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Friday, Jun 9, 2006

Priceless hed and dek in the A-hed story in today’s Wall Street Journal: “To Find a Mate, Raid a Dungeon or Speak Like an Elf. Flirting in online games can lead to offline love; Lord Krideldek’s ploy.”  The article is about mates who find each other while playing MMOGs (which I guess has now replaced the more cumbersome MMORPG as the accepted nomenclature for massively mutliplayer online games). The writer cites an academic expert who claims that these games allow players to experience scenarios together that reveal character, scenarios the expert thinks are disappearing from real life. The gaming experience becomes a weird kind of date, where you pick up cues about a potential partner based on how they respond to ambushes in dungeons or how articulate their in-game chat is. Right now this seems incredibly geeky, and the article seems to be having a little sport with these people, but they are probably on the vanguard of something that will surely become common practice. Online dating services suggest that this is already happening—it seems as these function by initiating online courtships that can then lead to real-life encounters. Perhaps eventually the IMing and emailing will be supplemented with MMOG-like dating scenarios (purged of dragons and such) that enable more dynamic interaction within the unpredictable contexts created by other people looking on, interacting. Or perhaps this will just consist of surfing the Net together in real time and chronicling the various repsonses to what the other finds and chooses to share.

Just as the Internet has removed geographical inefficiencies in the market for books or clothing or various collectible bits of esoterica, so it should streamline the marriage market and allow people to broaden their pool of possibilities and end up with a far more compatible mate. Though I’m sure some daters don’t mind having nothing in common with those they date—they can cut to the sexual chase that much quicker—the rest of the world will have the safe zone of cyberspace to test out degrees of compatibility with tools that may be more refined than shared meals and movies. The Net offers a much richer and particular set of “experiences” to share with someone else that are potentially much more revealing than anything you might say at dinner in a restaurant. Online you can back up your interests, the nuggets of your conversation, with concrete examples—the tissue of links that now compose our public personalities (just look at the average well-planned MySpace profile.) All my hobbies have their online analogues (you’re reading one right now); if you met me in person, you could talk to me all night and not find out half as much about me as you’d discover from following the links from my bookmark list on I don’t think I’m all that unusual in that regard; should this worry me? Could it be that eventually we’ll all have more to offer to people online than in real life, and then all love will necessarily have to flourish in the screen-world of text, type and hyperlinks?

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Friday, Jun 9, 2006
by PopMatters Staff

The Dr. Octagon Chronicles

“A Gorilla Driving A Pick-Up Truck” -  Kid Loco (Banana Loco Remix) [MP3]

The Return Of Doctor Octagon, Chapter 6: Kid Loco in the Return of “A Gorilla Driving A Pick-Up Truck” (Banana Loco Mix)

Paris, France: At a streetside cafe on the wrong side of the river Seine, Kid Loco sips an aperitif while staring intently at his laptop screen, He is reviewing updates on the Decipher project from OCD HQ and he can’t believe what he’s reading. A planet destroyed by Dr. Octagon clones; fellow decipherers gone delusional and then cured by a mysterious cure; abducted hackers claiming to have met the real Dr. Octagon years ago; gorillas driving pick up trucks… How do all these events fit in with each other? What does it all mean?

Kid Loco inhales deeply and looks skyward. How can he, a hopeless romantic, an urban artist raised on the boulevards of Paris, be expected to wrap his head around these seemingly inexplicable ongoings in the U.S.? Whatever’s going on there, may soon spread everywhere. He knows if he just concentrates and focuses, maybe, just maybe, he can come up with the missing link to tie it all together.

He reaches into his pockets and pulls out a smooth-rolled blunt of rare Pakistani hashish – Kid Loco’s secret psychic weapon that he likes to call the Three Feet High Reefer. He lights it up, puffs it up, closes his eyes and prepares to Zen out. His dubbed out re-interpretation of “A Gorilla Driving A Pick-Up Truck (Banana Loco Mix)” cues itself onto his mp3 playlist.

