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by Mike Schiller

30 Apr 2008

A pile of the tracks that are going to be on the upcoming Guitar Hero: On Tour release for the Nintendo DS broke yesterday, and…well, look for yourself:

Do What You Want - OK Go
All The Small Things - Blink 182
Spiderwebs - No Doubt
Are You Gonna Be My Girl - Jet
We’re Not Gonna Take It - Twisted Sister
All Star - Smash Mouth
Breed - Nirvana
Jessie’s Girl - Rick Springfield
Hit Me With Your Best Shot - Pat Benatar
This Love - Maroon 5
Heaven - Los Lonely Boys
Helicopter - Bloc Party
China Grove - The Doobie Brothers
Rock and Roll All Nite - KISS (cover by Line 6)
What I Want - Daughtry

(Opinions and rants after the jump.)

by tjmHolden

30 Apr 2008

That was the wording in bold, cursive 38 point script, scrawled diagonally across the letter-sized envelope. The exterior was a glossy affair, with a photograph of the UC Irvine administration building. Inside, a crisp .097 caliper single sheet of white paper with blue letterhead, had an opening that read:

Dear Ms. Holden,

I am pleased to offer you admission to the University of California, Irvine (UC Irvine) as a Dance major in the Claire Trevor School of the Arts for fall quarter, 2008. Your admission reflects recognition of your accomplishments and our belief that you will thrive as a member of the UC Irvine community.

As admissions letters went, this one was rather impersonal. If not too generic, then certainly positively dry. Whatever accounted for its lack of spark, It certainly must have accounted for my daughter’s lukewarm reception of the news.

By contrast, Sarah Lawrence’s acceptance—which came fit within a thick, texture-ful accordian-style binder, with embossed, colored stenciling etched across it—was penned in forest-green font, on cream-colored .157 bond paper. It effused:

Dear Maya:

Welcome to the Sarah Lawrence College Class of 2012! The Admission Committee was impressed and delighted by your application. Your vitality as a student and your compelling personal qualities distinguished you among a remarkably strong group of candidates this year.

Talk about your hard sell. (And don’t you believe that flattery won’t get you anywhere!)

by Rob Horning

30 Apr 2008

This post is not about high school or hyper-brand-conscious hipsters but investment bankers. In a FT editorial yesterday, former investment banker Abigail Hofman blamed the current financial crisis on the culture of the banks. First and foremost, she argues, that culture is about greed:

Investment banks are all about making money. At the extreme, this means making money for employees not shareholders. The big revenue producers are revered. It is not considered prudent to upset them by asking too many questions. The subprime meltdown is a perfect example of the “emperor has no clothes” phenomenon. These were complex products, yet obfuscation was considered acceptable. Bank chief executives should have asked more questions. I suspect they saw the juicy profits and hoped underlings understood the risks.

But then in the next paragraph, she goes further, denouncing the “cult aspect” of investment banks: “If you work on Wall Street or in the City, you toe the party line. Despite lip-service to ‘diversity’, diversity of thinking is not encouraged.” As a result, no one asks difficult questions or challenges the logic of various practices that are bringing in money. No one wants to blow the whistle, derail the train.

It’s hard to see how it could be any other way, as asset bubbles in general require a uniformity of opinion, a sustained and unwavering effort of belief to keep them inflating, and investment banks seem to need asset bubbles to make the outsize profits they have become accustomed to since the 1980s. The discipline of staying on message, of not undermining the optimism that obviates risk, seems essential to the business model. And from there it filters out, through the business press via various quoted analysts interpreting the steady stream of economic reports, and then into the general-interest press, helping sustain consumer confidence. A climate of critical thinking and skepticism is not particularly conducive to money-making, to the Ponzi scheme-like nature of selling risk down the daisy chain. The wrong sorts of questions are only likely to jeopardize your opportunities—critical thinking seems more often than not to undermine opportunities rather than exploit or discover them.

This is because the “logic” of asset bubbles can’t bear careful scrutiny, so the energy that might otherwise go into critical investigation is instead invested in ideology, into explanations for why we shouldn’t be skeptical: “the internet has birthed a New Economy and Everything Is Different,” “We all need to belong to the Ownership Society, and home prices will never drop.”

Another way to put this: Investment banks are haunted by entropy, by the sense that investment opportunities inevitably unravel, face diminishing returns, run into natural limits. Lockstep conformity militates against this entropy, generates a solution for something unsolvable. Capitalism, then, is this logic writ large, which is perhaps why America is the most congenitally optimistic place in the world and a place where there reigns an overarching conformity, masked by the quotidian kind of individuality that we trumpet as freedom. That kind of individuality—the rebellion of self-fashioning within the larger context of a stable consumerist system—comes at the price of surrendering the kind of critical thinking that Hofman laments the absence of in the banking world.

by PopMatters Staff

30 Apr 2008

The Ting Tings, Katie White (vocals, guitar and bass drum) and Jules De Martino (vocals, drums, electronics), formed as a two-piece during some house parties at Manchester’s Islington Mill, an underground artist collective featuring all manner of creative talent (visual and musical). Their career has taken off with a 2007 appearance at the Glastonbury Festival, bring voted the #3 “Top 10 to Watch in 2008” by the BBC, and just this month with an iPod + iTunes commercial featuring “Shut Up and Let Me Go”.

Called the “most exciting new band in the country” by NME, the Ting Tings are making their way to America this spring with a digital release of their debut record, We Started Nothing, releasing on 20 May 2008. Earning kudos for their charged live performance at SXSW this March from both the New York Times and the New York Post, the British band return to the U.S. and Canada in June for a batch of live shows in major cities. Full tour dates appear below.

