Thursday, December 31, 2009

ReMMIXed

Let's see if I can get this posted before midnight. I should be at a party right now, but I came down with a pretty bad cold, so I'm sitting in my mom's basement as she watches 42nd Street. So yeah, I brought my own party.

Although this isn't the ideal way of ending 2009, it is no way an indication of how 2009 panned out. I've been noticing that the general sentiment seems to be of the "Fuck 2009" persuasion but I just can't get on board with it. I think a lot of it has to do with the fact that nothing terrible really happened directly to me this year. Although I am no longer working, that is by choice and not because of the economic climate. Check back in June to see if I am eating those words. No major health problems or crises that I am aware of, though if I've been kept in the dark I think that would count as a win anyway.

Also, a number of pretty nifty things have happened this year. I got to write a guest article on the super fun blog The Critical Condition. As a result of my WTF, Little House on the Prairie? blog, I was interviewed for a book about Little House.

Then there's the whole grad school thing. That is going extremely well. I've met amazing people, I've been working on awesome projects, and I'm pretty optimistic about the whole finding a job thing. I'll be heading to NYC in a couple weeks for an industry seminar -- tourism with a purpose, as I like to call it. Then one more semester and I'll be done. Woo!

I'm going to call 2009 the year of street cred. And with street cred firmly established (work with me here, folks), I think I am going to try to make 2010 the year of Swagga.

Until then, here is one last awesome blast of 2009:



Happy New Year!

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Sunday, December 6, 2009

TeAR

I'm sure I've mentioned it here once or twice, but The Amazing Race is one of my absolute favorite programs. There have been good times, like Season 5 when Colin had his awe-inspiring "My ox is BROKEN!" meltdown while the ultra-religious models were literally toiling in the mud (oh, how the editors had fun with them). There have been some not so good times, such as the ill-conceived Family Edition and the introduction of the Black Family (who were the only team of color that season). Regardless of the quality of the season the show is able to make me feel all misty-eyed at the finish line. Tonight's finale was no exception.

My thought's on the season, complete with SPOILERS...

This season was rather bland across the board. I didn't think the itinerary was all that interesting -- I've found that I haven't really been wowed by the westbound seasons. This season's itinerary in particular featured a number of locations that had been visited before and, aside from the Dubai legs, the environments didn't really seem to test the teams' resolve. Call me old fashioned, but I am intrigued by how ugly Americans can get when they are in the final five and need to cram themselves into an over-crowded train in Mumbai.

The casting was also surprisingly dull. My instant loathing team was eliminated at the start line (we'll get back to that) and just about all the other teams were perfectly pleasant. Most of the teams were eliminated at about the point that they became annoying, so it was difficult to find someone to root against. Type A Lance was the only one who got under my skin rather quickly, but even he and his partner were eliminated before they became unbearable. Instead, this season's "villains" were gay brothers Sam and Dan (Team BroYay). Yes, they pulled a couple of dick moves (that weren't curiously blurred out) during the race, the biggest offense being stealing another team's taxi. Sorry, but unless you incur a penalty (ref. last season's brothers) or create a potential international incident (ref. first season's Team Guido at the airport), you don't even deserve to be called a bad guy, much less a villain.

In terms of race construction, there were some issues this time around. I'm not a fan of the "The World is Waiting for You, except for that team." twist at the beginning because it just seemed so unnecessary. I like the idea of a task to separate the teams before they get to the airport (much more interesting than airport drama) but knocking out a team seems unnecessary. Also, the premiere featured two legs, so the drama was undercut with the early elimination. The show was not going to get rid of 25% of their cast on the first night, so the audience knew that there would be a Non-Elimination Leg somewhere in the mix. In terms of tasks, the bag was mixed as usual. However, the speed bumps were really half-assed. Go sit in a sauna for five minutes. Drink a shot of absinthe. I know the task isn't intended to derail teams but the purpose of a speed bump is to penalize a team for being spared by a NEL.

The final leg actually did a pretty good job of encapsulating the blandness of the season. The final three teams, Meghan/Cheyne, Team BroYay, and Brian/Ericka received their first clue: Go to the Final Destination of Las Vegas. Another downside of the westbound flightpath is that you don't get an intermediate stop on the final leg, such as Alaska or Hawaii. Anyway, the leg primarily featured casino hopping along the strip. Brian/Ericka had an early lead until a Cirque Du Soleil challenge caused them to fall to last place. Then the teams had to count out $1 million in casino chips for their final challenge. Most of the time the final challenge is a road block completed by one person based around the theme of "I hope you were paying attention." After teams counted their chips correctly, they received a clue that led them to Mr. Las Vegas himself, Wayne Newton. Really, show? The finish line was at Newton's Shenandoah Ranch. The race was won by blonde and objectively alright looking Meghan/Cheyne. More satisfying than Team BroYay winning, but I would have preferred a Brian/Ericka win.

However, I had the same physical response as I did when Team Boston won season two, the loathsome Freddie and Kendra won season six, or when genuine hippies TK and Rachel won season twelve: I started to tear up a bit. Despite all the flaws this season had, particularly with the blandness streak the show has been riding since TAR13 (this is TAR15), the program still manages to poke that sweet spot that I am usually able to heavily guard. Even with the teams that I despise, it is not enough to golf clap for them when they reach the finish line. What they have accomplished is incredible.

The moment that did it for me tonight was when Brian and Ericka finally arrived at the finish line in a distant third place. Phil tells them that they are officially team number 3 and Brian fakes shock as he looks at the other two teams standing there. It was an incredibly charming moment for him, one of many on his race. Phil asks what this means for their relationship and Ericka starts speaking about how she hopes that this will prove to her family that Brian is a stand-up guy even though they are of different skin colors. As she speaks, Brian sniffs as he starts to well up. Ericka tells him to shush, most likely because she if he starts she would soon follow. It was one of the best moments on this race and one that I would quickly point to to show why this is one of the best programs on television.

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Saturday, December 5, 2009

Mario

Childhood flashback time!



As dance crazes go, this one is pretty half-assed. Let's discuss.

After you take out all the cajoling ("Do the Mario!"), the dance is performed as follows:

  • Swing your arms from side to side

  • Take one step

  • And then again


  • It's almost a rebuttal to the Throwdown Hoedown. But go ahead, try it, I'll wait.

    See? Not much going on dance-wise. However, the demonstration seems to imply that I'm missing some sort of nuance. See how Mario bobbles at the very end? Whatever I'm doing is not resulting in a loss of balance. I must be doing something wrong.

    No wonder my generation is doomed to a lifetime of obesity.

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    Friday, November 27, 2009

    Thanksgiving

    I realize I'm a little late with these, but social hygiene is always behind the times.

    From this week's Bleier Screening:

    A Day of Thanksgiving: Would you rather have no turkey or live in a Godless Communist Society?



    Dining Together: Learn how to make your family glad this holiday season.

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    Wednesday, November 18, 2009

    Anniversary

    It's been a weird day. Some of the weirdness and randomness was just the universe trying to say howdy but a good chunk was self-induced, though I tried to avoid it as much as possible. Truth be told, I'm still debating whether or not to hit the "delete" button once I finish writing this, but I feel like I need to get over this obstacle.


    You see, today would have been my one year anniversary with Brandon. For those who may be out of the loop or who have just noticed the past tense, it's been over for a while. Officially it happened back in September, but actually the end may have been much earlier. Sometimes the "Sell By" and Expiration Dates are a bit different, y'know? I won't go into the details, partly for discretion, partly because I still don't have a complete understanding as to what happened.

    Anyway, the day started with me receiving a copy of The Origin of Species: The Kirk Cameron Approved edition. I get to add that to my collection of unsolicited free religious texts. I guess it's a hobby?

    We shot most of the multicam episode today but a number of technical problems, including micromanagement (not by me, for once), is forcing us to film on Monday. It's an unfortunate snag that allowed me to start feeling bummed out -- a feeling I was trying to avoid if possible. A few of us went out for dinner and drinks after the shoot which was nice, just not enough to lift my spirits fully.

