Thursday, November 20, 2008

The Days After

While I am not the Obama Zombie that was talked about in The Onion, I am suffering a post-election hangover. Then again, I think the entire country is. Yesterday the Dow dipped below 8,000 and there are reports of possible 10% unemployment by sometime next and year and all the Bush admin can do is pocket enough shit possible as they walk out the door... WTF!?!?! Ok, I'll admit it. I would love to blame Bush for this since he deserves it for being the lamest lame duck president ever. Invisible since September, Bush's incompetence has become even more pronounced in the wake of the classiest consolation and acceptance speeches in recent memory of national American politics. Can anyone imagine Bush being as magnanimous as McCain or Obama were on that Tuesday evening? This is a man who, respective of your political feelings, is simply a public embarrassment. If you are a Republican you have always known this but dare not speak it for four years; if you are a Democrat you are sick of saying it.

However, I am blaming Obama for my hangover. Yes, Obama. On that Tuesday evening I was as high as I have been in years; on Wednesday I was in love and, well, when the hell are you gonna call me Barack! Yes, I know we only have one President at a time but I need you to call me. I am waiting by the phone, the economy is crashing, Al Quaeda is calling you names and pirates, yes freaking pirates, are on the rise. On that Tuesday earlier this month it was like we had the greatest date ever. We ate a modest bistro, had coffee, you told me about how much you loved your mother, I cried, you told me not to as she was "in a better place". I shared about my abusive past, the one were I hadn't done enough to get out of that eight year relationship, and you simply nodded as you gently held my hand, picked up the check and took me to coffee and an Italian Ice. The leaves had turned, not fallen and the air was crisp. We walked, you talked and we kissed... and you haven't freaking called me since!

And now I am getting mad.

Yes, I know you are thinking of me... you think about all the time, but you just broke up with the Senate and you have to wait until after the Holidays to see me.

It's complex... you can't afford to be our president yet. I get it. But all I want is a phone call. A little pick me up. Something. Just tell us you love us won't you?


The truth is it is bad. The economy is in the dumps and all I am doing is waiting for Turkey Day to see my life. Being separated has been tough and budget cuts at the University are scary. My work is taking off, and I take solace in that and the fact that I have free nighttime minutes on my phone plan. The only two songs that mean anything today is the cheery march into the apocalypse that is The Arcade Fire's "No Cars Go" and MGMT's "Kids". Both of the songs do what bands like REM and Talking Heads used to do well: provide distinctly "art pop" palettes of sound upon which the lyrics splash impression after impression. They defy the pedagogical forces of narrative in order to swath listeners under the hedonistic pleasures of pop, no matter how negative they may be. If Gogol Bordello, the single best rock band I have seen in ten years, offers its listeners a positive lesson in pleasure (hey kids, have sex, get rowdy, you can change the world, etc.), then they are today's Clash as they embrace the multi-culti forces of globalization and wrap it around the punk promises of change, now for the moment and make certain it damn well counts. I can't say that about Arcade Fire and MGMT. Their very reservations, which are hardly emoesque, seem to square more with my feeling that the what we can do now is march forward, into the future, work for change and hope it comes.


Which brings back around me to the only media reasons to be joyful these days: 30 Rock and the American version of The Office. As the former has spun off into even greater moments of surreal comedy (last week's "Night Court Reunion" was my personal TV highlight of the year so far), The Office has shown more heart this year than I could have even hoped. Between Michael Scott's most recent lost love, Pam's return (which will bring with her impending regrets, no doubt), Andy's future break up with Angela (or perhaps not) and Kelly Kapur's recent "dream fulfilled" (sh'e dating Ryan again) have given the show a depth that I simply didn't think it could achieve. And by depth I don't mean the smarmy melodrama of late MASH. Rather it seems to me to be the only comedy on American TV that has taken Del Close and Charna Halpern's words about Truth in Comedy to their logical end. The Office works not so much because it is comedic, but rather because it is painfully true and touches nerves that, for me, were only hinted at in shows I love such as The Larry Sanders Show or early Roseanne. After The Office, I need the refresher that is 30 Rock


Ok, enough for now. Will talk more about research later. I should note that things have bogged down a bit as we are at the end of the semester here at ODU. Nevertheless, the writings have come and the grants are being written and submitted. Such is the life.

And Barack, if you get around to it, call me.

Monday, November 03, 2008

Sick Days, One Day, Cher Day, Bragg Day, Hey Hey Hey

Let's begin with the beginning. After my wife came to visit last week with my stepdaughter, the germs they spread decided to take up temporary residence in my sinuses. It's been one limping day after another as I try to get healthy. Still, I am doing what I can to get through election day. Instead of knocking on doors, I decided that data entry was the best I could do and the whole kit and kaboodle will culminate with me working the polls beginning at 5:30am (polls open at 6am) until 4pm. I will tell you more about that sometime this week.

But with one day left, I have a few random thoughts I would like to get out of my head before I start to grade...

