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Monday, Nov 6, 2006
by PopMatters Staff

PopMatters Exclusive
This American Life: Stories of Hope & Fear
Stream “Fears of Your Life” in Windows or Quicktime.
by Michael Bernard Loggins, read by Tom Wright
Also check out…
Stream “So a Chipmunk and a Squirrel Walk Into a Bar” in Windows or Quicktime.
by David Sedaris


“Each week, some 1.7 million listeners tune-in to This American Life, an insightful, innovative radio program that broadcasts touching true-life stories that unfold like audio movies to listeners on over 500 public radio stations nationally.  This fall, listeners can own a selection of the greatest stories from the show on a two-CD compilation, This American Life: Stories of Hope & Fear, available November 7th from Shout! Factory.  Host Ira Glass and the staff of This American Life selected some of their favorite segments from the Peabody® Award-winning series, organized along the title theme which, Glass admits, “Not only summarizes the theme of nearly every story on our program, but all human drama and literature besides.”  Featuring segments by bestselling writer and humorist David Sedaris (Naked), Comedy Central’s “Daily Show” correspondent John Hodgman, and many others, this eclectic anthology addresses topics ranging from gender reassignment to karaoke comedy, with over two hours of alternately hilarious and heart-breaking spoken performances set against the music of Thurston Moore, Blonde Redhead, RZA, Calexico, Philip Glass, Morcheeba, Mogwai, Tom Zé, Tortoise, Carly Simon and others.  The third installment in the This American Life CD series, the two-disc This American Life: Stories of Hope & Fear set, includes 11 complete stories from the Chicago Public Radio series, with an album insert featuring original artwork by Divya Srinivasan (Sufjan Stevens’ Illinois) and liner notes by Ira Glass, for the suggested list price of $19.98.”—Shout! Factory

The Shimmers
The Letter [MP3]
from The Way You Shine on Transit of Venus, released: 17 October 2006


The Trolleyvox
I Know That You’re High [MP3]
from The Trolleyvox Present The Karaoke Meltdowns on Transit of Venus


The Trolleyvox - Just You Wait


65daysofstatic
Full album: One Time For All Time [stream]


“At long last, 65daysofstatic’s label Monotreme Records has inked a deal for an American release of the album’s refreshing gene-splice of electronic glitch and guitar girth this fall. Its sound seems to posit a perfect world in which Squarepusher joined a post-hardcore incarnation of Mogwai and Radiohead pitched in its pop lilt. The album’s futuristic tone makes for a seductive score for an unwritten sci-fi epic that melds cutting guitars and electronic tones with sampled beats, live drums and computer glitch. But where IDM culture cuts out in the low end, 65daysofstatic delivers a thunderous wall of guitars that’s reportedly still shaking some festival grounds since last summer’s performances.”—Monotreme Records

Akon
I Wanna Love You feat. Snoop Dogg [windows | real]
Smack That feat. Eminem [windows | real]


Parts & Labor
Stay Afraid [MP3]


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Monday, Nov 6, 2006

Sometimes I have to cast about for topics to write about, but sometimes they come right to my door in the morning, giftwrapped. In today’s Wall Street Journal is this story about how real rock stars enjoy playing the game “Guitar Hero,” which allows them to pretend to be rock stars. In other words, they prefer to play the video-game simulation of their life rather than live life itself.


For many rock musicians, the game’s virtual stage would seem to be a pale, unsatisfying facsimile of what they experience every night. The music they’re playing along with usually isn’t even an original recording. Most of the songs in Guitar Hero have been re-recorded by studio musicians.
Many professional rockers, however, say the game lets them act out a fantasy that their real lives don’t quite match. Sometimes, pretending to be a rock star for a few minutes can be more fun than being one.


Rock stars escape from the pressure of their actual lives to a simulated version of the very same life. Is this just a tragic lack of imagination? Maybe by escaping into an idealized form of your own life, you reinforce the ultimate desirablility of the profession you’ve chosen or fallen into. It is akin to athletes who enjoy playing the EA Sports versions of their profession, and anyone who has spent any time playing the Sims. You want to remind yourself that whatyou do is so important that other people have taken the trouble to meticulously replicate it.


Perhaps the impulse to play a simulation of one’s own life comes from a desire to simplify the variables involved and achieve a greater sense of control over that life as it is regressed into fantasy. The mediated simulacrum of life experience has defined the pleasures of experience in such a way that actual experience can no longer live up to it. The experience of fantasy is more pleasant than actually doing anything you might fantasize about, because so many more elements of the fantasy ultimately remain under the dreamers control, and having control has become the ur-pleasure, perhaps because society celebrates autonomy and mastery while undermining our chances to achieve it. Even for rock stars and athletes apparently it’s not enough to demonstrate their unique skills for massive audiences; this still pales in the face of the total systematic mastery games promise hints of (and use stimulus-reward inducements derived from behavioral psychology to deliver). The unambiguous success of the game world is preferable to the compromised ambivalent successes avaiable to us in real life (where we must share the credit and acknowledge luck’s role for the partial victories we can secure). The pleasures of shopping—if sociologist Colin Campbell is correct—have a great deal to do with the ability to foster elaborate fantasies about goods. Perhaps as we become habituated to ths method of producing a sense of value for things, we seek to apply it to the particulars of our own actions. We look to apply it to the course our entire lives and not just the stuff we buy.


