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July 3, 2006


The Examiner visited Baltimore's 2006 Radical Book Fair, and interviewed one of my favorite booksellers (Benn Ray of LHB sponsor Atomic Books) in the process.

Benn Ray — owner of Baltimore’s most famous alternative literary outlet, Atomic Books — said that the eclectic mix is evidence that liberalism is much less narrowly focused than many may believe.

“Obviously, there’s a lot of political diversity on the left,” he said.

NPR posts a page from Alison Bechdel's graphic memoir, Fun Home, as well as several individual illustrations.

Gawker Media is starting a music blog.

The Hartford Courant examines the current boom in children's music.

The "tween" years - too old for nursery rhymes, too young for 50 Cent - have become a gold mine for record companies. The offerings for tweens (and, more importantly, tweens' parents) have been limited over the years as record labels have focused on the older, adult market. But nature abhors a vacuum, and that could account for the giant sucking sound emanating from the general direction of "Kidz Bop."

The Anime News Network interviews one of my favorite band's, Japan's Pillows.

FLCL has been out for nearly four years in America. Why do you think you are more popular than ever before in the U.S.?

Sawao Yamanaka (Vocals, Guitar): In America? Hmm... we really don’t know if we got popular or not because we didn’t have a realistic feeling that we were getting popular. We also found out for the first time last year that there were more Pillows fans than we had imagined, and we were very surprised, and we still are this year. So we don’t know if we got more popular or not, but we are having lots of fun.

The Los Angeles Times examines the current debate over protest music.

Are these artists just preaching to whatever choir prefers them? If so, they're definitely in a dialogue — and the chorus is rising up and taking control. Unknowns are making as much protest music as their pop heroes. Agitprop videos and satirical mash-ups are easily available all over the Web, as do-it-yourself auteurs transform others' songs into powerful messages of their own. Rapid-fire collages created by high school kids and weekend activists use cuts by old politicos like the Clash or unlikely suspects like 1980s hard rocker Aldo Nova to convey wholly contemporary messages. The results can be incredibly poignant: In one clip distributed by the archive Global Free Press, James Blunt's "No Bravery," a melodramatic ballad about a totally different conflict — Kosovo — mourns anew when set to images of wounded and dying Iraqis.

Ben Bridwell of Band of Horses talks to AZNightBuzz.

AZNB: Fronting a band (he played drums in Carissa’s Weird and never wrote a song before these) was that a strange transition for you?

BB: It was at first. Now I really enjoy it. When I was the drummer, and I was a very bad drummer to begin with, but that would make me more nervous for some reason. Sure, I have my moments where I get nervous now, but holding down the beat really kind of sketched me out because I felt my job was really important. But now, even though I have to remember lyrics and shit like that for some reason I feel like some of the pressure is off me.

Pollstar profiles Shonen Knife as the band readies for their 25th anniversary shows.

A Boston Globe columnist laments the sound of the iPod compared to the original Sony Walkman.

But for the Gen X-ers among us there's a problem. The signal squeezed through an iPod's white earbuds is not the warm and spacious headphone mindblow of old; to me it sounds bruisingly compressed, stripped of nuance, all bunched up in the midrange. Increasing the volume only distorts the bass and produces a nasty precipitation of treble, as if the drummer is flogging his cymbals with bicycle chains. The more raucous and unkempt the original music, the worse it sounds. An old punk record like The Damned's ``New Rose," for example, is nearly unlistenable on an iPod.

Time wonders who is the literary voice of this generation.

At 39, Jhumpa Lahiri already has a powerful novel (The Namesake) and a Pulitzer-winning story collection. Jonathan Safran Foer (Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close) has got a lot of attention both popular and critical, and he's only 29. A somewhat partisan sampling would also include Colson Whitehead (The Intuitionist), 36; Edwidge Danticat (Breath, Eyes, Memory), 37; Dave Eggers (You Shall Know Our Velocity), 36; Arthur Phillips (Prague), 37; Curtis Sittenfeld (Prep), 30; Myla Goldberg (Bee Season), 34; Nicole Krauss (The History of Love), 31; and Gary Shteyngart (Absurdistan), 33. If we open our borders to the Brits, we also get Zadie Smith (On Beauty), who at 30 is probably her generation's consensus No. 1 seed, as well as Monica Ali (Brick Lane), 39, and David Mitchell (Black Swan Green), 37. And there are dozens of young mid-list talents at work who don't get as much press but probably should. Keep an eye on the painfully funny Sam Lipsyte and the eerily fantastical Kelly Link.

Suicide Girls interviews Primus bassist (and author) Les Claypool.

Les: Yeah, I’m the Forrest Gump of bass players. The box of chocolates, you never know what you’re going to get.


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