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Archive for November, 2010

Distant Listening (3): The Dialectics of Jonathan Richman’s “My Jeans”

Richman co-opts the function of ads and turns it inside out. He’s offering an endorsement that does no one but himself any good (I like them because they fit me) , and he’s undermining the premises of ordinary ads’ endorsements, showing that a product need not make you feel superior to others to satisfy — that a product should make you gloat about it, not about yourself for buying it.

Distant Listening (2): The Real Cheat in Mary Wells’ “Two Lovers”

What’s thrilling in “I’ve got two lovers and I ain’t ashamed” is the way that multiple, complicated, ambivalent desires are acknowledged and thereby simplified, naturalized. It extends the promise that simply being honest about the feelings could resolve them into the complacency that Wells so adeptly conveys with her voice. For that moment, you forget that this sort of honesty is not especially welcome, and it certainly doesn’t simplify anything, no matter how natural it may feel.

Patriot Games: American Exceptionalism and the Endangered Middle Class

Exceptionalism tends to be a way station on the path to full-blown paranoia, as the poem of the United States of America gets rewritten as The Road to Serfdom. There must be a better way than this to imagine a utopia.

Life in Review: Crowdsourced Tastemaking and the Death of Serendipity

Crowdsourced reviews ensure we don’t get duped. They thus provide a modicum of regulation in a far too laissez-faire milieu. But they also confine our lives to the wan pleasures of the predictable, to the safe wagers we’re sure to receive a return from, rather than allowing us to tempt fate or bet the house.

Distant Listening (1): The Laid-Back Labor of Starbuck’s “Moonlight Feels Right”

Starbuck’s “Moonlight Feels Right” encapsulates an entire generation staring down adulthood, waiting to see if it would blink, if it would reveal some gaps in which a sense of freedom could be retained in the face of its mounting sense of responsibility and disillusionment.

Object of Affection: The Biography of the Social Network

Whether run along a conveyor or embedded in a network, a human serves the same end: the resplendent valorization formerly reserved for objects. Only when human beings become sympathetic objects will objects become sympathetic. Only then will guillotines be embraced as readily as fond relatives or long-absent lovers.

Lost Recordings: Elegy for the Mix Tape

The mix tape left room for the accidental, for the clumsy-fingered pauses, the crackle of worn vinyl, the skipping of a needle, the crimping of metal ribbon, the intrusion of a voice once loved. Accidents that resist replication on a mass scale, but that exist side-by-side with the products of mass reproduction.

Nothin’ for Money: On the Possibility of Weimar America

Whether the crisis is one of hyperinflation or intractably deep recession, the result is the same. You need only recall the words of Überbanker Andrew Mellon: “In a depression assets return to their rightful owners.” He certainly wasn’t talking about the poor schmucks manning the teller windows.

West of Eden: The Allure of East-Coast Urban Life

Walkable cities radiate an organic vibrancy. They have dense roots in neighborhoods of storied provenance, have complex zones of eclectic social and economic activity. City planners are beginning to see the virtues of these version–1.0 cities, metropolises that have more in common with the Paris of the Second Republic (minus the smog and the hordes of irredeemable poor) than the indifferent, anomic settlements of the American West.

Anton Steinpilz

Rob Horning

Ylajali Hansen