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by Lara Killian

17 Nov 2008

Following in Jane Austen’s footsteps…

Sometimes after spending my days poring over management texts and improving my understanding of those oh-so-fascinating research methods, at the end of the day I just need a little fluff in my reading.

My easy-on-the-brain fiction of the moment is Linda Berdoll’s Mr Darcy Takes a Wife (2004), a story that picks up where Pride and Prejudice left off. Diving headfirst into the married life of the Darcys, Berdoll uses exaggerated period language to describe decidedly un-Regency-era action. If you ever wished that Elizabeth and Mr Darcy weren’t quite so chaste in their courtship, in Berdoll’s fiction you’ll find that these beloved characters get some private time - as man and wife, naturally - to explore the depths of their mutual passion.


I first encountered Berdoll’s tale when it was published in 1999 under the title, Bar Sinister, now out of print. Apparently this antiquated English phrase for a child born out of wedlock did not sufficiently describe the contents of the novel, and so the book has taken on a re-invented name and is now marketed with a cover more reflective of the contents – an oil painting depicting a dark haired gentleman kissing a brunette in a flowing evening gown. There is even a volume two of Berdoll’s extension of Austen’s beloved novel, entitled Days and Nights at Pemberley (2006). I have yet to come across a copy, but why not let the fun continue? Elizabeth and Mr Darcy seem to have such a perfect marriage, it’s delicious fun to see what obstacles they’ll have to overcome now that they’ve said their vows and start getting to know each other’s little secrets. The perfect antidote to the nonfiction I should be perusing in order to get that term paper properly researched.

Any tasty fiction you would recommend for those times when you don’t have the brain power left for challenging reading?

by PopMatters Staff

17 Nov 2008

Check out the PopMatters tribute to the 40th anniversary of the White Album. Side One songs post tomorrow, but here’s some video highlights to whet your appetite.

Side One

Paul McCartney
Back In The USSR (Live in Kiev 2008) [Video]


Siouxsie & the Banshess
Dear Prudence (Top of the Pops 1984) [Video]


Cirque du Soleil
Glass Onion (also Because, Get Back) [Video]


Gentlemen Singers
Ob-la-di, Ob-la-da [Video]


Wild Honey Pie [Video]


The Continuing Story of Bungalow Bill (also Glass Onion, Ob-la-di, Ob-la-da, Wild Honey Pie) [Video]


George Harrison
While My Guitar Gently Weeps [Video]


Happiness Is A Warm Gun (The Gun Mix) [Video]


The Breeders
Happiness Is A Warm Gun [Video]

by Rob Horning

17 Nov 2008

Maybe the savings behavior of Americans has nothing to do with optimism and everything to do with fear. Chris Dillow linked to this paper by Jon Wisman that confirms an idea that seems intuitively true, but that many economists took to the op-ed pages to refute—that when Americans save less, it’s because they ar eunder pressure to spend more, and they are rejecting prudence altogether. Wisman seeks to explain Americans’ paltry savings rate with Veblen’s theory of consumer behavior. He rejects the hyperrational “life-cycle hpyothesis,” which argues that individuals try to spread out consumption levels over time based on their income expectations in order to maintain a consistent standard of living. Empirical studies Wisman cites seem to refute this. Using survey data, he instead establishes that though American society is not characterized by unusually high social mobility, Americans think that it is.

The data presented above (as well as that provided by Alesina and La Ferrara 2000) suggest that there is “American exceptionalism,” but that it relates not to the actual degree of vertical mobility in American society, but Americans’ exceptionally strong belief that they live in a land of highly fluid vertical mobility, a land of relatively equal opportunity. If they study, work hard and diligently, they can improve their social status. Each is responsible for his or her own status. Possessing high status is thus a consequence of virtue. This places a premium on showing higher status. One option for doing so is to struggle to consume at the level of those with higher status and thereby improve one’s reputability. This special pressure to demonstrate higher status through consumption may help account for the exceptionally low personal saving rate in the U.S.

Increasing inequality worsens the cycle, making the efforts necessary to emulate higher-status people more strenuous, while support for collective, public goods erodes. These, after all, boost no one’s status. You don’t score points for idling in the public park and riding the bus (unless you a part of a hyper-eco-conscious counterculture.)

If that is the case, then the key question is what sustains the ideology about social mobility in the face of contrary evidence. Wisman suggests that it might be advertising, since Americans are believed to be targeted by more marketing messages than those in other cultures. The nature of this advertising need not be subtle or especially laden with a defense of “freedom” as defined by consumer choice or proofs that social mobility is possible. Ads simply need to show us what the lives of the wealthy are like (and convince us their portrayals are accurate), and our “natural” desire to emulate their behavior will kick in. By seeing the living standards of the rich, we know what we must aspire to. Consumption overall increases because of status anxiety, so they don’t even have to sell a particular product well to be effective. They must instead create an aura that the standards above our own are comprehensible and attainable. They must make luxury life seem not so much glamorous as realistic, almost ordinary. (On this point, marketing and entertainment converge, fulfilling much the same function—they make the substance of status anxiety appear pleasurable to absorb.)

