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by Jason Gross

14 Apr 2008

Buzznet’s diet of blogs that it’s consumed now includes Idolator.  Rest assured that BNet’s appetite isn’t going away- they’re still hungry and they still want more.  They’re becoming the News Corp of new media, gobbling up everything it can as it makes a push for not just synergy but also as much hip cache as it can.  It remains to be seen if BNet is going to let the old brands keep the format that made them so desirable in the first place or if it bends them all for its own means (like Uncle Rupert).  If they’re smart, they’ll do the former but rest assured, they’re already thinking about the later.  I wish the Idolator folks good luck.

And just in case you can’t get enough of new ways to punish all consumers to offset the music industry’s mistakes,  you can lump the idea for the Internet tax with the idea of an iPod tax.  The same idea here is that another industry is going to be forced to bilk its customers so that it can then pay off the music biz.  So everyone’s happy then, right?  Somehow I don’t think the BPI (aka the British RIAA) will stop with electronics manufacturers or Net providers (and don’t forget that they’re trying to squeeze money from radio too) but they’ll also branch out to other industries that are involved in music- any remaining manufacturing plants for CD’s, plus the graphic designers and print shops that make the photos and sleeves as well as the studio engineers, club owners, caterers, groupies and drug dealers will all get squeezed somewhere down the line for being involved in the music pipeline.  And then the cost will get passed on to the consumers too, whether they pay for or want the goods or not.  It reminds me of the old joke about an exclusive club.  “I wanted to get in and they said ‘That’ll be 50 bucks.’  I said ‘Forget it- I’m going home!’  They said ‘OK, that’ll be 30 bucks!’”

by Nikki Tranter

14 Apr 2008

“Then, as my mother read those first few pages of The Yearling, I saw blue-gray smoke rising from the chimney of a simple cabin, and watching the smoke drift into the sky was a boy named Jody Baxter. I recognized him right away. He was so like me: skinny, blond, solitary. I moved, as my mother read the words, into the clearing in the Florida swampland where the Baxters lived their hardscrabble lives. I could hear the insects buzzing and the bubbling sound of the little spring, and I could see the glisten of the dark magnolia leaves and smell the thick pines.”

Lois Lowry tells NPR‘s “You Must Read This” how Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings’ influenced her later years as a Newberry Award winning writer. Originally hoping to write about young, triumphant women like those in Little Women and The Secret Garden, The Yearling, Lowry says, showed her the importance of and the poetry in lives without triumph, lives of loneliness and struggle. Her works have come to resemble this one far more than those other classics for little girls.

A few weeks prior to Lowry’s column, Sloane Crosley told “You Must Read This” about her adoration of The Secret Garden. Crosley, an essayist with a new book out this month called I Was Told There’d Be Cake, discusses how Frances Hodgson Burnett’s story of Mary Lennox made her dubious of “spring renewal”. The book, she says, is not particularly nice, and sets forth unravelling what she calls its “goody-goody reputation”.

The illustrations, wistful sketches that adorn each chapter, should have been rendered by Edward Gorey. The Secret Garden is about neglect. Of plants and of people.

Two different, fascinating readings of books considered classics for young adult readers. I love how these writers, Lowry and Crosley, are generations apart, and yet one particular book links them. Lowry read The Secret Garden in the ‘40s as a pre-teen; so did Crosley four decades later. Both reacted in ways that we now benefit from as readers of their work.

You Must Read This” is one NPR’s best features.

by Lara Killian

14 Apr 2008


As part of my audio book musings I’d like to note that one series which caught my eye at my local library is Alexander McCall Smith’s The No. l Ladies’ Detective Agency a few weeks back. Four neat installments were smartly packaged in different colors and all neatly lined up in the CD section, drawing my attention. Not yet familiar with the series (turns out it’s quite a popular one) I picked one up and just then a patron came in so I returned to the circulation desk. She coincidentally returned one of the paperback versions of the series so naturally I inquired about it. At her recommendation I found the first in the series and checked it out—the audio versions being of later segments and the first installment being necessary for setting up the background of the series.

