lovehate: Hole in the Wall

Are you kidding me!?!

I thought I could spend a nice relaxing day watching some football with friends. This outside of the fact that I thought the new HD box I'd picked up from my cable provider would work... and then I found myself watching standard def. football all day. But sometime around the middle of the afternoon things took a turn.

While I'm generally okay with internet memes that flash for one brief shining moment like an old Kodak photocube bulb, the concept of "here and gone" rarely applies to television as they seem to descend to ever deeper levels until, I believe, the groundwater will eventually seep in and drown us all.

I can live with the fact that "I can has cheezburger" exists and that a year from now it will be as dead as "All your base are belong to us". I can live with Rickrolling and any other thing the web throws at me because I know the shelf life is limited at best.

I have always hated reality television. While I appreciate the economic attractiveness on behalf of the networks and slapstick or soap opera qualities that draw in the the audience looking to forget about their daily troubles by entrenching themselves in soma-induced splendour. While I've always hoped for the death of reality TV before it had drawn down the collective mindset of society to an unrecoverable level, I will now pronounce that the genre has bottomed out.

Fox TV (shock me, shock me, shock me) has announced the Series Premiere (and I hope Finale) of Hole in The Wall where, from all accounts people try to skillfully twist and contort their bodies through... wait for it... holes in walls.

I remember when I first saw the film trailer for Stomp the Yard that I was convinced it was a joke, a parody, a satire... anything but a real film. I was shocked when the trailer of Tommy Lee Jones' Man of the House turned out to be an actual theatrical release.

I've always thought that committees or boards have the distinct ability to take great ideas and water them down to where the original concept is all but unrecognizable. While we may have to suffer this aspect of the collective mindset, there should be a positive reason for them to exist - Hole in The Wall is this reason. That not only one person, but an entire programming group thought this worthy of television is a damning indictment of what TV execs think of us.

I'm posting this before watching Hole in the Wall. I know I'm being harsh in assuming this may very well be the worst show of all-time. And I'm cursing the Fox TV decision makers for letting Japan's gameshow idiocy to make it this far. Shows that are silly - fine. Shows that are goofy - okay. Shows that insult my intelligence by concept alone... all in all we are all just holes in the wall.

(edit: not to be one to criticize without at least an attempt to watch this show, I did sit through four minutes last night... the doctor says my eyesight should return within 48 hours.)

hole in the wall

thinglets: free association

Syncopated like a badger in a nut tree, rating ciphers under glass, siphon gas, cruising on the overpass 'til the exit said Murfreesboro and the cigarette lighter popped, dropped the needle on the record, stopped the sticking of my clock.

Scattered like melted cheese dripped askew across inspiral carpets fretting, twitched anticipation whetted by a languid frenzy. Call obtrusive, thought elusive, stolen freakout in the queue. Crazy, busted at the carpark, interrupted me and you. Muttering murder, wounded drifter stalked the cement Buick's tomb, incarcerated, demarcated, escalated crying, jerking, fired egg on the sidewalk.

This is your brain on rugs that stretch across the concrete tumblers locked and found a discrete holding pattern folding Saturn crumpled under Kenworth fenders: chrome and bone and grenadine blended. Scrambled fighter lone formation, lost asthmatic on vacation with a will to veneration catered to adoring nation.

Folded cynicism in a ball rolling down the skeptic's hall, tipped a vase and spilled a rose and from the petals vision froze upon the place where we first met, a carousel, a trapeze net, a cotton candy hurricane enduring cosmic weather vane. You fell asleep upon dawn's break with cupid's grin and repear's rake. Upon the bluff where makers mark the set up for the broken heart.

brain

thinglets: Monster Madlib - InterEx, Mozilla, Safari & Chrome

The story as told through the plot of Ghidorah, the Three-Headed Monster...

In 2008, a Googlygirl with a small California mountain view, possessed by the spirit of a Yahooan, escaped a bubble just as it exploded. As this happens a meteorite falls from the sky containing InterEx, the monster responsible for her planet's destruction. At the same time, Mozilla and Safari emerge from hibernation and not only attack Webia, but each other as well. Chrome, along with her twin priestesses, attempt to convince Mozilla and Safari to stop fighting each other and to team up to fight the InterEx monster. At the same time, the Googlygirl is being hunted by a group of assassins who want to Cuil her so that her enemies can take over her homeland. Then, just when the only living assassin is about to kill the GooglygirlInterEx crushes him by knocking over a pile of boulders on him. Mozilla, Safari, and Chrome finally drive InterEx off. The movie ends with the Googlygirl going back to her home land and Mozilla and Safari watching Chrome swim back to Mountain View

Ghidorah

lovehate: Songs feat.

