Call for Essays About Any Aspect of Popular Culture, Present or Past

Latest Posts

Bookmark and Share
Monday, Nov 5, 2007

A friend forwarded me this NYT article about semi-outlaw devices you can buy to jam cell-phone transmissions, an aggressive tactic in the guerrilla war to reclaim public space.

As cellphone use has skyrocketed, making it hard to avoid hearing half a conversation in many public places, a small but growing band of rebels is turning to a blunt countermeasure: the cellphone jammer, a gadget that renders nearby mobile devices impotent.

The technology is not new, but overseas exporters of jammers say demand is rising and they are sending hundreds of them a month into the United States — prompting scrutiny from federal regulators and new concern last week from the cellphone industry. The buyers include owners of cafes and hair salons, hoteliers, public speakers, theater operators, bus drivers and, increasingly, commuters on public transportation.

The development is creating a battle for control of the airspace within earshot. And the damage is collateral. Insensitive talkers impose their racket on the defenseless, while jammers punish not just the offender, but also more discreet chatterers.

An either clueless or totally disingenuous Verizon spokesman is quoted: “It’s counterintuitive that when the demand is clear and strong from wireless consumers for improved cell coverage, that these kinds of devices are finding a market.” Actually, it’s completely intuitive. People want to talk into their own phones, and they don’t want to be disrupted by other people talking into their phones. Nobody cares about cell coverage for people other than themselves, except for maybe the people they are trying to call. And nothing angers people more than strangers who don’t acknowledge their existence, yet using a cell phone indiscreetly—in public, with no attempt to remove oneself from shared space—showcases that indifference to the existence of others. It’s a way of demonstrating just how entitled you feel to claim every place you go as your own private space. There’s a reason that when telephones were first introduced, they were placed in booths; it was inconceivably rude that you would conduct a conversation in the presence of others that would pointedly not include them. No one in their right mind would want the ability to carry out such conversations.

But technology’s reach and the insidious promotion of personal convenience over common courtesy and civic cooperation has made the unthinkable ubiquitous. The article touches on this: ” ‘If anything characterizes the 21st century, it’s our inability to restrain ourselves for the benefit of other people,’ said James Katz, director of the Center for Mobile Communication Studies at Rutgers University.” Basically, cell-phone jamming is the spirit of road rage transferred to a more personal medium. Technology and the values made pervasive by advertising (which address us directly and tell us that we are always the most important person there is) have led us to expect total convenience and complete freedom from the compromises incumbent with getting along with others. So we feel outraged when those absolute, inalienable “rights” to total isolation in a crowd are “violated” by someone else operating by the same principles. What ensues, absent a belief that government can force us to recognize a public sphere where a collective good supersedes any selfish individual preference, is an arms race: on the road, bigger SUVs; on the phone front, cell jammers.

Bookmark and Share
Monday, Nov 5, 2007

From tech guru Michael Geist’s website- “Gov’t Commissioned Study Finds P2P Downloaders Buy More Music”  Should be amusing to see how the RIAA tries to spin this one.  They might also want to find a way to spin the story behind the woman who was one of their first lawsuits too.

Bookmark and Share
Monday, Nov 5, 2007

Source: The New Yorker

It’s a long story, but for various reasons—inhering in punishment and perfectability, alike—I am working with my son on his brain. Well, he has a considerable one, so there is not much heavy-lifting involved, but nonetheless, there are still—to paraphrase Robert Frost—miles to go before we sleep.

In the process we are both able to learn a little more about this strange land that we find ourselves co-travelers in.


The way we’re working on it is variable and varigated, depending on mood and available tools. It can take the form of playing guitars together, writing stories, reading newspapers and summarizing them, commenting on world events. And yesterday, I had him writing captions for cartoons from The New Yorker. This turned out to be the equivalent of pulling toenails with one’s teeth, but they say “the journey to the Realm of 1000 Wisdoms always begins with the first step”—or maybe that’s “by putting on the first sandal”—well, either way, what else can one do when one is adrift on a rudderless journey but put the paddle in the water and take the first stroke.

Not to mix metaphors, (but it is always good to keep all your “i"s dotted and cross all your “t"s).


