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Thursday, Feb 15, 2007

At Marginal Revolution, Tyler Cowen wonders why it’s profitable to sell new porn when there’s such a huge amount already in circulation. ” I don’t understand why buyers demand such a regular flow of material.  Why don’t they just buy a single dense disc of images and keep themselves, um…busy…for many years?” He suggests that it might be “that buying the material yields more pleasure than ‘using’ it.” I had a similar thought in this essay, where I argue that pornography makes sex more like shopping and thus aligns the pleasures it gives closer to those we are acclimated to by consumer society, namely convenience and ownership as ends rather than means. Consumer society seems to encourage us to collect experiences rather than simply experience them; continually collecting porn rather than having sex or even masturbating seems symptomatic of this. The moment of pleasure is moved from the point of experience to the point of purchase; the pleasure is change from a sensual one to a conceptual one based on convenience and security (a stockpile of potential experiences in your porn heap defends you from the fear of exhausting desire.)


At the Economist’s blog, Megan McArdle (presumably) suspects the answer to Cowen’s porn paradox “must be some evolutionary imperative towards novelty,” and asks, “Why do listeners demand such a steady flow of new music, almost all of it inferior to, say, Beethoven’s 9th?” What’s interesting is the implicit connection between music and porn: both are digital-media products widely and controversially distributed on the Internet. Both track, in their way, trends in fashion. Both tend to be male preoccupations—especially in terms of building collections. Is recorded music analgous to the commodified desire of pornography—is recorded music to performance what looking at porn is to sex? Could the impulse to continue to acquire both stem from the same impulse, the same wish to pin down and master the excitement (in the specific sensuality and in the zeitgeist changes they record) each are able to arouse, control it and domesticate it by turning it from an experience into a possession in a ritual that must be continually reenacted? It may be that we enjoy this ritual (albeit in a kind of defensive, self-protective way) almost as much as we’d enjoy direct experience of music or sexual desire. Yes, porn makes available for direct consumption and enjoyment all sorts of patriarchial prerogatives, but I want to put that analysis on hold for a moment to make a different point about the impulse to collect. As the experience of accumulating music and porn becomes easier (as it becomes, in more and more cases, free), the moment of reassurance and mastery seems to come not at the moment of purchase but the moment of classification, when that digital file is given its appropriate place, is understood and processed and stored in some theoretically and permanently accessible way. Digital reproduction and distribution are making classification more important than ownership—tagging is all-important, very Web 2.0. We master an unlimited supply by asserting control over it, capturing it, with the unique taxonomies we generate. Novelty becomes an opportunity for taxonomy.


I think this explains the vast amount of music on my years-old iPod that I’ve never listened to once. In some significant way, the moment I drop a song on the playlist has supplanted the moment of listening to it—at that moment I am able to experience the satisfaction of the song without having to spend all that time actually listening to it. I manipulate it in a more direct and convenient way that provides me a feeling of mastery, which is what I may be looking for rather than sensual experience. The same thing seems to lurk behind porn blogs, where people curate their porn collections for public view. Something about the impulse to organize one’s fetishes has itself become fetishized. And fetishes, in general, are about containing anxiety rather than permitting open experience.


The fear that beauty (in music, in another body) inspires is that it will be lost to us; it summons an intolerable awareness of its own loss. Our culture (and not, I would argue evolution—the need for novelty seems contigent on what society can promise and provide) prompts us to defend ourselves against this anxiety by acculmulating more and more of the stuff, and we think with technology we can realize the dream of perpetual availability. (This plays into the interpretation of porn as primarily being a fantasy of perpetual female availability, i.e. of women’s objecthood, of her significance being regarded as received rather than self-generated.)


