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Friday, Apr 25, 2008
by PopMatters Staff
Denmark's Fashion has been around since 2003, but the group only recently made their North American debut at SXSW this past March. Look for their US debut record this summer on Epic Records. You can check out a preview EP on iTunes now.

1. The latest book or movie that made you cry?
Tough one, but I think Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind was the last one that really got to me.


2. The fictional character most like you?
The nameless narrator of the book Fight Club by Chuck Palahniuk. Obviously, it later on became a Hollowood box office hit movie. So, if you´re too lazy for the book just watch the movie, because it still hits a sore spot in almost everyone. A clver way of sticking it to “the man” and I am all for that.


3. The greatest album, ever?
Live After Death by Iron Maiden, a concert recording from Los Angeles at the peak of their carrer in ´85 with a bunch of songs from a brilliant back catalogue. That album always takes me back.


4. Star Trek or Star Wars?
Star Wars for sure. I am an official memeber of the Hyper Space community at StarWars.com so I am almost religious about that. My apartment is overflowing with Star Wars gear. I used to play Star Wars Trivial Pursuit once a week a few years back. We stopped because we all knew all the questions by heart.


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Thursday, Apr 24, 2008


For the weekend beginning 25 April, here are the films in focus:

In Brief


Harold and Kumar Escape from Guantanamo Bay [rating: 5]


Is it possible to make a stoner comedy without actually showing your heroes wake and bake? Can a keen political satire be crafted out of obvious takes on the War on Terror and government incompetency? Both questions come up frequently in this relatively successful sequel to the 2004 pot party. This time around, our title characters are on their way to Amsterdam when their bong is mistaken for a bomb. They end up entering, and then fleeing from the infamous Cuban prison, hoping that a highly placed pal in Texas can bail them out. Kumar also wants to stop his ex-girlfriend from marrying this conservative cad. With the usually dependable Rob Corddry ruining every scene he’s in, and a great deal of inappropriate race baiting, first time directors Jon Hurwitz and Hayden Schlossberg (who also wrote both films) use the “insult everyone equally” approach to avoid controversy. Still, when a sidesplitting smoke out only offers one real take on the toke (it arrives when our duo meet up with an equally Chronic prone George W. Bush), when it doesn’t have the nerve to argue the very policies it parodies, then we are dealing with some very cowardly comedy. Still, there are enough laughs - and stars John Pho and Kel Penn are more than winning - to sustain us through this uneven second helping. 


Baby Mama [rating: 2]


It’s about time someone stood up and told Hollywood the truth - children are not the creative cure-all a character needs. Giving a demanding, type-A personality a toddler will not instantly turn a control freak shrew into an Earth goddess. This applies to all zygote phase formulas as well. While many may see the names Tina Fey and Amy Poehler on the marquee and think comic gold, Baby Mama is instead a loaded Pampers full of fetus poo. While the talent pool it’s drawing from is marginal at best (who still thinks Steve Martin is cutting edge?), there is no excuse for such unfunny business. Using caricature instead of personality (Fey is the square-glasses wearing dork, Poehler is the Big Gulp slurping stooge) and forcing everything through a sieve of ‘babies are adorable’ drek, we wind up with 90 minutes whinier than the population at a Day Care. Co-stars Greg Kinnear and Dax Shephard are clearly present to give men both sides of the bad name (wuss/asshole) and pop culture references have to pass for satire (yo, hip-hop is def!). While Fey had no control over the content (the crappy writing and directing are courtesy of Michael McCullers), she should have better career management. A film like Baby Mama could land you on the artistic adoption list forever.


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Thursday, Apr 24, 2008
A month in advance of Ubisoft's long awaited and hotly anticipated yellow-tinted shooter, Korn has released a song apparently "inspired by" the not-yet-out game.

What we have before us today is the official video for Korn’s “Haze”, which was apparently inspired by the upcoming Ubisoft/Free Radical first-person shooter.  This is what it looks like:


Alright, now, who’s benefiting here?  I know that the point is that both parties benefit, as Haze gets, oh, “hardcore cred” or something, and Korn gets gamer cred.  The thing is, the people out there who (still) like Korn happen to be pretty much the same audience that will be buying up Haze when it comes out.  This isn’t to speak of the quality of either piece of the equation; rather, I just don’t see the point of marrying the two, especially in what seems like an especially forced way.