1) Facebook is forcing people to get connected who they never wanted to be connected with again. The result has been a rise of self-reflection about more past relationships than anyone could have imagined. Score another side effect for online social networking.

2)Obama rallies have begun to rekindle the best hopes of the 1960s. My wife went to the Obama rally in Columbus and the above picture is of about 20 or so people doing the electric slide (or bus stop to others) in the middle of High Street. The rally drew about 60000 people and my wife walked away really emotionally drained, as if this was the greatest event that she had ever attended. For what it is worth, she and the rest of her family are all Hillary supporters and she has harbored quite a bit of cynicism about Obama's campaign. That said, she has been a supporter for months but I don't think she expected this kind of feeling. But people dancing in the streets and acting positively under the direction of a leader can only energize you with hope. It can also be dangerous... but I don't think I see anything too wrong with the electric slide. It can make you feel like the future can be different if all work and dance together. What a feeling!Click image to view

For what its worth. I didn't think that that feeling was possible again.

3) The A&E Cher Biography I watched yesterday was the best television I watched all weekend.

4) The Billy Bragg show, which I saw last week and will blog about this week after the election, was beyond great. Not as good as the Gogol Bordello show I saw this year, but a solid, if distant, second.

5) I really miss Fat Albert. I just wanted to say that. I think I am in need of the DVDs... anyone?

Saturday, August 30, 2008

The New Job

I have a number of people ask me about "how the new job is going" and I always answer, "Very well", which is true. Of course that is about as spartan as I could be, but it also convenient. It's been two weeks and to go deep into detail about how lucky I feel and how impressed I am with my colleagues just seems gushing. However, it's how I feel. I feel lucky and happy to be here.

First, I have had more interesting conversations with faculty about media that they like/love than any place since I was at Northwestern as a Graduate Student. I have my theories about this, but I will say that without naming places and persons I have worked with a number of colleagues who are positioned as media scholars who don't really seem to like it that much. This isn't the majority by any means, but I am often stunned by how negative critique dominates our field. At its worst I tend to hear about what PhDs hate rather than what they love. If I can be grateful for one thing, most everyone I know in my department is a lover fist and hater second.

With the new job comes new research agendas that I am pursuing. Right now I am developing a long-term project on popular music in the age of the end-user which will study and argue for an understanding of another economic and techno-structural change of popular music industry. If this sounds like something I have argued before, well, guess what, I have. However the difference now is I am in the middle of that change and this change has yet to completely play itself out. By the way, if you want to read about my last argument it's in my book Making Easy Listening. I am not above shameless plugs.

What I have been doing is surveying a mile of literature on "network societies", "social media", etc. It's great to start a new project. It's even better to understand that the field of literature is yet-to-be defined. "New Media Studies", which is a term that makes me gag for a variety of reasons, is wide open. My foot is in the door and, yes, I will be one of those people who make you gag in the future.

The New Job has also exposed me to the world The American South. Teaching in Indiana and Ohio I had to learn a kind of lingua franca that included understood a world of Amish people, Big State U Football, a distrust of Urbanity and a kind of given homogeneity. Working in a southern city, however, has reconfigured my sense of culture and history. From gaslights to BBQ to student-teacher relations (a couple of students insist, rather openly, on calling me "Professor", which I always discourage). It's a new world.

On the issue of pop music: I have yet to really listen to anything new in a long time. BY new I mean new pop. Moving for the billionth time I have learned to just ball up and listen to standards. I have been downloading a lot of older Calypso music (Lord Kitchener is spending a lot of time on my playlists as of late), but mainly it's AC/DC, Augustus Pablo and Felt. Somewhere there may be a psychologist who can figure out why those three, but I don't have enough money to afford him or her, I am certain.

I am certain that once I get uncoiled, perhaps when we sell the house and get the family out here (again, another year of separation from the family), then my ears will be a little more open. Right now I will just stick with learning the New Job, enjoy it and if I run into anything new in the musical vein then I will let you all know.

By the way, that doesn't mean I won't be posting. Expect more of those with a few new projects such as the one I mentioned in my last post ("The Lion's Share") as well as much on my new research issues. It turns out that this IS part of my new job as well. :-)

Saturday, August 23, 2008

New Ventures in Old Virginia

Ok, now I may have some time to blog. This is my first post in I don't know how long. That's both good and bad. Bad in the sense that the reason that I was unable to blog was that I was with my family and now I am living in a small room in Norfolk with my roommates. Yes, I miss my wife and my family in a terrible fashion. There is no substitute for the loving business that family provides. I couldn't blog much, if at all this summer, but I did get a lot of love.

However, it is a gift. I have a job, a good one at that, with a great set of colleagues whom I admire and seem to get along with. Also, unlike some past gigs, Old Dominion is intensely multicultural and, well, the weather is good (for now!). The university has a sense of mission, the likes of which I have never experienced and everyone has been very helpful so far. Frankly, I am very lucky. My classes start on Monday and I will be doing some things I have never done before. I can hardly wait.

