Old Crow, I just can’t quit you

November 20, 2009

Hi, readers!

Remember way back when I did a post on Old Crow Medicine Show? Well, I got to cover their set at Stuart’s Opera House last Monday in Nelsonville for ACRN. Nothing will ever be so wonderful.

I thought I’d post a few photos so you can take a look. If you want to read all my words / see a full slide show, check ’em out.

xoxo,
Jen

Newest Call of Duty installment makes record sales

November 15, 2009

Hi, readers!

Doing my last post on movie remakes sparked another topic idea for me – video games. I keep hearing about the newest Call of Duty video game and its record breaking sales, and the fact that the game is a sequel as opposed to something new inspired me to do a bit of reporting. Be sure to compare and contrast the previews for Call of Duty 4 (middle of the story) and its sequel, Modern Warfare 2 (end of the story). Enjoy!

Nathan Handwerker, a 21-year-old Wildlife Management major at Hocking College, woke last Tuesday to find endless interactive hours of wartime deposited on his porch in a small, tidy package. That package was a slim, neon green game case decorated with a faceless soldier standing amidst fire and chaos, and emblazoned across his middle was “Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2.”

“I’ve been so excited for this game,” says Handwerker. “I’ve spent so much time playing Call of Duty 4, I’m ready for new missions and maps and weapons.” He pauses briefly before adding, “You can get a nuke in this one that blows up the whole game. It’s just over and you win all the points.”

An avid fan of the six game Call of Duty franchise – namely Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare, the direct prequel to this newest installment – Handwerker had pre-ordered the game weeks before so as to have it delivered the day it came out. Apparently, he was not the only one eager to get his hands on the game as soon as possible: according to USA Today, Modern Warfare 2 sold 4.7 million copies in North America and the UK on its release date alone. The revenue from those sales totaled at about $310 million, which makes the game the biggest launch in entertainment history.

The Call of Duty games are first person shooters set in wartime. While previous games took place during WWII, Modern Warfare and Modern Warfare 2 are set in, well, modern times. The first begins a story concerning a radical overthrow in the Middle East and a civil war in Russia, and the second follows that storyline.

So what makes this game, a sequel and the sixth installment of an existing franchise, so much better than an unprecedented new game? Handwerker believes it’s because the brand is so well established and beloved.

“Growing up, I always played Counter-Strike [another first person shooter game],” he says, “until a friend introduced me to Call of Duty two years ago and totally hooked me. I got excited for this new game because it’s a sequel to something I really enjoy, and that’s just what you do when something you love gets continued. You buy the next chapter and keep enjoying it.”

“Besides,” he adds, “it may be the same idea, but the story is extended and the game play is still new and exciting.”

Mark Fujii of The College News Review seems equally enthused about the sequel in this review. “Modern Warfare 2 could be best described as Call of Duty 4–only better,” he says. “It has slightly better graphics, a better designed campaign mode, a more robust multiplayer that’s full of new toys to mess around with.”

Britain’s Telegraph takes its praise a step further in this review, stating that “Modern Warfare 2 doesn’t just surpass the quality of its predecessor, it flies past it like a ski-jumper.”

So, it seems this particular game had the biggest launch in history for good reason. While the fact that this unprecedented popularity is on account of a sequel as opposed to a new, original game had this reporter questioning the legitimacy of riding coattails, it seems as though the Call of Duty fellas know just what they’re doing. Their fans are really pleased and they’re making millions, anyway.

Perhaps something doesn’t always have to be brand new to make it exciting.

Hollywood, over and over

November 13, 2009

Happy Friday the 13th! Watch yer step today.

So I’ve really enjoyed going in depth about recycling creativity this quarter. There is something I want to be sure to touch on though, because the idea is so silly to me:

how about Hollywood just straight up remaking movies? Not basing a new movie off of an old one, not borrowing ideas from previous films, but just flat out redoing one?