Occasionally there’s a merger of game and licensed music that just seems as though it was meant to be.  Dragonforce’s “Through the Fire and Flames”, a two-year-old song, has taken on new life on the radio thanks to the infamy it has taken on as the most difficult track on Guitar Hero 3.  And I’ll never forget the rush of “Jerry was a Race Car Driver” showing up in Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater (though I realize I may be alone in that particular way). 


But Korn?  Haze?  If the above Korn vid makes you more excited for Haze, please leave a comment, because I want to know why.


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Thursday, Apr 24, 2008
Cannibalsby Jimmy Lee ShreeveJohn Blake PublishingApril 2008, 288 pages

Cannibals
by Jimmy Lee Shreeve
John Blake Publishing
April 2008, 288 pages


... because it’s just about the greatest PR headline I’ve ever seen.


The skinny? UK-based true crime author Jimmy Lee Shreeve is writing a poker-related blog, which can be accessed via his website. Shreeve is the author of four books detailing some of the gruesomest rituals in modern history, including child sacrifice and cannibalism. His newest book is Cannibals, out in hardcover this month from John Blake Publishing. According to Shreeve’s press release, his poker blog “covers his personal experiences ... and highlights the often wild individuals who have been associated with the game since its beginnings on the Mississippi riverboats in the early 19th century”.


Enticing as that sounds, I don’t think even the most creative of press releases could rightly describe the joys of Shreeve’s blog. It is truly a journey into weirdness: eccentric, funny, and ridiculously compelling. If you need some poker tips, Jimmy’s got some. But the fun here is learning about Jimmy’s dad, who taught Jimmy to play poker as a kid. Jimmy’s dad learned the ropes from “U.S. airmen and members of the Mafia during stints in Italy and North Africa in World War II”. Right? Jimmy writes, too, about his first high stakes games, about comparing method acting to poker playing, and comments on the techniques of Phil Hellmuth.


Here’s just a sample from Shreeve’s latest entry, titled “Too many aces can land you in a hole”:


Although most of us would agree that aces in the hole are a good thing to have, too many of them—metaphorically-speaking, at least—can literally land you in a hole. One time, when I was playing poker regularly in Bristol, in the west of England, I ran into what was as near to a Wild West shoot out as you’re ever going to get in the U.K. (short of getting involved in armed robbery and gangsterism).


It involved me, Frank Coburn and Sam Johnson. Both were singer/guitar players, who I used to back up with lead guitar in the pubs and clubs in the region. This was during the mid-1980s.


We’d been playing poker with some rasta guys in St. Pauls, which is the Bristol equivalent of the London district of Brixton. As usual, we’d been playing in the Gaol, the historic cellar owned by Frank. The rastas became disgruntled, saying that we’d had too many “aces in the hole” for it to be a fair game. We weren’t cheating (being honourable, none of us would). Luck had simply been on our side. The game ended, and the rastas left, muttering vengeance.


We thought nothing of it. But the following evening we were on our way for a drink at the Beaufort pub in the arty Montpelier area of Bristol. I was wearing my long coat and Western hat (which I still wear), and was completely unaware that the rastas were waiting for us up ahead, standing like gunfighters in the shadows.and wielding knives.


Head on over to see how it ends…


 


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Thursday, Apr 24, 2008

In a recent editorial for the Guardian, CEPR economist Dean Baker makes a point I was struggling to make in this column. Baker does a good job of explaining how irrational, economically speaking, it was for people to jump into the housing market over the past decade.


only an ideologue would view homeownership as an end in itself. One of the reasons that millions of families face foreclosure and/or the loss of their life savings is that the ideologues of homeownership continued to promote homeownership even when it was clear that buying a home would be financially detrimental.
Recognising the risks of homeownership in a bubble wasn’t a matter of rocket science - it was simple arithmetic. The ratio of house sale prices to annual rent soared past 20 to 1 in the bubble markets, approaching 30 to 1 in the most inflated markets.
If a homeowner takes out a 7% mortgage (very low for a subprime buyer), pays 1% of the value in property tax each year, and another 1% for insurance and maintenance, then ownership costs are equal to 9% of the sale price. If the house sells for 20 times its annual rent, then this family is paying 80% more in housing costs as homeowners each year than they would pay as renters. If the house were selling for 25 times the annual rent, then the family would be paying 125% more as homeowners as they would as renters.


And the dropping prices and HELOCs assure that no equity was amassed either.


That all makes for good support for the point I was getting at in the column, which is that the pleasures of ownership are noneconomic, they are ideological and they cost extra, above and beyond what shelter you get out of the deal.


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