Latest Blog Posts

by AJ Ramirez

13 Jan 2010

After its opening chord crashes and drum beats, “Sassafras Roots” settles into a four-bar A-E5/A-A-E5/A-D-E chord progression that it relies on throughout much of its duration. Billie Joe Armstrong’s quick guitar upstroke chord changes dominate the first half of this figure, while Mike Dirnt’s noodling bassline is more noticeable in the second half. It’s an appealing instrumental passage, but honestly it’s relied on so much that it quickly becomes repetitive. Luckily the chorus and bridge sections add variety to the whole proceeding, in particular providing a setting for Tre Cool to unleash some cracking machine gun drum rolls.


by Jennifer Cooke

13 Jan 2010

Billy Squier was a worldwide megastar until the day he decided it was a good idea to show the world that uber-macho guitar gods could… dance around in a pink tank top and white satin sheets in a video directed by choreographer Kenny Ortega. Ortega of course went on to make such iconic paeans to testosterone as the High School Musical franchise and Miley Cyrus’s Best of Both Worlds concert film, but Squier could not have known that this would be his legacy, considering he’d only been known for Olivia Newton-John’s “Let’s Get Physical” video and Xanadu choreography at that point. Wait… what? OK, so Squier already knew full well what he was getting into by hitching his wagon to Ortega’s star.

Which, in my book, makes him a revolutionary! I mean, this video lays it on thick. He starts out waking up in the nude, shaking on a jaunty pair of pegged white drawstring pants and Flashdance-approved white muscle shirt featuring his quintessentially ‘80s Emotions in Motion color blocked logo (despite the fact that the song is from the album Signs of Life). And when that drum (machine?) kicks in, Billy goes to TOWN with the dancing. He’s finger-popping, he’s high-kicking, he’s floor-slithering—hell, he even throws in a stripper-shimmy down a fire-engine red poll. This is not the listless swaying or ham-shouldered jerkiness of your average rock frontman—Squier is so full-bore Bob Fosse in this performance that one half expects a sequined top hat to emerge from behind his perm.

by Matt Paproth

12 Jan 2010

Note: Only one episode per series.  Sorry,  Mad Men.

10. True Blood – I Will Rise Up
Okay, so I watched True Blood in a marathon last month, and I honestly have a hard time singling out an episode as the best in the season.  I enjoyed the season a lot – a very fun, guilty pleasure – and the cluster of episodes toward the end (8-10 of 12) were where things really came to a head.  The Dallas storyline and the Fellowship of the Sun storyline came together nicely and concluded in this episode. The highlight though, of this episode and of the season, is the Sookie-Eric dynamic, which took an important turn here.  And, of course, like every episode, it ended with a fantastic cliffhanger.

by Rob Horning

12 Jan 2010

The Awl noted a WSJ article by Melinda Beck about “part-time smokers”—“a growing group of intermittent and secret smokers who seem to smoke as much for psychological and emotional reasons as nicotine addiction.” That’s sort of weird, defensive way of phrasing it—“psychological and emotional reasons”. Why not put forward the possibility that people choose to smoke every so often because they like it? I haven’t been the subject of any studies, but I am guessing that I have “psychological and emotional reasons” for everything I do voluntarily. Later Beck notes that “some intermittent smokers can go for days without a fix”—the idea that smoking can be anything other than a drug addiction seems impossible for her to imagine. But we may now be reaching a point at which smoking can be regarded generally as something other than a habit. It might return to being seen as a pastime, a social activity.

This all could be rationalization, I suppose. I am one of these part-time smokers nowadays; generally I’ll smoke when I am on vacation or our drinking. I used to smoke a half a pack or so a day when in my 20s, but then I quit altogether for about seven years. In that period, smoking bans and restrictions came into force that paradoxically made it easier for me to resume smoking without the danger of becoming a habitual smoker again. There were too many barriers; it’s worth the trouble to smoke only when the rest of my routine is already disrupted. And there tends to be a social payoff: the built-in pauses and rhythms of smoking rituals help facilitate conversation.

The emergence of part-time smoking suggests how the social infrastructure can shape how we use things, how we conceive of their place in our lives. With our culture’s obsession with personal responsibility and addiction, norms and mores tend to get short shrift when it comes to explaining behavior. Not that smoking isn’t addictive, but the way we use cigarettes isn’t simply a matter of how addicted we’ve become to them. And as beneficial as it is to quit smoking entirely, partaking every now and then in tobacco is probably not the worst social practice in the world, and it wouldn’t seem to mandate the sort of zealotry on display in the article, which treats part-time smoking as some insidious disease rather than as a re-emergence of a small pleasure in proper perspective.

by C.E. McAuley

12 Jan 2010

There’s a problem with the two major superhero teams in the DCU. They’re grown to be like families: dysfunctional. In fact, they’re so dysfunctional that it’s come to a point where both the Justice League of America and Justice Society of America have members divorcing themselves from the teams, splintering off into alternate titles (see JSA All Stars, JLA: Cry For Justice) and otherwise bumping around the DCU looking for a new purpose. Meanwhile it’s very obvious to readers that behind the curtain the DCU that is looking at these characters and trying to figure out what to do with them.

Great Hera!

While JLA has undergone many changes over its myriad incarnations (ah, the Justice League International) and JSA is searching for a new mission, readers are left month to month wondering (and wandering) what to make of it all.  While the national divorce rate is reported to be upwards of 70 percent, such should not be the case in the world of the superhero team. Here are few core ideas that should be considered when addressing the revitalization of these key franchises.

//Mixed media

Stone Dead: Murder and Myth in 'Medousa'

// Short Ends and Leader

"A wry tale which takes in Greek mythology, punk rock and influences of American suspense-drama, this is an effective and curious thriller about myth and obsession.

READ the article