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by PopMatters Staff

8 Apr 2009

Cartoonist Jeffrey Brown turns his pens on himself in his new autobiographical comic book Funny Misshapen Body out this week on Touchstone. Chronically his development as an artist, the book is compelling enough that Pop Candy is offering excerpts today.

Jeffrey Brown
Funny Misshapen Body [book excerpts]

by PopMatters Staff

8 Apr 2009

1. The latest book or movie that made you cry?
The last movie that made me cry was The Wrestler. In my head I was crying, but I didn’t exhibit it publicly for fear that I wasn’t wouldn’t be perceived as tough enough. Just kidding. I did get emotional when Mickey Rourke’s character explains to his daughter that he is washed up. I couldn’t help feel that maybe we are all washed up in some way. Maybe sometimes you can’t really follow your dreams?

2. The fictional character most like you?
I would probably say Hiro Nakamura from Heroes. I think his penchant for being a super hero is really appealing to me. He has great imagination and tries to accomplish the impossible. I can really relate to his good heart as well. Maybe we look alike too? More people should be like Hiro!

3. The greatest album, ever?
Very tough question to answer. I could probably elaborate on some albums that shaped my musical way of thinking. One album is The Beatles’ White Album (1968) and the other is The Kinks’ Village Green Preservation Society (1968). Both records really taught the power of melody and storytelling. Even if the melody is simple it can still have a great impact against a well-crafted musical bed.

4. Star Trek or Star Wars?
Star Wars all the way. I was raised on Star Wars and I have such great memories of going to the toy store and purchasing the various action figures. If I had saved them all they would probably be worth a fortune right now. At some point as a kid, I believed that Star Wars was real. I know there are some adults out there that think that way too…

5. Your ideal brain food?
My ideal brain food is Wasabi Peas. I can’t get enough of them. I like to pop a handful in my mouth and see how long I can stand it. It usually starts making my eyes water and after that I can really concentrate on anything. Everyone should try it.

by Sarah Zupko

8 Apr 2009

Conor Oberst and the Mystic Valley Band returns May 5th with their sophomore album The Outer South and Merge has just released a free MP3 “Nikorette” from the record. The group also has a bunch of upcoming concerts, including appearances at the Telluride Bluegrass Festival and Summerfest in Milwaukee. Plus, they are offering up a documentary on April 15th called One of My Kind and we’ve got the trailer here for you. It’s big month for indie rock docs with Arcade Fire and the Hold Steady releasing theirs this week.

Conor Oberst and the Mystic Valley Band
“Nikorette” [MP3]
     

TOUR DATES
April 9: Omaha, NE @ The Slowdown
April 10: Denver, CO @ Ogden Theater
April 11: Aspen, CO @ Belly Up
April 12: El Paso, TX @ Barnett Harley Davidson
April 13: Albuquerque, NM @ The Sunshine Theater
April 14: Tempe. AZ @ The Marquee
April 15: Pomona, CA @ The Glasshouse
April 17: Indio, CA @ Coachella
June 17: Colorado Springs, CO @ Black Sheep
June 18: Telluride, CO Telluride Bluegrass Festival
June 19: Moab, Utah Star Hall
June 20: Salt Lake City, UT Library Square (Utah Arts Festival Kickoff)
June 21: Boise, ID Knitting Factory
June 22: Missoula, MT Wilma Theater
June 24: Minneapolis, MN First Avenue
June 25: Milwaukee, WI Summerfest
June 26: Omaha, NE Anchor Inn
June 28: Kansas City, MO Beaumont
June 29: Columbia, MO Blue Note
June 30: Louisville, KY Headliners Music Hall
July 01: Cleveland, OH Grog Shop
July 02: Bearsville, NY Bearsville Theatre
July 03: New Haven, CT Toads Place
July 22-26: Carrboro, NC XX Merge

by Rob Horning

8 Apr 2009

Vanessa Grigoriadis’s carefully balanced article in New York magazine about Facebook basically boils down to this: The social networking thing is neat for people in their 30s because they get to find lost loves, etc., but then it gets kind of boring and/or creepy. As I was reading it, I had a strong impulse to destroy the Facebook profile I have. I don’t really use it for anything. It’s more of a post-office box I check now and then to see if anyone surprising has thought about me. Am I using it wrong?