One new venture will be something I am working that is titled "The Lion's Share" for now. I won't go too far into it other than to say it will be good fun and intended to build a scholarly community. My research will begin to blossom unless something terrible happens and, well, if that happens then that is life. And, finally, I am getting to live in the South, which is something I have always wanted to try. All and all it is a good thing.

As for media: well, the best thing I have heard this year is the new Girl Talk release (is it a CD, LP, Album... who knows?),Feed the Animals. Not profound, but over-the-top in terms of pleasure. The best concert I have seen all year, in fact the best one I have seen in probably 20 years was Gogol Bordello at the Newport in Columbus, Ohio. I won't even try to describe it other than to say it is a gypsy rock spiritual that everyone should see at least once. And the best dance... well, it was the Chicken Dance I did with my wife at our wedding.

Surprise movies: Be Kind, Rewind and Speed Racer.
Movies I saw that I enjoyed a ton: The Dark Knight and The Lady from Shanghai.
Movies I look forward to: Wall-E, Water Lillies and Tropic Thunder.

TV: Learned to love The Deadliest Catch and Dr. Phil; Learned to Loathe The Price is Right (Drew Carey is just horrific on that show); Still love those Sonic Drive-In Commercials and the Menard's guy.

Will miss: Mike Ricordati and constant Buckeye football coverage (even if you don't love the Bucks, it becomes the way you follow the seasons in Central Ohio); Massey's and Ange's Pizza; Studio 35 and the Wexner; The Wiggles (but they will be in my life soon).

Ok, will post on some actual issues that are pertinent to you all soon!

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

I got married and my bro-in-law made me this great video!

I try not to get too personal in this blog, but it would be wrong not to share this great video that my Brother-in-law, David, made for me and Katie. We got married on May 24th, had a great band, The Randys, play for us and a great time. And here is a wonderful composite of sound and image to prove it. Enjoy!

Friday, May 16, 2008

Always Already Affect: Social Network Spaces as Personal Sites of Comfort and Communication

Ok, what I am about to type is nothing too radical, or new (scholars such as Danah Boyd and bloggers such as Robert Scoble have said it before): digitally enabled social networks are about trust. I would add to that that all social networks are about some level of trust. However what seems different about MySpace and Facebook when compared to the names I have in my PDA, family unit and the people who I talk with at the water cooler is that this trust accompanied by huge dollops of aesthetic display (particularly MySpace and, to a lesser extent, FaceBook), affect and play. It doesn't take a genius to see how MySpace differs from LinkedIn -- LinkedIn has the clean sterility of a high-priced lawyer's reception area. MySpace, on the other hand, specializes on messiness. I prefer the happy medium of FaceBook, but have profiles on all three networks. In FaceBook I get to choose my apps and pics and even possible music, but I like the fact that I cannot (or at least do not know how to) change my background imagery. When I hit my FaceBook or my soon-to-be wife goes to her MySpace there is a sense of affectionate retreat, a sort of virtual Calgon Bubble bath that washes over my eyes and "takes me away" from the kiddos, cats, jobs, whatever is pestering me. This is particularly the case with MySpace. When I go to FaceBook I often hold the illusion that I could do some "networking" and have even established a couple of groups through which I work and communicate. With MySpace, forget professional behavior. Unless it is some band, I quickly delete any attempt to solicit brands from my contacts, messages, etc. It's MySpace dammit, so let's keep it amateurish thank you.

As some of you may know I love amateurism -- I am of the opinion that expertise tends to be overvalued in our culture and many of our problems could be addressed by collective, passionate and not-for-profit discussions. I think this is called democracy, sometimes, and I like that. But online social networks aren't democratic utopias, they just give us the feeling that they could be democratic utopias (see Richard Dyer's writings in Only Entertainment as they apply here). Not all blogs and profiles are equal in influence. Nor does everyone have equal access. That said, these spaces do enable many of the similar effects social clubs that proliferated throughout the 20th century and whose spaces often morphed into private nightclubs of association and gesture, i.e. sexual flirtation and dance. In short, these are spaces of association that create specific "vibes" and "feelings" through multiple modes of selection and protocol.

It is also these aesthetic features that I find so under-theorized and examined. In all of the research I have seen about these spaces is has more to do with what people do there, who goes there, etc. That's interesting, but it's a limited understanding of how these spaces work as displays of affection, which is one of the reasons, to quote Danah Boyd's work, so many Why Youth 'Heart' Social Network Sites. And, of course, these spaces allow anyone to develop and live out their affection in what Raymond Williams once called a structure of feeling. These lived and felt relations are somewhat new in the sense that this space of affection exists in an always-already manner that can be accessed asynchronous of one's self engagement. We have always had these texts in our lives, texts such as journals, diaries, memoirs, etc. Yet somehow this combination of journal/avatar, a space of "face" and "ownership" not only seems as if we don't quite understand how these textual spaces operate, but it seems as if we just beginning to get beyond the obvious pronouncements that these are spaces of passionate amateurs but beginning to understand why these spaces allow us to best feel the passions of others.