I’m baffled by this and, as someone who adores old movies, find it slightly blasphemous. I suppose Hollywood thinks that films lose their relevance to the moneymaking youth after a time, and want to push the stories back into the limelight in order to earn a couple bucks. I guess they’re probably right — not many kids are interested in watching a movie made pre-nineties — but it just seems so cheap to me. Not to mention the remakes are NEVER as good.

This is especially evident in horror movies, which get remade quite often. I know I’d take the bone chilling terror from the original Halloween over Rob Zombie’s blood and guts firework display in his remake any day. Same goes for Psycho, The Omen, and, well, just about any horror movie that happened twice.

Horror isn’t the only genre at stake here, though. As a diehard Audrey Hepburn fan, one remake that I find ridiculously irksome is Sydney Pollack’s 1995 stab at Sabrina. Billy Wilder’s 1954 original is, in my opinion, one of the greatest movies in the world. Anyway, how do you even BEGIN to replace Audrey Hepburn, Humphrey Bogart and William Holden with Julia Ormond, Harrison Ford and Greg Kinnear? Nice try.

Check out both trailers, and notice the campy 50’s Hollywood style of the original trailer’s narration. I love that.

xoxo,
Jen

famousplagiarists.com

November 8, 2009

Hey guys! Hope the weekend was swell.

I stumbled across a web site this morning that made me think of you! It’s a virtual rap sheet for pop culture’s most ‘famous plagiarists,’ and I think it raises some questionable points (also fun to browse in the interest of digging up skeletons in some of our favorite celebrities’ closets).

Why questionable? Well, a good bit of the people they lay out for intellectual property theft are respected and/or megafamous artists such as JK Rowling, author of the Harry Potter series, who had to fend off some jealous nut who swore she wrote Harry first (but called him Larry). The woman was proven a liar by the courts, which the site points out, but still — having your famous face next to the words FAMOUS PLAGIARISTS when you really haven’t done anything wrong has to be infuriating.

You know, the idea behind this blog is that every idea comes from somewhere else. However, I’m certainly not saying that two authors can’t have the same idea for a story at the same time, especially when it’s based on an age old archetype like fantasy, horror or romance. Maybe that woman who went crazy on Rowling did indeed have an idea for a book about a boy wizard. Well, too bad. Should have written faster (better?).

Now, without further ado, a mugshot gallery of a few of my favorite “plagiarists,” according to the site:

Stephen King

T.S Eliot

Helen Keller

That’s Stephen King, T.S Eliot, and Helen Keller (really!?).

What do you guys think? Are you running the risk of being called a thief just by creating anything? Should this web site really be posting all of these photos when some of the accusations have been proven false or can’t be proven at all?

Till next time!
Jen

Mash it up

November 4, 2009

The Hood Internet, mashup kings

Yo, y’all —

Happy Wednesday! I hope you’re not tired of this sampling jabber, because I want to take it to a new level and talk about this pop culture craze we know as digital mashups.

A mashup is defined (by Wikipedia and it’s subsequent sources) as “digital media content containing any or all of text, graphics, audio, video and animation drawn from pre-existing sources, to create a new derivative work.”

Are we all familiar with Girl Talk and The Hood Internet? Artists like these are defining mashups for the young and hip by taking two songs, generally a hip-hop song and an indie rock one, and smushing them together using the vocals from one and the instrumentals from the either. This is a fascinating phenomena to me, as they really aren’t using anything original but they’re still making something new. I’m not totally sure of how I feel about the intellectual property side of the thing, but I’d be lying if I said I didn’t enjoy the end products quite a bit.

The Hood Internet, two DJs from Chicago famous for their free, downloadable tracks and consistently flawless work, are favorites of mine. I love song in particular — R.Kelly vs. Broken Social Scene:

And now, *drumroll please*, I’m happy to share with you my very own attempt at a mashup! I used Audacity to try my hand at it, and I hope you enjoy! The two tracks I used are Alala by CSS and Kryptonite by Big Boi.

What do you think? Do I have a future as a DJ, or should I just throw in the towel now?

xoxo,
Jen

Daft Punk and their sampling

November 1, 2009

Happy Sunday, readers!