    As I walked past the front of Newhouse on the way to the bus stop there was a commotion on the path between Newhouse and Schine. I thought it might have been a pep rally or something since it is basketball season, but the News10 van indicated that something else must be going on. As I reached the crosswalk I heard someone call out for me. I saw Cyp, Kelly and Tim in the crowd. A number of people were holding signs including Tim, whose sign read "BALLS". This caused the Obie in me to amble over and see what the happs were. A man with a banner advertising an Ex-Gay ministry was being interviewed by a reporter as the students cajoled drivers to honk in support of gays. Good times indeed.

    So I don't know how I feel about today. It's been at least two months, but I'm still sad about the situation. However, the sadness doesn't find its source in regret. I know my coming to Syracuse was a contributing factor to the failure, but I think I would regret not having the experiences I've had here with the people I have met.

    This whole grad school thing is a process in improving one's self. An evolution, if you will. I'm hoping that by writing this I can now get out of whatever has been bogging me down. Thanks.

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    Monday, November 16, 2009

    Name Game

    We're filming project two for my multi-cam class on Wednesday. It is a pilot for a webseries about a sex addict who opens his own dating service in his sister's basement. I'm one of the writer/producers for the project and things are going pretty well. Our set looks awesome, particularly the basement that is filled with the most random crap from the prop closet.

    The prof is a bit of a perfectionist, particularly when it comes to policies and legal issues, so we've had to tape over some logos and brand names (despite learning in law class that we don't have to do that, but whatever). Here are some of the renamed board games we have on the set:

    PE Ratio:

    PE Ratio

    You and your doctor friends invest your payments after elective surgeries. Bet on the wrong stock and your patients will be abuzz!

    Mouse Rap:

    Mouse Rap

    Bust laps around the board, bust rhymes with your homies, collect cheddar as you go. I got first on Lil Squeekz.

    I don't play golf, so this is what I do as producer since my main job is pretty much done.

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    Sunday, November 8, 2009

    Netflix Math

    I recently signed up for Netflix and it has been an interesting experience so far. My main reason for signing up was my screenwriting class where there are at least 6 movies mentioned, 5 of which I've heard of, 4 of which sound interesting, 3 of which I should see, 2 of which I might see, and 1 of which I will actually see. But they're all in my queue, I swear. Of course, the only discs I've been getting through with any sort of speed are the TV shows so I guess I'm not meeting the original goal.

    One of the features that I do enjoy is rating movies. I like that Netflix is keeping a tally of the number of movies that I have seen and remembered enough to give a rating. I'm over 300 now which is kind of a staggering number if you think about it. Granted some of those ratings include TV shows, but at least 90% are films. The best part of the ratings is that they will factor into an algorithm for Netflix to recommend more movies and guess how much you will like or dislike movies in your queue. The algorithm might need a bit more tweaking or more info from me: They overestimated how much I would like Obsessed (1.5 stars) and underestimated how much I would like Pageant (only 3.2 stars).

    But then there are the groupings...

    On the "Movies You'll [Heart]" page, films will be broken down into genres and listed with pictures of the DVD case and recommendations based on other movies you'll like. My favorite example so far: Stop Making Sense because I liked Chinatown, Network, and Pee-Wee's Big Adventure. This blew my mind. Though I like SMS, I saw the other three movies within the last few months and I can honestly say that SMS never crossed my mind. Conversely, whenever I listed to the live version of "Life During Wartime" I don't instantly think of Howard Beale, red bicycles, or film noir. Though Netflix is correct in their outcome, the math is baffling.

    Chinatown + Network + Pee-Wee = Stop Making Sense

    I started looking at other recommendations to see how the math could be tweaked. Here is one example.

    Network + Chinatown + When We Were Kings = The Thin Blue Line

    I have not seen The Thin Blue Line, but knowing what it is about I can sorta buy the math here. But let's do some algebra:

    Network + Chinatown = The Thin Blue Line - When We Were Kings
    Network + Chinatown = Chinatown + Network
    Chinatown + Network = The Thin Blue Line - When We Were Kings
    The Thin Blue Line - When We Were Kings + Pee-Wee = Stop Making Sense

    I...can sorta see how that would work. Here's another one:

    Taking of Pelham 123 (original) = The Manchurian Candidate (original) + Network + Chinatown

    P123 - MC = N + C
    N + C = C + N
    P123 - MC = C + N

    M = Manchurian Candidate + Pee-Wee + The Office (UK Season 1)
    M - Office = MC + PW

    C + N + PW = SMS
    P123 - MC + PW = SMS
    P123 - M - Office = SMS

    Really?

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    Monday, October 5, 2009

    Master of My Domain

    It's time to take this blogging stuff seriously. Not necessarily content-wise since I think I already do treat this as a semi-legitimate venue for musings and critiques. However, I'm looking to create something a bit more professional in appearance and accessibility. I may have to forego the Rube Goldberg moniker but that's down the road. Until then, I need to come up with a domain/site name that says "Hey! I'm talking about TV and pop culture here! Look at me, will ya?"

    This is proving incredibly challenging. According to GoDaddy every single one of my ideas has already been taken. Of course when I go and visit these sites the screen is either "This has been parked by GoDaddy!" or just a splash screen that amounts to "Neener neener neener! This domain is mine, bitches!"

    Not cool, yo.

    I have a feeling landing a .com is going to be next to impossible unless I come up with a title that is incredibly obscure, but that somewhat defeats the purpose of putting out money for a bit more exposure. For some reason I have an aversion to .net, as if I'm getting the store brand, which is weird since I usually buy the store brand anyway. Wait a minute...dammit, wegmans.com is already taken.

    The name I wanted was whatchawatching.com, since I think that does a pretty good job of encapsulating all the items I blog about. Both the .com and .net are taken, so I either have to go with .us (which isn't catchy) or come up with something else. huluhoop is taken, vastwasteland and thevastwasteland are both taken, even thehapps.org has been absorbed. I'm debating incorporating "WTF" (as in WTF Little House on the Prairie), but I feel like that might be shooting myself in the foot.

    Help?

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    Sunday, October 4, 2009

    Lose-Lose

    I have a really complicated relationship with The Biggest Loser. On its face, the premise of the show is somewhat noble -- helping the morbidly obese regain control of their lives. There is also the added benefit that viewers are inspired to take control of their own weight issues.

    However, this nobility encounters conflict since this is an elimination based reality show. This has been highlighted in this past week's episode...


    Despite its title, The Biggest Loser is not a meritocracy. It is on finale night, but until the final weigh-in there is strategery afoot throughout the process. As someone who has struggled with weight issues, I have come to learn that extrinsic rewards are not the way to achieve long-term success. You need to have an intrinsic desire to succeed and keep the weight off. I love watching the contestants flip out with excitement when they lose double digits in a single weigh-in, but then when it gets to voting off a contestant the discussion turns into who is perceived as a "threat". What does that even mean in this context? The only definition that seems to apply is "this person has a greater intrinsic drive than me and therefore does not require the extrinsic reward that is my motivation."

    I didn't start watching this season until my friend KDT tweeted: "I hate to feel this emotionally involved in The Biggest Loser... but I am." We then proceeded to have the following conversation about the contestant Tracey:

    K: are you watching? I can't believe Trac(y/i/ie/ee) would do this to Coach Mo!
    M: I just started watching...like, as soon as I read your tweet. There is nothing competing against it on Tuesdays. Help me.....
    K: also, she totally shot herself in the foot. Ugh.
    M: She does have crazy eyes...awesome. [...] She meaning Traceeee and Jillian.
    K: indeed, sir. indeed.

    From what I gathered from the repetitive nature of the two-hour episode (aside: really, NBC?) the theme for this week was "choices". Tracey chose to give up access to trainers for both her and her partner Mo to get a two-pound advantage at the weigh-in. Later, there was a temptation challenge involving cupcakes. Whichever contestant ate the most cupcakes in ten minutes would get to choose one person on each team to be that teams sole representative at the weigh-in. At this point meritocracy only applied to the green team who won this week's immunity challenge.