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Thursday, Feb 15, 2007
by PopMatters Staff

Girl Talk - Mix One
Check out the band in concert at Be The RIOTTT (click on screen)



You can see the rest of the set here


Girl Talk - Mix Two
Check out the band in concert at Be The RIOTTT (click on screen)



You can see the rest of the set here


Girl Talk - Mix Three
Check out the band in concert at Be The RIOTTT (click on screen)



You can see the rest of the set here


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Wednesday, Feb 14, 2007


As part of a new feature here at SE&L, we will be looking at the classic exploitation films of the ‘40s - ‘70s. Many film fans don’t recognize the importance of the genre, and often miss the connection between the post-modern movements like French New Wave and Italian Neo-Realism and the nudist/roughie/softcore efforts of the era. Without the work of directors like Herschell Gordon Lewis, Joe Sarno and Doris Wishman, along with producers such as David F. Friedman and Harry Novak, many of the subjects that set the benchmark for cinema’s startling transformation in the Me Decade would have been impossible to broach. Sure, there are a few dull, derivative drive-in labors to be waded through, movies that barely deserve to stand alongside the mangled masterworks by the format’s addled artists. But they too represent an important element in the overall development of the medium. So grab your trusty raincoat, pull up a chair, and discover what the grindhouse was really all about as we introduce The Beginner’s Guide to Exploitation.


This week: Director Joe Sarno uncovers the seedy underbelly of scandalous suburban sex games.

Sin in the Suburbs/The Swap and How They Make It



On this quiet street in this exclusive neighborhood, the bored housewives are having a heavy petting field day. Mrs. Geraldine Lewis loves her workaholic husband, but the beefy martini drinker just doesn’t show her enough affection. So when he goes to work and her daughter heads off to school, Gerry invites friends over for drinks and naked debauchery. Next door, Lisa Francis is an equally efficient elbow-lifting lonely heart whose spouse won’t quit his job and stay home with her. She has to find a way to uncork her carnality, and random workmen off the road crew—or a full bottle of Jack Daniels—seem to do just fine. Further down the block, Mrs. Talman and her deviant brother Lewis look in on all the secret sexcapades and decide to make a mint off the salacious socialites. They start an exclusive swingers club and invite the entire borough to join in. All goes as planned until the partner swapping leads to those notorious “strange bedfellows.” Then taboos are broken like so many promises. It’s all part of the scandal, the shame, the Sin in the Suburbs.


Elsewhere, Mona and Karen are new in town and bored out of their gourds. Their aluminum-extruding husbands work all kinds of long hours, and the sequestered sweethearts are just squirming in their Capri pants. They need satisfaction and they need it now! While Karen jumps into the arms of a college jock joke, Mona visits her next-door neighbor, the bawdy Brooke, who tells her about the arrangement she has with her horny hubby. They both belong to “The Exchange,” a canoodling couples cooperative where marrieds make bargains for bonking with other like-minded enlightened lovers. All it takes is a phone call, and you can trade in your usually tame tryst for one night of naughtiness. After you join, the monthly parties consist of dancing, drooling, and dignity demoralizing. At first, everyone is in for the sin, and lovin’ every lewd minute of it. But when Karen cuts off Joe College, he gets all blackmail-ly and wants in on the sexual switcheroo. What our university-educated boy toy doesn’t understand is that adults like to protect their proclivities from prying eyes…and they are about to teach the silly student the real rules of The Swap and How They Make It.


With titles suggesting a sleazy peek into the sordid lives of salacious suburban swingers, and a gritty black-and-white style that further emphasizes the nasty noir of it all, Joe Sarno was, and remains, the Sultan of Sophisticated Smut. Sin in the Suburbs is one of his best films, a bold experiment in style and subject matter that would still be branded as borderline scum, even in today’s so-called tolerant environment. An exceptional exposé of the then-popular swingers’ scene of the late ‘50s and early ‘60s, this perfectly plotted masterwork of story and shot selection is more like a post-millennial walk through the seedy side of society than a standard early exploitation film. There is barely any nudie and hardly any cutie to the events and individuals populating this perverted Peyton Place.


