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Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Normally, you could laugh off a story about an ignorant parent who misconstrues what they hear hears at a rock concert but this story in particular had some troubling implications: Enraged Mother Calls Fall Out Boy Concert ‘Liberal Homosexual Rally.  From the article, FOB bassist Pete Wentz posted this message on the band’s website:

“The only thing I said in Charlotte was, ‘You can leave this show and say, ‘I think this guy is an arrogant jerk,’ or think, ‘This band is better than this one,’ because these are your opinions. The only thing we consider unacceptable is for you to engage in sexist, racist or homophobic behavior. If you do, we don’t want you as a fan.’”

Which you think would be harmless (and righteous enough) but evidently one mom in the crowd didn’t think so, deciding that the band was promoting homosexuality and insisting that she was going to start a campaign against the band to get their fans to turn on them.  Of course, this kind of stupidity will fail and probably backfire (it’s getting them media coverage) but it’s also telling for a few reasons.  Once you get past the ignorance of the complainer (curiously un-named considering her seemingly passionate convictions), it’s interesting to see that she seems to be exactly the kind of homophobe that the band was warning its own crowd about.  But then dig Wentz’s follow-up:

“(Our show) is not a liberal homosexual rally, but at the same time, it will never be a Ku Klux Klan rally.”

Fine for the second part but using a term like “liberal homosexual rally” sounds like more like neo-con rhetoric than blue state pride.  Is that a bit of back-peddling?  Is that to say that it’s much more dangerous for the band (or any band) to come off as racist as opposed to homophobic (where there’s less potential backlash)?  Make no mistake- Wentz’s (and the band’s) initial instincts were the right ones but language like that makes me wonder why the hateful things said about gays aren’t seen as being as dispicable as a racist comment.  Ideally, both kinds of speech should be seen as equally reprehensible.

Personally, I’ve always thought the best part of FOB was their Simpsons-derived name.

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Tuesday, May 9, 2006
by PopMatters Staff

Elf Power—"An Old Familiar Scene"
From Back to the Web on Rykodisc
Elf Power has returned with their seventh full length album, Back to the Web, a darkly orchestrated folk rock masterpiece. Back to the Web is a haunting, twisting journey, where 12-string acoustic guitars, violins and cellos weave strange and lovely melodies.

Shifter —"Butter"
From Shifter on spinART Records
Two Australian school friends achieve their life long dream of forming a band that screams Cheap Trick and resonates with the harmonies of The Sweet, all over raw ‘n’ rowdy, ‘70s-like rock ‘n’ roll. American icons Blondie hand pick the band to open for ‘em when they tour Australia and their off on an amazing tour.

Minus the Bear —"Hooray"
From Menos El Oso on Suicide Squeeze Records
Recorded over a three-month period in early 2005, Menos El Oso (Spanish for “Minus the Bear”) finds the Seattle boys moving fully into the production helm of their own music, with the resulting exploration allowing the band to more critically analyze, edit, and communicate their ideas. With Menos El Oso, the band’s focus on musical and personal growth continues. It’s a multi-dimensional ride through endearment, confusion and melody.

From Garden Ruin on Quarterstick Records
Garden Ruin takes into account the enlarged line up of the band, its multicultural roots, the band’s growing input into the songwriting and arrangement process, the arrival of a producer, new domestic arrangements, international affairs, broadening horizons, developing ambitions and changing scenery. Garden Ruin is definitely not the sound of a band standing still.

Hot IQs —"Firecracker"
From An Argument Between the Brain and Feet on spinART Records
Blend classic pop, fuzzed-out rock, and hints of edgy lounge and you have Denver’s premier rockers, Hot IQs. With a sound that cites influences from the Pixies, the Kinks, to Archers of Loaf, and possibly the Holiday Inn Lounge Singers’ Association of America, Hot IQs put the indie-rock chocolate in your disco peanut butter.

Pretty Girls Make Graves —"The Nocturnal House"
From Élan Vital on Matador
The Seattle quintet’s follow-up to the universally acclaimed The New Romance, and their first album since the addition of keyboardist Leona Marrs, is by far Pretty Girls Make Graves’ most ambitious, multifarious and scorching to date. Produced by Colin Stewart (Black Mountain, Destroyer), Élan Vital provides the band with a bigger, bolder canvas with which to weave their magic.