Kid Loco lets his mind do the walking, through each of the tracks on the Dr. Octagon recording. It sounds almost as if the Dr. Octagon on this new recording is not quite the same man (creature?) that produced the perverted Dr. Octagynaecologist 10 years ago. As the purple haze thickens, Loco realizes that “Trees” is clearly a warning on the dangers of pollution. We know the Earth’s environment generally disagreed with Dr. Octagon, turning his skin “green and silver, warhead lookin’ mean”. Loco smacks his lips to the sweet, sticky fumes and thinks about the lyrics on “Ants”, where the Doctor is above the clouds, looking down on humans tiny as ants. Perhaps, this is a new perspective to help us remember how ephemeral our existence is?

There’s “Perfect World”, where Octagon declares, “Men with suits & ties sitting call the shots from a chair / Hummers comin’ at night with dark light / More drama looking thru the sun roof at a stealth bomber.” With the political messages behind “Jumpstart” and “Eat It”, Octagon demonstrates a certain sympathy for the human race, instead of the self-destructive tendencies he displayed previously. Has the Doctor been reborn? Is he offering us a key to ending suffering and pestilence? Is this recording the ying to Dr. Octagynaecologist’s yang? Then… maybe the foul circumstances surrounding this recording have more to do with someone trying to prevent Dr. Octagon from succeeding in our salvation?

As the sweet, sticky fumes subside, a green Chevy pick-up truck rolls to an abrupt stop on the curb, directly in front of Kid Loco. A huge, hairy ape in a spacesuit wrestles the door open. He steps out, stretches his arms and legs, and purveys the scene. He spots Kid Loco, walks over to him, and takes a seat. He speaks in a low, gruff voice.

Gorilla: “So, Kid Loco. You think you have it all figured out, huh?”
Kid Loco: “Why are you trying to stop Dr. Octagon?”

The gorilla guffaws, snorting through his enormous nostrils. He shoots Kid Loco an evil grin, and in a sudden flash he’s gone. Only later does Kid Loco realize that the gorilla took off with the quarter ounce of hash he had neatly tucked away in his jacket pocket. “Merde”, Kid Loco shouts furiously; “We are going to find you, monkey. And we are going to get to the bottom of this.”

“A Gorilla Driving A Pick-Up Truck” -  Kid Loco (Banana Loco Remix) [MP3]

Previous Chapters:
Cassettes Won’t Listen “Aliens” -  Hearing Aid Remix [MP3]
A Gorilla Driving a Pick-Up Truck -  Rob Sonic Road Rage Remix [MP3]
The Gray Kid Al Greezy remix [MP3]
Al Green: The Gray Kid Al Greezy remix [MP3]
Mike Relm 20-minute Return of Dr Octagon megamix [MP3]

The Return of Dr Octagon hits stores June 27th.

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Friday, Jun 9, 2006

When I see trash on the street, it’s my initial reaction to want to condemn some person. I think about laziness, indifference, people so disenfranchised that they just don’t care or that like vandals destroying property with grafitti, they get a thrill from ruining something pleasant—a park, a clean block—for everyone else because they (rightly, probably) feel excluded from enjoying it. But I was probably guilty of an intellectual laziness in falling back on those thoughts, which justify a class snobbery.

Mother Jones contributor Brad Plumer has a great recap of the invention of litter as a public menace, a story told in Heather Rogers’s book Gone Tomorrow: The Hidden Life of Garbage. Not that litter isn’t a nuisance, just that the campaign to direct our attention toward individual litterbugs was directed by the packaging industry that enables them. This is turn steered legislative efforts away from reforming the packaging industry:

In 1953, the packaging industry—led by American Can Company and Owens-Illinois Glass Company, inventors of the one-way can and bottle, respectively—joined up with other industry leaders, including Coca-Cola and the Dixie Cup Company to form Keep America Beautiful (KAB), which still exists today. KAB was well-funded and started a massive media campaign to rail against bad environmental habits on the part of individuals rather than businesses. And that meant cracking down on litter. Within the first few years, KAB had statewide antilitter campaigns planned or running in thirty-two states.

In essence, Keep America Beautiful managed to shift the entire debate about America’s garbage problem. No longer was the focus on regulating production—for instance, requring can and bottle makers to use refillable containers, which are vastly less profitable. Instead, the “litterbug” became the real villain, and KAB supported fines and jail time for people who carelessly tossed out their trash, despite the fact that, clearly, “littering” is a relatively tiny part of the garbage problem in this country (not to mention the resource damage and pollution that comes with manufacturing ever more junk in the first place). Environmental groups that worked with KAB early on didn’t realize what was happening until years later.