    At the weigh-in, Tracey selected the contestants who were generally less successful during workouts for the week, including people that she assured she would not select. Frankly, the type of gameplay exhibited here is a rare occurrence on reality TV. The only other example that jumps to mind is Wendy Pepper from the first season of Project Runway -- utilizing whatever advantage or foothold becomes available because there is no talent or ability to hang their hat on. It is fascinating from a reality television drama perspective, but the consequences in this case go beyond winning a talent show. The people who are successful at achieving the aims of the show lose the game while those who lose are the ones who prosper.

    That doesn't seem right.

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    Thursday, October 1, 2009

    Hank-y panky

    You saw the movie Memento, right? Fantastic film: I highly recommend it. For those who haven't seen it, the premise is that the main character is trying to solve the mystery of his wife's murder but he suffers from short-term memory loss.

    Now, did you see the new Kelsey Grammer sitcom Hank on Wednesday? It is horrible. How bad? This afternoon I watched the pilot before my screenwriting class. In class today we watched Deliverance. There were more genuine laughs during that movie than during the 23 minutes I suffered through Hank.

    What does Memento have to do with this?


    Well, from what I could gather from the bad acting and clunky story (it is a pilot episode after all), Kelsey Grammer's character is perpetually a fish out of water. But not in the sense that the Beverly Hillbillies were fish out water -- they eventually adapted to their environment in certain ways. I mean that each scene revolved around Hank being discombobulated by the conditions of the scene. I think that could be an interesting concept, but that is not the premise of the show.

    The premise is that Hank was ousted from the board of directors of some downsized New York company. For whatever reason he did not get a golden parachute, did not liquidate any of his assets, and for some reason is not able to get another job in the city. As a result he has to move his family down to Virginia near his brother. Sure, why not?

    The thing is, Hank is only able to function in a corporate board room setting. For example, he instructs his wife to keep minutes at a family meeting. You know, The Simpsons stopped doing family meetings because none of the writers' families ever did family meetings and it seemed contrived. The family on this show felt the meeting was contrived and the (insane) laugh track makes the entire scene feel contrived.

    The problems don't stop there. Due to their king size bed not fitting in the stairwell, Hank and his wife are stuck in a fire engine bed for the time being (yeah, I know). There were so many things that were just unsettling in this scene. First, there is zero chemistry between Hank and his wife. His complaint in the close quarters: "You're breathing on me." Unless halitosis or fire is involved, I don't think that is generally considered a bad thing, particularly if it is your spouse. Hank's wife (sorry, I don't remember her name and I am not watching it again) is also wearing earrings and what looks like a day-to-evening ensemble from Project Runway. As I tried to puzzle my way through the weird wardrobe selection, the couple spontaneously engages in a fit of passion. No organic catalyst whatsoever.

    One of my friends in my program is doing a TV research project related to laugh tracks. I mentioned this show and he asked me how many episodes I think it will last. My answer: already at least half an episode longer than it should have. If only this could be erased from my short term memory.

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    Wednesday, September 23, 2009

    This Week in TRF

    Here's a highlight reel of what was covered in class this week in TRF:

    My law class:



    More videos to follow...



    My research class -- specifically my group's research topic:

    http://www.vh1.com/video/play.jhtml?vid=162112

    A preview of our next project in Multicam:



    And what I get to watch in Dramatic Writing (sans Kids in the Hall):



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    Tuesday, September 22, 2009

    YORRRRRR!

    I'm really enjoying my Tuesdays this semester. I have my law class at 11 am and then I'm done for the day. Except for the Tuesday screenings at Thompson's office. They have been a bit of a mixed bag, which is kind of the point. The first screening (which I wasn't able to stay for much of) featured Walter Cronkite and Don Hewitt. Last week we watched the first and only episode of the 1986 version of the Jay Leno Show. That was horrendous. As far as we know Thompson has the only surviving copy -- even IMDB disavows any knowledge that it exists. Really, it is that dreadful.

    Today we continued with the dreadful theme with a screening of Yor: The Hunter from the Future...


    This movie almost defies description. The good news is there is a fan riff track available. Here's a preview:



    The guy above is pretty chatty, but we were making our own comments throughout as well. Such as when the blind leader of the resistance movement from the future is introduced and shots are filmed from that character's point of view. Let me repeat: They filmed shots from the BLIND person's POINT OF VIEW. Then they showed him groping for the buttons on a control console later. At least they maintained continuity?

    The best part was the theme song, which can be heard here.

    I don't think this movie is helping in the cinePHAIL project, but it is giving me confidence that whatever screenplay I write this semester will probably be better than this. And this script was produced!

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    Monday, September 21, 2009

    Cinephail

    If a "cinephile" is a person with a strong interest in film, I might best be described as a "cinephail". This weekend I TiVoed The Karate Kid and got around to watching it this afternoon. I actually enjoyed it. Of course, that last sentence implies that I have never seen the movie before -- probably because I haven't.

    I further compounded this (now) apparent pop culture faux pas by mentioning this little tidbit on Facebook. In the comments that followed, I tried to excuse myself saying that the film is on my "I really should get around to it" list, along with:

    Casablanca
    Citizen Kane
    Godfather I and II

    This just seemed to cause more people to facepalm.

    So what other movies would you recommend as required? I used to be a film buff...I just need some buffing.

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    Sunday, September 20, 2009

    The Informant[.]

    I guess it was inevitable that my being in a program called Television-Radio-Film would eventually force me into partaking the three media listed. TV I have covered and radio I do regularly enough but I have fallen out of the film habit. The prof for my writing class starts every session with the question "seen any movies lately?" and everyone is expected to answer. How dare he, right? He also wants us to venture outside of our comfort zone every once in a while, but I'm not quite up to that point yet. I've got The Karate Kid on my TiVo and we're watching Deliverance in class next week, so I'm going to stay in my zone for the time being. This week's movie: The Informant!

    Spoilers likely, so proceed with caution...

    As you can see in the title of this post, I wasn't exactly wowed or whatever reaction the exclamation point was supposed to draw out of me. The story is about Mark Whitacre, a VP for agriculture supergiant Archer Daniels Midland (ADM). The company is involved in a price fixing scheme involving corn and Whitacre decides to work for the FBI to bring down some of the higher-ups. At first he professes to be doing it for the good of the company and his soul, but eventually it is revealed that he is trying to oust his superiors so he can become CEO. Whitacre is a pathological liar and we soon learn that not only was he trying to perpetrate this bizarre usurpation but he had embezzled millions of dollars while under the FBI umbrella.

    The story, which is based on true events, is interesting in an "I can't believe that this guy really did that" sort of way but it isn't a very cinematic story. The events are all based around verbal lies and FBI surveillance of business, neither of which really action based. Also, financial chicanery and price fixing are not the sexiest crimes -- particularly for those of us who only have a vague understanding of the concepts involved. The film reached a point where you finally understand that Whitacre is a schnook but then the movie goes on for another half hour. The story stops building and his inevitable comeuppance doesn't provide much of a payoff (particularly since Whitacre is now a COO for some other company after a brief hiatus in prison).

    The film was directed by Steven Soderbergh, an auteur I just can't get behind. His choices tend to distract me more than engage me and this film is no exception. The camerawork was steady, as opposed to Traffic and The Limey (both of which made me seasick) which was refreshing. However, he chose to give the film a 60's motif despite the fact that the events took place between 1992 and 1995. I think he was going for homage to double agents, but it was giving me an Austin Powers vibe. My other major issue involved casting choices. Matt Damon was alright as Whitacre, but I'm not sure what he brought to the role that was distinct. Not good, not bad, just nothing special. The supporting cast was where I found more distraction. Joel McHale played an FBI agent working with Whitacre, Patton Oswald played an attorney, and Paul F. Tompkins played an attorney. I'm not sure what the deal was with all the stand-up comedians, particularly since they were all playing against type. My theory is that it is a commentary about framing reality with how you tell a story, but the analogy falls flat since the reality framed by this story is not particularly engaging.

