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by Rob Horning

8 Oct 2009

I was thinking more about a line in the last paragraph of James Surowiecki’s New Yorker column about consumer spending.

But the evidence for a radical shift in the way we consume seems more like the product of wishful thinking (there’s a palpable longing among pundits for Americans to become more frugal) than anything else.

It’s what is in the parenthesis that interests me, that “palpable longing” that most likely refers to David Brooks, who pined for “economic self-restraint” in this recent New York Timesop-ed. Since I tend to think of cheerleaders for the consumer society as being situated ideologically on the pro-business right, I regarded this kind of rhetoric as a move by Brooks toward the crunchy left, with its preoccupation with environmental responsibility and conservation and recycling and the like. But an old Joan Didion piece about the Washington press corps during the Clinton years (aptly titled “Vichy Washington”), reminded me of the obvious point that Brooks is reaching back to an older tradition of conservative intolerance personified back then by Robert Bork:

Bork is worth some study, since it is to him that we owe the most forthright statements of what might be required to effect “a moral and spiritual regeneration,” the necessity for which has since entered the talk show and op-ed ether. Such a regeneration, Bork speculated in Slouching Towards Gomorrah, by one of four events: “a religious revival, the revival of public discourse about morality, a cataclysmic war, or a deep economic depression.”

This puts a religious-bigot spin on the The Shock Doctrine thesis: rather than use crisis to implement a neoliberal program of economic deregulation, conservatives should seize the opportunity presented by widespread economic misery to push through a variety of behavioral proscriptions. Didion quotes Bork’s outrageous dictum that “moral outrage is a sufficient ground for prohibitory legislation. Knowledge that an activity is taking place is a harm to those who find it profoundly immoral.”

This tradition makes it more understandable why pundits are “palpably longing” for a more frugal America and why they overlook the evidence that Americans have been spending more largely because the cost of housing, medical care and education have risen precipitously (thanks in part to the flood of credit inflating asset values). The new frugality seems malleable enough a concept to serve as fresh code for an old battle, that of restricting individual freedoms to preserve religious authority in society. Religious institutions once had a monopoly on meaning and doled it out in return for obedience. Consumerism, and the identity fashioning it enabled at the individual rather than community level, usurped that power, demanding only an obedience that often felt like liberty—the restriction of self-expression to choosing among a plethora of goods in the consumer marketplace. The longing for a more frugal America is one of way of renewing the call for a more “spiritual” America, which is a way of demanding the legislation of morality in the name of values presumed to be universal and incontestable.

by Tyler Gould

8 Oct 2009

Here’s Death Cab acting very serious while playing their song for the upcoming Twilight sequel, New Moon. Ben Gibbard will tolerate neither trifles nor high jinks while playing this serious song. Even the most innocent jink, high or otherwise, would throw off the atmosphere of this entire operation.

by Tyler Gould

8 Oct 2009

“Whale Song” comes from the odds-and-ends collection, No One’s First and You’re Next and proves that Modest Mouse throws away songs most bands would sell their soul to write. It can only be viewed over at Vimeo for the time being, but it is worth the trip.

by Jennifer Cooke

8 Oct 2009

While the summer has now passed us by, many theatres in my town are still playing the hit rom-com (500) Days of Summer. The story of young lovers Summer and Tom marks the feature-length directorial debut of music video director Marc Webb, and with his use of pop music in the film, his pedigree shows. The music isn’t just confined to the soundtrack—it colors the story to the point where it almost becomes another character in the script.

It seems no accident that Summer herself is played by an actor who is also a singer and songwriter, Zooey Deschanel. Her main musical vehicle is the duo She & Him, “Him” being indie troubadour M. Ward, and their debut CD,  Volume One was released to critical acclaim in 2007.

Summer is portrayed as the ultimate muse, and Deschanel, well… she just married Death Cab for Cutie’s Ben Gibbard. Girls like Summer/Zooey are worshipped by guys like Tom/Ben—intelligent, sensitive, slightly nerdy types possessed of depressive tendencies and more than a working knowledge of the Jesus and Mary Chain’s back catalogue. The kind of girl who can boost area sales of Belle and Sebastian’s The Boy with the Arab Strap CD single-handedly by quoting lyrics from it in her high school yearbook. Even at the karaoke bar, where even the best of us are reduced to Whitesnake’s greatest hits, Summer keeps her hipster cred intact with her winsome and incredibly charming take on Nancy Sinatra’s “Sugar Town”. Summer is the thinking man’s heartthrob.

by Eleanore Catolico

8 Oct 2009

Weezer
Raditude
(Geffen)
Releasing: 27 October

Weezer’s Raditude is set to hit stores off Geffen on October 27th. The Spicoli-inspired title and wildly silly tracks like “I’m Your Daddy” and “The Girl Got Hot” show Weezer channeling their pop-punk through their pimple-faced teenage years.  “(If You’re Wondering if I Want You To) I Want You To”, Raditude‘s first single, is filled with quirky nostalgia. Watch Weezer perform “(If You’re Wondering if I Want You To) I Want You To” live.

SONG LIST
01 (If You’re Wondering If I Want You To) I Want You To
02 I’m Your Daddy
03 The Girl Got Hot
04 Can’t Stop Partying
05 Put Me Back Together
06 Trippin’ Down The Freeway
07 Love Is the Answer
08 Let It All Hang Out
09 In the Mall
10 I Don’t Want to Let You Go

Deluxe Edition Bonus Tracks:

11 Get Me Some
12 Run Over By a Truck
13 The Prettiest Girl In the Whole Wide World
14 The Underdogs
15 The Story of My Life
16 Kids/Poker Face

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