And KAB’s campaign worked—by the late 1950s, anti-litter ordinances were being passed in statehouses across the country, while not a single restriction on packaging could be found anywhere. Even today, thanks to heavy lobbying by the packaging industry, only twelve states have deposit laws, despite the fact that the laws demonstrably save energy and reduce consumption by promoting reuse and recycling. (A year after Oregon passed the first such law in 1972, 385 million fewer beverage containers were consumed in the state.) And no state has contemplated anything like Finland’s refillable bottle laws, which has reduced the country’s garbage output by an estimated 390,000 tons. But hey, at least we’re not littering.

Plumer points out that this probably has a lot to do with the faddishness of recycling, one of my pet arguments. “No one can be “against” recycling. It’s very good. But of the three suggestions in the phrase ‘Reduce, Reuse, Recycle,’ the last is the practice least effective in curbing the manufacturing of junk.” Aside being a form of moral vanity, recycling is an alibi for waste, a readymade excuse that justifies using lots of individually wrapped, small-serving-sized crap—which in turn helps disseminate a culturewide sense that sharing is foolish and futile, and reinforce our sense of isolation, of needing to avoid contamination, of needing our property fenced off, of being individually-wrapped members of society, sealed off from everyone else. Recycling merely recycles this mentality, refurbishes it for another alienated generation.

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Thursday, Jun 8, 2006
by PopMatters Staff

Pinetop Seven

“Ash” [MP3]
“High on a Summer’s Tree” [MP3]
multiple songs [official site]

“Turn” [MP3]

Dirty on Purpose
“Light Pollution” [MP3]

“Celebration” [MP3]

“Girls Are the New Boys” [MP3]

The Handsome Charlies
“Eighty-one” [MP3]

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Thursday, Jun 8, 2006

Advertising blog AdPulp is worried about the youth of America:

Marketers everywhere are trying to figure out the best way to reach the teen and twenty-something markets. Perhaps, we ought to drop that pursuit and instead focus on why this generation is busy hurting themselves.
According to Associated Press:

  Nearly 1 in 5 students at two Ivy League schools say they have purposely injured themselves by cutting, burning or other methods, a disturbing phenomenon that psychologists say they are hearing about more often. For some young people, self-abuse is an extreme coping mechanism that seems to help relieve stress; for others, it’s a way to make deep emotional wounds more visible. The results of the survey at Cornell and Princeton are similar to other estimates on this frightening behavior. Counselors say it’s happening at colleges, high schools and middle schools across the country. Separate research found more than 400 Web sites devoted to the subject, including many that glorify self-injury.

I immediately wondered if these two seemingly disparate ideas are related: that this generation is turning to self-harm as a result of being the most-marketed-to generation in the history of humankind. Self-harm would be an attempt at achieving authenticty, some sense of real feeling, in the face of the perpetual reinforcement of the importance of surface charm, the continual insincere flattery the media basks them in, and the instrumentalization and commodification of emotion (feelings become on-demand, like an episode of The Sopranos or a porn flick). Media culture—entirely given over to marketing impulses at this point—thrives by inducing insecurity and then offering ersatz solutions for the feelings of inadequacy that invite you to become even more alienated. No wonder they are so miserable. Culture, doing the bidding of consumer-goods markets, rationalizes the phoniness, the passivity, the sheepishness, the shallow notion of individuality on offer via shopping for identityas natural; self-harm becomes an irrational response trying to shatter that consensus, make ones rejection plain and irrevocable. Self-harm is the one thing you can’t buy on the market, it’s one thing you can never feel like a sucker for buying, it’s one thing you own completely—an act that can’t be traced directly back to some form of cynical manipulation on the part of some corporation. Thus the fact that websites have begun to “glorify” ritual self-abuse suggests that perhaps it’s exhausting itself as a viable retreat from media culture; that it too has been co-opted. Once you can cut on yourself to be cool, you can’t really cut on yourself for relief from the pressures to be cool.


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