Latest Blog Posts

by Andrew Martin

18 Mar 2009

It’s not everyday you get a free “album” of sorts from some of underground hip-hop’s best. Anticon.‘s Themselves recorded theFREEhoudini with the likes of Slug, Aesop Rock, and Yoni Wolf. And now, it’s up for free download for 90 days only on the Anticon. website. The like to enjoy the insanity is below.

theFREEhoudini [MP3s]

03/25/2009 Firebird - St. Louis, MO
03/26/2009 Empty Bottle - Chicago, IL
03/27/2009 The Pike Room at Crofoot Ballroom - Pontiac, MI
03/28/2009 Sneaky Dee’s - Toronto, ON
03/29/2009 Club Lambi - Montreal, QC
04/01/2009 Great Scott - Allston, MA
04/02/2009 Terrace F. Club at Princeton University - Princeton, NJ
04/03/2009 Union Pool - Brooklyn, NY
04/04/2009 The Studio at Webster Hall - New York, NY
04/06/2009 The Barbary - Philadelphia, PA w/ Pattern Is Movement
04/07/2009 DC9 - Washington D.C.
04/08/2009 The Lantern - Blacksburg, VA
04/09/2009 529 - Atlanta, GA
04/10/2009 Bottletree Cafe - Birmingham, AL
04/11/2009 Spanish Moon - Baton Rouge, LA
04/13/2009 Hailey’s - Denton, TX
04/14/2009 Mohawk - Austin, TX
04/16/2009 Rhythm Room - Phoenix, AZ
04/19/2009 Coachella - Indio, CA
05/05/2009 Ancienne Belgique - Brussels, Belgium

by Bill Gibron

17 Mar 2009

We all know what the media thinks of women. Let’s just say that you can’t be too skinny, too slutty, or too bitchy in this post-millennial melee. And we all know what the various artistic outlets think of men. They’re pigs, prone to hygiene issues, and when they aren’t packing major toolboy muscle power, they’re dorking up the place with their testosterone and testes guided nerd noggins. Toss in the generic overview on children (cutesy, cloying, and precocious), minorities (straight out of a ‘30s Hollywood script), and any other recognizable type (brainiac scientist, hand-sign throwing skate rat) and it’s a specious look locked into a lowest common denominator decision.

So it’s no surprise then that the powers that be, desperate to connect with a web wired world, has decided that stuffy film critics with a wealth of history and a decent amount of artform perspective should be replaced by you - or at the very least, a dithering, dunderheaded close facsimile thereof. Like the glut of gamer experts who wear their oh-so idiosyncratic interests on their highly irreverent t-shirts, movie reviewing is being purposefully dumbed down to match your own inherent belief in your unsophisticated, knee-jerk reaction - sorry, opinion. Like the old saying about a-holes, it’s apparently true that everyone has a viewpoint on entertainment, and as with most mentions of the anus, they almost always stink.

But the media has taken this concept a nauseating step further, granting the YouTube/Twitter-atti a big, fat booth in the marketplace of ideas. Not only that, they’ve marginalized the original group that made film criticism a heralded concept to the point where their boring old fartdom overwhelms any positive benefit they can have on the discourse. No, it’s kooky carnival barker time with horrendous examples like Movie Mob (Reelz Channel’s vomit-inducing vox populi clip show) arguing for a more hands-on approach to the notion of analysis. Now, there is nothing technically wrong with giving the consumer their say. Hollywood has long capitalized on such a feigned, focus group interest. But with print dying on a daily basis, and other outlets sharing their limited supply of content, the media is turning to you to give them a marketing-friendly edge. 

Recently, Rotten Tomotoes premiered its own version of a movie show on the ‘Net friendly network Current TV. It consists of the typical G4 presenter dynamic. Host Brett Erlich (a staff writer for the Al Gore created channel) is all shrugged shoulders and face stubble, his demeanor a combination of post-millennial irony and stand-up comic cluelessness. For her part, real comedian Ellen Fox does her best “obtainable hot girl” routine while also adding a healthy dose of ‘aren’t we clever’ camaraderie. Together, they dissect what’s new at the theaters, what’s hot on DVD, and what archival titles you need to check out immediately. In between all the review haiku, three word excuses for scrutiny, and standard nu-chat show smarm, video takes from the members of RT are added in to give the real man/woman a sensible say.

