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Friday, May 9, 2008

I’m gearing up for some author interviews this week, so I thought I’d scout about for some fun ones to share this morning…

Elinor Lipman talks to the Beacon Journal about Helen Hunt’s adaptation of her Then She Found me

[A]bout three years ago, a screenplay with Hunt’s name attached reached Lipman. After reading it, she asked if she could have an e-mail forwarded to Hunt—basically that she was happy with what she had read.

‘‘I sent a small, little e-mail. I got back a very long, heartfelt e-mail from her,’’ Lipman said. ‘‘How the book meant a great, great, great deal to her. Helen was very generous.’‘

Then She Found Me hit cinemas in LA and New York in April, with wider release this month.

Publisher’s Weekly writer Kevin Howell interviews Barbara Walters about her book, Audition (Knopf, May)

I think I was able to write the book because I am happy. Because a lot of the ghosts have faded. And because I am very contented with my work now. It’s just a good place for me to be in right now and I’m not auditioning anymore. Except for this book. When I read the book, I was concerned that that every other chapter was telling you how guilty I felt. So I went back and took a lot of guilt out.

The Kansas City Star talks to Gregory Maguire about the musical, Wicked, based on his 1995 book, Wicked: The Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West

To some extent I was shocked at how well it worked, I gave myself the privilege of not being too involved in the development. I figured if L. Frank Baum didn’t come back from the grave and haunt my dreams while I was writing, then the least I could do was allow the same creative distance from me.

New author Geri Halliwell tries out the Independent‘s 5-minute interview

If I weren’t talking to you right now I’d be reading a book I’m reviewing for the Orange Fiction Award, The Road Home. I’m 23 pages in. It shows Britain through the eyes of Polish man working here.

Rose Tremain’s The Road Home was published by Chatto and Windus last year.

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Friday, May 9, 2008
by PopMatters Staff
Multi-instrumentalist and respected bluesman, re-imagines the banjo on his latest work, Recapturing the Banjo, released in February on Telarc Records. Collaborating with the likes of Guy Davis, Corey Harris, Alvin Youngblood Hart, Keb’ Mo’ and Don Vappie, Recapturing the Banjo got an 8 from PopMatters back in March. Our very own Lou Friedman said: "Otis Taylor is the only "modern day" bluesman who can make the blues sound primitive without being phony or contrived. And it really doesn’t matter what weapon he’s using to fire his musical provocations. In this case, he’s chosen a banjo as the primary cannon from his arsenal. Something way better than Recapturing the Banjo is going to have to come along to knock this off the pedestal as the best blues release of 2008.

1. The latest book or movie that made you cry?
When I was six years old I cried at Old Yeller and then I never cried at another movie again. 

2. The fictional character most like you?
The black guy in Gladiator (I think his name was Juba), he was loyal and had a family, as well. He was always trying to get back home which I feel like I am doing every time I leave my family.

3. The greatest album, ever?
Take Five by Dave Brubeck.

4. Star Trek or Star Wars?
Star Trek definitely, Spock is the man!

5. Your ideal brain food?
For me, waking up each day and really experiencing life, the colors, smells, sounds is what stimulates me. Each day is different.

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Friday, May 9, 2008

Like Kottke, I can’t entirely tell if this W magazine piece on time-conserving tactics for “squillionaires” is a joke, but I’ve decided that it doesn’t matter; it’s darkly funny regardless. The piece starts from the premise that free time is more precious than money (the attention economy and all that) and then presents some ways for the rich to be conspicuously efficient. Here are two examples:

Employees have emotions and think everyone else wants to hear about them. No, no, no. Take a cue from the Victorian grandees, who kept their minions below stairs and under the thumb of a highly paid head butler. Hire an in-house shrink to listen to your staffers’ complaints and an aide to sort out their schedules….
Don’t Divorce. When will people learn? A divorce is the surest way to waste time, emotion and money. Instead of trading in your spouse for a new model, just stay married and have affairs. Jimmy Goldsmith had it right when, during his third marriage, to Annabel Birley, he said that marrying a mistress just creates a vacancy.

This cuts to the heart of all aspirational-oriented service journalism. The sort of folks attracted to wealth porn of the sort that this magazine serves up ultimately want to fantasize about not having to give a shit about anyone else, about having money purchase the right to be indifferent. This is merely an extension of the ideology behind all conveniences, which are usually defined in terms of the degree to which they eliminate the need to deal with other people or accommodate others’ needs. You don’t free up time to spend it with others; you free it up from other people’s claims. At the the level of wealth being dealt with here, other people are only the sum of their claims on you; true reciprocity is impossible when you are megawealthy.

