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by PopMatters Staff

22 Oct 2008

Buena Vista Social Club
De Camino a la Vereda [MP3]

Honey Honey [Video]

Shugo Tokumaru
Parachute [Video]

The Dears
Money Baby [MP3]

Crystal Antlers
Arcturus [MP3]

Sebastien Grainger
American Names [MP3]

White Hinterland
Chant de Grillon [MP3]

by Rob Horning

21 Oct 2008

Just in time for flagging consumers, Fed chairman Ben Bernanke came out in favor of another stimulus package, some of which would possibly take the form of the government sending us all some money (as opposed to dropping it from a helicopter, or burying it in holes for us to dig up, as Keynes once suggested).

This might help cushion the blow of recession, but it seems like another Band-Aid, temporarily forestalling the eventual reckoning that American consumers must inevitably face—that we can’t go on spending more than we save. (Of course, we could all use stimulus checks to pay our credit-card bills, but that would negate their intended purpose, which is to increase demand.) As Yves Smith notes, now might not be the ideal time for consumers to start saving, worsening the economic downturn, but it has to happen at some point. So it would be better to direct a fiscal package at infrastructure investments:

We have long warned that America’s debt-fueled consumption, at over 70% of GDP, was unsustainable and that bringing it down to a healthier level would lead to an economic contraction. Having consumers get the savings religion during a downturn will make the recession more severe.
While we think that the pain of increasing savings is salutary (akin to lancing and cleaning out a festering wound), the powers that be want to keep demand up via another stimulus package. I’d be much happier if measures like that went to well-targeted infrastructure programs and other investments in the future productivity of the economy, rather than trying to keep the consumer spending bubble aloft.

That’s a good way to think of what has happened in the past few decades: a consumer-spending bubble. But of course, it doesn’t feel that way to we who have enjoyed it. It just feels deserved. The same is true of the housing bubble to a degree; people don’t believe their houses are overvalued, regardless of how out of whack the ratio to rents or to median incomes have become. They just don’t believe it can go backward and that value can disappear into thin air once it has been created and made palpable to them. So it seems odd that the state would intervene to boost consumer-spending at the very moment that they begin to deal with the painful reality that their consumption level was something of an illusion and adopt a propensity to save and conserve. Instead, the government wants to continue the infamous Bush program of patriotic shopping: For the good of country, we must consume.

by Bill Gibron

21 Oct 2008

Why is The Last Broadcast a better film than its unholy spawn, the insipid Blair Witch Project? How come it manages to be coherent, suspenseful, funny, and fresh while Witch remains loud, abrasive, confusing, and ultimately unsatisfying? It could have something to do with the overall approach. The Last Broadcast is a mock documentary, an attempt by an outsider to interpret and extrapolate on the “found footage” of some deadly events in the New Jersey Pine Barrens. Witch is a wobbly “you are there” presentation of the actual material discovered during an investigation into the disappearance of a filmmaker and her friends. Both employ plenty of POV perspectives, although one substitutes swear words for actual conversations.

Yet in the end, Witch is a one-joke movie, a gimmick that once given away is not easily re-experienced and appreciated. In the case of Broadcast, filmmakers Stefan Avalos and Lance Weiler have found a way to incorporate the same menacing mood and unexpected story twists without losing us in Gen-X jerkdom and pointless aural thrills. Besides, Witch only has one scene going for it—and it arrives right at the very end of the movie. Broadcast almost unravels when it shifts to showcase its finale. Yet between the two, this fake-fact film is more industrious and inventive, leaving the Burkittsville bunch wallowing in its wake.

As hosts of the popular cable access program Fact or Fiction, Steven “Johnny” Avkast and Locus Wheeler are used to the unusual. But when their tie-in Web site turns up a request to do a show on the New Jersey Pine Barrens and the so-called “Devil” that supposedly lives in them, the two hosts end up getting in way over their head. Hiring a technology expert named Rein Clackin, who claims to be able to pick up paranormal sounds with his recording equipment and bringing along a supposed psychic named Jim Suerd to “get in touch with the spirit world,” the duo proceed with their plan to broadcast live from the middle of this eerie remote location. They hope to put an end to the monster myths once and for all.

All preparations appear to run smoothly, but as they approach the campsite, Jim becomes disoriented, threatens Rein, and runs off. As the show starts, Jim sequesters himself nearby, chatting on the computer. The others proceed with the investigation. The next day, everyone’s dead—except for Jim. Naturally, the police think the ominous loner killed his comrades, but documentary filmmaker David Leigh believes otherwise. It is his goal to expose the truth about what happened that night deep in the New Jersey woods. He will figure out what happened during this Last Broadcast, hoping that the facts will clear Suerd and lead to the real killer—whoever or whatever it is.

Naturally, the next question is why The Last Broadcast isn’t as successful, or even more so, than its blockbuster brother. The answer is actually quite simple. When placed up against the ersatz realism of the adventures in disorientation of Heather, Josh, and Mike, Broadcast appears cold and distant. We never get to know Steven and Locus and more or less fail to find a reason to root for Jim Suerd, the fame-whoring pseudo-psychic who may or may not have murdered his fellow cable-access adventurers.

