Latest Blog Posts

by Mike Schiller

17 Mar 2008

L.B. Jeffries posted a review of Steam’s excellent, groundbreaking downloadable game Audiosurf today, a game that we just can’t get enough of at PopMatters Multimedia HQ.  It’s nice to have a music-based game that doesn’t rely on any sort of latent musical talent, and the ease with which it can incorporate any piece of one’s MP3 collection is astounding.

Having played around with it for a while, we’ve found that Underworld’s “Dirty Epic” is a fantastic candidate for a fast-paced but relaxing ride (and a ten-minute one, at that), Wilco’s “Heavy Metal Drummer” is fun if you’re the type who likes rolling hills, and pretty much any spoken word piece (think audiobooks) is fun if you’re the type who thinks hopping curbs in your 4x4 is a good time.  Oh, and people seem to be enjoying “Through the Fire and Flames” a bit, too, as they’ve finally found a way to play that song that lets them hear the end.  No experience, however, has so far matched the good time to be had by playing the game with Akron/Family’s “Ed is a Portal”, which crests and falls so smoothly, building huge amounts of momentum for six minutes or so, after which you get about a minute of coasting up a hill for a cool down.  The combination of fantastic song and fantastic track is a sort of synergy that has, until now, been nearly untapped in gaming.  Download the demo, and try to tell us that the ten bucks for the full-on experience isn’t worth it.  Once you’ve dropped your Hamilton, come back and tip us off to some new musical experiences that we might not have tried yet.  We’ll be eternally grateful.

by Jason Gross

17 Mar 2008

OK, here’s the official word straight from editor Fred Mills.

Harp Magazine Discontinues Publishing after Seven-Year Run

March 17, 2008, Silver Spring, MD: Guthrie, Inc., the company that publishes Harp magazine, announced today that it has discontinued publishing Harp, effective immediately. The last issue sent to subscribers and newsstands was the March/April issue with Dave Grohl on the cover.

Founded in 2001 by editor-in-chief and art director Scott Crawford, the magazine entered into a partnership with the owners of JazzTimes in 2003. The result was a sophisticated rock and pop magazine that was critically acclaimed and well-respected in the music industry for its candor, style and breadth of coverage. The magazine’s web site——was also well-received. The site included nearly all of the magazine’s content, as well as daily news updates and special contests and promotions for music fans. There are no plans to continue publishing the magazine in digital form.

The first issue of Harp in the fall of 2001 featured a cover story on Alejandro Escovedo. Among the artists who subsequently graced the cover of Harp during the last 7 years were Grohl, Cat Power, Ryan Adams, Wilco, Bright Eyes, Nick Cave, The Stooges, Drive-By Truckers, My Morning Jacket, Liz Phair, Tom Waits, The Roots, Tom Petty, Neil Young, Neko Case, Modest Mouse, Jay Farrar, Mars Volta, Devendra Banhart, Steve Earle, Pete Yorn, and Howe Gelb. The magazine also did several Vanity Fair-style gatefold cover sessions, including the artists of Bonnaroo and “Rock of Ages” with pop icons and their mentors, and multi-artist conceptual covers like the recent “Kings of Comedy” edition.

However, according to Glenn Sabin, Guthrie’s CEO, the publication struggled to become profitable. “We purchased Harp in 2003, and it quickly became a first class product that was highly acclaimed for its often irreverent editorial approach and strong graphical package. Unfortunately, Harp’s critical acclaim never translated into sustaining commercial success. Harp’s lifecycle was ill timed with the precipitous decline of the music software industry, coupled with the consolidation of the consumer magazine newsstand business and rising paper and postage costs.”

Sabin saw Harp’s demise as reflective of the changes both in the music industry and in print consumer publishing. Sabin continued, “This story isn’t new. Print consumer publishing and the music industry are undergoing a revolutionary period. Legal digital sales are not even close to making up for the loss in physical product sales and the pervasiveness of illegal digital downloads. And with smaller revenues, labels are inevitably spending less money for print and other forms of advertising and promotion.”

Crawford, who provided the magazine with its creative vision, expressed his pride for what the magazine accomplished in his tenure as its editor-in-chief and art director. “We were able to establish a much-needed niche within the crowded marketplace. Ultimately we tried to create a magazine with substance and style—and on that level, I’d like to think we largely succeeded. I can’t thank our supportive advertisers and readers enough,” continues Crawford. “Your years of enthusiasm have always made Harp worth every last drop of blood, sweat and tears for all of us.”

Notable Harp Cover Features:

• June 2006: “Rock of Ages” ­ pairing iconic rock stars like Thurston Moore, Steve Earle, Michael Stipe, Conor Oberst, Emmylou Harris, Tom Verlaine and others with rising stars in a Vanity Fair-like gatefold cover captured by renowned photographer Danny Clinch.
• Sep 2007: “Kings of Comedy” ­ an ensemble cover article featuring Flight of the Conchords, David Cross, Patton Oswalt and Eugene Mirman—photographed
and interviewed together.
• March 2008: “Dave Grohl for President” ­ featuring a mock presidential run by the Foo Fighters’ Dave Grohl.