Friday, May 09, 2008

Why the Stains of Fandom On Our V-Sleaves Mean More Than Ever Before: Value Added through Public Fandom

Van Hagr!
Originally uploaded by Loganpoppy
Compared to other music fans I have found little interest in publicly celebrating my favorite bands and artists. The only time I remember putting a bumper sticker on my car for a music act was the Grateful Dead teddy bear sticker, and even then it wasn't to promote them... I just loved the images. In fact, other than t-shirts, my very strong tastes are relatively reserved when compared to, say, those who would get their car plates customized to celebrate not just a band, but a specific iteration of a band. When I saw this plate, I took the picture and talked to the driver who said that while he liked both iterations, the only thing he really hated was the replacement of longtime bassist of Michael Anthony with Wolfgang Van Halen.

Much has been written about fandom that I need not rehash. However when we live in a possible "One Person, One Channel" environment this kind of public intensity, particularly when it is on the web, is something that needs to be considered in terms of what I would like to call an "Aggregated Granularity" that illuminates how specific differences, differences of iteration, opinion, version, etc, create measurable and appreciable value. Right now the most interesting iteration of how aggregating granules of information is valued in a vast media environment is the well publicized Netflix Recommendation Engine contest. Getting 10 percent performance improvement over Cinematch is worth the prize of a million dollars precisely because if you can ferret out a manner in which you can limit mismatches in a media economy of seemingly unlimited hours then you have a product that will allow you to leverage your services in an almost monopolistic fashion. Much like Google's proprietary PageRank was only percentage points better than Yahoo! or AltaVista's, it was that small difference that has allowed Google to simply dominate search.

The aggregation of small differences is the what Google offers us better than any other search engine and it is in these granules where media fans lie, plot, speak and collect. I have been thinking more about this as it has become clear that the effect of online MP3 blogs has started to take over as a major means of distributing music. Getting the word out about a record has always been the function of the music press and as Rolling Stone, Spin and NME may have dominated a good portion of the English speaking world are losing their hold as print is suffering under the weight of MP3 blogs. And how do we know this is happening? Well, ad dollars are for print are, as Crains recently noted, dwindling:

Ad pages for the three biggest music magazines slid 26% in the first quarter. Jann Wenner's Rolling Stone, the category's iconic publication, saw a 33% drop, according to just-released numbers from Publishers Information Bureau.

The magazines are reeling from the same seismic shift that has rocked the record labels—and which has made popular music more available to consumers than ever before.

Young fans are filling their iPod and Zune libraries straight from the Internet, which is also where they can listen to music and catch the latest news and reviews.

Naturally, advertisers are following them.

“We're putting money in Pandora and other music [sites] that in the olden days would probably all have gone to Rolling Stone,” says Scott Daly, executive media director at advertising agency Dentsu America, who still places ads in the Wenner Media title. “We're trying to reach young, early adopters—which Rolling Stone reaches, but it doesn't have a lock on them.”

Music magazines were also hit hard by downward currents affecting all magazines.

Cigarette maker R.J. Reynolds, responding to criticism—and lawsuits over editorial-style ads in Rolling Stone last fall—has pulled all U.S. print advertising.

The auto industry, weathering its own crisis, cut magazine ad spending by 21% in the first quarter, according to PIB. In the past, car companies always looked to music titles to reach young men.

And as compact disc sales have continued to fall, music labels have downsized their ad presence even further.

I am not surprised by this at all. One of the things that print did very well was treat general interests generally very well. It was "mass". As we all know, Mass Media is so 20th century (insert sarcasm here). Sure, Spin, NME and RS all have online presences, but they are effectively oriented around general music coverage and today's fan, one that has grown up not only with 24 hour a day online access to information and a musical catalogue won't even buy a 12 song album if they do not have to. They are particular and aren't interested in mass consumption in the classic one-size-fits-all set of practices. They may consume large quantities, but it is one grain at a time.

Which brings me back to the above picture. I don't know if anyone will use or find this picture. I have placed a number of pics in the common terrain of public flickr groups, etc. Some get visited, others don't. However, for those one or two people who visit these pictures they are valued enough to email to friends, view, and share. It's these minor iterations that, when accumulated through specific searches, that mean more than ever. These kinds of pictures, MP3 blogs devoted to subgenres of subgenres, and remix sites mean that the anyone who has ever had a specific, pointed interest in a band's most minor recordings can find them. In the 1980s I took an interest in bootlegs of REM and Prince precisely because it was hard to hear them. This kind of scarcity doesn't exist any more and the idea of a classic bootleg like Prince's "Black Album" has very little purchase these days. If you want these recordings you can find them. The question isn't whether or not you wish to go deep into an artist's catalogue, but how deep and for how long you wish to go. Now, more than ever, there is more good music available and now, more than ever, I am listening to fewer and fewer of this music than ever before. Like sweeping the sand into the ocean with broom, it's a hopeless task. However, if you can help me find that one specific grain of sand....