In the meantime, PopMatters is proud to present the exclusive debut of the Ting Tings performing “Great DJ” live at the Islington Mill recently in Manchester.


The Ting Tings - North American June Tour Itinerary

06/07/08 San Diego, CA—Casbah
06/09/08 Vancouver, BC—Plaza
06/10/08 Seattle, WA—Chop Suey
06/11/08 Portland, OR—Doug Fir
06/12/08 San Francisco, CA—Popscene
06/13/08 Los Angeles, CA—Troubadour
06/14/08 Los Angeles, CA—Zero One
06/16/08 Toronto, ONT—Mod Club
06/18/08 New York, NY—Bowery Ballroom
06/19/08 Boston, MA—Great Scott
06/20/08 Brooklyn, NY—Southpaw
06/21/08 Philadelphia, PA—Popped

by Bill Gibron

29 Apr 2008

Ki-tae and Cheol-su are a couple of young street toughs looking to get married to the mob. Cheol-su fancies himself an enforcer for the local “working girls,” while Ki-tae protects neighborhood kids from other would-be hoodlums. Through their connections, they end up taking part in a big-time drug deal. When the exchange turns deadly, the boys break ranks and flee. The crime boss is none too pleased with their panicking, and demands that they either repay the lost $10,000, or avenge those who died.

Naturally, the guys try to raise the cash while keeping one step ahead of the law. When Ki-tae stumbles across a big bag of cocaine, they see a possible way out of their predicament. With the help of a hooker friend, they head off to Japan to make a deal worth $500,000. This way, they can repay the boss and start life over again. But there is someone from their past, someone very angry, who wants his own satisfaction, and he won’t take an apology, or cash, to quell it.

Loud, illogical, and without a single redeeming character, Jungle Juice is the Korean cinema’s idea of an American mob comedy. You know the kind - idiots want to join the syndicate, screw up a big job, end up owing the bosses big time, and botch their way through trying to replace the cash/stash. Profanity is tossed about freely, and violence forms both the slapstick and the sinister quality of the narrative. In the end, we are rooting for our amateur anti-heroes, since no one wants the gangsters to win and, with the help of a surprising ally, our leads learn a lesson and get some manner of backwards reward in the process.

It should work effortlessly. We should grow in our acceptance of these misfits, learn why the wrong side of the law holds such an allure, and realize that the adventures we’ve witnessed were all part of some strange coming-of-age ritual that results in change and catharsis. Without these elements, we have nothing but a “crime is glamorous” crapshoot that kills its purpose with firepower and foolishness.

But director Min-Ho Cho doesn’t understand the basics of balance. He allows Jungle Juice to careen all over the screen, moving from dark drama to way-out wackiness in a manner that is both awkward and obvious. In his lead roles, he employs two over-the-top baboons (actually, actors Hyuk Jang and Beom-su Lee) and forces them to mug, mince, and basically mess about without a single scintilla of purpose. No attempt at dimension or depth is made, and their cartoonish capering is about as endearing as an ear infection. In essence, they are not really part of the story.

They are like the necessary linking verb in a sentence, a way of connecting the drug-dealing story with the gang violence goofiness. Min-ho doesn’t even set up the story properly. Instead, we are introduced to necessary elements in offhand, haphazard fashion. The backstory involving sports and college? It’s part of a post-coital tryst with a hooker. The entire power struggle playing out in the mob? Left to a couple of casual comments between the hoods. One character’s missing testicle? A one-off joke that goes nowhere. Instead of setting up clear distinctions, believable aims, and straightforward action, everything here swirls around like a bunch of rats caught in a sewer riptide…and all we are left with is the smell.

Not only is Jungle Juice an outrage, but it can also be categorized as something much worse - the promising film that pisses all of its potential away. There really is no hope for these brain-dead dolts, but the whore with a heart of ice and a decided derring-do (she is nicknamed Meg Ryan and is played with pluck by Hye-jin Jeon) would make a natural center for the story. Our unpleasant putzes could be tossed aside, and Min-ho could have made this Meg’s story of survival and double-crossing. She has the most interesting history, her resolve is fierce and independent, and she manages to thwart those situations that her idiotic partners fall into like fruit carts during a chase scene.

But Min-ho keeps her minor, never letting anything she does or determines overwhelm her miserable macho sidekicks. Perhaps it’s a sly commentary on Asian social structure, or a way of representing girl power without shooting off sparks, but it’s boring. Indeed, almost all of Jungle Juice is inert and uninteresting. Even the title tonic - a homemade brew that leads to some heady hallucinations - makes a single, sad appearance here before disappearing into the ephemera.

At the one-hour mark, we are wishing for something to happen, and at the one-hour-and-30-minute mark, we just want it to end. Jungle Juice could very easily be called Bungled Sap or Botched Brew as it lumbers along on screams, curse words, and…not much else. This is moviemaking as an amplified experience, with everything turned up to Spinal Tap‘s “11,” without any of that film’s wit, wisdom, satire, or irony. While it’s a professional and high-profile movie to look at (this is no low-budget romp), we are still treated to a scattershot story that never settles in to allow us entry.

It may have sides splitting in Seoul and be breaking box-office records in Bangkok, but for some reason, Jungle Juice just doesn’t translate to a Western ideal - and the funny thing is, it more or less steals, openly and honestly, from the British and American indie scene from the last two decades. Two better and more accurate titles would have been Lock, Stock, and Two Smoking Dimwits or Dolt Fiction, since this is one homage that is hasty and malformed. Unless you’re some manner of Asian film completist, there is no reason to sample this stale, stinking fluid.

//Mixed media

Supernatural: Season 11, Episode 12 - "Don't You Forget About Me"

// Channel Surfing

"In another stand-alone episode, there's a lot of teen drama and some surprises, but not much potential.

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