As with Movie Mob, this is the show’s biggest misstep. Sure, it’s cool to see yourself - in this case, reflected in the face of a basement dwelling dweeb who runs a snarky site dedicated to Teen Wolf 2 - on TV, but is that really film criticism? A while back, we discussed the difference between being a reporter and being a reviewer. In essence, when Siskel and Ebert gave their trademarked thumbs up/down on a film, all analysis ended. Realize, there is a difference. Giving a movie a “brutally honest” appraisal is one thing. To do so without a single bit of backing is a lot like claiming an assertion as the truth. In a recent interview, Erlich and Fox both name checked Ghostbusters as their first movie memory. They went on to riff on several other offerings, all dated between 1980 and 2009. Only Singing in the Rain and The Thin Man were referenced as “classic” Hollywood.

Of course, the notion of breaking down the barrier between critic and audience is what something like The Rotten Tomatoes Show is all about. It’s the same with Movie Mob But just like American Idol, or similarly styled reality TV attempts, this is the world as filtered through the mindset of some executive type with too much time on their hands. Are you and your friends accurately reflected in the people presented on these shows? Do they say things that you truly believe? Would you be proud to point to them and say “see, that’s real film talk for ya!”? Or could it be that, like any explosion in communication, these initial attempts are the Poochie of programming misinterpretation.

Now, no one is suggesting that the old school journalist with an inherent hatred of horror and a dismissal for anything new and novel should remain the banner waver for an entire artform. Progress should mandate progression. But should someone who learned all they know about film from a VCR and a steady diet of HBO really take their place? How far outside the normative mainstream box are these nu-media darlings really thinking? Are they exploring the universe outside the American shores? Are they tuned into the true independent film? As shills for commercial conglomerates (Rotten Tomatoes is owned by IGN, which is controlled by Rupert Murdoch’s NewsCorp), isn’t there some innate “spin” to what they do? Isn’t some YouTube yutz with his own weekly review show more “real” than a couple of auditioned tentpole talents?

Remember, the whole point of these nu-critics is to pander directly to you, to indirectly provide you with an outlet for your inferred opinion. Going back to the gamer paradigm for a moment, I remember when G4 first hit the air. It was all fake anime girls with F-you eyes and deep plunging necklines. The review shows tended toward the blatantly obvious and what passed for news would make the cast of Entertainment Tonight collectively look like Edward R. Murrow. Over the years, the blather has subsided, replaced by some mannered yet meaningful dialogue. Sure, Attack of the Show is still slacker-vision, but X-Play typically digs deep to understand the business of games, and why certain titles continue to please while others fail miserably. Gone are the days of group ra-ra cheerleading. In their place is an almost perfect balance of publicity and purpose.

If they are to succeed, shows like Movie Mob (or Reelz’s entire raison d’etra, for that matter) and Rotten Tomatoes need to move away from the gimmicks and get back to the basics. Instead of making the crowing collective a popularity contest, they need to find a way to fuse meaning back into the material. Growing pains are just that - hurtful and harmful. Instead of helping the perception of online as the new consensus, these shows are sullying the attempt before it even gets a footing. MTV recently entered the fray with a show entitled Spoilers. But thanks to a perception over being “too traditional”, rumor has it being taken off the air for a company mandated revamp. If you think the two Bens - Lyons and Mankiewicz - are bad, you ain’t seen nothin’ yet. If the past is any indication about where the nu-critic is going, it’s going to get a lot worse before it gets any better - if at all.

by L.B. Jeffries

17 Mar 2009

In the aftermath of the tragic shooting by Tim Kretschmer in Germany, politicians in both America and Germany are rallying behind the event to once again call for tighter restrictions on video games. Germany already has the strongest censorship laws in the EU, which short of outright banning all or most video games means there is not much left to lock down. Here in America, games are already actively not sold to minors and the video game industry has the highest success rate of any media for keeping mature rated content out of the hands of minors.

Particularly troubling is the continuing coverage of the incident which insists on the connection between playing games and violence. Politicians and ignorant parents are one thing, journalists should be held to a higher standard. The Times’ connection of the incident to Far Cry 2 (their description of the game is factually inaccurate) barely qualifies as tenuous. Kretschmer played Far Cry 2 the night before the event along with several other FPS titles. The expert consulted in the article to establish the link is Lieutenant Colonel Dave Grossman, the man who coined the term “murder simulator” for games, and he bases his accusations on a connection between training tactics used by the military and video games. Specifically, the need to simulate the effects of shooting a person more accurately on targeting ranges (such as having targets that go limp or flail) is echoed in games. A game controller is otherwise considered the equivalent of holding a gun and firing it. The article balances out the coverage by consulting other experts on the topic who rely on psychological studies and a growing majority that have found that there is no link between video games and violence. Elements such as the father owning numerous guns, teaching Kretschmer to use guns at a young age, and a troubled childhood are all referenced as contributing factors to the crime.