    This film strikes me as a product of timing -- riding the coattails of populist rage against the giants of corporate America (one of the previews was for Capitalism, Michael Moore's new film). However it is a whistleblower (sort of) who is trying to slay Goliath, not the lay person. The timing seems off and the story doesn't get much beyond the conversation point of "oh, really? You don't say?"

    Have you seen The Informant!? What did you think?

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    Wednesday, September 9, 2009

    Glee

    The Fall Season has finally arrived. Hooray! There are quite a few programs I am looking forward to, both new and returning, and I would like to share my instant opinions after the first episodes debut.

    First up: Glee!

    Alright, so this is technically the second episode that aired tonight. I thought Fox did a brilliant job of creating buzz for this program by airing the pilot after part one of the American Idol finale. There have also been preview videos available on iTunes. Normally I don't go out of my way to check out promo stuff on iTunes, but I recently got a new computer that doesn't grind to a halt when playing videos so I decided to check them out. I think this may have been a mistake.

    The video I saw was the "Gold Digger" rehearsal sequence. I like how the show worked the song into the story -- juxtaposing it after the house tour sequence and using it as a foil to "Le Freak". However, I found the sound quality in the sequence incredibly distracting. Part of the problem is that the audio does not match the environment, which makes it quite apparent that the cast is lip synching. I think this is where the single-camera format is actually hurting the show -- if the music sequences were shot in multicam, then the audio quality would match and create the feeling of a live performance. However, switching formats could greatly alter the overall aesthetic of the show, so I'm not sure if this is a viable solution.

    There are other audio issues that can be more easily addressed. The audio for the "Say a Little Prayer" sequence did not match up at all. The acoustics were wrong and it sounded like more than three people were singing. There is no reason for such a mismatch and I worry that this will be a recurring issue on the show. Case in point: "Take a Bow". There are a number of noticeable breaths in this version of the song -- breaths that the character Rachel is not demonstrating. Again, the audio makes it sound like someone just hit "play" on a CD and told the cast to lip synch as best they can. It is not as bad as Viva Laughlin, but I am still concerned.

    In terms of story, I thought this was a good second pilot for the show. Characters are still being developed and conflicts are starting to get a little fleshed out. I'm still not 100% sold that there is enough meat for a long-running series, but there is certainly potential. My hope is that the show will avoid the trap of ending each episode with a relevant pop song ("Don't Stop Believin'" and "Take a Bow") to wrap up everything in a bow. It smacks of Dawson's Creek and other late 90's teen drama and it seems somewhat cliche at this point.

    What I do hope sticks around is the "mailman in the windshield" metaphor. It would be great if that just pops up in episode nine and the audience is expected to remember what that means.

    Overall, I'm giving this episode a solid B and will keep this on the TiVo for now.

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    Friday, August 28, 2009

    Party

    The other day, for no reason in particular, I was pondering one of the more bizarre aspects of my undergrad days. I lived in a housing co-operative my freshman year where all the students were responsible for cleaning, organizing activities, and basically running things with very little college intervention. Anyway, whenever the subject of house parties came up at house meetings there would be a discussion of logistics before voting on whether or not to have the party.

    Typical logistic issues included the time, whether it is a house or campus party, and what bands we might be able to line up. My favorite topic was if we were going to adopt a "No Asshole" Policy. Basically, don't get so drunk you puke all over the living room, don't drink so much that you cause any fights, and if you bring any friends they need to respect the rules as well. What I love is that we always voted on if we were going to adopt the No Asshole policy. As far as I remember no one lobbied for an "Assholes Only" policy -- and this was at a school where many people use the phrase "just to play devil's advocate..."

    Now for some social hygiene....

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    Tuesday, August 4, 2009

    Producer's Cut

    The documentary is finished. Actually, it's been finished for a few days and we had our screening Monday morning. There are still a few glitches that I would love to take care of, but projects like this will never be 100% finished. I am at least 98% satisfied with this final product. I hope you are, too.

    The video is behind the jump...



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    Thursday, July 30, 2009

    TRF 67%

    It wasn't my intention to ignore this blog, I've just been busy. Oh my GOD how I've been busy. Today marks the end of Week 4 of the six week Boot Camp process here in TRF land. Luckily, what I've been up to since my last post can be presented in visual form.

    For starters, here is my first film project for my production class:



    It won't be screening at Cannes next year but I've learned quite a bit within the process of producing the movie.

    Here are some more items that have kept me busy...









    Plus Andy Griffith, The Beverly Hillbillies and Gomer Pyle USMC.

    I've also been working endlessly on a documentary about the producer of The Smashing Machine. He's a student in the program and we're going bowling in a few minutes. Oh yeah, I was also the subject of a documentary for another group about my 299 game.

    For the rest of the semester (as in the next two weeks) I'll be studying TV history from 1959-1990 and will be part of the production of a movie written by someone in class. I was hoping my script would get picked up but so far no one has expressed interest, but who knows. There are a number of really good projects to choose from so I won't be too disappointed if mine is passed over.

    This weekend: Finish editing the documentary and, if I can accomplish that tomorrow, I get to relax for two whole days.

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    Sunday, July 12, 2009

    This week in TRF

    One of the great things about my program (and there are many) is that there is a lot of visual stuff going on both in and out of class. We've already been given our first assignment where we have to make a 60 second film on the theme of "Life Imitates Art" or vice versa. The video has already been shot and tomorrow I learn how to edit and such. If all goes well I should be able to at least post a silent cut by the end of the week.

    But there are plenty of videos already on YouTube that we've been watching in class. Such as this gem:



    And here are some more......




    On this next one, listen to the lyrics. Even Lil Kim would blush.



    The next ad is for a fridge that can open by tapping it with your elbow. Supposedly.



    Finally, the reason why live advertisements weren't used much after the early 50's.



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    Monday, July 6, 2009

    Touched

    Today was orientation day at Newhouse. I'm so glad the day finally arrived, but from about 6:30 this morning until about 3:45 this afternoon I was nothing but nervous energy. First I had to take the bus to campus, which is fine and super convenient, but since I was only operating at 75% confidence I was rather self conscious through the ride. I ended up getting off the bus earlier than I had planned because I followed some people, but it turned out to be a more convenient stop.

    Then I arrived at Newhouse...


    I showed up about 8:45 and expected to be one of the early arrivals (thanks ObieTime). I was actually one of the last to arrive. This only meant that I had to wait for my nametag and welcome folder and added to the randomization of who would be in my tour group after we took class photos. I ended up in a group with a couple other TRFers, a guy in Media Management, and a broadcast journalist (with the unfortunate BJ acronym). We spent the morning waiting to get our welcome gift, getting turned away when they ran out of the first supply, going to the convocation, then waiting in line again for our gift. This time we weren't turned away and soon all five of us became new owners of iPod Touches.

    I actually did not know much about the Touch since I was not in the market. I am still happy with my 1st gen Shuffle. But this thing is amazing. It is pretty much the iPhone without being a phone. I can check my email, surf the web, and laboriously type out blog entries (probably not a regular thing).

    As we set up the wifi aspects of the pod, I ran into a few of the cohorts I friended through facebook. We scrambled for a quick lunch before the somewhat tedious policy trivia session. After that we had our first TRF session. The nervousness was palpable in the room, but no one had an anxiety attack as near as I could tell.

    Since then I have been home playing with my new toy. There is the faintest wireless connection nearby and I have been using it to my heart's content. I swear this thing is more powerful than my computer. It's so nice to feel connected again.