Thursday, May 08, 2008

Goodbye SOMA, Hello Wedding Plans

I just finished my duties at Indiana University, which was a great experience all the way around. Indeed, I will write about that later, but I just can't say enough about how much I enjoyed the good people of Bloomington and my students. Even those that simply treated my classes as pre-reqs which they simply wanted to pass were a refreshing antidote to the grade-grubbing that so many other places equate with being a "good student". I would rather have a bunch of C students who work understand that they are doing C work than a bunch of C students who, instead of working hard, would rather argue that they deserve something because they worked hard rather than actually performing (as John Wooden once said, "Never confuse effort with achievement"). Now, that said, the best student at a place like IU is as good as the best student at any private institution I have been at.

The best thing about the Bloomington area is the vibrant alternative scene it has cultivated. I spent many hours at SOMA coffee house preparing lectures and reading and above it was the very nice Laughing Planet Cafe, which prepared nice organic burritos at a good price. Bloomingfoods, one of the best co-ops in America, simply has no comparison in Columbus, and Plan 9 Video is, DVD per DVD, one of the better rental stores in the Midwest. While I am happy to be back in Columbus, I will always be grateful to my year in Bloomington, the student body at IU and the faculty with whom I worked. If I ever get a chance that works for me and my family to return, it would be a place I would seriously consider again.

In the last week we have almost finished our wedding plans, which takes place in almost two weeks. The catering, place settings, band and space are taken care of. We need to stock pile soft drinks, chips and salsa (which I will most likely make). Oh, and we need to get the Alcohol figured out. That might result in some long distance travel to pick up (perhaps a trip to Sandusky, who knows?). Wish me luck and will post about media soon now that my life is getting a little more in control.

Saturday, April 12, 2008

Food Art and the Incorporation of Media Imagery

Bento Box Art
Originally uploaded by Loganpoppy
This image of the Powerpuff Girls in Bento Box form comes from Face Food: The Visual Creativity of Japanese Bento Boxes by Christopher D. Salyer, a great hardbound value that shows another aspect to the art of food presentation. For the most part it has art done by Japanese mothers for their children's school lunches, which reminds me of my every other year purchase my favorite lunch box, an event that culminated with a 3rd grade purchase of an Emergency! lunchbox. When people say that kids eat this imagery up, well, they're not lying.

The issue here for me is beyond representation, but incorporation. As a kid growing up I remember how scared I was by the story of the Last Supper when in 2nd grade I was convinced that it was a parable about cannibalism. I know I am not alone in this feeling, but I need not spend too much time on the issue of communion. I bring it up to simply remind us of the power of incorporation. As a kid taking his First Communion in 2nd grade the celebration of my first incorporation of the Host was not only a big deal religiously, but also was a family event that culminated in gifts and a party. This is not uncommon for Catholic children, particularly those of us who grew up within a Hispanic context. The issue of religious incorporation is an important symbolic event that is on par with baptism and marriage: It is seen as a threshold event where the symbol also literalizes a change.

I have often wondered about the symbolic terrain of the logos and brand imagery but it wasn't until I saw this book that I think it really hit me that the possibility of affective connections that can be created through the reproduction and digestion of such material. The child and adult who consumes these faces must, at some level, do so with a level of care that must resonate throughout their psyche. What it means that these are symbols that are not necessarily generated by contract, but rather by fans (or parents of fans) suggests a deeper level of affective attachment, one that I had not considered before. Why I hadn't is clear to me. On my fifth birthday I clearly remember asking my mom for a "Batman cake", which she did as best she could. It's one of the better memories of my childhood, one that, if I am lucky, won't go away any time soon. I miss those cakes, my TV show lunchboxes and my mom, all of whom swirl together in memories of TV shows shared and time spent at tables in cafeterias, birthday parties and first communions. For better or worse, these mediated images of Christ, Batman and Family cannot be disaggregated, nor would I want them to be

Wednesday, April 09, 2008

Funky Cool Frank Zappa Paintings

Frank Zappa Paintings
Originally uploaded by Loganpoppy
Truth is I am not a big fan of Zappa's music (ok, I always loved "We're Only In It For The Money" which was one of the most underrated albums of the 1960s IMHO), but I always loved his visual aesthetic. So I ran across these paintings and have placed them in a set of Zappa paintings. Enjoy and considered this your moment of Zappa Zen.

Friday, April 04, 2008

Let's Get Recursive, or It's a New Aggregator?

Yo peeps! I have been working with Yahoo! Pipes for a while and have decided to post an pipe that aggregates media study feeds that I read (and contribute to). Frankly I just got sick of not having a centralized feed so I made one myself. You can get to it by click here. I will add more to this in the future, so let me know if there are any blogs I should consider. Ciao babies!

iTune Thoughts and REM-state updates

Hey guys, I am not bereft of thoughts these days, just time. I am still at Indiana University finishing the final two months of work, however I am not certain that I will be back. As wonderful as the assignment has been, and I have loved my time there, there is no guarantee for a renewal. Also, I have not scored even one academic interview... yet. The result is I am on the market in many ways and while I am making baby steps on my research agenda, I have to spend those few hours a week trying to land work in some form or capacity. That said I have no desire to give up the work and thoughts that have been germinating in the last few months and I hope to share more of them here later. I know, I know, I have promised that before. Problem is to do research you need a sense of stability and doing a 500 mile a week commute with a brand new prep and in the search for a job, well, I have little time.

