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

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Paul Barman: “RZA interview
(WFMU radio, June 19, 2008)
To most rap fans, he might sound like a sucka, but Barman’s out-of-it, nerdy wit should resound with any backpackin’ hip-hop fan. The rhymes that he milks from his interview aren’t always compelling, but the idea that he’d turn it into a rap deserves some credit for innovation.


Ewen Callaway: “Music of the Hemispheres
(New Scientist, May 23, 2008)
What’s more frightening than tinnitus?  Hallucinatory music that affects some elderly patients already suffering hearing loss. It’s worth the time to note this if only because, as the doctor in the piece notes, “many people with these symptoms do not seek help because of the shame and stigma that continues to surround mental illness of any type.”


Will Dunham: “Disco Tune ‘Stayin’ Alive’ Could Save Your Life
(Reuters, October 16, 2008)
Credit also to Dr. David Matlock who led the study about getting the CPR rhythm just right. “How do I make it easier to understand?” he probably wondered before he came up with this great Boomer connection. But how does the mirror ball fit into the technique?


enigmax: “Record Label ‘Infringes’ Own Copyright, Site Pulled
(TorrentFreak, October 19, 2008)
It’s not a matter of the label being dummies, but their Net provider being too anal about enforcing copyright, questioning whether the label has the rights to their own material, which it actually does. See why copyright laws need reforming?


Paul Ford: “Six Word Reviews of 763 SXSW MP3s
(The Morning News, March 18, 2008)
A veteran of the half-haiku format, here Ford tackles the whole load of bands at the Austin festival who offered up song samples to the curious. Sometimes he’s lazy (talking about doing his laundry at the end), but many other times he makes a great argument for brevity. Some favorites include “Shit, Franz Ferdinand, you ruined everything,” “You can love Neko Case too much,” “Theme for cable show about douchebags,” “Droning, but Pitchfork’ll give it ‘6’,” “Son, you’re damaging your vocal cords” and that’s just in the ‘A’ bands. At this rate, he could do a while ‘zine in Twitter.


Peter Goddard: “Arts Study a Culture Shock
(The Star, January 5, 2008)
High culture, low culture… all myths. We live in a pop culture world with economic status having little or nothing to do with what kind of art we consume. Not that this kind of revelation will tear down the artificial walls that we keep erecting anyway.


Andrew M. Goldstein: “Lou Reed Wants to Talk About His New Radio Show, Does Not Want to Talk About Money
(New York, June 6, 2008)
On one hand, give Goldstein credit for capturing a classic Lou rant, after he’s asked if he owns stock in the satellite radio company he’s doing a show for: “What are you, a fucking asshole? I’m here telling you the truth about music and you want to know if I have stock in the fucking radio? You fucking piece of shit. What did I do to deserve that?”  On the other hand, it’s also a classic example of why Lou hates scribes who try to push his buttons.


Matthew Moore: “iTaser: Stun Gun with an MP3 Music Player
(Telegraph, January 9, 2008)
Sure, they’re stylish devices, but aren’t you worried that you’re going to accidentally stun yourself while listening to your favorite tunes? And that it’ll be “Shock the Monkey”?


Will Hodgkinson: “And now… Barbierolli!
(Independent, The Times, January 4, 2008)
How do you get a younger (I mean really younger) audience interested in classical music?  Tie it into Barbie and make her one of the featured artists. It did work for some young ladies, but it’s likely that many young gents were interested too.


John Keillor: “From Metallica to Mendelssohn
(National Post, May 26, 2008)
Alex Ross makes cleaner, more convincing connections between classical and pop, but give Keillor credit for finding new threads in the metal/classical bond. You only wish that his multi-genre connection really held for more fans: “Only people are more diverse than music. If you’re listening to a Hayden string quartet and the Ramones pop into your head, or if Berlioz brings to mind Bhangra music, that’s you hearing your way. And you’re better for it.”


Victoria Kim: “Musical Instruments of Change
(Chicago Tribune, January 28, 2008)
What’s the modern scientific way to fix instruments?  Freeze them to sub-zero temperatures and give them a colonoscopy. Sounds like a freaky doctor visit indeed.


Ben Popkin: “Do Coat Hangers Sound as Good as Monster Cables?
(consumerist.com, March 3, 2008)
Well, if he’s going to go through the trouble to test and report on it, you already know the answer, but still a worthwhile reminder that being an audiophile ain’t all it’s cracked up to be.


Kurt Roboburger: “Sister Circuit, Live @ the Earl, Part 1
(YouTube, March 20, 2008)
A pretty hilarious piece of video journalism where a bunch of stuck-up, noise-rock assholes get theirs, thanks to the wonderfully sarcastic captions. As they spend seemingly forever tuning up and looking cool, “some douchebag at Pitchfork is going nuts for this.”  Here’s hoping that Sonic Youth never offer them an opening slot.


Sean Michaels: “Music as Torture May Incur Royalty Fees
(Guardian, July 9, 2008)
The Bush administration to the contrary, torture’s no joke, but you do have to wonder if the RIAA has finally met their match.


Unknown Writer: “I Can Stop Brit from Feeling Rotten
(The Sun, June 1, 2008)
Surely, it’s a publicity stunt, right?  Johnny Rotten writing for Britney?  Well, you’ve gotta give the guy credit—he’s always been a great contrarian…


Unknown Writer: “An ‘Idol’ Loses His Record Deal”
(AP/CNN, January 8, 2008)
Taylor Hicks gets dropped by Sony/BMG because his album only reached number 2 and sold ‘only’ 699,000 copies. The problem: he should have gotten to number one and had a hit single. No wonder the music industry is in such trouble.


Unknown Writer: “Music ‘beats faster’ in the North
(BBC, February 4, 2008)
Credit really goes to John Lewis, who found that Scotland (at 190 bpm) kicks it more high-speed than London (a measly 90 bpm). Plus, heavy metal’s popular all over the UK, and half the country’s classical music sales can be traced to two record stores. When is someone gonna undertake a massive survey like that for the US?


Unknown Writer: “Recreating the Sound of Aztecs Whistles of Death”
(AP, June 30, 2008)
A bone chilling history lesson as archeologist Roberto Velazquez recreates the frightening noises surrounding sacrifices, courtesy of some creative multimedia.


Unknown Writer: “Robbie Williams- Rudebox to pave Chinese Roads
(contactmusic.com, January 16, 2008)
I still don’t believe it, but how can you resist a story like this when it writes itself?  I mean, just the fact that it took a semi-totalitarian government (which isn’t the Bush administration) to find a good use for a Robbie Williams album?

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