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    Thursday, July 2, 2009

    New Direction

    This post is coming to you live from Funk & Waffles in Syracuse. There's no internet in my house at the moment which won't be resolved until next week (LAME). Anyway, the move seems to have gone smoothly. Most of my stuff survived and now it is a matter of unpacking and finding my way around campus. This would be easier if:

    1. My iPod didn't need a power boost and I had some sort of soundtrack

    2. I didn't have to make the surprisingly long walk to campus with the brick that is my laptop

    3. I knew where I was going

    People have been surprisingly helpful. If you don't know where you are going in Oberlin, it is your job to ask for directions. On my way from getting my ID (a bad photo, but it actually disguised the sweaty mess that was being photographed) I was trying to get oriented with my map when this one guy just called over asked where I was heading. Once I got to the building he directed me to, I was barely in the door before this lady walked by and asked which office I needed. This helpfulness is going to take some getting used to.

    This weekend I plan on finishing unpacking and just relaxing before orientation starts on Monday. Good luck with that.

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    Thursday, June 25, 2009

    Threes

    Whenever a tragedy happens, usually a celebrity death, there is always someone who will chime in "it always comes in threes." It always bugs me, because it really is a matter of when you start counting. For example, someone on my Twitter list grouped the three of Ed McMahon, Farrah Fawcett, and Michael Jackson. One of these things is not like the other...or the other. Really, aside from the fact that they are eligible for Ghoul Pool points, there isn't all that much that connects them.

    That is not to say I'm not superstitious...


    Let's discuss some of my major events in life, as punctuated by major events.

    After my first week of high school, we had a three-day weekend for labor day. Nothing much happened to me that weekend because I was glued to the TV watching the coverage of Princess Diana's crash scene.

    My second full week of college began on Tuesday, September 11, 2001.

    A couple weeks ago I was wondering what would punctuate my start of grad school. Michael Jackson was not on my radar. I have to wonder how this impact on the world of popular culture will structure the curriculum in the coming months.

    All I can say at this point is...wow.

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    Sunday, May 10, 2009

    Bookie

    I am slowly starting the process of preparing for the move to Syracuse. I'm not actually moving until July, but I know how slow I can be when packing all my earthly belongings and I really would like to avoid the inevitable situation on June 29th where I look around and say "hmm, maybe I should pick up some boxes tomorrow?"

    Right now most things seem easy to condense and move, but I'm not sure what to do with some of my books. Academic books and the fiction will either go with me or get stored at my mom's new place (oh yeah, my mom is getting a new house, woo!) but I have no idea what to do with what I like to call the "expired" books. A Leonard Maltin movie guide from 1995? Course catalogs from Oberlin? A GRE prep book from before the test changed formats? I don't want to just throw them away, but no library is going to want them. Are these sort of things recyclable? And what about the text books that I don't want and can't seem to sell online? I really don't want to continue schleping these things around, but I can't draw the line between discarding books and burning them -- it makes my soul say "ouch".

    Any suggestions?

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    Friday, May 8, 2009

    Play List: Blarney

    I still don't know if I like the song "Poker Face". Theoretically I should -- Lady Gaga seems to be a hybrid of the positive attributes of Christina Aguilera and Britney Spears. The first few times I listened to the song it passed the American Bandstand test ("It's got a good beat and you can dance to it"). I heard the chorus once as a ringtone and it sounded like something I would enjoy, though I couldn't fully distinguish what was being said. Something along the lines of "hee-ba-hi, hee-ba-hi hee-ba-ho-bi-ba-na-de-daadaaa (huminana huminana)". It wasn't until one of the students on my staff included it on a mix CD that I was able to put all the pieces together (and rip the track for my own purposes). Yay, now I can have the song on my Shuffle and get the real translation of "hee-ba-hi".

    And that's where the problem lies...


    With the song playing directly into my ears, I can actually listen to the lyrics and...they're not good. Like, at all. It reminds me of the "poems" that people would write in my high school creative writing class, though to Gaga's credit her metaphors aren't as thoroughly mixed. I realize it is pop music we're talking about here and expectations are low. It's not like this song will be passed to future generations, but the lyrics are so bad that it actually detracts from the listening experience. It's hard to get my dance on when I keep on stopping to say "that's dumb".

    There are plenty of instances of this bizarre phenomenon in pop music. Here are some examples:

    "A Horse with No Name" ~ America

    "There were plants and birds and rocks and things"
    "The heat was hot"

    "MacArthur Park (Abridged)" ~ Donna Summer

    ...yeah.

    "The War Song" ~ Culture Club

    "War, war is stupid / and people are stupid / and love means nothing / in some strange waters." Besides being absolutely insipid, I think this may be a protest in response to the Falkland Islands conflict.

    "Video" ~ India.Arie
    "Keep your Cristal and your pistol / I'd rather have a pretty piece of crystal"

    These songs, with the possible exception of "MacArthur Park", are perfectly serviceable but have the occasional lyric that makes my earholes say "ouch". I have a couple of theories as to the causes of these errors, though it is hard to pinpoint what exactly happened. I can't tell if the songwriter painted him/herself into a corner and didn't want to have to undo an entire section (India.Arie maybe). Or, in America's case, they may have come up with the riff and cadence first and then tried to see what would fit in with whatever story they were trying to tell. A thesaurus might have been handy, but a lack of one didn't stop them. As for Culture Club, this just screams "filler track", though if it was released as a single that might explain why the group dissolved not too much later. Sadly, I think Lady Gaga is expecting people to not pay that much attention, which is fair since it is a great club song -- just keep it off your iPod.

    Are there other songs that you have encountered where one word choice or line makes you cringe, affecting your reception of the song?

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    Wednesday, May 6, 2009

    Idol Rules: October Surprise

    Tamyra Gray. LaToya London. Chris Daughtry. Tonight's elimination is going to add someone to that infamous list of 4th place finishers. What makes this year's fourth place different is that it is going to be epic no matter who ends up getting bounced. Seriously, set your DVR's, VCR's or watch tonight's elimination live, because it will be the most amazing elimination ever...


    Part of my premise is based on the fact that I don't believe we are going to get the inevitable Adam Lambert-Danny Gokey finale that people have been predicting since February. Allison and Kris have proven to be quite capable and deserving of reaching this stage of the competition, and the complacency of the voters is going to shake things up.

    I think the only person truly safe is Adam, since there was the wake-up call provided by his appearance in the bottom three (though not necessarily bottom two) last week. Although I didn't care for either of his performances last night, they were the most universally well-received so he has quite a big safety net. BUT if he does get eliminated, most likely because of complacency, we may see an entire auditorium shit themselves on live TV.

    Eliminating Allison Iraheta will create an interesting scenario. As the last female and contestant-of-color, it's going to annoy quite a large group of viewers. However, based on this week alone, I think her elimination would be the most surprising. Adam and Kris were on the bubble last week. While the individual performances of Allison and Kris were not well received, her duet with Adam did earn her bonus points. I think the consensus would be along the lines of "she didn't deserve to go this week".

    The awesomeness of a Kris Allen elimination will have a delayed effect. Besides being saddled with Gokey and a terrible song choice (Styx, seriously?), he then had to immediately follow up that performance. The cards are not in his favor, although his performance was my favorite of the night. What is interesting is that both Kris and Gokey have been attracting the "cougar" vote, a term that makes my poli-sci heart turn ice cold. I have no idea how valid that particular political cleavage is, but there must be some reason that some went with Danny and some with Kris and I don't see them jumping sides. In other words, if Kris is eliminated this week, I can see there being quite a bit of backlash against Danny next week.

    And then there's Danny. Everything about the performance, from song choice to execution, just blared "Bad Idea". I haven't had an Idol WTF moment like that since that girl crying for Sanjaya during British Invasion week back in Season 6. Based on this week alone, Danny deserves to go home. However, can you imagine the reaction if one of the presumptive finalists is eliminated this early? Best of all, if Danny does get the boot, he has to do "Dream On" as his sing-out. How awesome is THAT going to be?

    What do I think will happen? Kris and Danny will end up on the Seal, but beyond that I'm just not sure. I want Kris to stay (and perhaps win) but I think I may be clinging to a hope that just isn't there.