I’m not sure if it makes more sense to not log in very much or not have a profile altogether; I don’t want to be invisible to the people who might try to find me on the site, but I don’t want to be responsible for updating it, nor do I want it to fall out of date altogether. But the idea of “sharing” on it—well described by Grigoriadis as “the most important Newspeak word in the Facebook lexicon, an infantilizing phrase whose far less cozy synonym is ‘uploading data’ ”—is pretty off-putting to me. My writing here, though I sometimes draw on personal details, is ultimately meant to be impersonal. At least, I hope it’s interesting to people who don’t know anything about me. But if I were updating Facebook, I would feel as though I was rubbing people’s noses in the glory of my life, such as it is. Perhaps I would rather share time with people than information—or would rather that the information shared emerged from a reciprocal, real-time exchange, not from a mediated broadcast.

I can’t say I derive much voyeuristic pleasure from Facebook either, the sort that Grigoriadis describes. It all makes me feel uncomfortable. Information that is thrown at me without context, with Twitter-like brevity, doesn’t feel like “ambient presence”; it seems like irritating static. And it has tended to diminish my memories of the people, who before Facebook’s advent, I used to wonder about. Now that I can find out what they have been doing, I already sort of know, and it’s dull. They are living their lives without reference to me, of course, but they are seeming to force me to know about it, and the only way I can fight back is with broadcasts of my own. But then I’d just be perpetuating the spiral. I guess I’m selfish like that. I want messages tailored to me personally; I don’t want the every-hour equivalent of the mass-mailing Christmas card.

It’s a bit like being trapped at an elementary school talent show (though that might be the most patronizing thing I have ever written). People seem to be trying to hard, or are entirely unaware that they should be trying, or—like me—they have just frozen up there on the stage. Or to use a slightly different metaphor, Facebook is like being at one of those theatrical performances in which there is surprise audience participation. I find this incredibly embarrassing, no matter who is induced to participate.

But what really bothers me about social networking is something that Grigoriadis celebrates (though maybe it’s just a rhetorical strategy to achieve that balance): the way it trivializes intimacy.

This is part of the magic of Facebook, where many actions that take on weight in the real world simply don’t pack the same punch: You can reconnect with long-lost friends without a gooey, uncomfortable e-mail about why you grew apart; you can forget to return Facebook e-mail and nobody minds; you can click obsessively on someone’s profile and there’s no way for him to know it.

But maybe we shouldn’t blow off the attempts people make to communicate with us or have a service to make us feel okay about it. If it’s okay if someone doesn’t respond when we try to reach them, than that communication is taking place within a vacuum; it’s not meant as communication at all but is instead a posture, a pose. Look at me, reaching out to you. And also, without the gooey emails Grigoriadis spits on here, the reconnection between old “friends” is merely nominal; it’s a pretense, a fantasy, insignificant. And sadly, it precludes the possibility that the gooey email will ever be written. Without such communication, the world—the “social graph,” as Facebook’s executives like to call it—is diminished. Yet Facebook seems to exist precisely to obviate awkward discourse.

But awkwardness is inescapably necessary. It’s an almost physiological signal that something emotionally significant is taking place. If Facebook eradicates such feelings by giving us such granular privacy controls that we prevent the possibility of embarrassment, then our lives become poorer, emotionally. The people we connect with through the site seem less than real people; they seem like shadows of the real people we thought we knew—the reality of these “friends” remains offline and even more inaccessible. In the place of intimacy, we have the more convenient alternative of user friendliness, the triumph of a new, corporate-mediated politesse.

by Rachel Balik

8 Apr 2009

Running a total of three and half hours with two intermissions, the Theater for a New Audience’s production of Hamlet at the Duke Theater, like the character Polonius, fails to be brief. Fortunately, director David Esbjornson made every line count and managed to keep almost everyone in the theater, and fully engaged. 

In order for a modern production of such a canonical (and ubiquitous) play as Hamlet to succeed, it must unearth new mysteries. Shakespeare buffs will easily revert to the usual banalities such as “how will they decide to stage the ghost?” These questions are inevitable, but a stellar production must transcend them to acquire sufficient raison d’etre. In Esbjornson’s version, that compelling, thought-provoking tension stemmed from a dexterous treatment of moral ambiguity and emphatic emotion. The set was a minimalist yet seductive blend of shifting black, whites, and grays; each tone a deliberate but naïve instrument of inevitable confusion and discontent.

 

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