Both the Telegraph and Escapist have taken the time to report on the event and also question the connection to games.

Mark David Chapman obsessively read Catcher in the Rye before shooting John Lennon. Does reading Salinger make people want to kill celebrities? Timothy McVeigh’s favorite flavor of ice cream was Ben & Jerry’s Mint Chocolate Chip. Does eating it make people want to blow up Federal buildings? Jeffrey Dahmer’s favorite horror film is Hellraiser III. Does watching it make people want to murder and eat one another? Ted Kaczynski was obsessed with Joseph Conrad and the novel, The Secret Agent, in which a professor abandons his job, lives in seclusion, and decides to bomb a scientific lab. Are other people who read the story going to act it out?

As the growing problem of youth violence and school shooting continues, perhaps the press will eventually want to stop and ask why there are so many people who play these games that don’t exhibit similar behavior.

by Nikki Tranter

17 Mar 2009

From the Los Angeles Times:

Millard Kaufman published his first novel, “Bowl of Cherries,” at age 90. In his ninth decade, he had the presence of mind, the diligence and the creativity to write a book, an act that seems to me to be remarkable, verging on the heroic. But he’d been heroic before, lending his name to Dalton Trumbo in the heat of the blacklist. Kaufman was a screenwriter, a one-time movie director, a Marine, co-creator of Mr. Magoo and an author with a second book in the works. He died Saturday, two days after his 92nd birthday.

A YouTube clip of Kaufman talking about his life in books, Hollywood, and excrement.


by Walter Tunis - McClatchy Newspapers (MCT)

17 Mar 2009

How do you whittle down 70 years of Blue Note Records to a handful of favorites?

Downbeat magazine asked those at the forefront of today’s jazz generation to go one step better and name their single favorite album issued by the label. On the magazine’s cover is sax man Joe Lovano, who will release his 21st record for Blue Note, Folk Art, in May. Cradled in his arms is his pick: Art Blakey’s 1964 bop masterwork Free for All.

Bill Charlap, pianist and musical director for The Blue Note 7, chose pianist Horace Silver’s 1954 album with an earlier and altogether different lineup of the band (named Horace Silver and the Jazz Messengers). But in a recent telephone interview, he all but dismissed any notion of a single “favorite” Blue Note work.

“It’s a very show-business question to ask about your favorite Blue Note record,” he said. “If you have more than one child, would you choose a favorite?”

Rather than limiting the choices to a single selection, here is my critic’s pick sampling of five champion Blue Note recordings. The choices—representing a just four years of the label’s mammoth history—intentionally omit Blue Note’s more iconic artists (Thelonious Monk, Sonny Rollins, Herbie Hancock, Wayne Shorter and others) in favor of less-appreciated players who defined the label’s timeless blues, bop, soul and swing.

Hank Mobley, Soul Station (1960). One of the happiest Blue Note sessions ever teams sax great Mobley with drummer (and onetime boss) Art Blakey and pianist Wynton Kelly for an album of lean, soulful cheer. A guaranteed smile-maker of an album.


Sonny Clark, Leapin’ and Lopin’ (1961). Clark is a shamefully overlooked pianist, composer and sideman, and his records as a band leader mixed playful blues (summarized here on “Voodoo”) and exquisitely reflective solo playing (his cover of “Deep in a Dream”).


Kenny Dorham, Una Mas (1963). Like fellow trumpeter Lee Morgan, Dorham had a way with a lyrical phrase. Note the similarities between Una Mas’ title tune and Morgan’s “The Sidewinder”. But Dorham also exhibited understated swing and regal cool.


Lee Morgan, Search for the New Land (1964). You could argue to infinity about who was Blue Note’s greatest soloist and composer. Morgan gets my vote. He cut harder swing sessions, but few reached the sleeker emotive extremes of New Land.


Andrew Hill, Point of Departure (1964). Albums like this woke up Blue Note to the times. Within the jagged rhythmic strides of “New Monastery”, “Spectrum” and “Dedication”, pianist/composer Hill took the blues of Blue Note into brave new improvisational turf.


//Mixed media

Because Blood Is Drama: Considering Carnage in Video Games and Other Media

// Moving Pixels

"It's easy to dismiss blood and violence as salacious without considering why it is there, what its context is, and what it might communicate.

READ the article