The ideological principle behind consumerism is that needs are satisfied instrumentally through goods and not through participation in some sort of mutual social process. And wealth, in a consumer society, is predominantly a way of forcing objectification onto others, making them tools at your disposal, with goods as a mere proxy for this highest of all accomplishments. (From this perspective, what’s appealing about labor-saving devices is the idea of eliminating the need for having to deal with the person who once did this work for you. Sometimes that person is yourself, suggesting that the ultimate goal of convenience may be complete self-alienation.) As the W article notes ruefully, “Anyone with household help knows that, unfortunately, staff are people too.” Wealth, if it’s any good, eradicates that nuisance.

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Friday, May 9, 2008

OK, so what have the entertainment companies learned from trying to educate and fight and figure out consumers in the digital age?  Apparently nothing, which is why they’re working with Microsoft to make the Zune more user unfriendly and full of DRM.  Their theory is that as much as consumers hate to have restrictions on why they listen to or watch, they’ll still begrudgingly flock to the legal digital media alternatives because they have no choice. 

The problem is that consumers do have a choice and that’s to go to unauthorized downloading channels and get the material without all the locks and even with all the lawsuits that the RIAA piles on college campuses, there’s little evidence that it’s had its intended effect of scaring people into only using label-authorized downloading options.  In other words, the pact with Zune will probably have the opposite effect- music and movie fans will shun Zune (which is already hurting in competition with the iPod) rather than embracing it.

If these knuckleheads have a chance of getting potential consumers to embrace and buy into authorized formats, they stand a better chance (though not assured) by getting artists to pony up exclusive material there.  A recent example of this is Neil Young’s embrace of the Blu-Ray format, which might even help him release his long-threatened Archives series. 

Young argues that the new technology lets him deliver more multi-media goodies in a higher quality format.  While he’s right about Blu-Ray (which is compatible with DVD and CD’s for now), the question is whether only rabid fans will take the plunge and invest in the new technology or not.  If I had to bet, I’d say that it’s unlikely unless many other artists follow Neil’s lead and put out exclusive material in Blu-Ray format.  Even then, it would be a hard sell to get Gen X to shell out money for to replace music that they already replaced from vinyl to CD.  For all the arguments about how MP3’s suck in terms of sound quality, the fact of the matter is that most people ain’t audiophiles and usually don’t notice the difference or care enough to buy a new format player and then replace their collection with higher quality music or movies.  As for the post-millennium generation, good luck trying to convert them unless the industry wants to effectively kill off the old formats the same way they did with vinyl (which I think would be a disaster too, even if the market for physical product is dying down as there’s still a loyal though smaller following).

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Thursday, May 8, 2008
While we've had clues thrown our way, we really don't know for sure which games will be part of WiiWare's launch on Monday. Here's what one writer is hoping for...

Well, here we are.  This is like lying in bed on the day before my birthday, or Father’s Day, or Christmas.  I have a vague idea of what could possibly be in that shiny, enticing giftwrap when I get up, I know what I’m wishing for, I know what I asked for, but I don’t know exactly what I’ll be opening when morning finally arrives.

Yes, Monday brings with it the launch of WiiWare, or Wii Live Arcade, or whatever you want to call it.  Is it an innovative idea?  Well, no, Microsoft and Sony have been offering original downloadable content for quite some time now, some of which defines the consoles it resides on (Everyday Shooter, flOw, Geometry Wars) as much as the big ticket items that get all of the publicity and the numbers.  That it took this long for Nintendo to get on board is both a testament to the power of the library of old games Nintendo had at its disposal via the Virtual Console and yet another aspect of the online experience that Nintendo is shamelessly behind on.

This is not the time to dwell on the Wii’s shortcomings, however; the stable of games that WiiWare has lined up looks immediately appealing and very, very creative.  Remember two years ago, when we were first hearing about the Wii and its nutty little control interface?  Remember the promise that it held, as we dreamed of virtual swordfights and endless tennis volleys that actually increased our heart rate?  Occasionally, that promise is fulfilled, but I don’t think anyone was suspecting the onslaught of minigames and PS2-with-waggle conversions that have ultimately come to define the system for those who would detract from it.  WiiWare, on the other hand, is like a new beginning.  Having independent developers create software for the Wii is like handing the reins to people like us, people who once saw the Wii as a system of infinite possibilities, now offered the chance to realize some of those possibilities.

Much like the Virtual Console, however, we really have no idea which of those possibilities we are going to get to experience come Monday afternoon.  With that in mind, after the jump are five WiiWare games that would look great inside Monday’s shiny wrapping paper…

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