I don't think it's just the nostalgia in me that remembers a time when an artist or band wrote a song and performed it... on their own!

Is it really necessary that fourteen out of the top fifty hits on the Billboard Top 100 are songs that could not be performed by artists on their own but needed someone else to pump the sales? I have to blame the trend squarely on the Rap genre, because when you jump to the Rap Top Ten a full 70% of the list contains featured add-ons. You see, it's not that I don't enjoy rap, hip-hop or however many different sub-genres one wants to break it down into. I'm being a stickler on language here and I realize it. It's strictly a semantic issue for me because my formative years were spent listening to music where an ampersand accompanied any collaboration between musicians and, in such cases, there was an assumed equity between them instead of the inevitable leeching quality that most feat. formations currently have. I suppose one can trace the problem back to the historic Run DMC featuring Steve Tyler and Joe Perry rendition of Walk This Way. While the walk seemed to be slow at first, now it seems rap labels and producers (I'm not blaming the artists here) are afraid to let any performer walk alone.

Let's at least acknowledge the fact, for the most part, the "feat." tag is used in one of two ways. First, largely unknown artist uses very well-known artist to pump their song by letting them spit out thirty seconds worth of bridge verbage. Of course the established artist is invariably producing the neophyte's CD or owes the producer something. Second, well-established artist throws a bone to a young up-and-comer (which he or she is invariably producing). In either case the concept of "buy-in" to an artist's performance suffers largely when every minute I'm wondering "who the hell is that guy?" Three to four years ago the answer, without fail, was L'il Jon. Two years ago the answer, again without fail, was Timbaland. Last year I was too disgusted after watching Jay-Z's thirty second introductory pimp job of Rihanna's "Umbrella" to keep track. This year Lil Wayne seems to want to cash in on every second of cross promotion available.

I'll be the first to admit, I don't keep up on all of the current names and faces in rap. The gangsta movement, quite frankly, bored me to tears soon after NWA called it quits. It's no surprise then that other than their infamous Oscar win, I'm not really familiar with Three 6 Mafia. And while I'm sure they're a bunch of well-intentioned artists with no more or less integrity than any other group slogging away at making a living in a brutal business, was it really necessary for DJ Paul and Juicy J to include a roster of accompanyists on their current single that's larger that the Three 6 Mafia itself? Do I need really need the talents of Project Pat, Young D & Superpower to deliver a socially-conscious message like:

They call me the juice when I'm at the strip club uh uh uh uh
I front, then I hundred on dub uh uh uh uh
In the mack, to a player I'mma stun uh uh uh
Cause when I leave the club, I'mma **** uh uh uh

Later in the track they do throw a shout out to Barack Obama though... major pundit props there!

In fact, thirteen of the twenty songs on their latest CD feature someone else or, in many cases, an entire roster of relative unknowns (rap afficanados, don't get your shorts in a knot because the world doesn't know the artistic output of UGK's Bun B and the late Pimp C - although it's a shame, because if Pimp C had stuck around I'm sure we could've got F'n A and Vitamin D to hook up with B and C to form the AlphaBitz Cru). My favorite roster includes the Three 6 duo (feat. Project Pat, Spanish Fly, Al Kapone, Eightball & MJG) on First 48.

Is it any wonder I've lost my step in keeping up with the genre. Keith Urban obviously doesn't need any help on the Country charts when waxing poetic with "You Look Good in My Shirt". The Pussycat Dolls certainly don't need help on "When I Grow Up" on the Pop charts, but, then again, it's hard to find an artist that will do the gig without a body condom. And Slipknot just plain weirded the shit out of any potential collaborator on the Rock chart.

I'm not saying don't collaborate. I love the concept of artistic collaboration. Musically, there's nothing cooler than being at a show and having a surprise guest come out to join the band that you love. I remember loving the fact Snow came out during a Ben Folds Five show I was at. I hadn't heard of Snow in a decade and yet there he was kickin' out "Informer" with Ben and the boys. I thought the Anthrax/Public Enemy mashup was a great pairing. Hell, I even dug Ray Charles and Billy Joel chillin' during My Baby Grand. But these moments are special because they're unexpected and unique. I get the feeling rap has become the Boggle of the music industry - give it a shake and see what line-up we can put together. If you're going to work with someone, then truly work with them. I'm sick and tired of seeing performers parachuted in for their own version of the song's commercial break. Producers, cut young artists some slack and let them fly solo.

