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by Nikki Tranter

3 Nov 2008

William Wharton, author of Birdy, Dad, and A Midnight Clear died in hospital this week following an infection. Despite the success of Birdy, about a young man so obsessed with canaries he thinks he is one, Whartom resisted literary celebrity. Instead, he kept a low profile, dividing his time writing and painting, mostly in France.

From the Los Angeles Times obituary:

“One of the reasons I don’t want to live the life of a writer is I don’t want writers’ problems. Not thinking of myself as a writer gives me the freedom to be one. I’m not a wordsmith. I just basically look into my head and see the image and look for words.”

Read a revealing interview with Wharton here, in which he opens up up about his life, his politics, his art, and what he really thought of the film version of Birdy. It’s a brilliant piece, smart and hugely engrossing. You’ll come away wishing Adam Chmielewski got the chance to talk to all your favourite writers. From the interview:

Adam Chmielewski: You often say or imply in your novels that when faced with an all to frequent choice: fight or flight, we should rather flee. Interestingly, you suggested a flight—a flight into phantasy, into creative work. It is very much against our Nietzschean culture of power, winning, will to power, domination. Is it not that engaging into phantasy is a way of turning one’s back on reality, an escapism? 

William Wharton: I am not saying—take a flight into phantasy, I am saying, rather, phantasy in itself is a power. There is a little difference there. Albert Camus said—cherish your illusion, that is all you get. That is anti-Kafkaesque message, it is also anti-Nietzschean one. Camus gave a truly humanistic, livable, respect-yourself version of the human ideal. So I would not use the word “escape” here. Cherish your illusions as a way of coping with the irresolvable problems regarding which you are becoming panically or hysterically convinced that you have either to flee or fight. There is an another way: just to stay who you are, and have the confidence in your own capacity to deal with the problems. You do not have to fight or flee. You can create, create the situation.


by Jason Gross

3 Nov 2008

If you need a piece of contrary fluff, check out this Wired article which claims that the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) was a great boon to the Net- the comments to the article itself explain how stupid this idea is.  The DMCA was a piece of late 90’s legislation that was supposed to set up guidelines for who was responsible for copyright violations.  What it’s done instead among other things like limiting research opportunities is also give Internet providers (ISPs) and sites the right to yank material from the web with little or no notice. 

One example of this mess is Berkeley Place blog, which thought it was playing by the rules in posting music but soon found out otherwise as it had to deal with its material being taken down by blogspot.  Rules about the music that blogs can or can’t post are still fuzzy.  Some bloggers complain that someone from a big label will send them music to spread the word about a band but they soon get threatening notes from someone else at the same label, telling the blogger to take their music down.  Until this gets straightened out, this gray area is gonna remain a sore spot not just for blogs but also labels who want to promo their material.  In the meantime, everyone involved loses out- not just the bloggers and the labels but also the online listeners/users and the artists themselves who are caught between all of this mess.

by PopMatters Staff

3 Nov 2008

by Thomas Hauner

3 Nov 2008

It wasn’t Halloween night, but in New York a minimum of three days before and after October 31st is all that’s necessary for costume-induced revelry. And enough fans dressed ambiguously enough that the line between costume and outfit was thin. When MGMT, the duo consisting of keyboardist Ben Goldwasser and guitarist Andrew VanWyngarden, and their supporting band took the stage in matching Three Amigos attire, the crowd roared in delight.

And that was the general trend all night. The crowd clamored in delight every time Goldwasser approached his mic (he didn’t get more animated than that), lead guitarist James Richardson ripped into another fret-shredding solo, and whenever the group’s meandering jams coalesced into danceable beats.

The group seemed at ease on stage despite the surrounding underage regalement and general hysteria. They cruised through the majority of Oracular Spectacular, including their certifiable hits “Electric Feel” and “Time to Pretend”. But they lingered on “The Handshake” and a couple of other tracks, jamming extensively under Richardson’s commanding solos.

Singing has never been VanWyngarden’s strong suit—the album clearly works some auto-tune magic—but it was rough-hewn enough that it suited their ‘60s inspired indie sound well. “Weekend Wars”, however, simply sounds constipated and it did so equally live.

Winding down their set with “Kids”, they set down their instruments singing along to Goldwasser’s mostly solo electronic engineering. But they weren’t quite done and VanWyngarden pressed Richardson to follow his lead with playing “Girls Just Want to Have Fun.” What followed was a train-wreck of a cover, with VanWyngarden screeching out the vocals in an even loftier falsetto than usual and the bass player struggling to follow Richardson’s chords.

Though MGMT’s innovative psychedelic indie pop sound and songs of fated delusions made for a solid debut album, their only live embellishment was an exhilarating third-party guitarist. (And also their costumes.)

by Mike Schiller

2 Nov 2008

In a holiday week where it appears that most publishers are treading water and waiting for the final holiday push to year’s end, two titles stand out as the ones that are going to be fighting for gamers’ shelf space by the time the week ends.  In an interesting twist of scheduling, however, the fight won’t be fought based on quality, necessarily, but on the basis of which players have which consoles.

First only by virtue of its release date is Resistance 2 the sequel to the game that all but single-handedly saved the PS3’s launch lineup.  When the PS3 was released, the one inescapable criticism that it couldn’t shake off was the mere fact that there were almost no games worth playing in the launch catalog; in that lineup, Resistance was a beacon of exclusively-licensed hope.  It has since stood the test of time as one of the PS3’s most celebrated shooters, and Resistance 2 stands an awfully good shot of continuing that legacy as it introduces the prospect of a simultaneous 60-person competitive multiplayer mode.  60 people.  I’m a programmer by day, and that just sounds like a nightmare of network programming to me, but more power to Insomniac for deciding to tackle such a beast.

Of course, later this week comes Gears of War 2, and having spent a little bit of time with this one myself, let me tell you (in case you hadn’t already heard), it’s really an incredible gaming experience.  The first Gears of War was a success almost entirely on its technical merits; its unse of Unreal Engine 3 was unparalleled, its cover ‘n shoot gameplay was revolutionary for its time, and its enemy design was properly scary and awe-inspiring (and need I even mention the fantastic marketing push?).  The second game, while no great departure, lives up to Epic Games’ president Mike Capps’ proclamation that Gears 2 would be “bigger, better, and more badass”.  The technical marvels are at least doubled, while a renewed focus on the story is made plainly obvious by the second part of the very first act.  Epic obviously took notes on the few gripes that players had with the first game, taking steps to correct them for the second.

Elsewhere, it seems that licensed product is commanding most of the attention.  James Bond: Quantum of Solace is being released for a whole pile of consoles this week, and despite the fact that no Bond game since Goldeneye has lived up to the way that game captivated us back in the days of the Nintendo 64, we still continue to expect just a little more of Bond than of other licensed properties; hopefully Quantum of Solace can give us some of the fun escapism that so many other more serious games are lacking of late.  WWE SmackDown vs. Raw 2009 is also coming out for pretty much everything this week, and you probably already know if you’re buying it, but Lord knows there’s an audience for it.

As for lesser-known titles?  I’m not sure how you can turn down a game with a title like Little Red Riding Hood’s Zombie BBQ, but maybe that’s just me.

What are you picking up this week?  Is it back to work against the Locusts?  Up for another go-‘round with The Undertaker?  Or maybe that Tom Clancy game that’s sneaking quietly into the picture is more your speed?  Let us know, and remember—slow down.  Enjoy your time with your games.  There’ll be a good nine months starting in January to catch up.

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