Latest Posts

Bookmark and Share
Text:AAA
Monday, Dec 17, 2007

The Nintendo DS, to this point, is best known for light, fluffy fare, games like Brain Age and WarioWare: Touched that can be played and enjoyed in a matter of minutes.  Developer Renegade Kid and publisher Gamecock are looking to shift that reputation (or, at least, fly in the face of it) with this year’s Halloween release of Dementium: The Ward.  Not since the DS iteration of Resident Evil has a DS game so thoroughly sought to creep us out, but Dementium, through its effective use of music and surprisingly immersive atmosphere, does just that.  Renegade Kid works effectively within the parameters defined by the DS to present a control scheme worth using and a story worth telling.  Dementium is the perfect gift for the surly high schooler who complains that the DS you got him for his birthday only plays baby games.


Bookmark and Share
Text:AAA
Monday, Dec 17, 2007

The ideologies may change, but the implements of the shock (“elimination of the public sphere, total liberation for corporations, and skeletal social spending”) don’t ever seem to change, nor does the ever-yawning gulf between the wealthy few and the poor and powerless many.  Klein convincingly argues in this crushingly pessimistic but magisterial work that the future could well be a “cruel and ruthlessly divided” place where “money and race buy survival”.


Bookmark and Share
Text:AAA
Monday, Dec 17, 2007
by Raymond Cummings
System of a Down: Right Here in Hollywoodby Ben MyersDisinformation, 2007

System of a Down: Right Here in Hollywood
by Ben Myers
Disinformation, 2007


Heirs apparent to Rage Against the Machine’s abdicated rap-metal throne, fellow Los Angelinos System of a Down exploded onto the national scene right around the time (a) those willfully monotonous agit-proppers parted ways and (b) terrorists crashed airplanes into the World Trade Center, lending the lyrics “self-righteous suicide” an eerie prescience. System radiate a political, social, and cultural disgust as intense as that of their forebears, but there are a few key differences: System’s conception of metal is both dizzyingly psychotic and pan-global, reflecting the activism-friendly quartet’s varied musical interests, shared Armenian-American heritage, and appreciation of the value of rock spectacle through a cracked prism. With hit singles like pop-thrash, mock anthem “B.Y.O.B.” (from 2005’s Mesmerize) or the alternately lush and abrasive “Chop Suey!” (from 2001’s Toxicity), System had their cake and scarfed it, too, on a level most artists pray to hit—delivering surreally subversive steaks under dazzling sizzle and making the charts. While Right Here in Hollywood certainly won’t be the last word on the group, it serves as a handy repository of media reports to date, many of which U.K. author Ben Myers penned for Kerrang!. Scholarly, this ain’t: there’s an unnecessarily nasty, partisan edge to the walls of cultural exposition Myers builds while relating System to the general cultural climate of the late 1990s that leaves a bad aftertaste; a shame, since the windows opened into band members’ individual lives reveal a lot.  Who would have thought that pre-System, inventively histrionic lead singer Serj Tankian founded and ran a business customizing “accounting software systems for the jewelry industry in California”? Or that System, early on, were known as Soil? Or that these four go cuckoo the chronic? Answer: anybody with a day to kill and access to Google. But Myers’ deserves credit for compiling all these separate strands and interview pieces into a compelling narrative—and this is important—really exploring the nuts, bolts, emotions, influences, and impacts of System recordings and related side-project output, something super-fan’s biogs like this one usually can’t be bothered with.


Rating: 6


Bookmark and Share
Text:AAA
Monday, Dec 17, 2007

Last week, the Economist‘s Buttonwood columnist, who writes about Wall Street, had an interesting piece about falling corporate profits. With the credit crisis taking its economic toll, corporate profits were bound to start falling—don’t tell the analysts though.


The consensus is that earnings will grow by 14% in 2008, with every single sector managing an advance. In the first half of the year, when many economists think that America will be dicing with recession, analysts are forecasting that corporate profits will be growing at an annual rate of 9%.
Going by experience, profits start to fall when the annual rate of economic growth falls below 1.5%. “Consensus forecasts for next year’s US profit growth border on the hallucinatory,” says Tim Bond of Barclays Capital. “Even allowing for the typical bullish bias, the prevailing consensus suggests that equity analysts are collectively reading their spreadsheets upside down.”