That said, here are a few thoughts: if anything the recent news that iTunes is now the biggest record retailer in the nation is not surprising. However it does obscure a number of issues that we need better data on. First question: how does legal downloading compare to other the high points of the record industry? Right now people are listening to more music than ever before but are they actually buying more? Obviously those pieces of plastic we call CDs or Vinyl are done, but are people simply repurposing their CDs and sharing more DRM free files or simply stealing? The fact is that this interesting news, but hardly the most interesting news we could discover if we only asked the right questions.

Second thought: LiveNation has corralled U2, JayZ and Madonna in the last few months. That means that three of the English-speaking world's most valued live performers will essentially be handled as a sort of roster much like labels did with artists. However, LiveNation will manage the one final asset that only an artist can control, i.e. live performance. Since a U2 concert is really beyond duplication, what this means is that LiveNation in the last week has emerged, along with those EMI, SonyBMG, and Warners the 900 lb gorilla. Those aforementioned media companies can hold on due to a large number of publication assets, so don't expect them to fade away. However, the emergence of LiveNation is part of the rearticulation of music industry, a rearticulation that has been going on since the emergence of Napster in 1997 and something that I think many of us still don't understand (guess what I am studying right now, btw).

Third Thought: The way that REM has gone about their business in the next month is bot exciting and disturbing at the same time. Clearly REM wants a hit. Going on the Today Show and The Colbert Report on the same day, playing SXSW for the first time ever in their career, pressing reporter flesh... it all points to a concerted effort towards relevancy. Two admissions: it turns out I am one of about 10 people in North America that really loved "Around the Sun" and REM was, until I was about 30, my favorite band for an almost 15 year run. So take what I am about to say with a grain of salt. A) The new record is good... it has some great moments (the title cut, "Accelerate" is positively terrific), but it isn't anywhere "Murmur" or "Out of Time". Indeed, what is nice about the new record is that it actually feels "loose". I kind of wish that REM had taken this recording ethos of two takes and let's go to "Monster", which is a record with some nice songs that just never feels, well, monstrous. "Accelerate" has, for REM at least, an "off-the-rails" feel which I haven't heard since "Reckoning".

But... well, REM won't get a hit and here is the reason: they are simply Dad's alternative band. REM, for all the work that they did in their first 15 years of existence seemed to push toward the future of what rock could be. "Accelerate" feels like a nod to the past, one that actually feels like a nostalgia not for older forms of music but THEIR past form. All I can think of when I listen to this record is that the band really wishes that they had Bill Berry back, that they could get back in that van with Jefferson and simply rock from new wave club to new wave club. The problem is both Berry and Jefferson are gone, those clubs closed down years ago and the van is now a charter plane. The record, which I enjoy as a fan, feels as desperate as a lover who has lost his love and wants to win her back being the man she fell in love with. No doubt REM is the one band in the world who sis most capable of acting like "old REM, but as charming as it is, I have my doubts. Would I see them live now? After hearing some of the SXSW concert I would say yes. Will they mean the world to me like they once did? Well, I am not certain that REM means the world REM anymore... Let's hope they can prove me wrong.

Ok, I got some more to write about later... but for now ciao

Thursday, February 28, 2008

Flier News: Vegan Advocates Assault!

Awesome Flier
Originally uploaded by Loganpoppy
This is easily the funniest flier I have read in years. I think you will agree that this piece of ephemera tells us one thing is certain: This generation of Vegans is kickass! Enjoy!

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Blu-ray victory means royalties, but perhaps not as many as you think!

It's kind of silly to even mention, but let's mention it otherwise. Sony won big this week as Blu-ray's victory means royalties, royalties, royalties for a company that had been on the losing end for a while now. It is no longer associated with personal sound playback devices (the iPod has made Walk and the Discman little more than ancient memories in the marketplace) and it is now in "third" behind Nintendo and Microsoft. Indeed, PS3, if anything, has finally won something significant: a standard war. I noted a couple of years ago that the PS3 was Sony's Trojan Horse for the new DVD standard and, yes, all of those players have seemed to have crept out of their shiny black encasements and killed any chance of Toshiba winning with its HD-DVD standard. Never mind that they had Microsoft's Xbox 360 on their side, if you wanted the HD-DVD player it was a $120 accessory, i.e. another substantial consumer choice and payment. If you bought the PS3, you got a severely discounted player in your machine and you didn't even have to think about it.