These books are sheer fun—set in present-day Bostwana and centering around the practical and clever Precious Ramotswe, a private detective (the only such lady in the whole country, she is proud to say) who is determined to “help people with the problems in their lives.” Of course there are little mysteries that Mma Ramotswe must use her sharp wits to solve, but even better are the frequent comments about particular aspects of Africa in general and Bostwana in particular that she often gives. “She loved her country, Botswana, which is a place of peace, and she loved Africa, for all its trials.” There are constant cups of strong Bush tea to be had while Mma Ramotswe calmly sits and ponders the wonders of the landscape that surrounds her, or the latest scandal involving someone-or-other’s daughter or husband and their misplaced affections or occasionally missing person. So far none of these investigations have taken more than a few days to wrap up, leaving Mma Ramotswe more time to help the reader come to admire Botswana and its people as well.

Equally at home in the governor’s mansion or a witch-doctor’s impoverished hut, Mma Romatswe is a very likeable character, sensible in her morality and practical in her methods. McCall Smith has an easy style of writing and comes across as very authentic in his knowledge of this part of the world. Indeed, on his website he writes that he tries to visit Botswana every year because he likes it so much:

I suppose that the main reason [I write about Botswana] is that I find Botswana a very interesting and admirable country. I respect the people who live there—they have built up their country very carefully and successfully. I admire their patience and their decency.

McCall Smith was born in Zimbabwe, taught law at the University of Botswana, and more recently Medical Law at the University of Edinburgh, the city where he continues to reside though his writing has been so successful that he is able to dedicate himself to the venture full time and no longer teaches. He is currently on a book tour in the US following the March 2008 of the latest installment in The No.1 Ladies Detective Agency series, and the Easter release on BBC television of The No.1 film.

I, for one, having just discovered this entertaining living author, will continue to look for his work at my local library. I checked out two of the audio books in the series just this weekend and got started immediately with The Full Cupboard of Life.

by Mike Schiller

14 Apr 2008

In summary:

Three systems (the PS2, PSP, and Xbox 360) have absolutely nothing coming out this week, other than whatever not-yet-announced games will be occupying the weekly downloadable slots.  The PS3’s only release is a game that’s not finished yet, released so that gamers can be offered the “privilege” of playing 1/3 of a game for 2/3 of the price (a detail that will not at all deter the fans of the admittedly killer Gran Turismo series).  The DS features three games that actually feature exclamation points as part of their titles.  The PC mostly gets games that console players have picked up, played through, and forgotten about at this point, along with some expansion sets.  And the Wii…well…

The Wii version of Okami

The Wii version of Okami

My game of the week last week was a re-release, too, so I hesitate to do this, but no matter how many times I look over this list, nothing sticks out like Okami does.

Yes, it’s been out for a year and a half.  Yes, it was all over the best of ‘06 lists when it came to awards and all that.  Still, it’s impossible to ignore a game that many said outshined The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess when it came out, and was certainly pulled off with more originality.  Anyone who loves the Zelda series is nuts if they haven’t tried Okami yet, and now it’s appearing for a system that it seems all but made for, what with the painting dynamic that drives so much of its gameplay.  Add in enhanced visuals (Okami in 16:9 does sound appealing) and a reduced price ($39.99), and you have one of the most appealing Wii purchases yet seen on the system.

Sherlock Holmes: Nemesis for the PC

Sherlock Holmes: Nemesis for the PC

In other games, the newly-enabled capability of the Wii’s Virtual Console to handle Sega Master System titles means that Fantasy Zone can actually be released, so now I may actually play it in a form that goes beyond the easter egg in Arnold Palmer Tournament Golf.  Also, for you puzzle-solving types, Sherlock Holmes: Nemesis on the PC looks like it has some serious potential as well, and you probably won’t need a graphics card update to play it.

The rest of the week’s releases…after the break:

by PopMatters Staff

14 Apr 2008

1. The latest book or movie that made you cry?
Book: Music for Torching by A.M. Homes because it’s so sad.
Movie: What About Bob because it’s so funny. Ratatouille because it’s so so sooooooo inspiring.

2. The fictional character most like you?
Midori in Haruki Murakami’s book Norwegian Wood. Although I haven’t read it in a while and maybe I’ve changed. I like to think of myself as Holden Caulfield, but that’s just because Catcher in the Rye is my favorite book. I’m prolly more of a Phoebe than a Holden anyway because I changed my name too. Or maybe I’m one of Kafka’s characters since I’m crazy bout coffee.

3. The greatest album, ever?
Van Morrison’s Astral Weeks. I listened to it for a year non-stop. It’s like one long song or a long dream or a long trip on a train through Italy in the rain.

4. Star Trek or Star Wars?
Not really, but if I had to pick one, it would be Star Wars because of lightsabers and Princess Leia’s hair.

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