So, there we are, me boy and me, sitting at the kitchen table at 10:30 p.m. Sunday night, MacBooks open, pecking out text on own keyboards, trying to fill in all the blanks. And what we came up with was . . . well . . . you’d better decide for yourselves.

Bookmark and Share
Sunday, Nov 4, 2007

It’s that time of year again. Even though Halloween and the season of dread ended officially last Wednesday (31 October) the After Dark Horrorfest is back. 2006 saw the inaugural festival, accurately described by its subtitle as “8 Films to Die For” rule the genre box office, providing hundreds of scare junkies with a collection of creepshows they won’t soon forget. This year, a new octet of offerings is slated to give fright fans the wicked winter heebie jeebies. Running from 9 November until the 18th (one week, two weekends) the promising line-up on tap includes:

Crazy Eights (2006) – six childhood friends reunite to battle a secret from their past that’s returned to haunt them.

Lake Dead (2007) – when the relatives of a dead man return to his home, they meet up with a band of sinister psychos.

Borderland (2007) – a group of college kids run into a South of the Border human sacrifice cult.

The Deaths of Ian Stone (2007) – a young man is stuck in a parallel existence where he is murdered over and over again.

Mulberry Street (2006) - a deadly virus is turning the citizens of Manhattan into rabid, rat-like creatures.

Nightmare Man (2006) – an infertile couple discovers a demonic presence inside an ancient fertility mask.

Tooth and Nail (2007) – in a post-apocalyptic world, it’s survivors vs. cannibals.

Unearthed (2007) – a group of archaeologists disturb and ancient Indian burial ground, unleashing an ancient monster.

Partnering with AMC, Regal, and Cinemark, the macabre marathon will run on over 300 screens across the United States. For more information on After Dark Horrorfest 2007, including how to purchase tickets and all access passes to this hair-raising national event, please visit the official website at

Bookmark and Share
Sunday, Nov 4, 2007

Cate Kennedy talks writing at LiteraryMinded:

I’ll try to have two things on the boil at the same time so I have something to switch to if I feel really stale with the first one. I’ll promise myself a coffee if I just do another 500 words. I trick and cajole myself into getting to the end of the crap draft, as if my unconscious is some sort of mutinous toddler who needs bribery just to stay on the task. Or perhaps a better analogy would be a big, undisciplined dog who hates the lead and never comes back when it’s called. You’ve got to try and train a dog like that, but generally it sees you with the leash in your hand and just runs off ...
And last of all, when I feel really uninspired, I think: what would you rather be doing? Nobody’s making me do it, after all, so I remember what Raymond Carver said: Don’t complain, don’t explain.

In my opinion, Cate Kennedy is living the Australian Dream. She gets to live and thrive in rural Victoria, where her kitchen window view reveals cows in paddocks, and see her worked reviewed (complete with special red star) in Publisher’s Weekly. A lucky woman, if ever there was one. She’s also warm, funny, and stupendously talented. Her book, Dark Roots is out in America in January, published by Grove/Atlantic.

Kennedy’s story, “Cold Snap”, also found in Dark Roots, was published in the New Yorker on 11 September 2006. Cate’s other works include the memoir Sing and Don’t Cry: A Mexican Journal and the poetry collections Joyflight and Signs of Other Fires.

Check out the LiteraryMinded interview, the Publisher’s Weekly report, and note the jackets on the US and Australian releases of Dark Roots. The American release features a woman’s head in need of fresh peroxide, while the Aussie cover is far grittier, a hand sort of mid-xray, with a vein-like tree sprouting from the wrist. Vastly different images, somehow they both represent themes key to Kennedy’s stories, themes of hidden warts, demons, and boiling points. If one were forced to make such a comparison, I’d make Anne Tyler hook up with Chuck Palahniuk in middle of nowhere Australia. The very thought entices, right?





Now on PopMatters
PM Picks
PopMatters' LUCY Giveaway! in PopMatters's Hangs on LockerDome

© 1999-2014 All rights reserved.™ and PopMatters™ are trademarks
of PopMatters Media, Inc.

PopMatters is wholly independently owned and operated.