I hope your Halloweens were fantastic, and that the time change isn’t throwing you off too bad.

I’d like to continue talking about sampling tonight, and want to thank the lovely Aimee for mentioning Daft Punk in a comment on my last post. The French duo is iconic, and they’re also avid samplers.

For those who aren’t aware, Daft Punk is comprised of two fellows named Thomas Bangalter and Guy-Manuel de Homem-Christo (epic name, right!? Two hyphenates!). However, not many could recognize the two faces — Thomas and Guy always perform their insanely popular electronic music dressed as robots while sitting inside a flashing forty foot pyramid. Really. The vocals are digitalized, the beats and samples are seamless and technologically astounding, and the light show is otherwordly.

The duo’s second (and perhaps most well known) album, Discovery, is full of sampling. Bits from artists like The Imperials and Barry Manilow are used. The song Harder, Better, Faster, Stronger samples this song by Edwin Birdsong, which is quite interesting — Kanye West went on to sample Harder, Better, Faster, Stronger in order to create his megahit, Stronger. Just keeps getting recycled!

Last post, I wondered whether sampling is a decent way of creating music or not. Well, it’s clearly working out for Daft Punk. Despite rarely performing live, the duo has ranked towards the top (or at the top) of the Billboard charts countless times. Pitchfork named Discovery #12 in a list of the top 100 albums from 2000 – 2004. Really, the accolades are endless.

Now, when I say they rarely perform live, I mean RARELY — despite the fact that they’ve been Daft Punk (as we know them) since the early 2000’s, they’ve graced the US ten times. Ten! And most of those stops were on a single tour! If you take a gander at this map marking where Thomas and Guy have performed in America, you’ll see what I mean. Also, click the markers for links to video of the performances:

Opportunities have been quite scarce (unless you’re living in sunny California). However, I did have the chance to catch them play in Chicago at Lollapalooza in 2007. The experience was unreal — I’ve never seen so many people at once before — and I’ve gotta say that I didn’t much care where the beats had originally come from. I was having too much fun!

My friend Tina snapped a few pics during the festival:

Daft Punk Crowd

The crowd during Daft Punk. Stretches on for miles!

Getting ready

Me, Mike and Jason getting excited!

pre lights

Before the light show really got going

screen

The massive telescreen

If Daft Punk ever comes near you, take the opportunity to go see them! Regardless of your opinion of artists who sample, you will have a blast. Promise.

Until next time,
Jen

Innovative copycats

October 31, 2009

This is a sampler, used to sample beats and bits of songs.

Happy Halloween, readers!

So, as I swore, it’s time to leave folk behind us for the time being. However, I’m not done with music — something that is continually recycled all around. I thought I’d move on today to sampling — the process of taking a “sample” of something that has already been recorded and using it to make a new song. It’s most prominent in hip-hop and electronica, but can be used in any genre.

We’re all familiar with M.I.A’s hit Paper Planes and its backbone beat, Straight to Hell by the Clash. We’re all too familiar with that farce of a rap artist Vanilla Ice lifting a beat from Freddie Mercury and David Bowie for Ice Ice Baby and pretending it was his because he “added a note” (he’s since rescinded that claim and paid what he owed). These are both great, popular examples of sampling and beg the question: is it a bit of a sham to use someone else’s work to form your own, or is it innovative and original? What do you think, readers?

I leave you with a quote on the subject by RZA, a member of the legendary Wu Tang Clan:

“A lot of people still don’t recognize the sampler as a musical instrument. I can see why. A lot of rap hits over the years used the sampler more like a Xerox machine. If you take four whole bars that are identifiable, you’re just biting that shit. But I’ve always been into using the sampler more like a painter’s palette than a Xerox. Then again, I might use it as a Xerox if I find rare beats that nobody had in their crates yet. If I find a certain sample that’s just incredible—like the one on ‘Liquid Swords’—I have to zap that! That was from an old Willie Mitchell song that I was pretty sure most people didn’t have. But on every album I try to make sure that I only have 20 to 25 percent [of that kind of] sampling. Everything else is going to be me putting together a synthesis of sounds. You listen to a song like “Knowledge God” by Raekwon: it took at least five to seven different records chopped up to make one two-bar phrase. That’s how I usually work.” —RZA, The Wu-Tang Manual, 2004

Okay, I lied.

