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Monday, Oct 13, 2008
by PopMatters Staff

Todd Snider
Snider is offering his new album, Peace Queer, for free between now and October 31. Download the entire record in sparkling MP3 and watch for PopMatters’ review later this week.
Peace Queer album [MP3s]


Deerhoof
Chandelier Searchlight [Video]


Mercury Rev
Senses on Fire (Fujiya & Miyagi mix) [MP3]
     


Wilderness
Strand the Test of Time [MP3]
     


Fredrik
Black Fur [MP3]
     


1986 [Video]


 

Nick T. (of Islands, The Unicorns)
Let It Go (Flying Lotus remix) [MP3]
     


Simon Bookish
Dumb Terminal [MP3]
     



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Monday, Oct 13, 2008

Have you ever stayed in a hostel with a shelf (or more likely, a bookcase) of travel/leisure reading just there for the taking? The idea being, if you finish your book while you’re in residence, leave it behind and select something new, whether it be a Rough Guide to your next destination, some light YA fiction, or maybe even a chunky biography of some now-deceased heavyweight politician or diplomat.


Personally, I have trouble leaving my own book behind in exchange for something different, and yet I can appreciate the trade-off. Why carry around something you’ve already finished when you could lighten the load, or at least maintain it, by leaving your book for someone else to enjoy, and taking along an interesting looking cast-off?


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Oftentimes the shelves of books-for-trade have wonderful offerings. And it turns out that it’s not just thrifty hostels that tend to have a shelf or two of discarded volumes. A friend in town for a visit just told me about her experience staying at a B&B in New Brunswick, Canada, where the friendly owner insisted that if she saw anything she was interested in on the bookshelves, she take it with her. The book that caught my friend’s eye is The Mermaid of Paris (2003) by Cary Fagan, and when she moves on after her week’s visit, she’ll probably leave it with me. We’ll see if I’m able to let her select a volume from my shelves for the next leg of her journey.


What’s the best trade you’ve made while traveling? Or do you find it impossible to leave one of your own books behind?


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Sunday, Oct 12, 2008

Never pretend to be handicapped. Know what awaits you in Heaven. Use racial tolerance to get what you want. Never swear on television. Stay HIV positive. Never take a joke too far. Never give up on cheating. People will always find a way to ruin your good time. Kids with red hair and freckles have no souls. The world will end in 2012. These are just some of the revelations offered by Eric Theodore Cartman, the nine year old self-proclaimed wunderkind of South Park, Colorado. Along with opinions of Family Guy (“sucks balls”) and the Jews (let’s not go there), the rotund prophet want you to join his cult of comedy gold. And thanks to a new DVD set from Paramount, you too can become a member of his portly People’s Temple.


Yes, this is another of those studio compiled merchandising doorstops, meant to appease the appetite of those longing for more and more South Park box sets. For those unfamiliar with the main premise of the series (and you really should be by now, dammit), it centers on a group of grade schoolers growing up in a pleasant, podunk mountain town. The main kids are Stan Marsh (well meaning and slightly nerdy), Kyle Broflovski (Jewish, and frequently ridiculed for it), the aforementioned Cartman and Kenny McCormick (poor, parka-ed, and prone to dying suddenly).


Together, the guys hang out around town and fraternize with friends Butters (a gullible little goof), Tweak (tanked up on caffeine and paranoia), Timmy (unapologetically paraplegic), and Jimmy (a crippled stand up comic). Along with local residents Mrs./Mr. Garrison (the gang’s confused transgender teacher), Mr. Mackey (the guidance counselor), and their various zoned-out families, the main premise of the show finds current events and popular culture filtered through the prepubescent perspective of some smart, if slightly scatological, preteens.



While clearly aimed at appeasing fans until a Season 12 compilation comes along, The Cult of Cartman: Revelations reminds us of why Trey Parker and Matt Stone’s animated anarchy stands as a certified comedy classic. Not only does the duo understand the innate charms of over the top toilet humor, but they always manage a little satiric bite along with the scatology. Additionally, South Park is almost exclusively a character driven show - albeit one where the personalities involved are slightly twisted and unusually perverted. By focusing on Cartman, especially later day Eric’s evil shenanigans, we observe how Parker and Stone push the envelope of their invention to maximize laughs while staying well within the confines of creative license.


Disc 1 begins with what has to be one of South Park‘s most amazing episodes - “Scott Tenorman Must Die”. No other animated television series could find a way to make pubic hair, a chili cook-off, peer pressure, the band Radiohead, and cannibalism work in a flawless examination of school days hazing. The last installment on the DVD, “La Petit Tourette”, tries something similar with the noted neurological disorder and Dateline’s ‘To Catch a Predator’. In between, we discover that a certain sedate sea creature writes all of Family Guy‘s abysmal scripts (“Cartoon Wars 1 & 2”), pretending to be a robot won’t help your figure out your friends (“Awesom-O”), and dying can be as big a bitch as being completely ignored by your school chums (“The Death of Eric Cartman”).



