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by Sean Murphy

4 Jun 2009

While I could appreciate where Quentin Tarantino was coming from with Kill Bill and the ways he dutifully pays homage to old school pop culture icons, there were a couple of reasons that movie did not resonate with me. One, protracted and pyrotechnically-proficient fight scenes aside (for the record, Uma Thurman’s womano a womano brawls with Vivica A. Fox and Daryl Hannah were quite satisfactory; the over-the-top and ludicrous fight vs. the Crazy 88s not so much), it was a pretty medicore flick. Both of them. (But more on Tarantino’s general post Pulp Fiction irrelevance another time.) Two, for people of my generation, it simply wasn’t all that cool to see the great David Carradine ostensibly ressurected as Bill; sure, he had sauntered out of the limelight, but he did not seem particularly anxious to stroll back into it. In other words, his role was not the type of career-saving reclamation project as it applied to, say, John Travolta and Bruce Willis circa 1994. Carradine was what he was: an old school legend who had been there, done that. He was Kwai Chang Caine for Christ’s sake.

Anyone who hesitates for a single second, or even has to ask who that is, will be unable to understand why cats of my ilk (kids of the ’70s) identify Carradine with the role he was born to play: Kwai Chang Caine in Kung Fu. (Of course, this immortal, if somewhat short-lived TV show was namechecked not only in Office Space, but in the aforementioned Pulp Fiction, which in hindsight seems like an appropriately reverential bit of foreshadowing on Tarantino’s part.)

by shathley Q

4 Jun 2009

Morpheus, the eponymous Sandman, has died. The anthropomorphic manifestation of hopes, fears, dreams, and storytelling has passed from perception. As they sleep, dreamers have gathered in wake, mourning this passing. In this panel, Dream’s familiar, the raven Matthew, responds to an offer of some wine. Off-panel chief librarian for the Dreaming, Lucien confirms Matthew’s sobriety with an enigmatic quotation.

In more than one sense, this panel marks a moment of realization for readers. After this panel, there is no going back. Morpheus will not be returning. The last moments of his story really have played out on the final pages of issue #69. For regular readers, in a very real sense, the Dream has died.

But in a wholly other sense, The Sandman marks a point of no return in comics publication. Writer Neil Gaiman brought a literary quality to the series that along with such works as Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons’ Watchmen and Art Spiegelman’s Pulitzer winning Maus brought critical acclaim to the comics medium. At the height of this critical and commercial success however, Gaiman petitioned publisher DC to terminate the series. Agreeing to this, DC prioritized artistic creativity over commercial concerns. This decision would have lasting ramifications for both mainstream publisher-owned and independent self-published comics series. Almost from this moment, comics stories could end, something that had never happened before. There would be no going back.

But this panel also offers a secret betrayal of the “mature readers” project. The quote offered by Lucien comes from writer Alan Moore’s run on another DC publication, Saga of the Swamp Thing. More than a decade before “The Wake”, Moore kills off a Swamp Thing supporting character in a drunk driving incident. Consumed by fear and frustration, Matt Cable steadily turns to drink. When he finally decides to face his frustrations, he grabs the car keys and braves the night. As the car swerves, hitting a tree, Moore offers the sobering thought, “The night can make a man more brave, but not more sober”. In finally revealing the dependable raven Matthew to be none other than Matt Cable, Gaiman offers Moore’s character a redemption. But with redeeming the ghost of Matt Cable, Gaiman also gestures at DC’s mainstream superhero continuity. In the era of creator-owned, terminable series that Gaiman helped usher in, such gestures become increasingly impossible.

by Sarah Zupko

4 Jun 2009

PopMatters is 10 years old this year and we’re celebrating all year by remembering the culture of the year we were born. Look for a special music of 1999 special section in just a few weeks. In the meantime, we’ll start kicking things off here in Mixed Media.

The Dixie Chicks released their sophomore album (Fly) in the current incarnation with Natalie Maines in 1999 and “Goodbye Earl” was clear highlight, giving voice to female rage and empowerment. The video is pretty great too with Jane Krakowski, Lauren Holly and Dennis Franz.

by Sachyn Mital

4 Jun 2009

Though unable to attend the event as a member of the press, I was lucky enough to win two contests (from 101.9 RXP and Moby’s Twitter) to get me into the Museum of Natural History’s Hayden Planetarium for a listening party for Moby’s new album Wait For Me (out on Mute on June 30th). I missed out on the free booze and the schmoozing unfortunately, and as Moby was there, a chance to speak to him. But for the 250 people, press and contest winners alike, gathered within the gorgeous Rose Center, the listening party was an utterly unique event; the entire album played with accompanying visuals from our solar system selected by the resident astrophysicist for the evening.

The venue could not have been more fitting given Moby’s fascination with space. He titles songs “We Are All Made of Stars” and his ‘Little Idiot’ alien is often a lonely space oddity across many music videos. Snippets of “Pale Horses” playing in the lobby show the alien crafting imaginary friends on the moon or in the older “Why Does my Heart Feel so Bad” he feels excluded after he floats to Earth in a wheelbarrow. And Moby has another direct connection to the Planetarium; it is home on weekends to SonicVision, a mix tape he selected accompanied by visual effects of an abstract universe and giants robot dancing.

Moby humbly introduced the event, noting that the sound system was not operating at 100 percent but thanking everyone for coming. Wait For Me, a more ambient electronic album than his most recent works, has a very cohesive sound though the dynamic changes quite a bit. Some tracks featured the distinctive gospel vocal samples in rotation since Play, at least two tracks had contemporary vocals from Moby and a female friend, and surprisingly one song in the middle had a danceable four-to-the-floor beat. But the majority of the record is rich and lush instrumentals, similar to Little Idiot, the bonus disc to Moby’s 1996 album Animal Rights. And to experience all of this while traveling through the universe, pulling back via the Milky Way, plunging close to the mountaintops of Earth and amidst the rings of Saturn was a grand experience. What a way to introduce a great album to the terrestrial world.

by Sarah Zupko

4 Jun 2009

Twenty-five years ago this week: Bruce Springsteen released the seminal album Born in the U.S.A., which spawned seven singles and becomes one of his biggest commercial successes, having sold more than 25 million copies worldwide.

 

“Dancing in the Dark” [May 4, 1984]

//Mixed media
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Saul Williams Commands Attention at Summerstage (Photos + Video)

// Notes from the Road

"Saul Williams played a free, powerful Summerstage show ahead of his appearance at Afropunk this weekend.

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