Hell, what does this say about the ever-expanding ourobouros of podcasters who feature each other endlessly... well, I'll find someone else to add their 50 cents in another time.

boggle

lovehate: lists

As I was cruising my way through elementary education, my school, as most, had a monthly "book club" whereby a flyer was given to each student to take home and parents would then be pressured to buy a book or two for their child. Let's preclude an incoming argument by immediately saying that it's never a bad thing for a parent to buy books for their kids, but what I didn't realize, until long after, was the manipulation going on. The school was taking a cut on the backs of every book ordered and, to make it worse, the sales force behind pushing students to buy at least a book a month. It begs a larger question about fundraising for public education which I don't want to get into now, but, simply, for a school board to advertise and sell books to students to better their bottom line is disgraceful. Moral issues aside, perhaps the most anticipated publication that my friends and I scoured the order forms for, year after year, was the Book of Lists.

For some reason, there was a small group of us at least that loved to digest compartmentalized information under a simple heading and then debate, argue, and add our two cents worth. The Book of Lists contained relatively generic pop culture minutae like "Top Ten Bands with Two or More Guitarists" or "Top Science Fiction Films". All innocuous, but engrossing enough for a budding media cynic like myself to sink my teeth into. Many years later I find that not much has changed in terms of the attraction of lists. I do, however, with a much more critical (and cynical) eye examine not only the context of many lists, but often the motivation for the list itself.

Let's face it, lists are value statements, and the more generic the title at the top of the list, the more contentious and swirling the banter around the "accuracy" or "efficacy" of the contents. But I've, of course, left out the best part. The contention does not arise, for the most part, from unranked lists. [On the flipside the more specific the title, the less widespread contention, but likely the more intense debate among topic afficionados. If I put out a list called "Top Ten Debian Distros", 99.99% of the world won't give a damn, but the people who do will fight bitterly.]  If, back in January 2008, I published an unranked list titled "Candidates for President of the United States", and listed John McCain, Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama, and Mitt Romney, not many people would have said much other than, "Congratulations! you watched CNN for five minutes." I could really stir up several people, however, if I reworked the list to say:

"Best Candidates for President of the United States"

1) John McCain
2) Mitt Romney
3) Hillary Clinton
4) Barack Obama

But where does the antagonism come from? A great deal of it certainly comes from disagreement, but that feeling gets intensified when a level of trust or respect is given to author of the list. If TIME magazine puts out a list that you disagree with, and you're a devoted reader of the publication, odds are you'

ll be far more upset that their values aren't reflected in yours. Much of the impact, however, comes from the surprise. No one bats an eye if someone on Fox News claims a Republican candidate would make the best president, but if they ever advanced the reverse position, sparks would fly.

The web is rife with lists of all kinds and it's often semantics that will turn a passing read of interest into a halting thought of "are you kidding?" If I put the word "my" before any list I publish, some people will read with interest, all will disagree with some aspect, and all will move on their marry way to the next thing. If I remove that subjective qualifier, things take a turn.

Consider the following titles for lists and think about which ones you'll be most ready to argue over with a friend or anonymous author:

My Favorite Bands
The Best Bands in the World
The Best Musicians in the World
Most Over-Rated Bands
Bands that Suck

If I'm pumping out any of these lists, no one's really going to care too much except maybe start to think of me as a more pompous than they do already. If a journalist for Rolling Stone, Spin, or Vibe puts out this list, more people start to react and take offense (let's face it, we're generally very defensive about our music preferences). If one of your favorite artists puts out a list that slams other artists you like, you notice. If an artist you've never liked before all of the sudden has a list that's almost identical to yours, you sit up and notice as well.

It almost always comes down to authority, and how much of it you grant the author. There are some times when I can genuinely say that I'm proud to have disagreed with a list completely. If Paris Hilton put out a list of "Bands That Suck", I think I would find some solace in my favorite bands occupying every spot.

And the value judgement that is implicit in a favorite band is no different than for a writer, a politician or a religion. Our lives are made up of choices based on subjective opinion that can often be maddeningly justified, or, even more infuriating, not justified at all. How many of us have had this discussion with a friend or family member?

"What could you like about this song?"

"I don't know. I just like it."

"I mean, don't you find the lyrics disturbing?"

"Oh, I don't listen to the lyrics. I just like the beat."

Our lives are based on lists. We itemize, rationalize, prioritize not only based on what we like, but sometimes even on what we think we should like. Lists can be halting and infuriating but they have an intrinsic value that is palpable. They are the quickest way to allow us to re-examine our values and beliefs. Such is the vanguard of learning. How many of us have gained through a friend's recommendation or even suggestions from online streaming music providers: "You said you liked this - you might like this too!" As much as differing forms of the list are often the greatest cause of conflict in society (try shouting out that my religion or politics are "better" than yours) we could not live without them. So while I often hate the results that come from lists, I love the lists themselves.