There’s even more insights on Disc 2, whether it’s dealing with the notoriously humorless “Ginger Kids”, or discovering that a simple case of “Tonsil Trouble” can lead to a cure for AIDS (the secret? Lots and lots of money). Terrorists will always undermine your “Super Fun Time” at a pioneer recreationist village, while the demands of the public and standard business models means that even having your own amusement park (“Cartmanland”) is nothing but headaches. The other two episodes of South Park included on the second DVD feature Mrs. Garrison desperate to become a man again (“Eek, A Penis!”) while Cartman himself fakes mental retardation to “win” the Special Olympics (“Up the Down Steroid”). It is here where you find the only three episodes not previously included on other digital collections (“Tonsil”, “Eek” and “Super”).


As with any random collection of series installments, fans can question the inclusion or exclusion of certain titles, and there will always be arguments over the necessity for such stopgap sets in the first place. Fox received lots of grief for putting The Simpsons out in such a scattered strategy, but since Paramount regularly releases South Park in full season packages (and relatively quickly after they’ve aired on Comedy Central),  some character specific indulgence can be forgiven. After all, without this specialized one-off ideal, we wouldn’t have gotten the amazing full length feature film version of “Imaginationland” a few months back.



As for the sole bonus feature, the tiny life lessons from Cartman himself (part of new introductory animation) are funny, if rather short. Some last no longer than a few seconds. No one is suggesting that Park provide more. After all, Parker and Stone seem content to allow each season set to arrive sans anything remotely resembling real digital extras. Instead, they offer up their own “commentary-mini” (three to five minutes max) and seem satisfied. So having these risqué one liners and profane prophecies setting up each episode is ample added content - especially when you consider the cool packaging and inclusion of a membership card/sticker recognizing your status in the Eric Theodore Cartman Society.


Together, the entire presentation explains how South Park maintains its coveted commercial and critical status. It argues for the value in all aspects of humor - from the outrageous to the subtle, the offensive spoof and the current culture of irony. While the 12 episodes provided might not be the best in the show’s history (that’s up to true Park geeks and messageboard surfers to decide), they remind us of how easy Trey Parker and Matt Stone make it look. In the past, the boys have explained how some ideas take years to foster, while others arrive during the standard production week pressures. In combination with the current political clime, and whatever spills over the TMZ tabloid transom, the duo has fostered one of the finest farces ever conceived. The Cult of Cartman: Revelations may have specious motives, but as a collection of South Park, it’s well worth the re/pre-visit. 


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Saturday, Oct 11, 2008

What happens when a four-piece girl group discovers Rainer Maria and ‘50s Motown vocal harmonies? They form a group called Vancougar, featuring members of Cinch and Pink Mountaintops. These Canadian belles have honed their own brand of power pop that will gladly fit among the other Canadian imports into the U.S. scene over the past several years.


“Obvious” is their most direct statement off their sophomore release on Mint Records, Canadian Tuxedo; it kicks off with a driving fuzz bass line, but don’t be fooled. As soon as the vocals kick in it becomes a simple melodic chant based around the lyric “It’s so obvious to me / We were meant to be in love.” Sound cheesy? Well, it kind of is. Cheesy in the way your grandpa tells a story about the five feet of snow he had to walk to school in—might be false, but it still sounds awesome.


Tagged as: vancougar
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Saturday, Oct 11, 2008

One thing I forgot in my previous post about economic hard-times and the music biz is that another part of the industry is gonna get hit too- that would be the magazine/publishing trade.  As this Business Week article points out, ad dollars, which were already going south are gonna sink even more with this uber-recession in effect.  What that means is that many magazines which were already struggling to begin with are gonna get hit even harder. 


For some, this is gonna be a lethal blow and that’s worrisome.  I know, you don’t trust the media, right?  But when fine pubs like No Depression and Harp have to go under, that means that a lot of indie and alt-country bands who deserve recognition are gonna have to look around harder and elsewhere for it.  Of course, ND has been reborn online but will it have the same impact that it did as a print publication, especially since it made its name in print?  Similarly, Harp has transformed as Blurt but I have the same worry about them (disclosure- I write for them occasionally).


If some of these mags don’t close down, they’ll have to cut corners.  Even more.  That means less pages, less reviews, less full-time and freelance writers and as a result, these publications will get more insular, having less space to cover bands and not being able to cover bands in the same detail as before and having less voices to hear.  If I had to guess, I would also say that the already stingy word count for many reviews are now going to shrink to haiku length.  That’s a cute idea that’s been exploited by a few web sites and I’ve even seen pretty memorable one-word reviews (Greil Marcus on Sonic Youth’s “Sister”: abrasive).  But that ain’t always gonna do the trick- we still need discussions, arguments, conversations, opinions, details, contrary views, fights, etc..  The more and more we lose out on that, the more we lose out on appreciating and understanding music, forcing us into online forums, bulletin boards, mailing lists and newsgroups take up the slack.


Wanna get really depressed?  Listen to some economics talk about the situation on CNN’s Your $$$$$ and one common theme comes up- right now, there’s no economist out there who’ll go out on a limb and even predict when the current financial mess is gonna clear itself up.  What that means is that whoever wins in November (please let it be Obama), they’re still going to inherit this mess WELL into ‘09 and maybe even beyond.  This kind of prolonged economic hurt is gonna wipe out more and more mags for sure and I for one ain’t looking forward to the bloodshed.  I’m also not looking forward to looking at my 401K statements.


The silver lining is that markets usually correct themselves in the end- it’s just a matter of WHEN it happens.  For some mags, it’ll be too late unfortunately.


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