Latest Blog Posts

by Rob Horning

2 Feb 2009

All of John Quiggin’s essays on economic doctrines now refuted by the current crisis are worth reading. It illustrates well how rationalizing ideology is generated to paper over contradictions, unsustainable imbalances, and inevitable reckonings.

In his most recent post, about trickle-down theories, Quiggin predicts a reemergence of class struggle in the wake of economic failure. He concludes:

Politically, the failure of the trickle-down theory seems likely to produce a resurgence of the class-based politics pronounced dead in the era of economic liberalism. The contrast between the enforced austerity of any recovery period, and the massive, and massively unjustified, excesses of the financial elite during the boom period, will produce a political environment where phrases like “malefactors of great wealth” no longer seem quaint and old fashioned.

It’s tempting to cheer this development as long overdue. But when we turn to politics merely out of dissatisfaction and disgruntlement (our chance at unfettered consumerism is receding!) rather than a habit of civic duty, the danger of reactionary policies and demagoguery increase dramatically. Class-based critique is not automatically demagoguery, as conservatives assert, but in a country that has had a hard time acknowledging the existence of a “power elite” and that can be complacent about the ideals of social mobility and equality of opportunity, class-based politics can quickly devolve into the more familiar forms of American ressentiment: racism, nationalism, anti-intellectualism, and so on.
Literary critic Walter Benn Michaels makes a similar point about the disappearance of class from public debate, arguing that novelists tend to focus on those same forces of ressentiment and congratulate ourselves on our moral clarity in rejecting them, instead of looking at, say, poverty and our complicity in perpetuating it.

So maybe it’s time to forget about the Holocaust for a while and focus on the free market instead, to stop congratulating ourselves on being against genocide and to start questioning what it means to be for free trade. Although it doesn’t appear anywhere on the Times’s list [of the best novels of the past 25 years], Bret Easton Ellis’s American Psycho is a far better novel than most of the ones that do, and the Psycho’s self-consoling reminder, “I am rich—millions are not,” has the merit of problematizing the upper middle class’s sense of its virtue rather than, like Roth and Morrison, pandering to it.

Basically, prejudices are easier to accept and use than the hard facts about the tenacity of social class and how privilege is preserved at a more fundamental economic level. When a country that rejects class as a category has to acknowledge its real existence as a malign social force, outlandish ideologies can start to emerge. During boom times, consumer capitalism insulates us from politics, keeps the bulk of us in a stupor of self-centered individualism. When the boom ends, we generally lack the competence to engage in democratic politics in a way that’s consistent with the ideals we had been taking for granted. Suddenly feeling vulnerable, we lunge at anything that might promise to punish the forces that disrupted our fever dream of hedonism. The lunatic-fringe ideas that have been gathering in world’s unkempt corners like so much lint can be swept up together and take substantial form; reasonable people, bewildered by heretofore unthinkable institutional failures, may find them suddenly plausible.

No doubt financiers have been over compensated and reckless; their myopic selfishness has damned us to several years of difficult readjustment that many in no way deserve. The difficulty will fall hardest on those who prospered least during the bubble. But the financiers weren’t acting out of spite or evil; they were merely enacting the logic of the system. Their behavior reflects, as Robert Reich argues here, a structural problem. If our critiques don’t ascertain that, they will be futile and dangerous. Bankers will be hanged, for the wrong reasons, and those same wrong reasons will authorize a host of subsequent injustices as yet untold.

by PopMatters Staff

2 Feb 2009

Micheal Keefe said of Sarah Borges in relation to her 2007 release, Diamonds in the Dark, “Sarah can sing the heck out of anything, really. She has wonderful pop instincts, but never veers too close to slick, radio-baiting country pop. Her twang is sweet and supple, and her dedication to her material is infectious.” Borges returns with a new record, The Stars Are Out, on Sugar Hill March 24th. The new one is rockier, having been produced by Paul Q. Kolderie who has worked with Radiohead and the Pixies. Here’s the lead-off video, “Do It for Free”.

by Elena Mertus

2 Feb 2009

Serendipity introduced me to Ray LaMontagne. I decided to just randomly download one of his songs, and after hearing his one song “Trouble”, I decided to download every song that he has written. His voice, is rough, yet soothing.. .a sultry juxtaposition. His influences are Crosby, Stills & Nash, Bob Dylan and Neil Young, just to name a few.  LaMontagne’s words aren’t as complex and lyrical as Bob Dylan’s, but his acoustic, folk-inspired style brings you back to a different era in music. I wouldn’t recommend driving to his music, but put this music on when you are having a late night and you will be instantly relaxed, and find yourself surrendering into a dreamworld.

by Mike Schiller

1 Feb 2009

We’ve seen the summer doldrums, we’ve seen the dregs of December, but never, in almost a year of taking a look at the coming week in games, have we seen a release list so dire as the one I’m staring at right now.  There are a grand total of five releases, one of them an Xbox Live Arcade downloadable title, and there is not a single retail release for any of the major consoles.

Who can we look to, to save us from the indignity of $30 burning a hole in our pocket?  Why, Atlus of course.

My World My Way

My World My Way

My World My Way is right in Atlus’s wheelhouse, a turn-based role-playing game that might actually appeal to those who feel as though they’ve grown out of turn-based role-playing games.  Think for a second about the prototypical protagonist of an RPG.  This character is usually a teenage (or maybe early-20s) boy who sulks most of the way through the game even as women find him irresistable and important people whisper things about prophecies to him, taking him for some sort of hero.  He’s utterly unlikable, yet we come to identify with him given that spending 40 hours with anyone will cause an attachment of some sort to take hold.

Well, the protagonist in My World My Way is unlikable too, but intentionally so.  In fact, this particular protagonist is a princess, who can actually pout—in battle—to get her way.  My World My Way takes the tropes of turn-based RPGing and mocks them mercilessly.  Is it actually funny?  Does it hold up for an entire game?  Can you put up with an intentionally unlikable protagonist for 30 hours worth of gameplay?  FIND OUT ON TUESDAY!

Burnout Paradise

Burnout Paradise

Otherwise, PC owners finally get to see what the fuss is about last year’s sleeper racing hit Burnout Paradise, and EA tries to go casual on the 360 with 3 on 3 NHL Arcade, which might be just what you need if you’re still trying to use the NHLPA ‘93 controls on NHL 09.

...or, you could keep catching up on your backlog—it’s Tomb Raider and Lord of the Rings for me this week.  How about you?  Let’s hear it in the comments, and take comfort in the knowledge that it won’t be long ‘til next week.

by tjmHolden

1 Feb 2009

Image Source: Sports Illustrated/CNN

Okay, about ready to rock ‘n roll in Tampa. It’s 7:58 here in Sendai, Japan.

Smart money is all with the Steelers. On NBC (which I am accessing through a hinky Internet connection—so apologies if my commentary drops in and out), the rational analysts are all going with the Steelers (better D, been to the big dance before); the emotional analysts are going with the Cards (Warner’s “comeback” and possible Hall of Fame end-run is a good story, the Cards have never been to the game before—let alone, won).

Who do you think is going to win (and why?).  And a different question: who would you prefer to see prevail?


(The rest of this post’s updates below the jump . . . )


//Mixed media

Because Blood Is Drama: Considering Carnage in Video Games and Other Media

// Moving Pixels

"It's easy to dismiss blood and violence as salacious without considering why it is there, what its context is, and what it might communicate.

READ the article