So Much Cooler Online

The Best Pop-Country of 2007

(And Featuring...Master P)
My review of Bonde do RolĂȘ's With Lasers is up today at PopMatters.


My review of Deborah Harry's Necessary Evil is up today at PopMatters.


I Don't Dislike This...

I don't like Common very much and I usually loathe Joss Stone, and yet...I kind of like this?

I know--what the fuck?

But it's grown on me. Stone has somewhat reigned her more insufferable, wanna-be Janis Joplin vocal tics, except toward the end of the track, and that chorus is actually slightly lovely. This reminds me of low-key mid-'90's rapper/R&B singer collabos (e.g., the pre-Akon era), some of which I remember rather fondly (Method Man and Mary J. Blige's "You're All I Need to Get By," for example).

So, is it just me, or is this surprisingly okay?


We Are All Made of Stars

The Chicago Reader published a question I asked Jonathan Rosenbaum and his subsequent response in their current Letters section.

For the record, I agree entirely about the problem lying with "artificial stars and other rating systems that are screwed up (by virtue of being simpleminded and consumerist)." As a reviewer myself, I'm of the mindset that there's always something more interesting to say about a film (or an album or a book or a tv show) than simply whether it was good or bad, or the qualified degree to which it was good or bad.

When I've written reviews for outlets that use some sort of ratings system, I tend to wonder how often what I've actually written is being read versus the reader merely glancing at the (fairly arbitrary) affixed rating. By that same token, I've been accused in numerous instances of "writing around" my subject--and, I'll concede, those accusations aren't necessarily off-base. But, now more than ever, there are so many sources for quickie verdicts--from blogs and webzines to store site user reviews or even taking a peek at someone with likeminded tastes' Netflix queue.

My primary objective as a critic is to say something else about whatever it is I'm covering, to bring something to the table other than just another anonymous rating. Of course, it's not up to me to determine the rate at which I succeed at that, but I'll absolutely throw the towel in when I feel that I don't have anything more interesting to offer than the direction my thumb is pointing.

A figure like Rosenbaum is a true inspiration in that regard. He seems indefatigable, searching out great cinema from every global nook and cranny and then writing about it with infectious passion and energy. Four years ago, I interviewed him, and on the subject above, I turn to this quote from our exchange:

"People go to see what they hear about and are trained to go looking for what they're accustomed to; these situations are created and sustained by the media. Xenophobia, mental laziness, and lack of curiosity, on the other hand, aren't created by the media but are certainly sustained by their influence. I include advertising as part of media--surely the most important part--and I don't believe reviewing offers much of an alternative to it; most often it's an adjunct."

Later, he added:

"More generally, I think people tend to find in movies whatever they go looking for, whether this is the world they live in or an escape from that world. Most of us go looking for both."

And, once again, he's right.


Tell the Cops I Can Buy My Own Bracelets

Not a Saint (Just a Living Legend)