Goods need not be presented as exclusive; the exclusivity appeal of luxury goods stems not from how they are marketed, but from what they cost, and the nature of that appeal has to do with being safe and belonging, with feeling worthy rather than feeling superior. Thus people can consume luxury goods without ever regarding themselves as snobs and without ever thinking of themselves as being more than middle class—upper middle class? Sure, but not one of those snotty elitists.

by Thomas Hauner

17 Nov 2008

I’ve come to terms with the fact that middle-aged, middle-class white people love the blues. Be it festivals, buskers or your straight-up concert, no one else flocks to the sounds of alcohol-soaked despair quite like Jane the Soccer-Mom and Joe the Plumber. So finding the Fillmore packed with coupling chaperones, wildly cheering on Susan Tedeschi was not at all surprising, it was expected.

Tedeschi, herself alluring in a Sparta-like shimmery dress and heels, was at ease, her voice equally dripping with her signature soul and fireworks. Though touring in support of her latest album Back to the River, she was still apologetic about playing so much new material to an audience continually clamoring for old hits. The crowd did, however, quickly open up to the familiar themes and sounds emanating from her latest compositions.

The redemptive “700 Houses”, which she referred to as her “disaster song”, was written in response to Katrina, yet applies to tornadoes, floods, and earthquakes too she quipped. “People”, a communal anthem for civic action and voting that she penned with Sonya Kitchell, was harmonious in both message and her effortless delivery. Awkwardly enough the audience was listless when Tedeschi congratulated them on making the right choice November 4th. Despite being the average audience member’s contemporary, Tedeschi’s glittery peace-sign button on her guitar strap and world views reverberated best with younger concertgoers.

Politics aside, Tedeschi and her five-piece backing band charged through a tenacious “Little by Little”. The ensemble especially came alive when they tip-toed through one verse before thundering into the next, allowing Tedeschi’s gospel-raised vocals to both coax and dominate the crowd. She also showed some serious guitar chops. Doubling lead guitar on the song’s final turnaround with Dave Yoke, Tedeschi borrowed a page from her husband Derek Trucks’ Allman Brothers playbook.

Prominent throughout the night was tenor-saxophonist Ron Holloway, frequently matching the late LeRoi Moore’s pointed and flowing style. Holloway was a key component while the band traded solos, like on jazz-inspired “Love is Black”. Vocally, one could practically feel the velvet drapes as Tedeschi diffused into sultry lounge singer mode.

Already thinking ahead to their dreaded late-night commute home, the crowd was more excited about Tedeschi singing “It Hurt So Bad” to finish her set than any of the four songs she played for an encore. That’s probably because they never stuck around to hear them.

by Jason Gross

17 Nov 2008

The news keeps getting worse and worse for music scribes and any writer on the cultural beat.  Entertainment Weekly is shedding over a dozen jobs.  Also, CBS has decided to shut down their Juke website even before it launched- this included several notable music writers.  Just in the last few weeks, Wenner Media, Time and Gawker also announced cutbacks among plenty of other publications and sites forced to do the same.

Think about the hundreds and thousands of lives effected by this.  Not only do the writers lose their livelihoods but what about their families and the business that they buy from?  Also, what about the readers who lose all of these important voices, viewpoints, inside info and tips?  It keeps feeding into the bad economy and also means that the cultural dialog is being cut down, even though it’s growing elsewhere online.

I’ve wrestled with the idea of being a full time writer or editor for a while now but even before all of this economic gloom or even before the Net started draining resources from many print publications, I worried about the up’s and down’s that regularly go along with the biz.  Needless to say, I’m even more reluctant now to take the plunge and I just remain grateful that I can do some freelancing with good publications (like PopMatters for instance).

For the hard-core full-time people in the writing biz, I wish I had good news.  The best thing I can think of is a piece of advice when you’re hit with hard times in any field.  Diversify.  You already have a solid background in writing (and maybe editing) so use that skill.  If there isn’t any work on a music beat, maybe there’s work or opportunities to be found in another field for now or maybe even long term.  It may not be your first choice but at least you can still do part of the work that you still love and keep writing.  Think of it as an opportunity to explore other realms and delve into other interests that you might have had over the years but haven’t had the chance to pursue until now- I’m kind of a film buff myself and I’m looking to expand on that in my writing. 

It’s true that all publications seem to be hurting now but if you can break into other areas, you’ll have a better shot at finding some short-term or maybe even long-term work.  What have you go to lose?

//Mixed media

Bad Graphics Are Still Impressive in ‘Spirits of Xanadu’

// Moving Pixels

"Spirits of Xanadu wrings emotion and style out of its low fidelity graphics.

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