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    Monday, April 27, 2009

    Play List: Twitter

    It was either Jon Stewart or Joel McHale who this week described Twitter as the Internet's Macarena. That's pretty fair, although I doubt there will be a wedding where everyone decides to start tweeting or a board meeting where everyone starts dancing -- though I'm waiting for someone to prove me wrong. It's an interesting medium that is still in its infancy, but I'm curious to see where it will be six months from now. That is, if it is still relevant.

    The one feature that simultaneously intrigues and concerns me is the "Trending Topics" list on your twitter homepage. This is where you can find ten topics that are featured in a significant number of tweets. On the one hand, it is pretty cool that you get to see what's on the collective consciousness of the users of Twitters (I don't think they're called "Twits", so I'm resisting the urge to name them such). At the same time, I'm not too keen on having the the words of my tweets entered into a Top 100 countdown.

    Anyway, I looked at the list of trending topics at around 9:15pm Sunday and found an interesting list. My challenge: come up with a soundtrack for the Tweet Countdown. The good news: Susan Boyle was not on the list at that moment, so I don't have to encounter that song again.


    Swine Flu





    #therescue

    I had no idea what this topic was about. The use of a hashtag (#) allows other users to show up in searches based on whatever follows the hashtag. In this case, #therescue refers to an organization called Invisible Children that works on trying to stop the fighting in Uganda and DR Congo, particularly child soldiers. I had not heard of any of this before writing this paragraph.



    Amazing Race

    Originally I thought of "Roam" by the B-52's, but I couldn't find a postable video that wasn't muted by Warner Music Group. I think this is an appropriate Plan B.



    Red Sox and Yankees



    Mexico



    Bea Arthur

    Dammit, Warner Music Group. I wanted to post the theme to Maude ("Thank You for Being a Friend" seems a bit sappy to use now) but that is also muted. Rosie to the rescue.



    CDC


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    Thursday, April 23, 2009

    Idol Rules: Top 7 Redux

    Let me share with you a couple of tweets that one of my friends posted during last night's results show:

    way to go america, your entire bottom three is the brown people. i hate you. if allison goes, so do i.

    just because you already voted for one person of color recently doesn't mean you used up your quota!


    I find this response to be somewhat baffling. The underlying assumption here seems to be that the voting public should be considering the demographic balance of the remaining contestants when making their selection. For a show that is a popularity contest disguised as a singing competition I fail to see how last night's results are based exclusively on racism.

    Lil Rounds needed to go home last night. It has been obvious the last few weeks that her passion for this competition has been extinguished and she was just trying to skate by. There are two issues at play here. First, she was put in the (arguably racist) Whitney/Mariah/Mary J. box where she had to be this season's "diva" (an incredibly loaded term). However, I think Lil's ultimate problem was that she is not a pop singer. That is not to say she is not a singer, she just lacks the bravado of a pop star. For example, let's take Josh Groban and ABBA. Josh Groban is a singer, but he isn't really a pop singer -- if he tried to do a cover of "Dancing Queen" it would be a hot mess. Conversely, if ABBA were to phonetically learn "You Raise Me Up" it would probably cause a rash of some sort in your earhole. Both Groban and ABBA have enjoyed success at their ends of the singing spectrum, but Idol is at one end while Lil is at the other.

    Then there is Anoop. His race has nothing to do with why he was eliminated. His odious personality was the cause of his elimination. Performance-wise, he has shown improvement the last couple of weeks yet he kept finding himself in the bottom three. Obnoxiousness outweighs a good performance -- it is a popularity contest, after all. Frankly, I'm a little surprised he lasted this long.

    Allison's appearance in the bottom three was disappointing but not all that surprising. You have five contestants left: Adam, who is probably still the frontrunner; Danny, who is a weakening contender; Kris who is the dark horse of this competition; Matt, whose fanbase was probably working overtime trying to keep him alive due to the save; and Allison who has been middling in the eyes of the electorate. The third person in the B3 last night was going to be Allison or Matt and it will be one of those two who go home next week, so I don't believe her skin color is playing a role in her appearance last night.

    I'm guessing if Matt was in the B3, this post would not be happening. It is unsettling to see the contestants of color on the danger side of the stage, but the reasons they were there had very little to do with their skin tone.

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    Monday, April 20, 2009

    Play List: Eulogy

    Two of the classes that were part of my Religion major were "Issues in Medical Ethics" and "Ethical Issues in Death & Dying" (or, Deathics). One of the topics highlighted in both courses was to make sure your final directives are made clear to your loved ones before you are in the situation where they will come in to play. I think at the time the lesson dealt more with life support issues, organ donation, and cremation versus burial, but the first directive I came up with was music oriented. NO bagpipes, NO "Amazing Grace", NO BAGPIPES PLAYING "AMAZING GRACE".

    Last week I caught this article on Yahoo News about what songs are the most popular at funerals. The study was commissioned by the British company Co-operative Funeralcare and they do this study every couple of years or so. Their findings, which can be found here, are interesting in a dark humor sort of way.

    The top popular song choice was "My Way" by either Frank Sinatra or this version by Shirley Bassey:



    Neither version would be my choice. If I wanted something that theatrical, I would probably go with "The Impossible Dream", though chances are I would avoid any song with such pomp.

    The only song on the top ten that I was not familiar with was Gerry and the Pacemakers' "You'll Never Walk Alone":



    I can see why this one would be popular for this context, but again I wouldn't want something so over the top. Maybe it's my Irish heritage talking, but I think I would want the music to be celebratory rather than making people sadder.

    The alternative, I suppose, would be to go to the "quirky choices" section. My favorite item on that list: The Trammps "Disco Inferno"



    It's a good track, but not quite how I would like to be remembered. It is in the ballpark being an up-tempo dance number, but unless I died in a fire or too much funk it wouldn't be all that relevant.

    Here are three choices I'm tossing around:



    Bjork "New World"



    Stevie Nicks "Landslide"



    Elvis Costello "Everyday I Write the Book"

    I realize it is kind of morbid, but what song or songs would you be considering for this situation? Are there some songs that are totally inappropriate or ones that you think the list overlooked?

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    Sunday, April 19, 2009

    Boyle-ing Point

    This Susan Boyle thing is really starting to creep me out. For those of you who don't know who I am talking about, let me give you a rundown.

    Susan Boyle appeared on the program Britain's Got Talent last week. She sang the song "I Dreamed a Dream" from the show Les Miz. After her performance, the audience was cheering and the judges all gave reviews that led to three "Yes" votes for moving her on to the next phase of the competition. Pretty typical reality show sequence of events, but that doesn't explain why Boyle is being described as an internet sensation. Some other facts to color the scene: Boyle is 47, unemployed, and, in her own words, lives with a cat and has never been kissed.

    And then she broke the interwebs.

    The consensus is that Boyle gave a good performance on the show. Many would say excellent and I have yet to see a review that called it anything less than good, so let's go with the less extreme opinion. However, that's where the joy ends. Many of the blogs that I subscribe to have shared their positive opinions on the Susan Boyle Experience and have since been inundated with flame wars about the varying degrees of opinions and the application of semantics.

    People have taken offense at Boyle being referred to as "older". 47 is older than me, so I would describe her as older. But those in their 50's, who do not consider themselves "older", have expressed contempt for that term being applied to someone younger than them. There's "older" used as an adjective of comparison, which seems to be the more common usage in this case, and "older" used as a pejorative adjective which I don't think has been the intention of any use of the term.

    The other issue that has come up is physical nature of Ms. Boyle. She is not ugly, she is not glamorously beautiful, she is just...average. I don't have any of her measurements, but she appears to be average in just about every dimension. If anything, she is the human manifestation of beige. This has created intense debate about lookism, particularly in the realm of talent based reality television. It is an interesting conversation topic, but the vitriol is getting a bit much.