Earnings are likely to fall because consumer spending is likely to drop. The article mentions the hit consumer discretionary sector (carmakers, retailers, etc.) taking a hit, a reflection of faltering consumer confidence. I’ll add the usual caveat here—I tend to root against consumer spending, particularly of the discretionary sort, because, paradoxically, I take it as a proxy for rote, thoughtless consumerism. Rather than exercising discretion or saving, consumers seem as though they are obliged to spend, going into debt to perpetuate their habits. But it’s probably not a good idea to extrapolate individuals’ psychology from these aggregate numbers; that’s why they conduct the confidence surveys, I suppose. Nonetheless, consumers cannot continue to overspend, no matter how convenient that is to companies’ bottom lines and to the economy as a whole. A story in BusinessWeek last week noted the rise in America’s credit-card debt, and the rise in delinquincy rates on payments—if this debt has been keeping consumer spending aloft, it seems in imminent jeopardy. And in the New York Times recession-forecast bonanza yesterday, economist Stephen S. Roach argues that


The current recession is all about the coming capitulation of the American consumer — whose spending now accounts for a record 72 percent of G.D.P. Consumers have no choice other than to retrench. Home prices are likely to fall for the nation as a whole in 2008, the first such occurrence since 1933. And access to home equity credit lines and mortgage refinancing — the means by which consumers have borrowed against their homes — is likely to be impaired by the aftershocks of the subprime crisis. Consumers will have to resort to spending and saving the old-fashioned way, relying on income rather than assets even as mounting layoffs will make income growth increasingly sluggish.



The inevitable retrenching will likely be painful, crimping the standards of living of even upper middle class families (those jumbo APR mortgages to buy those oversize homes don’t seem so smart anymore), but it presents an opportunity nonetheless to transform values toward a more conservational, spartan ethic. I glamorize spartanism (hypocritically no doubt) because it seems simpler and inherently a more creative way to live than letting consumerism supplant creativity (what is noxious to me about the term creativity is how it reifies the process, makes it into a commodity). But it is certainly inconvenient to live that way, and convenience is so easy to become accustomed to and celebrate as an end unto itself, or as a means to enable even more consumption.


Corporate profits have been unusually high for several years, and there are different explanations for this, as the Buttonwood column points out:


The optimists argued that profits could stay high because the balance of power had moved in favour of capital and away from labour, thanks to the globalisation of the workforce. But perhaps profits had been boosted by accommodating monetary policy, a credit boom and the associated surge in asset prices.


It’s funny how optimism equates to workers getting shafted. The idea is that outsourcing gives capital more leverage over workers, because they can draw from a much larger reserve army of the unemployed. This forces them to accept wages that are below the marginal product of their labor, meaning more profits accrue to the companies. That theory was influential enough to persuade Alan Greenspan (if we can believe his memoir) to keep interest rates low without fear of stimulating inflation—wages would remain tamped down, so the increase in the money supply would lead to capital investment rather than inflation and a more rapid circulation of funds. But then this logic leads to the other explanation for erstwhile surging profits. Interest rates were low, money was nearly free, and inflating house prices were making consumers feel flush, giving them access to equity lines of credit. So when wondering where the money went as homes are foreclosed and banks go under, those fat profit margins might be somewhere to start.


Bookmark and Share
Text:AAA
Monday, Dec 17, 2007

Like the headline says… Congress and part of the FCC commission itself wants to halt this but the FCC chairman is trying to ram this through regardless so that he can give media conglomerates an early Christmas present and let them buy up and control more and more media outlets.  If you like the idea of a free, independent press, here’s your chance to speak up and do something.


ADDENDA: If you want to see how badly FCC chair Kevin Martin is handling this, look no further than this Bill Moyers report, which details Martin’s extreme arrogance and willful ignorance.


Now on PopMatters
PM Picks
Announcements
PopMatters' LUCY Giveaway! in PopMatters's Hangs on LockerDome

© 1999-2014 PopMatters.com. All rights reserved.
PopMatters.com™ and PopMatters™ are trademarks
of PopMatters Media, Inc.

PopMatters is wholly independently owned and operated.