Dirty on Purpose
“Light Pollution” [MP3]
“Girls Are the New Boys” [MP3]
The Handsome Charlies
Advertising blog AdPulp is worried about the youth of America:
Marketers everywhere are trying to figure out the best way to reach the teen and twenty-something markets. Perhaps, we ought to drop that pursuit and instead focus on why this generation is busy hurting themselves.
According to Associated Press:
Nearly 1 in 5 students at two Ivy League schools say they have purposely injured themselves by cutting, burning or other methods, a disturbing phenomenon that psychologists say they are hearing about more often. For some young people, self-abuse is an extreme coping mechanism that seems to help relieve stress; for others, it’s a way to make deep emotional wounds more visible. The results of the survey at Cornell and Princeton are similar to other estimates on this frightening behavior. Counselors say it’s happening at colleges, high schools and middle schools across the country. Separate research found more than 400 Web sites devoted to the subject, including many that glorify self-injury.
I immediately wondered if these two seemingly disparate ideas are related: that this generation is turning to self-harm as a result of being the most-marketed-to generation in the history of humankind. Self-harm would be an attempt at achieving authenticty, some sense of real feeling, in the face of the perpetual reinforcement of the importance of surface charm, the continual insincere flattery the media basks them in, and the instrumentalization and commodification of emotion (feelings become on-demand, like an episode of The Sopranos or a porn flick). Media culture—entirely given over to marketing impulses at this point—thrives by inducing insecurity and then offering ersatz solutions for the feelings of inadequacy that invite you to become even more alienated. No wonder they are so miserable. Culture, doing the bidding of consumer-goods markets, rationalizes the phoniness, the passivity, the sheepishness, the shallow notion of individuality on offer via shopping for identityas natural; self-harm becomes an irrational response trying to shatter that consensus, make ones rejection plain and irrevocable. Self-harm is the one thing you can’t buy on the market, it’s one thing you can never feel like a sucker for buying, it’s one thing you own completely—an act that can’t be traced directly back to some form of cynical manipulation on the part of some corporation. Thus the fact that websites have begun to “glorify” ritual self-abuse suggests that perhaps it’s exhausting itself as a viable retreat from media culture; that it too has been co-opted. Once you can cut on yourself to be cool, you can’t really cut on yourself for relief from the pressures to be cool.
Boing Boing linked to John Battelle’s blog, which reports on a new service, Farecast, that will attempt to thwart the mother of all price targeters, the airline industry. Perhaps nothing seems as arbitrary as the price of flights, because the airlines are always trying to keep its customers off-balance as to what the real cost of a trip is. Though it seems like services like Expedia cut through the nonsense and force competition on airlines to drive prices down, in fact such sites work for the airlines, not customers. As Battelle explains, “something funny happened on our way to internet mediated bliss: the big companies figured out how to game our demand. Dealers realized they can make more profit if they cooperate and withhold pricing information from the aggregators, and the aggregators got into bed with the supply side of the equation (if you think AutoByTel or Expedia is on your side, you’re kidding yourself). Nowhere is this more true that in how an airline prices its tickets.” So rather than dissemenate information, sites like Expedia make information more asymmetrical while giving the illusion of doing the opposite. Very nefarious. This is why shopping on Priceline is like working a Magic 8 Ball. “Price unclear. Ask again later.” The process is mystified until it’s positively occult, because customers have no leverage. (You can’t build your own airplane, at least not without a lot of trouble.) Airlines and travel brokers are thus free to play whatever games they want to assure that every customer pays how much they can afford rather than what the trip costs in material terms. Should some travelers pay more just because they can? Should there be a kind of progressive tax on their extra means, even if this money was redistributed to allow the less well-off to fly rather than to line the pockets of airline executives? One might make the argument that airlines would provide no service at all if they lost price flexibility—just like drug companies would stop researching if they couldn’t gouge the sick of America for maximum profit. The profits generated from bilking the those who can afford to be bilked subsudizes the entire industry. The problem is that sometimes those who are bilked aren’t those who can most afford it but those who can’t opt out at a given moment. Anyway, Farecast attempts to to track pricing changes based on historical data and put that information in a customer’s hands so that they may time their purchases and not get caught in that situation. While this system might work, it really sets one set of savvy customers against those other customers too lazy or ignorant to know about Farecast. The other customers generate the data that you then exploit, while the airlines continue their same business practices. What’s unclear to me is this: if everyone used it, would that bring about fairer pricing for all, or would it simply make the available data opaque again?
Ladyhawk’s core is bracing rock. Neil Young’s Tonight’s The Night is the hailstorm on the hood of The Replacements Let It Be, while distorted guitars invoke the thread and swerve of Silkworm and Dinosaur Jr. Helped along the way by Amber Webber (vocals) and Josh Wells (percussion, organ, singing) of Black Mountain, it will be hard to find a more hauntingly beautiful set of rock music than this debut.
“The Dugout” [MP3]
Ships, Danielson’s newest full-length, sees Daniel Smith opening his arms wider than ever. Daniel made a long list of artists who have worked with Danielson over the years and other folks who planned to work together at some point. This list led to working with family, making new friends, and keeping the old. All joined together—both the well-known (Deerhoof, Sufjan Stevens, Why?) and not as well-known artists (Sereena Maneesh, Leopulde, Half-handed Cloud)—each bringing his or her own skills and ideas to Daniel’s songs and voice, resulting in this crowning achievement.
“Did I Step on Your Trumpet?” [MP3]
I Am Robot and Proud
“The Electricity in Your House Wants to Sing” [MP3]
“Soundwave Sound” [MP3]
The Court and Spark