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by Eleanore Catolico

28 Aug 2009

Your favorite Japanese-all female-banana chip lovin’-pop punk trio is back. With new bassist Ritsuko Taneda added to the lineup, alongside lead/guitar Naoko Yamano and drummer Etsuko Nakanishi, Shonen Knife has released their new album Super Group on Good Charamel Records this past Tuesday, August 25th. On the album’s cover, the ladies look like an amalgamation of Charlie’s Angels and the Powder Puff Girls bordered by neon prism configurations, pretty, all grown up, and in fact, super.

Continuing their oeuvre of childhood fantasia as well as quantifying cute, Shonen Knife keep alive the cheery minimalist instrumentation and lyrics that made Kurt Cobain an admirer of the band in the ‘90s. With beyond adorable verses sung in Naoko’s signature cadence, “The super group is perfect / Masters of rock music / Make fantastic sound / Waiting for the tour / They’re going to come and play in my town” my inner hello kitty anima is reborn. For that matter, whose wouldn’t be?

by Nick Dinicola

28 Aug 2009

When Shadow Complex came out last week, it was met with an unusual controversy, which Christian Nutt explored in an article on Gamasutra. The controversy centered around some gamers’ decision to boycott Shadow Complex because of its connection to Orson Scott Card, an outspoken opponent of gay rights. Card wrote Empire, a novel about a leftist army taking over the capital, and Shadow Complex is a prequel to that story.

The decision to boycott raises some interesting questions: Is it fair to boycott the game for its connection to Card? Games are not made by a single person, and Card’s contributions to the game are already slim. Before Nutt (who is himself gay) learned of the controversy around the game, he met with Donald Mustard, the creative director and co-founder of Chair Entertainment, the developer behind Shadow Complex, and wrote, “…over an hour after I had initially mentioned it, he wished me well in my long distance relationship with my boyfriend in Michigan. “It worked for us,” he said, referring to himself and his wife Laura.”

That show of support lies in direct contrast to Card’s stated beliefs. In addition, the game is written by Peter David, described by GayGamer in their own look at the controversy as “a straight but extremely gay-friendly comic book writer…He also just “outed” two characters, Shatterstar and Richter, in Marvel’s X-Force, giving the company its highest profile gay relationship yet.” So now there are two conflicting views represented in the creative talent behind the game. To support one is to support the other and to hurt one is to hurt the other. But if we’re taking Card’s, Mustard’s, and David’s ideologies into account, what about the many others who worked on the game? At what point do you draw the line?

And what of the game itself? Shadow Complex actually has nothing to say about homosexuality. It offers no commentary, no opinion, and no mention of anything even remotely related to sexual orientation. However overblown the cries of racism in Resident Evil 5 were, the game did contain some potentially insensitive imagery, so at least there was something in the game itself to get upset over. Not so in Shadow Complex. In fact, Nutt quotes a friend of his in saying “it subverts the Empire universe severely.”

However, Card has been very vocal in his opposition. He’s part of the board of directors for the National Organization for Marriage, a group that seeks to prevent the legalization of same-sex marriage, and he’s been quoted saying “Laws against homosexual behavior should remain on the books, not to be indiscriminately enforced against anyone who happens to be caught violating them, but to be used when necessary to send a clear message that those who flagrantly violate society’s regulation of sexual behavior cannot be permitted to remain as acceptable, equal citizens within that society.” Certainly the degree and high-profile nature of his opposition makes it understandable for someone to want to boycott his works, or anything he’s worked on, out of principal.

To that end, that’s all one can go on: principle. Are you so opposed to Card that you’re willing to hurt David and Chair Entertainment financially? Or vice versa? There is no right or wrong answer; it’s people’s personal beliefs conflicting with the purchase of a video game. The article on GayGamer suggested a rather elegant compromise: “if you’re obviously too disgusted to enjoy the game, avoid it, and speak out. However, if you want to play the game, play it. Enjoy it, but offset the hate: if you buy Shadow Complex, donate $5, $10, $15 if you can spare it to a gay charity.” While the game may say nothing about the controversy now, with more thought and effort being put into game narratives, I wonder how long until the personal and political beliefs of the creators start to find their way into their games. And would this really be a bad thing? As Nutt says, “If we can have meaningful political discussion in other media, we can have it in games.” If anything, it would certainly spur some interesting discussion.

by Adam Tramantano

28 Aug 2009

So much of The Wire is about watching the characters make things up. Beginning with season one, Lieutenant Daniels, the detail he supervises, their purpose and even their basement location, all come together during the process of the story. 

In Season two, the self-starter-ness of the characters moves every major part of the story; from the fact that Major Valchek wants Frank Sobotka to be convicted of something (he knows not what), to Nick Sobotka’s entrepreneurial venture into the business of heroin dealing. 

Season three takes the make-it-up-on-your-own notion to a whole new level with Major Colvin’s decriminalized drug zone, known as Hamsterdam. We are also introduced to a new and very compelling character Dennis “Cutty” Wise who starts his own boxing gym.  It is in this season where Sergeant Ellis Carver forges a new relationship with the corner dealers.

by Tyler Gould

28 Aug 2009

Her retro style and immovable coiffe may draw Imelda May comparisons to Amy Winehouse, but she eschews the lazy-though-potent soul power of the latter in favor of relentless boogie. Her impish snarl is the highlight of this new video for her rockabilly-by-numbers track, “Johnny Got a Boom Boom”, where she’s backed competently by a blur of pomade and bowling shirts. Occasionally, you’ll see her bang on a traditional Irish drum called a bodhrán, which is buried so deep in the mix as to be totally superficial, but it sure looks fancy.

You can find the song on her 2008 release, Love Tattoo, and you can find Imelda May embarking on her first ever US tour this September. Check out the clip for some rapid camera zooming and very sassy lateral head-bobbing, along with her performance on Later… with Jools Holland

by Tommy Marx

28 Aug 2009

Pop history is littered with the remains of singles released by actors desperately craving careers in music, from the strained vocals of Don Johnson searching for a “Heartbeat” to the featherweight vocals of “Don’t Give Up on Us”, the cheesy (yet oddly touching) plea from David Soul. Eddie Murphy had two Top 40 hits, the instantly forgettable “Put Your Mouth on Me” and the major smash “Party All the Time”, both of which came across as bad vanity projects. Leighton Meester, Blair on Gossip Girl (The O.C. 2.0), is currently featured on the Top 10 hit “Good Girls Go Bad”, a Cobra Starship song that sounded dated five seconds after it first played on the radio.

It’s almost a rite of passage for actors. Once they’ve found success appearing in a television series or in movies, many of them immediately want to prove that they are more than just actors. So we get Bruce Willis recording a cover of “Respect Yourself” and John Schneider remaking “It’s Now Or Never” – not bad songs, per se, just not particularly memorable either.

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