Latest Blog Posts

by Katharine Wray

14 Dec 2009

This book is for the recent grad who can’t find a job, for the artist waiting - sigh - for inspiration, for the person in mid-life who’s contemplating a serious career-change—providing each has some sense of humor when handed this book. This is a tale of failures rather than successes, but failures not without original inspiration from the inventors who dreamed up these crazy ideas. Indeed, their stories manage to inspire with each inventor’s determination to—why not?—give something new a try. As the title suggests, even the greats fell flat their faces before picking themselves up, dusting off, and setting about one’s life, again. Indeed, there’s a ‘forward and onward’ spirit to be found here. So in a way, it’s a pick-me-up for someone who may be feeling a bit blue.

by John Bergstrom

14 Dec 2009

cover art

Depeche Mode

Sounds of the Universe


Review [19.Apr.2009]

What of interest can a 30-year-old band bring to the table on its 12th studio album? To a lot of Depeche Mode fans, Sounds of the Univere was a disappointment because it didn’t represent a logical progression from 2005’s Playing the Angel. For a globally popular band, though, Depeche Mode have rarely made the expected, path-of-least-resistance move. Instead of dismissing the meticulous, streamlined, analog synth production, though, why not embrace how eloquently it meshes the band’s earliest sonic tendencies with the emotional maturity and songwriting development of later years? “Wrong”, for example, was a brilliantly terse, tongue-in-cheek perversion of the band’s, and its fans’, doomy image. Just as impressive was the emergence of singer Dave Gahan as a songwriter nearly on par with old hand Martin Gore. Instead of loathing Songs of the Universe for not being another Playing the Angel or Violator, why not love it for what it brought to the table? And that was plenty.

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.

//Mixed media

Gremlins and the Housewife in 'Don't Be Afraid of the Dark'

// Short Ends and Leader

"The house itself wants to pull the neurotic woman into its maw and absorb her whole as a literal housewife;

READ the article