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by Joseph Fisher

8 Aug 2013

I stood in the aisle at One Stop News for quite some time before I decided to purchase the 1 August 2013 edition of Rolling Stone, the issue with Dzhokhar Tsarnaev (“Jahar”) on the cover.  Though I spent most of my teenage years in a small, weathered mill town outside of Worcester, Massachusetts, I readily identify as a Bostonian. My father grew up in South Boston; my mother grew up in Jamaica Plain. I was born in Quincy (“Qwinzee”) Hospital and spent the first few years of my life traveling back and forth to various family houses all over the South Shore.

Back in the early 2000s, I bandited the Boston Marathon, running a respectable, if totally unofficial, time for my first marathon. On that day, my future wife waited for me mere feet away from the finish line. 

Over the past decade, my wife has become quite the runner herself. She has been lucky enough to complete several marathons (I always seem to get injured beforehand). As a result, I have spent many, many mornings waiting at finish lines for her. My wife consistently runs her marathons broadly between 4:20:00 and 4:50:00. Had she been running the 2013 Boston Marathon, I would have been waiting for her, most likely at the finish line, most likely when the bombs went off. That was, and remains, a chilling thought.

So, petulant as it might sound, this Rolling Stone cover felt personal to me. And I took it personally.

by Barry Lenser

5 Jun 2013

On Vampire Weekend’s first two LPs, lead singer and lyricist Ezra Koenig name-dropped Lil’ Jon, Peter Gabriel, and Jackson Crowder (identity not important) more times than he did God. In fact, Koenig’s lone reference to the divine was merely colloquial in nature: On “I Stand Corrected”, he sings, “Lord knows I haven’t tried”. That hardly counts. Though memorable, Koenig’s lyrical concerns back then didn’t register as all that weighty or ruminative. They instead had the mark of privileged, idle-time eccentricity, e.g. punctuation distinctions, sartorial refinement, and milky Spanish beverages. What came to the fore through such imagery, especially on the band’s eponymous debut, was a vivid sense of place. Fleshed-out themes weren’t a priority.

On this count, Vampire Weekend’s newly released third record—far and away its best—is a much different and more interesting animal. Though Koenig hasn’t jettisoned his colorful and digressive wordplay, Modern Vampires of the City comes through as a very theme-driven collection of songs. Both the sunny Ivy League provincialism of the band’s debut and the confident post-undergraduate worldliness of Contra are in the rear-view. In their place: aging, death, and the Man Upstairs, the last of these perhaps most overtly. Modern Vampires of the City is indeed a deeply God-haunted work, with song titles that include “Unbelievers”, “Everlasting Arms”, “Worship You”, and “Ya Hey” (think “Yahweh”). Now Koenig doesn’t give any indication he himself is a believer (more often just the opposite), but there is a recurring sense of engagement with God throughout the album, a sense of wrestling with the implications and impossibilities of faith. By accident or, more likely, by design, this builds and builds until Koenig puts everything on the table and addresses God directly.

by Scott Interrante

11 Apr 2013

Harmony Korine’s Spring Breakers is a film that’s easy to get lost in. It’s presented with nonlinear storytelling, montages of seemingly unrelated spring breaking, and repeated lines of dialogue, all in a wash of neon colors and excess. The music helps the audience remain grounded in reality and stabilizes the chaotic world we’re immersed in.

But it’s not just the audience that needs grounding. The film follows four young college students (portrayed by Selena Gomez, Vanessa Hudgens, Ashley Benson, and Rachel Korine) on their adventures to St. Petersburg, Florida for spring break. The girls desperately want a break from their monotonous reality and see the vacation as a chance for them to find themselves, let loose, and have fun. Once they arrive, the young girls get involved in some heavy partying, and then, facilitated by their new leader, Alien (James Franco), a fair amount of crime. It is a world of fantasy for them, as it is for us. To them, it is world where their responsibilities disappear and they are free to party. They tell each other to “act like it’s a videogame” before they rob a local eatery to get the money needed for the trip. But given the non-linear editing effects, use of slow motion, and the aggressive soundtrack, complete with loud gunshot noises for scene changes, one begins to question whether the events of the story are meant to be taken as fantasy entirely.

by Joseph Fisher

27 Nov 2012

Stereogum recently published an article discussing the difficulties that musicians have in receiving revenue from services like Spotify and Pandora. The piece provides a good overview of the larger problem while also linking to various other blog and Tumblr. posts that have taken up this very same question, so I won’t retrace those arguments here. (However, I will rather cantankerously point out that, once again, there is no real deconstructive work happening in these Deconstructing: [X] thinkpieces.)

by Sean Murphy

13 Sep 2012

In a piece I recommend you read at The Rumpus, Amber Sparks, a non-believer, discusses matters of faith, spirituality, and art. The piece is entitled “Seeking Grace in Strange Places”, and I think that title is fine. I do find it curious, being a recalcitrant agnostic myself, that Sparks would consider writing (especially poetry) a “strange” place to seek grace. For at least two reasons. One, I think writing (in particular, art in general) is not only not a strange place, it’s the ideal place. Second, this sentiment presupposes (and I’m not deliberately picking on Sparks or even trying to quibble over semantics) that, say, a church is not a strange place. Indeed, one could counter, with minimal snark and maximum truth, that there are many things strange about looking for—much less hoping or claiming to find—grace, or God, in a building designated for that purpose. For starters, it’s a sanctioned endeavor, turning the transmission of spiritual release into an act approved by a professional, like taking medication that a doctor prescribed.

//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