Fans will focus far too much attention - as lovers of exploitation usually do - on the Olga-meets-Ilsa dynamic in the movie (Audrey Campbell, the infamous Olga, plays Geraldine Lewis, while the She Wolf of the SS herself, Dyanne Thorne, essays the sleazy seductress Mrs. Talman). But this would be doing a disservice to the utter greatness of Sin. Long before Bob and Carol met Ted and Alice, Sarno was dealing realistically and effectively with the issues of swinging, swapping, and sex clubs. His details ring true, and his attention to tone makes everything feel authentic. Even with minimal nakedness, this movie absolutely sizzles with sensual Eros. When Thorne and another famous Olga, Alice Linville (playing daughter to mother Campbell) play their seductive game of lesbian suggestion, there is sure not to be a dry seat—or free hand—in the house.


On par with the perfection of Sin in the Suburbs, The Swap and How They Make It is another carnal classic from Sarno’s sour brain. Instead of the cult-like convolutions of the sex club scene, complete with masks and miscreant rituals, the focus this time is on an organized version of that water cooler joke source, wife swapping. With another excellent script full of character insight, and a dandy cast of performers, this movie matches Sin in intricacy and intimacy. Sarno employs a new kind of camerawork here, a mostly medium and close-up concept that renders the backdrops and settings insignificant. We never fully get our bearings as to where we really are, and the feeling of being lost lends a very dramatic air to the proceedings. Whenever actors interact, they come toward the camera and play out their scenes as if the lens was another witness, an innocent party to the prurient planning. The performances are again sublime, each individual finding that faultless balance between disconnected and dispirited to make his or her overripe desire seem that much more palatable. The narrative never sways—it builds to a climax of criminal corruption that is as shocking as it is shrewd.


You can sense Sarno’s intention to remove the focus from the acts and onto the people partaking in them. He knows that true drama derives from thoughts and personality, not bare butts bouncing around. The Swap also has one of the greatest sequences of obvious double entendres in the history of skin flicks. When Karen discusses “Dick” with her friend Mona, only using the name and no other personal reference, the implied explicit humor is hilarious. Along with a mostly drumbeat soundtrack (a truly novel and deranged choice) and an equally emotional tone to match its mattress machinations, Sin in the Suburbs and The Swap and How They Make It provides a one-two punch that will give any lover of the tawdry and the tainted right to rejoice.


 


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Wednesday, Feb 14, 2007
by Harlem Shakes

Harlem Shakes w/ Deerhoof
Diary #2


On Tuesday, North Carolina—land of Blackbeard, Michael Jordan, and prose-master Allan Gurganus—welcomed us with open arms. After a satisfying set at Cat’s Cradle in Carrboro, we said goodbye to our bearded, Ashkenazi guardian angel, Jon Natchez from the band Beirut, who had been playing bari sax, French horn, and flute for us. After the show, our friend Daniel from 8088 Record Collective kindly lent us his floor.


We met his neurotic timberwolf, Treebeard. Daniel told us: “I swear, the wolf is more afraid of you than you are of it!”  We tried to tell the animal, “dude, you’re the wolf here, we should be afraid of you—in fact, we’re totally goddamn terrified of you! Oh my god! Oh Jesus Christ! It’s a wolf!!”


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Wednesday, Feb 14, 2007
by PopMatters Staff
Placebo

Placebo


MedsVirgin Records is re-releasing Meds, the newest album by London-based alternative rock trio PLACEBO on January 23, 2007, the label announced. The album was originally released in the U.S. earlier in 2006 through the Astralwerks label.


The Virgin Records edition of Meds, described by the band as a back-to-basics project with the elemental feeling of a first album, will add three songs not on the Astralwerks release: “Lazarus,” “UNEEDMEMORETHANINEEDU,” and a cover of Kate Bush’s “Running Up That Hill.” R.E.M.‘s Michael Stipe duets on the track “Broken Promise” and Alison Mosshart of The Kills is a guest on the title track.


Along with the growing alternative radio coverage of title single, the band has racked up over 4 million streams of the songs posted in the PLACEBO MySpace.com page. “Running Up That Hill,” the trio’s cover of the Kate Bush mid-‘80s classic, has been recently featured on two U.S. television series, Bones and The O.C. - Virgin


Stream “Meds (She Wants Revenge Remix)”


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