October 25, 2009

Sorry, y’all, but turns out I have one more folk-related post in me. This one’s fun, I swear!

I’m in a creative writing poetry class this quarter, and a couple weeks ago we were assigned a “resolution” poem. I had just gone on this folk kick, so I wrote a poem about how one day I’ll be the best banjo player in the world. Don’t judge! I ain’t much of a poet.

G-G-G-C-G

My clumsy picking is slowly
blossoming into something sturdier
since grabbing up that banjo
(just last week).

I suppose this is the sort of
ease with which kings and queens
catch on to polo and the like;
they with their rolling green lawns,
and I with my foothill kingdom of melting pot folk and
twangy aspirations.

Soon I shall become so exceptional
that I’ll have to spit out stale cigarettes,
ash clutching at the filter,
before I can even pause my crazed clawhammer to take a (dirty) breath.

Passers by will discreetly scoop up the butts and
slide them into their pockets and purses,
yellow souvenirs from that
spirited spring day back in ’09 when they saw the girl with the superhuman fingers.

My porch will be my post and throne and they’ll all come to me,
hemming and hawing.
Should someone holler (distastefully)
I’ll simply have him flogged with the spare strings that idle at my feet.

I’ll win every duel –
just like Billy Redden.

FYI — Billy Redden is the actor who played the “banjo kid” in Deliverance, and GGGCG are the opening notes for dueling banjos. Check out the iconic dueling scene below:

Folk, part trois

October 25, 2009

Hi, readers!

I apologize for not updating this little bit of internet as often as I should! We’re coming up on week eight, so classes, the radio station, and my wavering health are taking up ALL of my time. Anyway, here I am, and I’m ready to blabber.

I keep promising you a slightly more scholarly post concerning American folk music, and I intend to make good on that promise! Now, I don’t pretend to be any sort of scholar — I just really dig it, and I’ve spent many an insomnia-wrecked early morning researching it. So, here it is, in simplest form.

This blog is about making new art out of something that already exists and examining those roots — well, folk as we know it has borrowed from just about every culture. Thanks to our melting pot culture here in America, all of them were able to bleed together in order create this beauty that I can’t stop going on about.

The banjo as we know it was brought from Africa, as well as the call and answer type anthems we’ve come to associate with slave ballads. The fiddle came from Scotland/Ireland/England, with the traditional Appalachian bow technique attributed to Scotland. In the early 1900s, when railways, radio and general mobility began to lace the country together, popular music was introduced to the once isolated region. All of these aspects aided the gentle evolution of folk.

What I find so karmic and beautiful about the merging of these instruments is that their homelands are all geographically, intrinsicly linked. Billions of years ago, the Appalachian mountains were a part of the Caledonia mountains — as were the Scottish highlands. Before they split apart, they were the same range. Additonally, when Scotland and Ireland and North America were all one giant land mass called Laurentina, it collided with the West African continents. This is what caused the Appalachian mountains to rise in their half-moon shape — they mirror the bulge of West Africa.  Check it out on the map.

IMAGE/nationsonline.org

IMAGE/nationsonline.org

So, there you have it! I almost feel cheap doing this history so quickly, but I know I’m already pushing the boundaries of keeping you awake. Thanks for letting me nerd out!

I think it’s high time to move on to a new topic this week. Stay tuned to see which trend I decide to pick apart. Until then,

Jen

Old Crow Medicine Show at Stuart’s!

October 21, 2009

Hey all! Just wanted to drop a quick line to let you know that the band I recently blogged about, Old Crow Medicine Show, will be playing at Stuart’s Opera House in Nelsonville in November! If you’re at all interested and in the Athens area, check out the news story I tossed up on ACRN late last night for details.

xoxo,
Jen