Fred Mills
Remote Editor At Large
(a/k/a The Artist Formerly Known As Harp Managing Editor)

by Rob Horning

17 Mar 2008

If you follow financial news at all, you already know that the sky is falling, signaled in particular by Bear Stearns being sold for $2 a share to J.P. Morgan Chase. This picture sums it up cleverly:

To put that in perspective, that deal according to this NYT story values the company at $270 million; which is $5 million less than A-Rod will be paid to play baseball. Take into account also that Bear Stearns’ headquarters on Madison Avenue has been valued at $1.2 billion, and it becomes clear that Bear Stearns is apparently worth a negative billion, and that J.P. Morgan is being paid in real estate to deal with the toxic waste on Bear’s balance sheet. But it gets better for J.P. Morgan, because the Fed has stepped in to assume the risk on $30


make that billion of those dubious loans. (A good question to ask is whether the Fed gets to keep any profit this $30 million might by some miracle generate. Or do we taxpayers get nothing but screwed out of this?)

As the WSJ piece today puts it, this is a less a bailout than a firewall:

Former Treasury Secretary Robert Rubin last week described the situation as “uncharted waters,” a view echoed privately by top government officials. Those officials have been scrambling to come up with new tools because the old ones aren’t suited for this 21st-century crisis, in which financial innovation has rendered many institutions not “too big too fail,” but “too interconnected to be allowed to fail suddenly.”

by Nikki Tranter

17 Mar 2008

Welcome to the very first installment of Books About. Here, we will explore and examine how books are featured in popular entertainment. Why do movies name-check particular authors? And who is quoted, where and why? Here we will decipher how entertainment—songs, movies, television, and more—use books to develop characters and extend situations.

Books, writers, and the art of reading show up in the strangest places. As folk/pop singer Regina Spektor reads with her pickle, so does Ren McCormick defend Slaughterhouse Five in Footloose; as Johnny as Pony read Gone with the Wind in The Outsiders, so does Bast fall to his death beneath, that’s right, a wobbly bookcase in Howard’s End. Our purpose here is to celebrate these moments when books make their mark.

Books About in…

Friday the 13th: Part 3
I’m embarrassed to say the idea for Books About presented itself to me during my weekend viewing of this schlocky picture. What can I say—my husband and I managed to get hold of the original 3D print, and after buying the Blue Harvest special edition of Family Guy, we had two sets of 3D glasses just perfect for a 3D movie night in our very own living room.

The very thought had us jumping about like skitty kids high on too many Nerds. 

It all started out so well, too. The film opens on some bedsheets, swaying on a clothesline. The camera moves under and about the sheets, and the effect is such that you feel as if you’re floating through this backyard, the sheets whipping about you. It’s absolutely brilliant.

But then you meet the owners of this backyard and are reminded how really terrible this film is and why you’ve not watched it in decades. Schlock-plus. Still, praise be to the powers that be here—ie., those who come up with interesting and unique ways to kill people in these movies—that they actually considered the book as a fairly decent weapon.

(It’s possible they got their idea from Howard’s End, but somehow I doubt it.)

Chris, the heroine of the piece, is running through a farmhouse. Her boyfriend has just had his eyes popped out by rampaging Jason Voorhees. She’s running, fearing for her life. In true horror heroine form, she runs up some flimsy stairs. But then, she spots a heavy book shelf, crammed with big hardcovers. She grabs hold and pulls it over, intending, of course, to squish her attacker. Or at least keep him momentarily at bay.

It works, though for too brief a time to really make a difference. He does cower a bit, though. I think maybe she would have had some luck if she’d grabbed the books one by one and just pelted Jason. These are some heavy books.

Really, Chris’s retaliation is instinctual: Jason is coming, find something big, and hurl it. Maybe it was just coincidence that she hurled the shelf. Still, someone designed the Friday 3 set. And when you look around that secluded cabin, there are a lot of books. Perhaps it’s not too out there to think that it’s intelligence that fails Chris, that books-smarts are useless when battling Jason’s brand of fierce evil. This girl will need her street-smarts, a quick head, and a sprinter’s agility to bypass him. Point taken.

What happens to Chris? I’ll let you rent the movie to find out. For now, I’m just happy we managed to find a key book-related scene in a Jason flick.




by Mehan Jayasuriya

17 Mar 2008

Photos and Text: Mehan Jayasuriya

When was the last time you saw people crowd-surfing at a dance club? Unless you caught MSTRKRFT’s DJ set at Vice on Saturday night, the answer is probably “never”. Still, it’s not too surprising that the Toronto duo would have that sort of affect on a crowd, especially given the fact that Jesse F. Keeler was once one half of Death From Above 1979. While the duo’s late night DJ set definitely got the crowd moving, it left a bit to be desired in the originality department. Must every electro set nowadays be built around Daft Punk and Justice samples?

//Mixed media

Because Blood Is Drama: Considering Carnage in Video Games and Other Media

// Moving Pixels

"It's easy to dismiss blood and violence as salacious without considering why it is there, what its context is, and what it might communicate.

READ the article