PM Pick

Boys on the Bus #9

Back in February, Mike Allen approached the mic to ask President Bush a question at a White House press conference. The President responded with a snide retort.

President Bush: Michael. Michael, who do you work for? (Laughter.)

Mike Allen: Mr. President, I work for Politico.com.

President Bush: Pardon me? Politico.com?

Mike Allen: Yes, sir. Today. (Laughter.)

President Bush: You want a moment to explain to the American people exactly what -- (laughter.)

Mike Allen: Mr. President, thank you for the question. (Laughter.)

President Bush: Quit being so evasive.

David Gregory: You should read it.

President Bush: Is it good? You like it?

David Gregory: Yes

President Bush: David Gregory likes it. I can see the making of a testimonial. (Laughter.) Anyway, go ahead, please.

Perhaps the “.com” implied some sort of amateur, new-jack connotation to Allen’s recent assignment. But what this exchange highlighted was the emergence of new media as a vital force in today’s political process. The President needs to get with the times, because, inevitably, they are a changing.

Politico, founded by John F. Harris and Jim VandeHei of The Washington Post, has garnered much attention in recent months for its astute political reporting. Based in Washington, the site almost exclusively covers national politics and is mostly concerned with hard news rather than opinion. Politico has personally been my most reliable, consistent source of information regarding political news over the past six months.

The success of Politico will hopefully signify a shift from the uber-passionate blogs such as HuffingtonPost and the always entertaining propagandist MichelleMalkin.com to a more factual, informative web-based news. After all, it was the blogs which brought us the now infamous “swift boat controversy” of 2004 and have proven to be a consistently unreliable source of useless information. As consumers of news we need to be aware of what sites are reliable and which should be relegated to the designation of web rags. We know they’re out there: let’s call them out on their shoddy journalism.

From genre-busting electronic music to new highs in the ever-evolving R&B scene, from hip-hop and Americana to rock and pop, 2017's music scenes bestowed an embarrassment of riches upon us.


60. White Hills - Stop Mute Defeat (Thrill Jockey)

White Hills epic '80s callback Stop Mute Defeat is a determined march against encroaching imperial darkness; their eyes boring into the shadows for danger but they're aware that blinding lights can kill and distort truth. From "Overlord's" dark stomp casting nets for totalitarian warnings to "Attack Mode", which roars in with the tribal certainty that we can survive the madness if we keep our wits, the record is a true and timely win for Dave W. and Ego Sensation. Martin Bisi and the poster band's mysterious but relevant cool make a great team and deliver one of their least psych yet most mind destroying records to date. Much like the first time you heard Joy Division or early Pigface, for example, you'll experience being startled at first before becoming addicted to the band's unique microcosm of dystopia that is simultaneously corrupting and seducing your ears. - Morgan Y. Evans

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The year in song reflected the state of the world around us. Here are the 70 songs that spoke to us this year.

70. The Horrors - "Machine"

On their fifth album V, the Horrors expand on the bright, psychedelic territory they explored with Luminous, anchoring the ten new tracks with retro synths and guitar fuzz freakouts. "Machine" is the delicious outlier and the most vitriolic cut on the record, with Faris Badwan belting out accusations to the song's subject, who may even be us. The concept of alienation is nothing new, but here the Brits incorporate a beautiful metaphor of an insect trapped in amber as an illustration of the human caught within modernity. Whether our trappings are technological, psychological, or something else entirely makes the statement all the more chilling. - Tristan Kneschke

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Culture

Net Neutrality and the Music Ecosystem: Defending the Last Mile

Still from Whiplash (2014) (Photo by Daniel McFadden - © Courtesy of Sundance Institute) (IMDB)

"...when the history books get written about this era, they'll show that the music community recognized the potential impacts and were strong leaders." An interview with Kevin Erickson of Future of Music Coalition.

Last week, the musician Phil Elverum, a.k.a. Mount Eerie, celebrated the fact that his album A Crow Looked at Me had been ranked #3 on the New York Times' Best of 2017 list. You might expect that high praise from the prestigious newspaper would result in a significant spike in album sales. In a tweet, Elverum divulged that since making the list, he'd sold…six. Six copies.

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Under the lens of cultural and historical context, as well as understanding the reflective nature of popular culture, it's hard not to read this film as a cautionary tale about the limitations of isolationism.

I recently spoke to a class full of students about Plato's "Allegory of the Cave". Actually, I mentioned Plato's "Allegory of the Cave" by prefacing that I understood the likelihood that no one had read it. Fortunately, two students had, which brought mild temporary relief. In an effort to close the gap of understanding (perhaps more a canyon or uncanny valley) I made the popular quick comparison between Plato's often cited work and the Wachowski siblings' cinema spectacle, The Matrix. What I didn't anticipate in that moment was complete and utter dissociation observable in collective wide-eyed stares. Example by comparison lost. Not a single student in a class of undergraduates had partaken of The Matrix in all its Dystopic future shock and CGI kung fu technobabble philosophy. My muted response in that moment: Whoa!

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Books

'The Art of Confession' Ties Together Threads of Performance

Allen Ginsberg and Robert Lowell at St. Mark's Church in New York City, 23 February 1977

Scholar Christopher Grobe crafts a series of individually satisfying case studies, then shows the strong threads between confessional poetry, performance art, and reality television, with stops along the way.

Tracing a thread from Robert Lowell to reality TV seems like an ominous task, and it is one that Christopher Grobe tackles by laying out several intertwining threads. The history of an idea, like confession, is only linear when we want to create a sensible structure, the "one damn thing after the next" that is the standing critique of creating historical accounts. The organization Grobe employs helps sensemaking.

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