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Wednesday, May 28, 2008
G. Christopher Williams begins at the end in his first blog post for Moving Pixels.

Mind Candy is dead.  Cinderella Red is dead.  Infernal Waltz is dead.  A few little pieces of myself are dead.


I just killed my avatars.


After playing City of Heroes from its beta stages about four years ago, I have only now finally managed to cancel my account.  The wife and I have needed to cut back on some budgetary expenses, and a $14.99 bill every month for a game that I haven’t played in over a year seems a reasonable and rational expense to lose…


But, still…


The death of a number of fictional characters that you have never heard of likely means little to you.  But, my finger hung poised over the “Okay” button that would confirm my account cancellation for more than it should have if it meant so little to me.  I had to pause for a moment even though I hadn’t seen those characters in quite a while before I consigned these various creations of mine to oblivion.


I didn’t cry or anything, but I sort of think I should have.


All of this teeth gnashing may seem silly to most.  But, anyone who has invested a significant amount of time in an MMORPG probably knows something of what I mean.  Deletion, cancellation, is hard.


Character design, stat building, all of these things take time.  They indicate value.


It isn’t that I don’t realize that it’s “just a game,” “just a fictional story,” “just a fictional world,” but there was a little piece of myself in that world for awhile.


Like in other kinds of fiction, the characters that were the protagonists of this story were fictional, but, also, unlike in other kinds of fiction, they were a little bit real because they were a little bit me.  They had a bit of my personality in them.  They represented me, and they made some real friends (that were also I suppose a little bit fictional, too—but who isn’t?).


I guess all that I’m trying to say is that when you feel a little hesitation over the death of what is “just a character” that that is the great thing about the medium of video games.  It is also what is so awful about the medium.


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Wednesday, May 28, 2008
by PopMatters Staff

Sigur Rós
Gobbledigook [MP3] (from með suð í eyrum við spilum endalaust, releasing 23 June worldwide and 24 June in North America)
     


Chuck Prophet
Doubter Out of Jesus (All Over You) [MP3]
     


Ready Fire Aim
So Fine (Plus Move Remix) [MP3]
     


So Fine (Radio Edit) [MP3]
     


James Pants
We’re Through [MP3]
     


Black Kids
Hurricane Jane [Video]


Dosh
If You Want To, You Have To [MP3]
     


The Hood Internet
Watch My Big Feet Jump (Dude N M + Twista vs. Office) [MP3]
     


RZA
You Can’t Stop Me Now [Video]



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Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Reading Slate’s coverage of the R. Kelly trials fills me with that self-loathing that comes from being entertained by morally toxic junk culture.  Levin’s style is funny and slick, but there’s a dead hole in the place where any analysis or bigger picture might be sketched in.  The hardest part about the piece is the undercurrent of class disdain that hangs over the diaries, when people named Sparkle argue with an an attorney they are “doing the dozens” as opposed to just having a nasty exchange on the stand.  That tittering “it’s like the ghetto version of The Hills”  starts to sink in your stomach when you realize that the man on trial may in fact be a prolific, serial child molester who, in this case, decided to film himself urinating on the face of a little girl.  The only people who seem more repellant are Kelly’s Manson girl courtroom fans vying for his attention between all this boring sexual abuse.  Aren’t there any single serial killers that need pen pals?


Of course, the age old question here is whether or not you should try to separate art from the artists, especially since talent is an indiscriminate whore who would just as soon make Jeffrey Dahmer a figure skater as Kristina Yamaguchi.  But it’s a principle that in practice comes with little consistency or coherence.  At some level you have to forgive artists for their ugly humanity, but at what point does the art implicate the viewer in something sinister.  I cringe when I first read that Johnny Deep purchased some paintings of pedophile/serial killer John Wayne Gacy precisely because this is a no brainer on the artist/art distinction.  It’s Gacy’s sickening crimes which produce the market for his art and not great art that just so happens to be a product of a sickening mind.  With R. Kelly, the problem will not be so severe, in part because he’s just not so seriously talented that his music needs to be framed in any ethically grand conflict.  But still, one does have to wonder if he’s convicted if that changes the probable sexual object of his infinite number of lamely metaphored sex jams.  Will it still be easy to bump along to “Ignition” if you know that key is destined for a thirteen year old?  Listening to R. Kelly obviously wouldn’t make you a child molester, but in all cases like this, the question becomes how much the artist pollutes your experience of their art by obscuring its virtues with their vices.


