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by Rob Horning

30 May 2009

At Murketing, Rob Walker notes the rise of an ironic T-shirt, “Three Wolf Moon,” which looks like something that Brett from Flight of the Conchords may have worn. As Walker explains, lots of people wrote silly reviews praising the shirt, and sales took off. If you look on Amazon, you can see the gallery of images Photoshopped to show celebrities wearing it, and so on. Very creative and fun, a contemporary collective experience. So why does it creep me out?

Here’s Walker’s analysis of the shirt phenomenon:

This is an example of an object acquiring a narrative, and meaning. At first, it was simply a bad T-shirt. Then it became that bad T-shirt, the one that attracted a reviewer-flash-mob. If you were wearing it, and someone asked, you could tell them a story. In fact you could tell them the story even if they didn’t ask—it’s a good story!—particularly if you submitted a funny review which you can then recount.
The object becomes a souvenir of a moment and an experience: The time we all got together and made fun of this T-shirt.

I can’t tell how serious Walker is about this being a “good story” that anyone would want to hear—I guess I found it interesting, which is why I am writing about it now, but I would think anyone who was wearing the shirt telling me that story was sort of annoying. I’m sure there are scads of opportunities for this sort of pile-on participation online at any given moment, which seems to rob them all of a significant ingredient of serendipity that would tip the resulting personal stories from lame to not lame. That is to say, the fact that this occurred online on a retail website makes the whole event seem contrived, even though it probably wasn’t. The network effects, the rapid scaling-up of online viral phenomena, generates the air of contrivance—for me at least—which makes all such spontaneous events seem feasibly pre-plannable. It seems as though there are always enough bored yet clever people out there on the internet to latch onto memes.

But what I most fear—and maybe I shouldn’t—is that these sorts of experiences may be the only sorts of experiences we will have in the future. For those of us used to different experiences, the transition may be painful. I think this was what I had been feeling at Yellowstone. All our experiences may come with this prepackaged feeling of being contrived, of being designed to be reported on, if only by ourselves. The moments that don’t seem worth blogging about or “sharing” will become harder for us to fathom, undigestable, sitting in our minds like the stones in a bird’s gullet.

by Alan Ranta

29 May 2009

If you have ever taken the time to look in a mirror on acid or shrooms, you may be able to relate to this Tosca video of a selection from 2009’s No Hassle.

by Nick Dinicola

29 May 2009

The Call of Duty series has never been known for subtlety or for story but more for its large scale battles and action sequences. The 4th entry stays true this formula but also uses the modern setting to set a pace that builds up our perception of the game as a “power fantasy” until that fantasy is violently undermined.

The basic flow of combat in Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare is meant to make us feel powerful. We rush into the fight surrounded by allies, and the respawning enemies ensure we always have someone to shoot or that’s shooting at us. We’re always in danger and it’s always exciting. In order to stop the flood of terrorists, the player must charge ahead past an invisible line that shuts off the respawning enemies. By forcing us to advance farther ahead than the other soldiers, it feels as if we’re clearing a path for them. Even though we’re in the middle of a crowded battlefield, we’re encouraged to act like the lone, bold hero of a typical action movie. We are clearly the hero here regardless of however many allies are with us.

by Bill Gibron

29 May 2009

Perhaps it’s time to stop wondering and simply believe. Every year, like cinematic clockwork, we critics hear about the latest release pending from Pixar and our thoughts notoriously turn to the big question - will this be the one? Will this be the computer-generated title from the company that literally invented the genre type to fail to live up to audience expectations? Nay, could it be the well-meaning movie from Lassiter and crew that actually fails? Well, those looking for the bullseye on the back of these geniuses can definitely rest easy. Up is not the target for an elongated discussion on the company’s first failure. Instead, it’s yet another trophy in a digital display case loaded with such accolades. It’s as serious as Wall-E, as action packed as The Incredibles, and hides a mysterious core of sadness which the company has never really explored - until now. 

For Carl Fredrickson, old age has its trials. He’s recently lost his wife, and with that, the will to live, and a construction concern is trying to kick him out of his house. A momentary act of self-defense has the court interceding, and it looks like he will have to move after all these years. But Carl remembers a promise he made to his dear departed Ellie at the start of their life together, and he’s determined to make it happen. Tying balloons to his house, he lifts the building from its foundation and plots a course for South America. Unfortunately, earnest Wilderness Scout Russell “accidentally” tags along for the ride. Upon arrival, Carl has one goal - to get the house to the top of a gorgeous waterfall his late spouse idolized. But when a huge bird stumbles into their path, and with it an aging adventurer and his pack of trained dogs, our elderly hero and his under-aged sidekick must save the creature…and the day.

by Rob Horning

29 May 2009

I just crashed through two weeks of blog posts on my RSS reader and my brain has become a bit scrambled. I feel I must now blog about just about everything in the world in one comprehensive post and find some way to tie the 30 or 40 posts I starred together into one master narrative, one grand theory of everything (and that’s not even considering all the HRO Exegesis posts I need to write). Maybe I should put another pot of coffee on.

One thing I discovered was that Richard Florida’s newish blog at the Atlantic has been consistently compelling over the past few weeks. He has had a series of posts about evolution in the music industry, positing the theory that the music business is a media-industry canary in the post-internet coalmine. In this post, he notes that in some ways the industry is retreating from forms that had become technologically necessary—the album, thanks to vinyl, the 74 minute CD, etc.—to the forms that may arguably be more “natural” to pop music:

But the enormity of the creative destruction sweeping the industry goes far beyond the iPod killing off the CD. The Gang of Four’s Dave Allen argues that we are seeing the “end of the album” - a construct initially created by the limitation of vinyl technology in 1930 - as the organizing principle of musical production. He sees this as potentially liberating for musicians - or those musicians that can adapt. Industry veteran Bob Lefsetz predicts a return to the pre-LP era, when artists constantly pumped out singles and toured. He even draws a comparison to the way that Toyota has succeeded by building a reputation for reliability gradually through word of mouth.

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// Moving Pixels

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