It’s finally here - after months of hype and numerous pre-release publicity pushes, Watchmen arrives in theater today. For those looking to go beyond the basic review, SE&L has put together this compendium - a collection of articles, features, and commentaries we have created in anticipation of this watershed work. Below, you will find links to everything from our final assessment on the film itself to a look back at Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons’ original graphic novel. In between are takes on director Zack Snyder, a discussion of the changes made between book and movie, and an argument in favor of Jackie Earle Haley as a Best Supporting Actor Oscar nominee in 2010. So in between trips to the Cineplex, stop by and catch up on all the Watchmen minutia you never thought you needed to know. Come Monday, we will discuss the box office import of the weekend’s returns, and look at the soundtrack elements (songs and score) for the movie itself.
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San Francisco, circa 1969: The Pointer Sisters have just returned to San Francisco after an ill-fated trip to Houston. Producer David Rubinson, who paid their fare back to the west coast, signs them to his management company with Bill Graham. While vetting record deals, he finds session work for this intriguing trio of sisters with some of the Bay Area’s most notable musicians, including Tower of Power, Grace Slick Betty Davis, and Boz Scaggs.
Among the acts The Pointer Sisters worked with onstage and in recording studios during their pre-fame ascent was famed guitarist Taj Mahal. The Pointer Sisters lent their harmonies to a handful of his albums from the early-‘70s like Recycling the Blues & Other Related Stuff (1971) and Ooh So Good ‘N’ Blues (1973). To honor the 35th anniversary of The Pointer Sisters’ solo debut, Taj Mahal wanted to relay just what it is about Ruth, Anita, Bonnie, and June Pointer that makes them one of the most special group of individuals he’s ever worked with in his 40-year career:
“The Pointer Sisters! Yeeuuhh!! I hope through the printed word I can communicate the sheer joy and personal excitement I have had in being part of the audience, performing, recording, touring with and championing their star studded career, these women who rose from well nurtured southern roots to take the world by storm with their unique harmonies, beauty and earthy sounds!
All the songs I recorded with them were before their meteoric climb up the charts, onto the world stage and into the hearts of millions! Hit after great hit… and peeps, those songs still stand today! But what you’ll notice is that with our early collaborative recordings “the ladies” were already well formed, in tune and had a sound that we captured then!!
If I had it to do all over again, I would have performed and recorded more with “the ladies!” My work with them will always remain one of the special high points in my life and my career!
Keep up your excellent work, know I’ll always love y’all and can’t wait to hear whatcha’ doin’ now!! XXXX Taj”
This post from Willem Buiter presents an interesting way of thinking about markets, not as theoretically convenient constructs to suit economists’ models, but as improbable, fraught and fragile institutions. They are not transparent and frictionless; they don’t function automatically. Exchange, as such, uses up resources above and beyond what is exchanged, and these costs must be borne. Markets are never “free.” His case is elegantly argued, and it’s worth reading the whole thing. But here’s his distillation:
The conclusion, boys and girls, should be that trade - voluntary exchange - is the exception rather than the rule and that markets are inherently and hopelessly incomplete. Live with it and start from that fact. The benchmark is no trade—pre-Friday Robinson Crusoe autarky. For every good, service or financial instrument that plays a role in your ‘model of the world’, you should explain why a market for it exists - why it is traded at all.
Buiter’s point is to discredit the efficient markets hypothesis—the theory that markets aggregate information from investors and interested parties and prices permit efficient capital allocation. If markets themselves impose costs, these costs distort prices. And if prices reflect the future value, who knows how far that is? Buiter says such models presume “a friendly auctioneer at the end of time - a God-like father figure - who makes sure that nothing untoward happens with long-term price expectations or (in a complete markets model) with the present discounted value of terminal asset stocks or financial wealth.” No such figure exists, and the models bear little resemblance to what goes on in actual economies.
As a result, economists henceforth, according to Buiter, will be forced to use “behavioural approaches relying on empirical studies on how market participants learn, form views about the future and change these views in response to changes in their environment, peer group effects etc.” In other words, they will have to find tools to study how and why confidence ebbs and flows. They will become philologists of happy talk.
An aside—I wonder if the notion of autarky offers a different way to conceive of what is happening in the recession as the economy contracts: The costs of maintaining markets—the trust, credit, contract enforcement, disclosure and so on—has suddenly become too high to justify the amount of exchange we had before. The sum of social needs hasn’t changed; it has fallen below some critical threshold that makes them impossible to satisfy and thus superfluous. Perhaps we experience this as a retreat into self-sufficiency at a personal level—not merely a return to thrift (though that is a part of it) but a move toward a fantasy of autarky in which we are able to maintain ourselves by our own efforts without the vagaries and exploitations and chaotic dangers of exchange and markets. But of course autarky is basically impossible; it’s a dangerous delusion to think that we can exist without be part of a community—markets included. It seems short-sighted to collapse the idea of community into markets, and make them one and the same for all intenets and purposes; but it’s equally wrong to be tempted by recession into thinking that community can exist without thriving markets, that we can somehow be better off when we are exchanging less.
Although sales never came up to par compared to 2003’s Beatitude, the 2007 full-length from Finnish crazies Pepe Deluxé was by far their greatest achievement to date. Critics gave it an Emma (the Fin Grammy), but a lack of US distribution meant few outside of Europe knew it existed, which is a shame because the beating heart of the record was largely influenced by the American psychedelic movement of the late ‘60s. These three videos will tell you their story.
Pepe Deluxé - “Mischief Of Cloud 6”
Pepe Deluxé - “Go For Blue”
Pepe Deluxé - “Pussycat Rock”
Since his 2007 mixtape 100 Miles and Running, which included the great “W.A.L.E.D.A.N.C.E.” remix of Justice’s “D.A.N.C.E.”, it seems like every indie website pretending to like rap has been bouncing his material. The difference here, however, is that Wale is actually good.
After a slew of great material headlined by 2008’s Seinfeld tribute The Mixtape About Nothing, everyone started taking notice to this fresh star, and Interscope signed him. They plan to release his debut studio album this year. Already, Wale himself has announced production from the likes of Mark Ronson, Kanye West, Justice, and more.
2009 also marks his next mixtape, Back to the Feature, produced by 9th Wonder. On Wale’s website, he posted a track from the new mixtape entitled “Nightlife”, which features Tre and Young Chris.
Immediately, the production sounds cleaner than any of Wale’s previous material, and if this is any indication, his new album could explode as soon as its released.