    There's nothing that bothers me about Susan Boyle personally. Her performance is a joy to behold, which also seems to be part of the general consensus. If anything, the presentation is a bit overwrought, but that is a fault of production and outside of her control. However, all this joy is eradicated as soon as people have shared their reactions on the web. Civility is beginning to go to the wayside because one person's joy does not necessarily synch up with another.

    What I'm taking from the clip is that extraordinary talent should be celebrated, regardless of the source. Why does that celebration need to be shouted down by other celebrators?

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    Thursday, April 16, 2009

    RGT: Eggshells

    I've not been in the best of moods recently. This is what came up when I put "rube goldberg grumpy" in the YouTube search box. You may want to watch with the sound muted if you're at work.

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    Wednesday, April 15, 2009

    Idol Rules: Top 7

    I've been skipping out on the last couple of weeks of this section of the blog mainly because there wasn't too much to write about. Megan Joy and Scott MacIntyre were on borrowed time and the themes weren't that interesting either (songs that are available on iTunes and songs from the year you were born).

    This week, however, SUCKED so there should be plenty to write about. Spoilers abound, so if you are still unaware of tonight's results read at your own risk.

    Top 7 week revolves around the theme of fatigue. For the contestants, this is their 7th competitive week. That's seven weeks of rehearsals, 6 Ford commercials, countless interviews and public appearances, as well as being sequestered with the same dozen people the entire time. On the flipside, the audience is getting pretty fatigued as well. The show has been on twice a week since mid-January with over 48 hours of programming so far. That's 2 days worth of Coca-Cola product placement, off-key auditions, and Tatiana. It has taken 6 weeks to get rid of all the dead weight on the show and it is now reaching the point where a quadruple elimination sounds like a good idea.

    The show tends to compound the fatigue by having the top 7 theme be something incredibly tedious. In the past it has been Billy Joel (season 2), Barry Manilow (season 3), the Great American Songbook (season 5) and this week's theme of movie soundtracks. Granted, this week's theme is pretty vague yet we end up with 6 ballads, two of which are attributed to Bryan Adams. The group sing this week was "Maniac", which would have been awesome if someone, anyone, had performed that on Tuesday. Instead, it was one snoozer after another with Adam Lambert being the only high energy performance. Then, because the show refuses to invest in a stopwatch, only two judges would critique each performance. This could have worked if Simon critiqued all the performances and they rotated who the second judge was. Instead, Paula and Simon critiqued the odd number performances while Kara and Randy flapped their gums for the even number performances. And the show still ran over. Way to go.

    There is one thing to look forward to with the Top 7 elimination: Solomon. Two groups of three would be formed on stage. The last ungrouped contestant would then be asked to join which group s/he thought was safe. Yes, it's manufactured drama, but depending on who the show made Solomon could make things interesting. I could see Danny or Anoop being totally assy about the whole thing while Matt or Kris would likely be devastated. The last couple of seasons Melinda Doolittle and David Archuleta were the Solomons and they refused to make a choice. Maybe that's what the show was trying to avoid by not doing Solomon this year. Thanks, show.

    This week's bottom three were Anoop, Matt and Lil. It should be noted that the two guys were evaluated by Randy and Kara. It was then revealed that Matt was on the block this week. He might be next week also because the judges decided to save him. In other words, this tedious week was pointless. Not cool show. Also, we're going to be stuck with a Top 5 situation which always makes the show awkward.

    But that's a couple weeks away. Next week is disco which could go really well or really badly.

    Read More......

    Monday, April 13, 2009

    Play List: Counterpoint

    There were two internet destinations that figured prominently in my freshman year of college: Art of the Mix and Audiogalaxy. The former allowed me to share with others the carefully crafted mix tapes I devised during my high school years while the latter allowed me to build a rather extensive mp3 collection for future mixes.

    Nowadays, I find mixing to be somewhat uninspired because there are fewer limitations. I didn't get a CD burner until twelfth grade, so all of mixes up to that point were actual mix tapes. Mix construction at that time required extensive planning. First you pick a theme and then select songs related to that theme. After repeatedly listening to specific tracks, you narrow down your list and create a dossier that included the length of each track. Once you narrow down your list to 12-15 tracks, you have to create a flow from one track to the next. It could be a drum beat, a choice of tempo, some connective fiber linking one song to the next. However, with a tape you are limited to either 30 or 45 minutes to a side, so you need to structure your tracks so that connections can flow without a tape flip cutting into the middle of a track or having over two minutes of silence. I probably went through a ream of paper in high school just from adding up the total minutes of a proposed list -- but it was worth it.

    CD Burning adjusted those limitations. Instead you could have up to 80 minutes of continuous music expounding on a theme of your choosing. Arranging flow was also easier as shuffling tracks just involved a click and a drag instead of swapping CDs and skip-searching track numbers. Also, with services like Audiogalazy and Kazaa, if there was a song that you needed to complete your thesis it was only a short download away. There is a distinct disadvantage to the switch from tape to CD: If you want to present a point/counterpoint type mix (such as God/Devil), you don't have the flipping of a tape to facilitate that transition of thought.

    Modern music technology has made this process almost impossible. A playlist, as Nick and Norah have shown us, can be infinite. Synthesizing an idea is no longer necessary because there is no technologically forced limitation. I still use my first generation iPod Shuffle on a daily basis, but 8.5 hours is way too much when conveying an idea, particularly if you want to present a dichotomy.

    A playlist idea that I have been batting around revolves around the idea of Point/Counterpoint, Rebuttal/Response, A-Side/B-Side. Since my music library has exploded in the last few years, I feel like I have missed music based discussions between tracks that may not have realized they were in conversation with one another. I feel the list is incomplete, partly because my library will always be incomplete, partly because sometimes I will only make the connection if the right synapses fire at the right time. Here is my list so far:

  • "The Way I Are" Timbaland /
    "My Love Don't Cost a Thing" Jennifer Lopez

  • "My Humps" Black Eyed Peas /
    "Thong Song" Sisqo

  • "Shut Up and Drive" Rihanna /
    "Little Red Corvette" Prince

  • "Lovestoned/I Think That She Knows" Justin Timberlake /
    "Layla" Derek and the Dominos

  • "Southern Man" Neil Young /
    "Sweet Home Alabama" Lynyrd Skynyrd


  • That last item would probably get cut in the final draft, since the rebuttal is explicit in the latter song, but hopefully you get the idea. As you can see it is a rather short list and not enough for even a cassette.

    What songs do you think would work for a mix like this?

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    Friday, April 10, 2009

    Anti

    For the most part, I'm ambivalent about the gay marriage issue. Some might consider this surprising since I am part of the dudes-kissing-dudes coalition, but I think there are more important issues that the gay rights movement needs to address. Such as being able to walk down the street without fear of getting jumped or preventing discrimination in housing and employment. To me, fighting for gay marriage is like trying to put the roof on the house before building the walls.

    Then today in my Google Reader I get this tidbit from the folks over at AdFreak:



    Let's parse, shall we?

    "There's a storm gathering, the clouds are dark and the winds are strong, and I am afraid."

    I sincerely appreciate the honesty in this statement. The motivation, as this ad presents it, is fear. Is it fear of change? Fear of others? Fear of accepting differences? I do find "I am afraid" to be a more convincing argument that "um...because" or "Leviticus says so".

    "Some who advocate for same-sex marriage have taken the issue far beyond same-sex couples. They want to bring the issue into my life. My freedom will be taken away."

    This is where things get murky. I'm not entirely sure what they are referring to here.

    "I'm a California doctor who must choose between my faith and my job."

    I'm not sure what sort of medical decisions would be affected by gay marriage. Usually when I hear about conflicts of faith and medicine they involve either abortion, fertility, or right-to-die situations. I don't have any hard statistics, but I think it is safe to say that the abortion rates for same-sex couples is incredibly low. What about fertility doctors? I question where the a doctor in this situation has drawn the line between acceptable and unacceptable in determining who should benefit from in vitro. I suppose the difference lies in whether the egg and sperm donors are from the same parental couple, but then all of the heterosexual women who want to be single moms who are using sperm donations would also fall into this category. The only plausible possibility I can think of would be medical decisions. If a doctor believes that medical decisions can only be made by a heterosexual life partner, then next-of-kin and legal guardianships could not be used as a means of making those decisions. If there is some area of medicine that I am missing here, please let me know because I fail to see the problem here.