No, the real thrust of this far superior film’s force is in its clever and consistently creative storytelling. Witch went one way, and one way only—follow three people into the woods and watch what happens. Broadcast uses that same dynamic, then fleshes it out with backstory, humor, standard documentary interviews, and eccentric character twists to take us out of the actual moment, only to redirect our attention and place us right back in the middle of these murders. It’s a wonderfully inventive method of keeping the story fresh and free from the stagnancy that can come with such an approach. We get caught up in the mystery first, then find reasons to hang onto the individuals involved.

Once successfully removed from its copycat cousin (While there is no real proof of plagiarism, the Blair Witch gang does admit to seeing this movie before setting out to make their own), what you end up with is a wildly entertaining experience that uses subtle thrills and undeniable chills to tell an excellent story of arrogance unhinged and dangers undetected. The Last Broadcast believes in the effectiveness of its narrative and never once tries to pull any punches or fake any fear. When it wants to be goofy and gratuitous, it is. When it hopes to be strange and unexplainable, it is as well.

In fact, there are very few things that Broadcast is not. This is the rare movie that appears to achieve all of its goals instantly and honorably, never going for the cheap trick or the obvious element. It is so expertly constructed, so flawlessly built out of facets we recognize from all over the genre map, that when they finally come together toward the end, we never once doubt their effectiveness as a source of shivers. Because of its snuff film-like realism and its desire to tell its scary story honestly and realistically, Broadcast builds up a lot of gonzo goodwill—and it needs it. The conclusion takes a track that many won’t see coming, and even more may find it antithetical to what the movie was originally striving toward.

That would be a shortsighted interpretation of what occurs. If anything, The Last Broadcast is one of the few films to anticipate its imitators and offer up its own intriguing commentary on their overall modus operandi. When you realize that someone other than the Blair Witch crew is manipulating the events to create the on-camera “scares” we see, the brilliance of Avalos and Weiler’s ending becomes clear. Instead of going for a supernatural slant or a direct link to the obvious suspects, Broadcast takes on the notion of perception—why we follow certain stories and what we eventually get out of them. When the denouement is made (in a wonderfully effective montage sequence), we bristle at the brashness of such a reveal.

Then, as the wrap-up begins—both figuratively and literally—we get the opportunity to reflect on all that’s come before. It paints the entire story in a totally different light, one that suggests more than the movie ever sells, and illustrates how effective an approach like this can be. Since major cinematic elements (such as acting or production value) are not really necessary here, The Last Broadcast has to get by on the success of its storytelling alone. In that regard, it is masterful. It creates an impression far more lasting than some frightened fellow momentarily glimpsed in a basement corner.

by Jason Gross

21 Oct 2008

Nasty Little Man, who manages Radiohead’s affairs, posted this info about sales from their last album.

* In Rainbows has sold three million copies thus far, a figure that includes downloads from, physical CDs, a deluxe 2-CD/vinyl box set, as well as sales via iTunes and other digital retailers.

* The In Rainbows deluxe edition sold 100,000 copies via Radiohead fan service W.A.S.T.E.

* Radiohead made more money prior to In Rainbows’ January 2008 physical release than its total take on 2003’s Hail To the Thief.

* The physical release of In Rainbows entered both the US and UK charts at #1 in January, despite having been freely available since October 2007.

Pretty impressive, right?  Yes but… it would be interesting to hear who much of the 3 million sold were downloads and how many were CD’s as a measure how the two balanced against each other.  Nevertheless, in this digital age, you can’t scoff at sales like that- fewer and fewer acts are able to rake in multi-platinum sales.  Even more impressive is that they could have a number one record after offering it up for pay-what-you want.  The initial impact of this revolutionary release idea shook up the biz but these sales figures should cement how much of a success it was and why other big acts shouldn’t be scared to take chances like this.  No doubt that the pay-what-you-want model got them lots of publicity and sales but the fact that they made more money this time than when the just did a regular release through a major label should give artists some good for thought and make the majors start worrying even more about how uncreative and unprepared they still are to deal with an Internet-age audience.

by L.B. Jeffries

21 Oct 2008

It was only a matter of time before I took a stab at the console wars with a satire. The trick with the console wars is that it’s a bit like making fun of narcissism in Baby Boomers. The target audience inherently does not find the topic funny. Yet one of the quirkiest aspects of the console wars is how much only gamers care about it. In several surveys with Baby Boomers on video games, many did not even understand why there was a difference between consoles. Why can’t you just stick one game disc into any particular machine? It’s not like a DVD player? Which made me wonder about how to best explain the differences between the machines and their quirks. What would be the best satire of the 7th generation of consoles that a broad audience could follow? So…uh…I wrote down the script to an episode of ‘Golden Girls’ and replaced all the key words with video game terms.


DS knocks and Wii answers the door. DS is holding a little cartridge,

DS: Momma, I just got a new release and I need you to babysit Call of Duty 4 for me.


//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