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Tuesday, May 9, 2006

Not since Bertelsmann pumped eight million dollars into Napster just before the P2P company got wiped out (though later reborn) have we seen a deal like this: Warner Bros. to Sell Movies and TV Shows on Internet.  Warner Bros is working hand-in-hand with Bit Torrent, a popular P2P site and popular boogey-man for Hollywood and the RIAA.  Embracing and innovating rather than throwing lawsuits everywhere isn’t the typical M.O. for these big entertainment companies but WB definitely has the right idea.  If it pays off and they get good returns for the deal, expect that other companies will follow suit (not law suit that is).  Good thinking there, boys…

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Tuesday, May 9, 2006

BusinessWeek leads the cheerleading for the upcoming McDonald’s redesign: such words as “cool” and “funky” and “Starbucks” are deployed—and of course it’s compared to the iPod. What else? The design halo for a successful product is so strong as to be hegemonic; the word iPod is like a talisman that is expected to automatically evoke state-of-the-art user-friendly fun, even though there is no meaningful way a restaurant’s design can mimic that of a hand-held music player. We all know iPods are of the moment, the objective correlative of up-to-dateness; McDonald’s “promises to be a forever young brand”; hence McDonald’s will be like iPods. Like Apple design, the new McDonald’s will be “simple” and “clean”—I wonder if there has ever been a redesign that wasn’t hailed as simple and clean—like “realism”, simplicity and cleanliness are always relative terms, their hallmarks changing over time to reflect novelty and trends. In other words, there is no Platonic ideal of simplicity, what is “simple” is always relative to what sort of complications a redesign is supposed to remedy.

In the case of McDonald’s upgrade, the complications involve jettisoning the “heavy plastic” look (which has been deemed dated and incompatible with the corporation’s new emphasis on selling healthiness) and incorporating a “linger zone.” In the past McDonald’s embraced the high capitalist ethic of efficiency, and sought to leverage the principles of motion studies and time management to maximize the numbers of burgers produced and consumed. The assembly line approach was “clean and simple” back in the ‘50s and ‘60s—no hassles like waiters to deal with, in fact, no waiting in general. From the godlike viewpoint of design, employees and customers were treated much the same, two sides of the same coin. Just as employees were limited in what they could do and given very little information to process and virtually no decision-making responsibility, so customers were offered a limited menu and were expected to accept food manufactured to pre-ordained specifications. Just as the work areas were designed to expunge loafing and shirking and talking and economize the motions of workers so that they could flip 14 burgers in 3.74 seconds and assemble 17 filets-o-fish in under a minute or whatever, so were the customers’ eating areas purposely designed to be uncomfortable so as to maximize turnover and discourage loitering by any undesirable deadbeats, who might sit there and talk to each other instead of cram cheeseburgers down their gullet. Thus the hard plastic unmovable chairs, the unappealing clown colors, the harsh lighting. Ideally you wouldn’t get out of your car at all, and you’d use the drive-through. It was the restaurant equivalent of the gas station, another evolving icon of post-war American culture, and I’m sure it struck Americans as clean and simple—you zip right through and get your standardized product and you’re comfortable in the knowledge that your service was no different than anyone else’s. Democracy in action.

Now democracy in action seems to mean providing movable chairs “for families”, a WiFi connection, plasma TVs for isolated, lonely eaters “to keep them company” and a few couches so that customers can “feel comfortable hanging out.” The old color scheme will be muted, and olive and terra cotta—Starbucks hues—will be introduced into the palette. Rather than process customers in a one-size-fits-all manner, the new McD’s offers three distinct zones for families, loiterers, and people in a hurry. Rather than express their contempt for you openly, that is, now they will conceal it behind some technological gimcracks and some upholstered chairs. So having abetted the atomization of American society, undermining traditional rituals of eating that once fostered polite society and turning food into on-the-go fuel, McDonald’s now wants to present the simulacrum of what it helped destroy, an ambiotronic environment in which the semblance of civility is exhibited for maximum marketing appeal. It wants to cater to the illusion that people have time to hang out, that people enjoy being in public with strangers, that its own food is something to be savored rather than inhaled on the run. The corporation can subsidize a few people hogging the comfy chairs and watching the TVs in order to give its bread-and-butter customers—the harried single people in a hurry—a warm, fuzzy feeling about what they are about to eat, as if a Big Mac can give them access to the laid-back linger-zone life by proxy. But most people, McDonald’s knows, don’t really want to linger. Rest assured, regardless of the redesign, the heart of McDonald’s will remain as hard a plastic as ever.

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Monday, May 8, 2006
by PopMatters Staff

“Calm” [MP3]
“Parade of Punk Rock T Shirts” [MP3]
multiple songs [MySpace]

“Jeez Louise” [MP3]

Starlight Mints
“Seventeen Devils” [MP3]

“Rubber Traits” [MP3]

Wooden Wand
“Eagle Claw” [MP3]

The Wowz
“Unbroken Chain” [MP3]

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