Tagged as: r. kelly
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Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Last week was my first Sydney Writers’ Festival—I somehow missed it completely last year.  Even this year I only managed a paltry two sessions, but it was sufficiently worthwhile to keep a close eye out for next time.


The first session, “Writing and Research”, was a panel discussion between four writers of creative non-fiction.  Alice Pung, who I’ve discussed previously on Re:Print, spoke engagingly about her desire to subvert expectations of Asian writing.  Her main point was the efforts she went to avoid what she called the “Tony Robbins” narrative of Wild Swans and Amy Tan’s books.  “The biggest adversity I’ve overcome was head lice in Grade Two,” she quipped.  I’m not sure what this had to do with research, but it was entertaining.


Most of the panelists struggled to get a word in, thanks to the gregarious investigative journalist Gideon Haigh.  He was meant to talk about his James Hardie exposé Asbestos House, but ended up giving a sneak preview of the upcoming abortion history The Racket.  A significant part of his investigation involved 1960s court transcripts from abortion trials and they make fascinating reading—so fascinating in fact that Haigh spent half his time reading them verbatim.


Junot Diaz

Junot Diaz


The closing address, the second session I was able to attend, was presented by Junot Diaz.  Author of buzz novel and Pulitzer Prize winner The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao, Diaz spoke on the topic “All Our Gratitudes, or Literature Is Not Forever”.


I didn’t like Oscar Wao’s style much, but it had a lot of heart.  The same could be said of Diaz’s speech.  His delivery was mostly in a monotone and read straight from a pile of A4 notes.  The overly formalist structure seemed more appropriate for an essay than a speech, but that’s to be expected from a writer—possibly less so for a college lecturer, though, which is what Diaz is in his day job.


The heart came through when Diaz talked about librarians and books and reading as the things that had “saved [his] life”.  Literature is not perfect, he told us, but we love it because it reflects our own imperfections.  Nor is it eternal, as his title pointed out, but we enjoy the ephemeral pleasures.  It was an appropriate reflection on the importance of books for a festival dedicated to their celebration and appreciation.


Diaz closed his brief (25 minute) address with a reference to the importance of outside voices.  As a Dominican, Diaz brings a different perspective to the mostly domestic line-up at this year’s festival.  On reflection, it seems odd that he didn’t take the opportunity to draw on that perspective in his closing address.


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Tuesday, May 27, 2008

A reviewer at Classic Images called it “the most detailed filmography I have ever come across”. Janet L. Meyer’s Sydney Pollack: A Critical Filmography is a comprehensive, painstakingly researched book on the late director’s entire career, from his early acting days through to his A-list position as one of Hollywood’s most respected producer/directors.


Publisher McFarland & Co. describes Pollack:


One finds that his style is marked by deliberate pacing, ambiguous endings, and metaphorical love stories. Topically, Pollack’s films reflect social, cultural, and political dilemmas that hold some fascination for him, with multidimensional characters in place that generally break the stereotypical molds of the situations.


Pollack, too, often shared his film experience with readers through introductions to reference works including Sanford Meisner on Acting (Knopf, 1987), Basil Hoffman’s Acting and How To Be Good At It (Ingenuity, 2007), and Timothy Bricknell’s Minghella on Minghella (Faber, 2005).


Sydney Pollack: A Critical Filmography by Janet L. Meyer was published in December 2007.


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