thing, so the new way of extracting surplus value from our “labor” in what the Italian theorists like to call the “post-Fordist economy” is to turn our social being into a kind of covert work that we perpetuate throughout the day, but in forms that can be co-opted by capitalist firms. The various ways in which we collaborate and socialize with one another becomes value for a business somewhere. Work processes, as Virno explains, become diverse, but social life begins to homogenize in the sense that our identity becomes something we must prove in the public sphere—we all become concerned with the self as brand. (See Virno’s claims here.) This results in the “valorization”—Marxist jargon for value enhancement—“of all that which renders the life of an individual unique”—which is to say our concern for our uniqueness, our identity in social contexts, becomes a kind of value-generating capital, or rather a circulating commodity.

This plays out in seemingly innocuous ways. It can be a matter of hyping a product free of charge but using it or talking about it. Or this can be a matter of going to parties with co-workers, learning to get along better and therefore increasing the efficiency of processes on the job. Or it is a matter of behaving politely among strangers, extending a system of politeness and trust that can be harvested economically as a reduction in transaction costs. Or it can be a matter of friending one another online and creating a social map whose byways can later be retraced by marketing concerns. Web 2.0 is basically a set of tool for capturing that labor, for which we are not compensated with wages but with a stronger sense of self (we shape our identity by promoting products, essentially, associating ourselves with them and attenuating their emotional valence) and a feeling that we are relevant, part of a broader discourse, being recognized for knowing things. As Virno claims, “wage labor is interaction” now. In The Wealth of Networks economist Yochai Benkler writes of this phenomena more positively, identifying ways in which non-market “social” production and “sharing” can nonetheless fulfill economic functions To put it in sociologist Pierre Bourdieu’s terms, our habitus—our manifest and class-bound way of being in the social world—is transformed into a productive force without our conscious consent by the way various social media have infiltrated everyday life.

The concept threatens to be so broad as to be useless, in that seems to embrace all behavior and reinterpret it as productive consumption—not clear if that is a product of consumer society or the febrile mind of theorists. Naturally I think it is the former.

by Thomas Cross

14 Dec 2009

To say that Peggle is addictive is like saying that Halo is kind of a big deal. If you mixed a bit of pinball physics with some of the inspired lunacy of Snood and Puzzle Bobble, you’d get Peggle.

It’s a testament to the sights and sounds of Dual Shot that the only thing I miss from the PC version is that game’s graphical resolution. Yet after an hour or two of play, all I can hear are the sounds of bounced pegs. You won’t care what it looks like once you start playing, and by the time you’ve spent hours learning its quirks, you’ll only want to play more.

When you play an arcade ball-bouncing game more than you would in-depth RPGs and sprawling strategy and fantasy games, you know you have something special on your hands.

by Tobias Peterson

14 Dec 2009

Baseball is that most encyclopedic of sports. Few other games feature the kind of statistical wealth that might describe a batter’s chances against left-handers in July, or a pitcher’s lifetime earned run average against short stops. The Official World Series Film Collection encapsulates a great many of the sport’s expansive details, cataloguing summaries of the championship series from 1943 to 2008.

The hardcore fans will appreciate the thoroughness of the compendium, whose 65 game-by-game narrative summaries would take two and a half days to watch if played back-to-back. More casual fans will appreciate the fact that this collection skips over the mid-season lulls and between-pitch pauses, distilling the game down into its most dramatic moments. From Willy Mays’ “The Catch” to Reggie Jackson’s transformation into “Mr. October”, from Jack Morris’ ten-inning shutout to the Red Sox reversing “the curse”, the collection is both a record and a celebration of the sport at its pinnacle.

A glossy companion book offers pictures and descriptions going back to 1903, and a few blank pages are left to invite fans to include their own memories of future World Series. Baseball’s universe continues to expand, but this collection is a deluxe reminder of where it all began.

by Sachyn Mital

14 Dec 2009

Last June I was informed of a band, Fanfarlo, and was offered their album, Reservoir, for a $1 download.  So nonchalantly I purchased it.  It wasn’t until the end of summer though, after I heard they were playing NYC with Jonsi and Alex (Riceboy Sleeps) DJ’ing the same show, that I finally listened to their CD.  It did not sink in right away, but I soon found myself listening to it repeatedly.  As an aside, Peter Katis, of Tarquin Studios in Bridgeport, CT, is the linchpin in this string of relations as he produced both Reservoir and Jonsi’s forthcoming album Go (as well as the new Swell Season album, Strict Joy, amongst others.)

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