Power To The People

Trends & Culture - April 3rd, 2009

by Robert M. Poole

All Art Is Quite Useless —Oscar Wilde ……………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………

Is the digital age the end of an era for popular music and entertainment? Or just another step in its natural evolution as it tries to keep pace with technological development? There seems to be a consensus amongst copyright owners and creators that at no previous time has anyone been so unsure of where we will be ten years from now. But when the history of cinema, and animation is just a matter of decades old, stability has always been out of reach, no matter how desired.

Wilde’s observation in the eyes of modern day wordsmith Stephen Fry implies art’s true beauty—that it exists for no other reason than for our pleasure. And Fry also commented that, thanks to the digital age, each of us has more power than the most powerful kings that have ever been, with more knowledge and understanding at our fingertips than Louis XVI could have had summoning scholars day and night.

The Featured Artists’ Coalition that launched in March to give musicians a united voice for protecting their work in the digital era seems to be another hammer-blow to the middlemen of the music industry and one would expect other art creators to follow suit. But nostalgic dreaming of a resurgence towards paid-for music seems as likely as a return to drive-in movies or big-band jazz. Power is with the consumers and keeping up with the times is the name of the game.

PODCAST: Slate Daily

The foresighted Slate Daily launched as a current affairs and culture magazine back in 1996. The warning sign to traditional print media was that this magazine was online-only, and since 1999, free of charge. Originally part of MSN, The Washington Post has owned Slate since 2004. Perhaps what is surprising about it is that Slate is not aimed squarely at a young ‘internet generation’ but simply provides regular columns, discussion, and comment on the usual wide-range of issues of a regular print daily. Since 2005, editor Andy Bowers decided to read the stories online as podcasts, which vary greatly from ‘gabfest’ political discussions on topics like gun control, to lifestyle, like dietary advice and audio columns that reflect modern life for the over 30s. A weighty and dependable resource, Slate’s media model is a sign of the times.

MUSIC: m-flo: Inside—Works Best III (Rhythm Zone)

A significant development for music in the noughties was the rise of the household name music producer, whose magic touch could eek a hit of a marginal track with little more than their name on the credit. Some, like Timbaland, The Neptunes, or Dallas Austin gained well-deserved reputations. And in Japan, the combination of Korean-born emcee Verbal and DJ Taku Takahashi has rightly earned them credit as the premier team for hip-hop tinged dance-pop for more than ten years. Works Best III sees them only getting better, divided between original collaborations with the likes of Crystal Kay, Double, and BoA, and remixes of diverse acts like The Tings Tings and T-Pain. With titles like Super Shine, The Love Bug, and She Loves The Cream, m-flo’s perky optimism is the link that continuously shines through, and one suspects their place as Japan’s foremost uber-cool impresarios is under no threat yet.

SCREEN: Asian Lounge

Occasionally, the liberation that is the internet throws up websites that redefine the way we communicate with each other or how we access entertainment. Asian Lounge is a site that achieves this by combining both elements simultaneously and doing it specifically for East Asia.

Though its homepage is rather clunky and unendearing, its resources are astonishing. Known as ‘a place for dating, music, and movies,’ its simple interface can be swapped between English, Vietnamese, Chinese, Korean, and Japanese, and u

nder ‘Singles’ you can hunt for your new soulmate. But that’s not the best part.

While sites like www.crunchyroll.com have now decided to offer only approved, non-copyright-infringing content, Asian Lounge is a one-stop shop for music, movies, and TV, all for free once you complete a simple sign-up. Most notably on offer are the latest Japanese TV dramas, delivered with full subtitles and organized into 15-minute snippets.

Two of last year’s biggest hits can be found here in their entirety. Celeb to Binbo Taro (The Celebrity and Poor Taro) stars Aya Ueto as a Paris Hilton type who falls in love with a down and out guy. Part comedy and part drama, it reflects on society’s class segregation that arises from stardom. Meanwhile, Atsu Hime (Princess Atsu) stars another beautiful young actress (Aoi Miyazaki) in an entirely different role, playing a princess who marries a shogun in the Tokugawa period, only to see him die soon after. A traditional NHK drama, the sumptuous story examines the upheaval of the Meiji restoration.

The wealth of films available, such as celebrated director Takeshi Kitano’s absurd Glory To The Filmmaker! makes Asian Lounge the ultimate portal for Japanese and East Asian entertainment. Enjoy it while you can.