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by Sarah Zupko

11 May 2009

New Orleans jazz trumpeter Kermit Ruffins will be appearing in a new HBO series Tremé that was just greenlit by the network. The pilot was written by The Wire creator David Simon and co-creator Eric Overmyer, so we’re hoping for great things from this show that will follow the characters through post-Hurricane Katrina life in the Big Easy. Ruffins has also kept busy with a new album, Livin’ a Tremé Life that came out last month and the incessant live gigs he plays. Here are two tracks from the new album, “Treme Mardi Gras” and Ruffin’s version of Allen Toussaint’s “Holy Cow”.

Kermit Ruffins
“Treme Mardi Gras” [MP3]
     

“Holy Cow” [MP3]
     

by Thomas Hauner

11 May 2009

The show must go on. So the old adage goes at least, but that was before electronic music and before bands became completely dependent on alternating current and all the gizmos, computers, and samplers that it brings to life. An electronic-based band should hardly have amnesty from such showbiz dogma. And yet the Junior Boys pulled out all the scapegoats at Webster Hall when Matt Didemus’ sampler cut out. Singer Jeremy Greenspan had the unfortunate task of conveying all the bad news to the crowd, though. They chastised the sampler’s manufacturer, AKAI, stressed the frustration of having such problems in New York City rather than Kentucky, and shot out that, “I bet this never happens to Fleet Foxes.”

by Mike Schiller

11 May 2009

It is a slow, slow week on the gaming front, but as is ever the case, a little digging reveals a few gems among the coal. Did you like that metaphor? No? I’ll try harder next week, bound to be another slow week in this, the doldrums of the gaming year.

This week, Sacred 2: Fallen Angel hits the consoles, having been out on the PC for the last six months or so.  The PC version was somewhat derided for its bugs, but hopefully the many delays that have hit the console versions of the game indicate a commitment to ironing out whatever bugs were there.  It’s been nine years now since Diablo II, and even the most devoted Diablophiles will be hungry for something just a little bit different.  Sacred 2 borrows Diablo‘s isometric viewpoint and punishing difficulty, and adds a world that’s a little bit brighter and, perhaps most importantly, a little bit funnier. Don’t be mistaken—if you’re new to this sort of game, you’ll find the difficulty of it awfully oppressive; stick with it, however, and you find a game that actually doesn’t take itself too seriously, making it an awfully pleasant diversion that may just last you until Diablo 3 shows up, unicorns, rainbows and all.

The PlayStation 2, perhaps surprisingly, has another potential cult classic on its hands thanks to Atlus, who will be releasing the oppressively titled Shin Megami Tensei: Devil Summoner 2: Raidou Kuzunoha vs. King Abaddon on the still-slowly-fading system tomorrow.  The game’s got style—you can see that much simply from the few trailers that are out.  If it can have half the narrative strength and beautifully balanced gameplay of Atlus’ Persona series of games, PS2 hangers-on are in for another treat.

Desktop Tower Defense is arriving on the DS this week, which seems like a perfect fit for the little system, even if the low resolution of the tiny screen might have made for a difficult implementation…it’ll be interesting to see how it translates from PC to portable.  If Left 4 Dead fatigue has set in, Killing Floor is another zombie shooter that’ll be seeing the light of day on Steam this week.  And, of course, Pirates vs. Ninjas Dodgeball finally arrives on the Wii this week, a game whose name, well, it speaks for itself.

Me? Aw, hell, I’m playing Halo 3 this week.  The full release list, and a trailer for Sacred 2, is after…the jump.

by Lara Killian

10 May 2009

It seems impossible to me but it has been 18 months since I first blogged about Amazon’s electronic book reader, the Kindle. At the time I waxed enthusiastic about the possibility of storing 200 books on one device.

And it was only in February of this year that Amazon put the Kindle 2 on the market. Upgrades included the ability to store 1500 books and better screen resolution.

image

image credit: John Pastor

Amazon has just announced the release of the third iteration of the device for pre-order, now called the Kindle DX. An unusual thing has happened, though: the newest Kindle not only has more storage and capabilities (including a built-in PDF reader, which should placate many critics) – but it is larger than the second generation Kindle. Stop the presses, hold the phone. A next generation device that is bigger than its predecessors? Pictures show that the QWERTY keyboard at the bottom of the Kindle DX looks more usable, with buttons just about large enough to actually use (the image here is of the first generation Kindle). That’s a good thing. But is a 10.4” tall device going to be as portable as the original smaller size? The Newsweek on my desk is 10.5” long, while the latest Interweave Knits on the table clocks in at almost 10.9”. So the DX is actually magazine-sized. What will that be like? And how many different versions of the Kindle will be on the market before we hit the saturation point? I tend to throw a magazine in my backpack so I have something to read while I wait for the bus. No, I do not have an iPhone, or obviously I would be reading stuff online on that instead. I’ll be honest, after a few days and a few trips around town, my Newsweek copy is a bit the worse for wear. So what would it be like to have a magazine-sized e-reader in my backpack instead? I’m not sure I’m ready to take care of a device that big – I’ve gotten so used to a small camera, a small MP3 player, a small cell phone. I’ll be interested to see how the DX does as Amazon rolls it out in this summer. Are you reading PopMatters on your Kindle right now?

by Bill Gibron

10 May 2009

Someone posed an interesting question to me the other day. “Why,” they asked, in classic essay intro parlance, “are audiences and critics going so insane over J. J. Abrams’ new Star Trek film?” The question wasn’t one of contempt but pure curiosity. You see, Hollywood offers dozens of entertainment options every year, and few if any resonate with elements both inside and outside the industry like this one. Of the 221 members of Rotten Tomatoes who’ve reviewed the film, only 10 have disliked it - and outright dismissals are rare amongst even the contrarians. Similarly, the film was projected to only do about $50 to $60 million at the box office over the 8 May weekend, and yet managed to rake in close to $77 million.

But my friend wasn’t quite finished with his inquiry. “Could it be,” he sniped, a small amount of sarcasm creeping through his typically serious demeanor, “that J.J. has done the impossible - that is, made a really good movie in a current realm of unmitigated mediocrity? What I mean is, could Star Trek‘s popularity in whole or in part be chalked up to the fact that, when inundated with junk for 364 days a year, the movie-going public will take a good old fashioned well made ‘movie’ any time?” In essence, the argument is this: Abrams hasn’t made a masterpiece, just a highly sophisticated and expertly helmed piece of pop culture eye candy. It was/is specifically created to please the widest majority of the populace, and will keep the Star Trek name on studio heads minds for sequels to come.

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