    "I'm part of a New Jersey church group punished by the government because we can't support same-sex marriage."

    I had to look this up and was pleased with what I found. This group is being "punished" because this particular church owns a property that a lesbian couple wanted to rent to host their civil union and the church's refusal violated New Jersey's public accommodation laws. The Church (as in, the Methodist faith) is not being punished, just this individual church that didn't want to play by the rules. Of course, it is difficult to hear the distinction between church (little 'c') and Church (big 'C').

    "I am a Massachusetts parent helplessly watching public schools teach my son that gay marriage is okay."

    You can check out the Massachusetts public school curriculum. I recommend the History and Social Science listing, particularly if you are a History/Government dork like me. From what I could tell, the state is not requiring a close reading of Goodrich v. Department of Public Health. Perhaps instead of being helpless, why don't you talk to the teacher, principal, or school board if you feel like the class is getting too far off-track from the curriculum?

    "But some who advocate for same-sex marriage have not been content with same-sex couples living as they wish. Those advocates want to change the way I live. I will have no choice. The storm...is coming."

    What? I don't see how Bert and Ernie living together with a contract indicating their promise to each other till death do they part really has any affect on my or your day-to-day life. The same goes for Bob and Carol getting hitched or Ted and Alice getting all official.

    "But we have hope. A rainbow coalition of people of every creed and color who are coming together in love to protect marriage."

    I'm so glad the national game of Smear the Queer does not discriminate on who gets to play. Seriously?

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    Thursday, April 9, 2009

    Rube Goldberg Thursday: Election

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    Monday, April 6, 2009

    Play List: 80's One Hit Wonders

    Last week VH1 added to their list of lists with the 100 Greatest One Hit Wonders of the 80's. This is my cocaine and I was giddy all Friday. I am not embarrassed by this, but now that I've come down from the high it's time to look at the list.

    This is not going to be a critique of all 100 items because I'm not insane. But as with any of these lists there are 5 reactions: "Right on", "I hate that song", "That's too high on the list", "That's too low", and "Wow! They included that one!" Let's go through the highlights, lowlights, and alrights(!).

    #95 - Midnight Oil "Beds Are Burning"



    Status: Too Low


    It took me until hour three of this countdown to realize that this isn't the top 100 one-hit wonder videos. Although the video, if there was one associated with a given song, may have factored into a voter's opinion it most likely was not a deciding factor. Ubiquity seemed to be a dominant factor, particularly as you get higher in the list. Even though this is a really awesome song, Australian aboriginal land rights was not the most ubiquitous topic in 1989 from what I recall. Although I can see how the sound of the lead singer's voice might be a turn off for some, I still think this should rank a little bit higher. At least it should rank higher than the next entry...



    #89 - Rodney Dangerfield "Rappin' Rodney"



    Status: Too High


    Don't get me wrong: I like Rodney Dangerfield. I think Back to School is an underrated film. But there are no redeeming qualities to this "song" or video. This is one of a small handful of novelty songs that also made the countdown, yet the "Super Bowl Shuffle" did not make the cut. Maybe the 1985 Chicago Bears had a rock anthem or ballad that also charted that I'm not aware of. Regardless, the fact that this track made it as far up as 89 is a real disappointment. Also: why is he being executed?

    #72 - Swing Out Sister "Breakout"



    Status: Yay!/Too Low


    I LOVE this song and video. It was a favorite growing up and one that I had forgotten from time to time only to experience great joy whenever I rediscovered it. My first rediscovery was in high school at the library I worked at. Someone had returned a 20th Century Masters: Swing Out Sister CD, causing me to question the legitimacy of that particular CD series (I didn't know SOS was ginormous in Japan). My most recent rediscovery was a couple years ago shortly after rediscovering New Order and following iTunes' suggestions. This track has since become a staple on my iPod.

    #62 - XTC "Dear God"



    Status: Yay!


    This is an amazing track. Back in my high school sociology class we had an assignment where we had to pick a song that talked about a social issue, write a couple of paragraphs about the issue, bring in a copy of the lyrics, and bring either the song or video for the class to partake. I had recently acquired this video from MTV2 and thought it was a perfect match for class. This was just one of a number of projects I did in twelfth grade that was met with stunned silence by my peers. You are probably not going to hear this on American Idol and the lines "the father, son and holy ghost/is just somebody's unholy hoax" are pretty incendiary (though awesomely constructed). The only issue I have is that XTC did have a minor hit with "The Mayor of Simpleton", but I guess it was so minor that VH1 let it slide.

    #58 - Don Johnson "Heartbeat"



    Status: WAY Too High


    BOO! I can't believe this outranked "Rappin' Rodney", let alone almost half the list. There is nothing redeeming about this song or video. The only time I think it was ever enjoyable was during the MTV special 25 Lame, where Jon Stewart, Denis Leary, Janeane Garofalo and Chris Kattan (one of these things is not like the other...) were snarking as the video played. By the way, if you are ever able to catch that special or find it archived anywhere, it is a joyous two hours.

    #50 - Neneh Cherry "Buffalo Stance"



    Status: Yay! / Right on!


    This is another song/video that I absolutely love. I remember my sister Kathy really liking this song and every time it came on we had our own 4 minute dance party in the living room. I was only 6 at the time and didn't really grasp the concept of prostitution, but I know a jam when I hear one. This was another "joy of rediscovery" track. It must have been a good fifteen years since I last heard this song, but the first time I heard the album Arular by M.I.A. my immediate reaction was "she reminds me of Neneh Cherry." This song is another iPod staple.

    #34 - The Waitresses "I Know What Boys Like"

    Status: Too High


    I think the fact that this video is not available on YouTube gives some sort of indication that this song is not all that popular. I'm just not a fan of new wave punk (as opposed to new wave pop) and this is one of the only new wave punk entries in the entire countdown. I think this line from the song sums it up best: "nyah nyah nyah nyah nyah / nyah nyah nyah nyah nyah". Seriously.

    #27 - Stacey Q "Two of Hearts"



    Status: Right on!


    Don't laugh, but I think this song was a bit ahead of its time. The video is incredibly dated, which I think is what caused me to remember it as being catchy but not all that special back in 1986 (even at the age of 3 I could be a harsh critic). It wasn't until the summer of 2004 when my friend Brad had me take a listen to his cover of the song that I realized how intricate the song was in its simplicity. The song has a clear message, an awesome hook, and Stacey Q sounds amazing. I might even go so far as to call it the "Superstition" of the Synth-pop generation. I'm totally sincere in that assessment.

    #19 - Dead or Alive "You Spin Me Round (Like a Record)"



    Status: Too Low / Right on!


    This song's placement baffles me somewhat. I realize that with the top 20 the list enters into "iconic" territory and different icons carry different weights. Taking a look at the list there are some significant heavyweights, though Animotion's high placement is a bit surprising. I think this is a case where the video does come into play, as "Obsession" is much better served by its video than this song is.

    Of course, looking at the Top 10 it is nothing but heavyweights. Here is how I would rank them (VH1's ranking in parentheses):

  • 10. Kajagoogoo "Too Shy" (9)

  • 9. Frankie Goes to Hollywood "Relax" (10)

  • 8. Tommy Tutone "867-5309/Jenny" (4)

  • 7. Bow Wow Wow "I Want Candy" (8)

  • 6. Flock of Seagulls "I Ran (So Far Away)" (2)

  • 5. Dexy's Midnight Runners "Come on Eileen" (1)

  • 4. Toni Basil "Mickey" (6)

  • 3. Soft Cell "Tainted Love" (5)

  • 2. Modern English "Melt With You" (7)


  • And number 1 (or 3, according to VH1):



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