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by Lara Killian

8 Jun 2009

This week I’m in the final throes of Lawrence Hill’s The Book of Negroes (2007). That’s the title you’ll find it under in Canada, at least. In the US the book was released as Someone Knows My Name. Someone may know your name, but that title tells us little about the book itself. I like the original better, referring as it does to an actual historical record of blacks who emigrated to Canada in the late 18th century.

Hill has won several major Canadian book awards for his story, which shines light on a forgotten piece of Canada’s past, during a time when Africa was an unknown continent and the people who were abducted and forced into the slave trade in the Americas had little hope of escape. Even Canada was unlikely to provide a refuge, despite the hope that people who escaped to the Maritimes clung to.

Harper Collins’ Canadian website notes:

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Lawrence Hill is a master at transforming the neglected corners of history into brilliant imaginings, as engaging and revealing as only the best historical fiction can be. A sweeping story that transports the reader from a tribal African village to a plantation in the southern United States, from the teeming Halifax docks to the manor houses of London, The Book of Negroes introduces one of the strongest female characters in recent Canadian fiction, one who cuts a swath through a world hostile to her colour and her sex.

This is a great story for those who appreciate reading of human triumph during some of the grimier periods in history. Hill spins a wonderful tale, inspired by the real life Book of Negroes.

by Rob Horning

8 Jun 2009

I feel a weird responsibility, as though I am required to link to this New York Times story about the hard times trust-funders in Williamsburg are now allegedly facing. As you would expect, the story is a bit anecdotal, and full of contempt bait for those who have to work, and those for whom unemployment would be truly devastating. I’m surprised anyone ould consent to be interviewed for a piece like this, but I should stop underestimating the narcissism of people in the Facebook age.

It would be easy to languor in schadenfreude at details such as these:

Luis Illades, an owner of the Urban Rustic Market and Cafe on North 12th Street, said he had seen a steady number of applicants, in their late 20s, who had never held paid jobs: They were interns at a modeling agency, for example, or worked at a college radio station. In some cases, applicants have stormed out of the market after hearing the job requirements. “They say, ‘You want me to work eight hours?’ ” Mr. Illades said. “There is a bubble bursting.”


The photo caption is pretty amusing as well: Under a photo of a casting-call hipster, it reads: “Misha Calvert, 26, relied on her parents during her first year in Williamsburg. Such financial arrangements carry a ‘giant stigma,’ she said.” A stigma, you say?

There’s nothing inherently wrong with “relying” on one’s parents, but at the Atlantic’s business site, Derek Thompson highlights the problems with the parental subsidy. Regarding the report that parents are shutting off the tap, Thompson writes:

The upside and downside of this development is pretty clear. Williamsburg real estate prices have skyrocketed in the last few years—partially on account of incomes that weren’t earned in Williamsburg—so this should help the little ‘burg move toward the rest of Brooklyn in terms of affordability. It is, it must be said, unfortunate for anybody to have their lives shaken dramatically by the recession, but much as the downturn has fostered a culture of responsibility and savings, so too should the demise of trustafarianism make the sons and daughters of the affluent more cognizant of basic human things like bottom lines and debt. The ability to pursue your life dreams in your early twenties on the back of your parents’ earnings is a kind of awesome gig, but in the long term it insulates you from an understanding of what life costs.

The time spent “pursuing life dreams” on the parents’ dime is probably wasted if during that time one is hanging around with other trust-funders who are detached from the actual economy. Success in the “glamour” fields usually involves forming the right friendships when the opportunities arise. If trust-fund ghettos also included a mix of cultural-broker types, the time spent socializing together in the neighborhood might ultimately prove worth subsidizing. But it seems to me that the artists and creative types unsullied by the taint of employment have little in common with the realists who have managed to compromise with the way the economy works. Those compromises, for better or worse, may actually constitute the real skill of a creative person in a capitalist system—the ability to get paid for what you make, to convince other people that you should be paid for doing it, that you believe in what you are doing enough to subject it to the bottom-line criticism of those who mean to regard you professionally. But professionalizing is the main thing that I imagine trust-fund types are trying to avoid. The whole point of places like Williamsburg, I assume, is that they are insulated from that sort of impersonal, professional failure; they are romper rooms removed from the competitive grind, from the grim scramble to make a living. They are enclaves where people can scorn money and call it bread (to paraphrase Joan Didion paraphrasing Time magazine, circa 1967). Instead of adapting to capitalist compromises, the pseudoaristocrats of Williamsburg, and places like it, can feel haunted by inconsequential failures of trendiness, the vicissitudes of purely private life.

by shathley Q

8 Jun 2009

The X-Men have tasted defeat before, but never of this kind. “Feared and hated”, as their splash page introduction reminds readers, “by a world they have sworn to protect”, X-Men count their victories by stemming the loss of life and preventing the outbreak of racial violence. Their steely resilience has always stood in sharp contrast to more glamorous teams like the Fantastic Four who regularly save the planet from galactic-level threats and enjoy the adulation of crowds. More an emergency rescue and intervention team facing the growing species tensions between human and mutant, the X-Men resolve simply to train and prepare for the worst.

In a surprise inversion of the conventional rescue-mission genre then, writer Joe Casey presents a tale ending with the X-Men being simply outclassed. Adding insult to injury, their most humiliating defeat comes at the hands of the Vanisher, a relatively inconsequential villain relegated to the dust-pile of X-Men lore.

In 2001’s “Absolute Progeny”, the Vanisher returns, only to be exposed as the head of an international drug cartel. By harvesting mutant genetic material (in the process killing ‘donors’) and marketing mutant ‘designer genes’ as the latest fad at teenage rave parties, the Vanisher has cornered the market on billion-dollar illicit industry.

In the closing pages of a story where the usual narrative conventions of the superhero rescue story are readily deployed, Angel leads a team to confront the Vanisher in his ‘lair’.

But it is at this point that the conventional narrative is overturned. Instead of a hideout overrun by henchmen, the X-Men find a technologically sophisticated environment. Here is fully-developed corporate headquarters, complete with onsite genetics laboratory, located in a country with no extradition treaty. As the X-Men prepare to engage their target, the Vanisher pontificates. Stating simple facts, he points out the impossibility of physical conflict. Even with the dissolution of his corporation, even with his removal as figurehead, the designer drug and marketplace it spawned will continue to flourish. Yet removing the Vanisher as corporate officer will require lawyers not fists.

Shortly before his exit, the Vanisher himself momentarily yearns for the halcyon simplicity of physical confrontation. “You know, I remember your fist against my jaw”, he confesses to Angel. The Vanisher’s ostensible moment of weakness, although remaining unexpressed, is marked by artist Ashley Wood’s homage to the original artwork from Uncanny X-Men #2, where Angel won a victory by striking down an adversary he ultimately dismissed as ineffectual.

by Joe Tacopino

8 Jun 2009

Kevin Devine gets on the couch to explore to subtext of relationships in his new video for the song “I Could Be with Anyone”. (via Spinner.com)

by Mike Schiller

8 Jun 2009

As anyone reading this blog probably knows, E3 has been going on all week in L.A. (which seems even farther away from Buffalo than usual these last few days), and as such, a barrage of game announcements and trailers for new product have been finding their way to the internets mere minutes after they are revealed to the Expo’s attendants.  Of those trailers, there is one that I simply can’t shake after having seen it, and it’s this one:

//Mixed media
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Bad Graphics Are Still Impressive in ‘Spirits of Xanadu’

// Moving Pixels

"Spirits of Xanadu wrings emotion and style out of its low fidelity graphics.

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