So, yes, this is classic "Razor and Blades", except in this case the winnings are, quite possibly, much more substantial since now everyone must buy the same blade (i.e. Wal Mart said you have to). The promise of future royalties is just that. In the US right now we are about to go through a mandated upgrade to TV that will flummox a good portion of the population. Predictions aside, in this economy fewer and fewer are willing to load a couple grand on their cards for a new widescreen so many of us, myself included, will be left with a 4/3 29 inch TV that has a digital adapter. I am certain my TV signal will look better, but not that much better that I will feel compelled to buy a new player and all of these new discs. Sony will see its royalties, but they will severely compromised and nothing like those seen by Toshiba and their DVD consortia in the 1990s. And the reason will be simple: it's the economy stupid. I just don't want to buy another copy of The Big Lebowski until I have to. And even then, when I have watched my storebought copy of the DVD on my dad's widescreen it looks just fine. In an atmosphere where homes seem to be foreclosed in new record rates, purchasing a new, expensive TV is one thing. Replacing my hundreds of DVDs, well, that's another thing altogether. So congrats to Sony for winning the battle... let's see if they can win the war.

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Socially Adept and Immersed Already Thank You: Beginning to Make the Case for Popular Music Studies as a Means of Understanding Web 2.0

I am working in a very smart, interesting and relatively congenial department these days, which is also going through some identity issues, as are all telecommunication/media/mass comm departments. That old one-way media just isn't sexy anymore. I, myself, am suffering professionally as it seems jobs that once fit my description are becoming less and less so. Of course I have always published in odd areas where the issue of the "social" has always been placed at a premium. Studying what makes music popular means understanding how everyday intellectuals operate tactically with their everyday media environments to negotiate and produce everyday aesthetic expressions. In other words, how does an everyday person take the stereo systems, mics, guitars and CDs that they didn't necessarily produce and rearrange them for their own aesthetic expression? Most often they do this in groups and the means involves negotiating sets of social groups that change on the dime and conveniently dissolve when they are no longer useful. See "social media."

However, despite this fact when we say those two words many of us think point-to-point digital communication, which is both interesting and lazy. Interesting because as I blog this I am fully aware of digitals reach: it can reach far, internationally, transnationally, etc. It can reach my dad, my sister, my cousin, my enemy and a friend to be on the whim of a click or a google search. The cost of physical distribution and storage are zero dollaring themselves out. And, yes, I use them all. I use Pownce, Blogger, Facebooked and MySpaced, Goooglemapped, used various IMs and VOIPs. I have podcast, blogged, flickr'd, taught myself many We 2.0 basics and am learning more. It's not that hard and there are plenty more to come and go (average days of use for a new web 2.0 device is around 45 and then you move onto another, or so I have been told). And yes, I love them dearly because they were driven by cheap, user-oriented technologies that are designed bring groups of people together.

But this was exactly what I love about popular music. Note, I said music. Popular music has always been driven by cheap, user-oriented technologies that are designed to bring people together. Call it a dance floor, a party or even a "boomin system", a great popular music gathering was one designed to immerse you and engage people in a set of aesthetic expressions that they help alter and generate (dance, fashion anyone?). Can't anyone understand that so-called new media's sexiness is predicated on the very items that popular music culture is predicated on: sharing and alterating mass generated expressions in order to express one's unique distinct nature in a mass society? I mean, is it any wonder that the media industry most affected by Web 2.0 has been not only the music industry, but the one that media scholars understood the least?

This may be born out of frustration with the job market (where right now I am searching), but it is also generated by hearing claims claim that we have not studied this before in our field. These claims are often made by those who simply cannot make the connection between what many of them loved in their past youth and continue to love now or, because of professional biases, refuse to do so. It's frustrating. There is a literature of people utilizing these music techs for their purposes. And there is a literature to be written of how these new techs operate with people to generate not simply income but new aesthetic dimensions. There is a literature that can be written not simply drawing from sociology but a form or marginal media studies. An area of media studies that was marginalized precisely because with its many underground networks and home-grown talents it often openly worked to defy, with various levels of success, centralization and complete control. There is a lot of work to do here and I, for one, hope to do some of it.

Thursday, February 07, 2008

It's all the same damn sandwich!

You know I am busy when I haven't had much time to blog about much of anything. Lately I have been putting in 12 hour prep days as my new prep is a doozy (but I am having fun!!). I plan on blogging a bit more about my research soon, but I just wanted to make a note... I finally have proof that a Sub Sandwich is the same as a "Hoagie", a "Hero", a "Grinder", a "Po Boy" and a "Torpedo". There may be slight differences but let's just all admit it... they're all the same damn sandwich. See, here's proof. See...

Sunday, February 03, 2008

Local Music = Good Times

The pleasures of live music, indeed! The Randy's are one of those local bands that every city deserves. Extremely competent to excellent players, wonderful repertoire that ranges from the standards to 1970s rock, and great to dance to. Katie, my fiance', and myself have secured them for our wedding. Certainly the most expensive part of our wedding, but they will be the most fun aspect!

So last night we went to see them at the Rumba Cafe, danced a little and simply enjoyed the evening. Yes, this is hardly criticism, but I simply wanted to pimp one of the best bands you can see in my local area. And if you get them coming to your town, you could even take your parents, and even your grandparents, to them. Check em out!

