Vulture Bytes: Karaoke and Jackassery
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Lurking alongside the Nook, Kindle, and iBooks apps in the App Store are a handful of e-reader apps that promise tens of thousands of free books. They’re usually classics in the public domain, an opportunity to make Dickens, Tolstoy, and Verne look like they belong in this century even if they don’t read like it. And now comes Audibly, a new app that offers thousands of free audiobooks. Because it was surely every Victorian author’s dream to have his work someday become an MP3. The narrations are pulled from volunteers at Librivox, a site devoted to narrations of works in the public domain. The readings are hit and miss, but every now and then you’ll be surprisingly charmed by the cadence of some woman in Ohio.
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You will surely agree that the best kind of karaoke is the type that comes with those cheesy Asian music videos playing behind the lyrics. The other forms always seem like imitations — what rendition of “Crazy on You” is complete without Japanese schoolgirls acting out some bastardized version of the lyrics? But for those of you who do believe in just-lyrics karaoke, and who want to perform said karaoke all the time, there’s now an app to help your cravings. VocalZap, well, zaps the vocals from the songs on your iDevice so you can better sing to it. We obviously went straight for “Don’t Stop Believin’” and found that the app doesn’t necessarily work as advertised. Steve Perry sounded like he had been abandoned in a sewer tunnel in South Detroit. The app seems to keep a slight hint of the vocal in as a background track, purposely or otherwise. So don’t think of it as removing the vocal, just think of it as an app that creates a band of backup singers.
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Speaking of things exported from Japan, Vulture Bytes is pleased to bring you a totally useless thing that you might just want to have. It plugs into your headphone port … and does nothing in particular. But this is precisely the point! These accessories are an artistic statement, juxtaposing a device that is marketed for its practicality — a phone that’s also an MP3 player and a web browser and an e-reader and etc.! — with a piece of plastic that is the complete opposite. And don’t get us started about the postmodern brilliance of that apple-leaf Plugy … or the Plugys are just neat little things to make sure you don’t inadvertently swap phones with the hundreds of other people who own an iPhone 4. Whichever interpretation you prefer.
PRICE: 400 Yen, so about $5

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Jackass: 10 Years of Stupid

The best part about this Jackass app is that the App Store classifies it as a book. And that’s actually pretty accurate. It treats Jackass as a sacred text, an artistic achievement that’s worth a retrospective to help us better understand the deeper meaning behind the antics. There are also video clips, of course, as every stand-alone book app is now obligated to come packed with some sort of multimedia extra. (The app is a companion to the actual Jackass retrospective book.) And for good measure, there are also a couple of games, including one where you fling Johnny Knoxville across a screen, Angry Birds–style. That surely fulfills some fantasy, whether you love or loathe Jackass.
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That you’re reading this slideshow almost certainly means you’re not at a loss for new music to listen to. Hype Machine is playing in another tab, you’ve subscribed to Amazon's amazing $5 download newsletter, and you obsessively follow Vulture’s Right-Click tag. So in some ways Rexly, a new site that helps you discover new music, isn’t for you. But the same impulse that’s led you to keep abreast of new artists is what makes you crave new sites, which is why Rexly might actually be of interest. It’s a website that helps you discover what your friends are listening to. It hooks into your Facebook and iTunes accounts to follow everything you’re listening to, and invites your friends to do the same. What you get are basically a collection of music tweets, with the ability to see what the people you’re following are also listening to. It’s a new site — it just launched a few weeks ago — which for some of you will make it a must-try. Early adopters can’t help but be addicted to discovery.


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