Still, you don’t have to be Baudrillard to note the peculiarity of this shift away from the real into hyperreality. But in Simulacra and Simulation, he gives the classic explanation of this phenomena when discussion Disneyland: You can produce an astute analysis of how Disneyland “represents” America, “but this conceals something else, and that ‘ideological’ blanket exactly serves to cover over a third-order simulation: Disneyland is there to conceal the fact that it is the ‘real’ country, all of ‘real’ America, which is Disneyland (just as prisons are there to conceal the fact that it is the social in its entirety, in its banal omnipresence, which is carceral).” The video-game version of rock stardom conceals how much of a synthetic, contrived game actual rock stardom is. The Simsprotects from seeing how regimented and manufactured our own lives are by putting us in control of radically simplified versions of those constitutive elements.(Not that profound an insight, I guess, but worth noting.)


As fun as it might be to play yourself in a video game, the awareness of your own simulation potentially creates anxiety, because it seems to suggest that life can go on without you; that anyone can be put in your shoes and make you essentally superfluous. Baudrillard suggests as much, anyway:  “It is no longer a question of imitation, nor of reduplication, nor even of parody. It is rather a question of substituting signs of the real for the real itself; that is, an operation to deter every real process by its operational double, a metastable, programmatic, perfect descriptive machine which provides all the signs of the real and short-circuits all its vicissitudes. Never again will the real have to be produced: this is the vital function of the model in a system of death, or rather of anticipated resurrection which no longer leaves any chance even in the event of death.” Even if the guys from Korn and My Chemical Romance should die, we can still access the crux of their experience through this PlayStation game (and videos and recordings of them and through the ways their image has been consrtucted and mediated in all of society’s various disseminating structures, etc.). Perhaps these games make rock stars feel as though they have been cloned; maybe this makes them feel a touch more immortal.


 


 


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Sunday, Nov 5, 2006
by PopMatters Staff


Lyrics Born
Overnite Encore: Lyrics Born Live! [Quannum Projects]



“Over an hour of Lyrics Born performing live with a full band in Australia, plus three all-new songs featuring Del The Funky Homospaien, Pigeon John, Mistah FAB and many more.”—Quannum Projects



Download “Lady Don’t Tek No” (MP3, 192kbps)
Download “Knock Knock” (MP3, 192kbps)
Buy at iTunes Music Store



Hall of Justus
Hall of Justus: Soldiers of Fortune [Hall Of Justus/ABB Records]



“From the crew that introduced the world to 9th Wonder and Little Brother, The Hall of Justus brings forth one of this year’s most sought after albums. For fans of MF Doom, Mos Def, Common and Casual.”—ABB Records



Download “S-K-Y” (MP3, 192kbps)
Download “Keep It to the Side” (MP3, 192kbps)
Download “Tour of Duty” (MP3, 192kbps)


Buy at iTunes Music Store



+/- {Plus/Minus}
Let’s Build a Fire [Absolutely Kosher]



“The third full length album by this stellar NY trio and first for Absolutely Kosher.”—Absolutely Kosher



Download “Steal the Blueprints” (MP3, 192kbps)
Buy at iTunes Music Store


Tom Waits
Road to Peace [MP3]


Robyn Hitchcock & The Venus 3
Adventure Rocket Ship [MP3]


Fields
Song for the Fields [MP3]


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Sunday, Nov 5, 2006


Ahh… politics. That creator of strange bedfellows. That seducer of the honest and the well intentioned. That corrupt bastion of bad policies, faulty execution, and spin doctored excuses for both. Every couple of years its seems the representative form of our government gets the grand idea that people actually believe that their vote counts, and so they set about pandering—sorry, CAMPAIGNING—to bring the citizenry to the issues that the lobbyists find most important. Outrage is amplified over insignificant social dicta while truth is tempered by ideological based perspective. It’s all in service of a sinister cabal in which power cannibalizes and feeds itself, a non-stop frenzy of false pride and implied dominance. In the end, the result is a malfeasant machine that manufactures its own magnitude and perpetually pleases only those who can provide its omnivorous fetid fuel.