For Super Bowl Sunday Consideration

Odds are I am going to watch the annual American TV Orgy known as the Super Bowl today (FYI, I am working on a house to sell and my beau's b-day is today so we are going out for dinner), but I will look forward to all of the water-co0ler breakdown in the week to come. That said, I loved this little ditty on the telestrator, one of the greatest inventions in sports TV style ever.

Friday, February 01, 2008

Cool Craftiness

Felted Heads
Originally uploaded by Loganpoppy
A friend of mine introduced me to the world of "felting" today. I guess you pole raw wool with a needle and form it into stuff. The picture is just a few examples of the numerous heads she has made and I think they are pretty great. The one in the middle reminds me of Steve Coogan's "Tommy Saxondale" character, from the series Saxondale (yes Ned, I finally got to them). Anyways, I thought some of you would appreciate them.

Air Afrique Ad

Air Afrique Ad
Originally uploaded by Loganpoppy
Lately I have been doing quite a bit of thinking on what I am dubbing the "Soul Economy", an economy that was devoted to empowering a black middle class that was distinctly African American in style. Not necessarily integrationist, but hardly segregationist, it was to be an economy devoted to a black middle class that was not simply integrated into accepting white middle class norms. For me the best and longest lasting expression of this is Soul Train, which is something I am dedicated to researching (particularly it's emergence in the early 1970s), but other black capitalist forms would fit into this as well (i.e. independent film and music ventures, hair care products dedicated to African-American style, black publishers, etc).

So far the best expression of this I have found in Ad form is this Air Afrique ad from 1971. The tagline, "Air Afrique. It's Black Owned, Black Operated and Beautiful" says everything. Here leisue travel is promoted as educational and, in the case, playing a double-duty role of supporting an emergent black capitalist enterprise. It's a clue among many and, I must admit, as I study this in tandem with the research that I am engaging on a post centralized music economy my head is spinning. We think we know so much more about cultural economies than we actually do...

Anyways, it's late and I will have more to say about this in the future. I hope...

Geek Night! It's Alright...

The OLPC Computer
Originally uploaded by Loganpoppy
Last night I attended my first Geek Night dinner in Bloomington, an event that happens every six weeks, and I will do all I can to attend the next one if I can. First of all it was a blast. Very relaxed with a number of the geeks, not necessarily myself, drinking rather large pitchers of Cerveza and talking Ruby on Rails, Ajax and VPN. I can follow somewhat, but mainly I just enjoyed the company. The highlights, no doubt, were the great people (thanks to Michelle, Felix, Bob and Gary!), but Felix broke out his OLPC computer and the room circled around him. I had planned to buy one last year, but I ran into some unexpected charges toward the end of the year so I am waiting until they put them back on the market.

From what I saw these where a real technological achievement and far more complex than what I could even imagine. I had seen enough video on them before their release to know that these were solid machines, but you have to see it to believe it. Unfortunately you can't just go into a Best Buy and touch one, which is a damn shame. For what most people use a computer for (wordprocessing, browsing, etc.) this is more than enough machine. And you can mount drives through its two USB ports and a place for an SD card. If you need mass storage, well, there you go. I don't think I will give up my laptop, but damn if I wouldn't want this for travel.

Wednesday, January 09, 2008

Don't Call it A Comeback...

Last fall, from September to the end of December, were four months that basically turned my life upside down. If anything, this post will try to, very briefly, explain my absence from any kind of posting or I know I only put up a few posts, two I think (maybe less) during that period, and here's why...

1) I took a new job -- As many of you know I am doing 10 months at Indiana University's Department of Telecommunications and had to get out of my house, put it on the market (where it sits today) and...

2) Move in with my lovely fiance' and her three kids -- This alone would turn anyone's life upside down. But, hey, to make it a little more challenging my new gig is a four hour drive away, so, hey, I have something of a commute. Luckily...

3) Moved into a room in Bloomington -- where I live in a house with four other really nice people. I have some clothes, books, a TV and DVD player... you know, the essentials, all the things I needed to get

4) Two new preps prepped -- Ok, only one prep per semester, but these are new courses so I am giving lectures to three large halls and doing it on the fly. It's fun, it's draining and I am learning all of this new stuff and then...

5) My Mom get's terribly ill -- Beginning in Mid-September my mother's cancer began to spread where by October her prognosis had become much worse than we would have thought even two weeks earlier when we had learned that it had spread to her brain. So, as a result...

6) I traveled back and forth to Arizona about every other weekend until early December when...

7) My mother passed and found peace from her struggle.

8) The Holidays and mourning...

and now I am beginning to write again.

What that means is that I am also back in Bloomington and I have a little more time to actually write so I am pursuing two research projects and beginning to put Scrivener to good use (if run OS X and research, then think about it!). Will talk more about those projects over time.

Anyways, I am obsessed with the Amy Winehouse record from last year since I finally had a chance to sit down with it (look, when your mom is dying you basically listen to oldies and watch nothing but comedies, which meant tons of Zeppelin, old school hip hop and one episode after another of The Larry Sanders' Show.). Will post my faves later... so later