Call for Essays About Any Aspect of Popular Culture, Present or Past

 
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Monday, Oct 6, 2014
The New Mastersounds are sort of like a hybrid strain of cannabis. The music has an uplifting effect, yet one that’s blended with a relaxed vibe.

It was a Wednesday night in the central part of town and there was a relatively new venue vying for the San Diego music scene’s attention. Situated just outside the trending North Park area in the less trendy yet growing City Heights neighborhood, the Hideout is well positioned to be a player in the local scene. It’s a classy joint that offers a much improved vibe from the similar sized hole in the wall atmosphere of the Soda Bar down the street. But could the small venue handle an international touring band like the New Mastersounds?


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Monday, Sep 29, 2014
Almost 50,000 people gathered in Central Park for the 3rd Annual Global Citizen Festival, a star-studded affair that draws attention to extreme poverty with world leaders pledging funds for relief.

The scope of the Global Citizen Festival remains the same as it did for the prior two iterations, to mitigate extreme poverty worldwide though this year the organizers directed additional attention to the subjects of vaccines, education and sanitation. Regarding sanitation, there was a lot of attention directed towards open defecation, a huge issue in India in particular. Amongst the global leaders in attendance (as the festival is timed to coincide with world leaders being in New York for the U.N. Global Summit) was Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi. Modi had been implicated as one of the instigators of religious violence against Muslims (by Hindus) in Gujurat in 2002 where he was Chief Minister at the time. And he hadn’t been permitted to enter the United States from that point on, until he became elected Prime Minister in 2014 so he was given a moment at the festival to pledge that Indians citizens will have access to toilets by 2019. Other world leaders were present, including Norway’s Prime Minister Erna Solberg, who pledged over $1.2 billion towards vaccinations worldwide over the next several years, and some NGO leaders including World Bank President Jim Kim and U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon.


But for many of nearly 50,000 people in attendance at the six hour event, including one girl who drove up from Tennessee, the primary attraction was not actor Hugh Jackman introducing Ban Ki-Moon or Olivia Wilde talking about her recent charitable endeavors, but the powerful and diverse line-up of musicians. Via an online lottery, for which people earned entries by completing socially conscious activities, the lucky people in attendance got to see performances from Jay Z and Beyonce, No Doubt (their first show in a couple of years) do a set with Sting guesting for one song, Carrie Underwood, Alicia Keys with Idan Raichel, The Roots and more. The concert was available as a stream online or live on MSNBC (with noticeable delay) for those that couldn’t go, but given the opportunity to be out on Central Park on a lovely summery day, Global Citizen Festival was a perfect outing… if you could get in (VIP ticket holders complained of long lines). It may be hard to determine what the attendees’ motives were but if they were genuine, but if even a small percentage of them feel urged to donate, or be more socially active that is a good start.


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Friday, Sep 26, 2014
The first night of Robert Plant's tour with his new band the Sensational Space Shifters, which included new material and Led Zeppelin classics, proved how apt their moniker is.

Led Zeppelin’s blues and rock songs were steeped in mysticism. And their lead vocalist, Robert Plant has put out many albums since that group split, with perhaps the most successful being the much-lauded Raising Sand, a collaboration of Americana and folk covers done with Alison Krauss. This year, Plant is back with an excitingly dubbed new band, The Sensational Space Shifters and with their backing, he stretches the sonic palette he has working with for decades. And their first album, lullaby and… The Ceaseless Roar, is a wonderous and delightful amalgamation of Appalachian folk and North African and Eastern sonics that will prove as timeless as anything he’s done before. The Space Shifters include Juldeh Camara on unique instruments, the kologo, which is similar to a banjo and a ritti that is played with a bow, both Justin Adams and Liam “Skin” Tyson on guitars, John Baggot on keyboards and synths, Billy Fuller on bass and Dave Smith on drums.


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Thursday, Sep 25, 2014
Bahamas does more than keep the summer vibes alive, he gives you the opportunity to dance by the fire.

Canadian musician Afie Jurvanen, aka Bahamas, is a regular in the social scene / musical circles of his country and has a loyal following in these United States. If considering his self-appointed moniker, the sunny islands of the Bahamas might not be the first connection you make when you think of a musician from Canada. However the music Jurvanen creates is far more evocative of ocean-side bonfires and hot, sunny days with its easy going tunes than anything else. It is also fitting that Bahamas has signed to Jack Johnson’s Brushfire Records for the release of his third album, Bahamas is Afie, for which he is currently touring to support with fellow Canadian Tamara Hope (The Weather Station) opening for him (and him sitting in on drums for her).


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Thursday, Sep 25, 2014
Analysis of the winners and losers at Saturday night’s Gdynia Film Festival closing ceremony.

The closing ceremony and prize-giving of the 39th Gdynia Film Festival took place on Saturday night on the Main Stage of the city’s Musical Theatre, the site of many of the memorable screenings and premieres held across the festival’s jam-packed, exhilarating six days.


Punctuated beautifully by live orchestra performances of Wojciech Kilar film scores (as a tribute to the iconic composer who died last December), the slickly-staged two-hour event proved most delightful. Not all of the decisions made by the international jury were what I would have hoped for myself. But the results certainly reflected the panel’s intention to reward as wide a range of films as possible: an appropriate approach, perhaps, in a year which yielded no one masterpiece but rather a selection of diverse, interesting and sometimes provocative works, from the traditional to the wildly experimental.


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