But wait, you don’t believe that the entire electoral process is a lost cause? You think that a sincere and straightforward candidate can rise up out of the glad-handing quagmire that is the system and avoid the behind the scenes manipulation of his or her party’s protectorate to actually serve their constituency? Well, Mr. and Mrs. America, you need a quick lesson in the realities of the Republic, and there’s no better place to start than with the many movies made on the subject. Indeed, film has, over the decades, found many ways to highlight the hypocrisy and expose the evil boiling just below the surface of the scandal-plagued political process. No sour subject has avoided the cinematic vox populi, from nation altering atrocities like Watergate and the JFK assassination to the standard stratagem of dirty tricks and the always scandalizing subject of sex.


Perhaps the best example of such an anti-politico polemic is 1972’s Year of the Yahoo. What? What’s that you say? You’ve never heard of this film? Perhaps you were expecting All the President’s Men? Primary Colors? The Manchurian Candidate? Well, if you took a smattering of Elia Kazan’s A Face in the Crowd, mixed in a smidgen of standard exploitation, and sprinkled the entire enterprise with a heaping helping of hominy and hambone, you’d have Herschell Gordon Lewis’ long lost masterpiece of down home despotism and the media’s unpardonable ability to influence events. With a narrative fresh out of today’s headlines and a tone as cynical as a grad student’s weblog, Lewis lifts the lid off the muckraking ridiculousness that is our political process, and even provides a few toe-tapping musical PSAs along the way.


Our story begins when the incredibly liberal and virtually unbeatable Senator Burwell comes up for re-election. Angry over his left-leaning ideals, the sitting President of the United States wants Burwell defeated. He even handpicks his own rube for the job: strumming and grinning goober Hank Jackson, famous in both fields of music: country and western. Sending a triumvirate of trained pollsters and media men into the bumpkin’s backwoods barrio, the Corruptor in Chief hopes to help the honky-tonk hick win more than his fair share of the illiterate Appalachian vote. But the glad-handing Governor and his backside smooching sidekick think this corn pone crooner ain’t got a chance in Chattanooga of success. They fail to take his candidacy seriously, and spend most of their days giggling over the lopsided poll numbers.


It’s not long, however, before a sleazy, slick ad campaign and a constant play list of public pandering, philosophically fascist songs has Hank labeled a wholesome homeboy by the neo-conservative race baiters within his constituency. His TV appearances, complete with some finger snappin’, demographically accurate musical numbers, increase his image of earnestness and elect-ability. Indeed, it looks like Jackson will win the gerrymander, even when a rent strike divides his bluegrass bandwagon and unsettles his perfectly polished coalition. As Hank continues to tow the prejudiced party line, his hen pecker of a girlfriend sides with the agitators. It takes dozens of underhanded shenanigans, a sexual assault and a clear case of conscience—not to mention a lonesome ballad or two—to help Hank regain his integrity and to determine, once and for all, if it’s really The Year of the Yahoo.


Indeed, Yahoo is a real rarity amongst supposed skin and sin exploitation films, especially the one’s made by Mr. Blood Feast himself. Instead of some sleazy exposé in which naughtiness and nudity are the only salient selling points, what we have here is a really great movie with an incredibly well written script, a narrative that navigates the truths about government in a way most mainstream efforts would likely avoid. Existing outside the confines of an oppressive studio system, capable of saying anything and everything he wants, screenwriter Allen Kahn (which could just be a pen name for Lewis, by the way) creates an astute, perceptive dissection of the entire cynical candidacy process. It’s a plot that demonstrates how gaining elected office in the United States is not a matter of ethics or integrity but merely showmanship and selfless pandering to the public. Measuring up favorably against directorial heavyweights like Mike Nichols and Elia Kazan, Lewis’ political potboiler about a podunk country singer candidate being mass marketed to his population of peons feels as new and astute now as when it was made.


Unfortunately, a hundred image consultants doing soundbite surgery at a suicidal rate would have a hard time getting the registered voter hyped about Claude King. Yes, he can carry a tune, but he can’t carry a movie. His “wish I was George Jones” persona filled with ‘golly-gees’ and hair cream just can’t seem to slink beyond the initial line reading level. He’s like any other non-actor trying to put on the performance. His halting, half-baked believability leeches every available drop of drama out of his dilemma.  Still, his “h-yuck yuck” yokelism works wonderfully within the movie. He comes across as a complete innocent made a meaningful man of the people. Actually, about the worst thing you can say about this production is that its low budget, non-professional cast aspects tend to show through more than usual. Funny how good writing will do that. Still, if you never thought that you’d experience high-class social consciousness and shrewd political satire in a surreal pseudo-grindhouse goof, then step right up and cast your ballot for The Year of the Yahoo. It’s no more ridiculous than the arrogant stumping that’s passing itself off as self-determination this midterm election cycle.


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Sunday, Nov 5, 2006

Ain’t it interesting that the two hottest new media sites around are now looking to crack down on illegal content (some of which makes them so popular)?  Even weirder is that the process is going to help the places that the record industry and movie industry are fighting the hardest again in the digital world.


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