Saturday, August 28, 2010

What to do with Glen Beck

Charles Blow had the most intelligent comment about Glen Beck's rally to restore American honor. In his column, he suggests that instead of getting angry about the obtusive nature of Glen Beck and his rallys, we should go back and listen to Dr. King's speech and reflect on Dr. King's message. I think that makes sense. You can't win an argument with Glen Beck with reason, logic, or facts, but I think the truth that is evident in Dr. King's speech might work.

I'd also recommend reading his letter from the Birmingham jail. And, one last thing that I think is important to remember when reflecting on these things is that they happened in 1963. Brown v. Board of Education had come down in 1954 saying that segregation was unconstitutional. Almost ten years later, Dr. King was fighting these illegal laws.

So, I agree with Charles Blow and I encourage you to share Dr. King's speech and letter with anyone who's interested in Glen Beck.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Clash of the Titans

I rented the new Clash of the Titans. I'm somehow amazed at how bad it was, even though everyone had warned me before I saw it that it was bad. It was terrible. And, I understand that some of the problems were that it was filmed in 2D and the conversion to 3D blah blah blah.

No, that's not my problem. My problem is that basically the screenwriters took huge liberties and made fundamental changes to the basic story. And those changes sucked. So, I was thinking "These writers must be awesome, because the myth of Perseus has only been a crowd pleaser since about forever ago. It's only been retold since before there was Jesus." And I started seriously wondering how old the myth of Perseus was. And it looks like it's pretty old. I looked around wikipedia and the web and the myths were be depicted in artwork around 900 B.C.E. It must have been in the oral tradition for a while before that. So, conservatively, this has been retold from generation to generation, painted from one pot and copied to another, transcribed onto vellum and then copied onto more vellum, etc. for around for 3,000 years and it has successfully entertained people. It's got your pathos, ethos, catharsis, and all the other terms I learned in Comp 101.

Well then, how about the writers of the new movie? They must have some real chops. They must transcend generations with their story telling prowess. They must forge masterworks of true genius from mere ink and paper to think that they could improve on such a classic story. Did they adapt Gone With The Wind? Citizen Kane, perhaps? Or maybe even one of the good Indiana Jones movies?

No. They wrote Tuxedo and some movies that don't have pictures on IMDB. You remember, Tuxedo, where Jackie Chan gets a magic tuxedo and does kung fu and stunts. Obviously a classic. According to IMDB it won two blimp awards (that's an award that Nickelodeon gives out, so sayeth the google). Certainly it's a tale that will be told 3,000 years from now on cybernetic holo synth linkups or whatever medium they're using in the future. So, with your wealth of expertise, go ahead. Rearrange Perseus's family tree. Add a new pointless character. Change his love interest, the entire kingdom of Mycenae won't mind. It'll just spontaneously generate or something since you split up its parents.


Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Sigue Sigue Sputnik vs. Devo

I'm a fan of Sigue Sigue Sputnik. I don't think there's a whole bunch of us out there, but there are enough. I was pleased that the Kinky Wizards in High Fidelity were caught shoplifting a copy of Flaunt It. I think every new band or musician should listen to Flaunt It. Sigue Sigue Sputnik's contributions to modern music have been overlooked because they were over the top and cartoonish. But one place their influence really pops up is in Devo's new record, Something for Everybody. Devo, even though they predate, clearly influenced, and, to an extent, preconceptualized SSS's schtick, borrowed from SSS's example in promoting their new album.

If you're unfamiliar with Sigue Sigue Sputnik you can read the wikipedia article above or check out their official page. But it boils down to Tony James from Generation X being kind of ticked off and looking to form a new band after Billy Idol ditched the group to go off on his own for big money. Looking at the examples of people like Malcolm McLaren and seeing that the music industry was basically a big shake down, Tony James decided to take it to nth degree. Tony was able to use hype to start a bidding war between the labels that were trying to sign the band. He got the band a big advance from EMI and then auctioned off advertising in the album itself. One song promotes Atari and Vidal Sassoon commercials pop up throughout the record. It was a nice statement about the commercialization of the industry and the art. They frequently refer to themselves as a corporation and prophesize a distopian monopolized future. They released a second record that didn't do very well, and in my opinion they shouldn't have. They were a one trick pony. But the important lesson was that the music industry has nothing to do with art, it's just a money making venture that hides behind claims of creating art, etc. We all clearly see that no one is promoting Justin Beiber because they believe in his artistic vision. They promote him because they can sell overpriced t shirts to tween girls.

Sigue Sigue Sputnik made their point in an artistic, ironic, and compelling way. And the music on Flaunt It was engaging, even though commercials for hair product popped up in between songs. Conceptually it was great, and important.

I got the new Devo record, Something For Everybody, about a month ago and I'm very happy with it. It is a logical follow up to The New Traditionalists and has none of the self indulgent "we're just here for your money" that other recent come back records(cough cough The Weirdness cough) have had.

I participated in a lot of the run up hype to the record. You can still see some of it at Devo's website. What I found interesting about Devo's marketing is how much more it relies on Sigue Sigue Sputnik's distopia than Devo's own. Instead of focusing on the devolution of the species, incessantly mired in some form of World War III waged by the dumbing down and monetization of culture, the new record comes from the point of view that that has happened. We are not fighting some post Reagen society of devolved conservatism. It's here. Most people in their early thirties, late twenties, think adbusters is kind of tired and Noam Chomsky is passe. It's over, we lost, now pay up.

So there are goofy surveys, "focus groups", etc. to create a meme of consumer participation, that is real, but is also poking fun at the lack of actual choice or real options available to people who have devolved beyond the point where they can make any meaningful choices. Does it really matter that people responded more positively to blue power domes than red ones? But they'll let you click your mouse and voila, blue power domes. You, the consumer, win!

Devo now seems to be saying, "The way we are marketed to is hoky crap, and you put up with it." The corporations have won. There is no longer a way to fight back against the corporate co-opting of culture. And so they're poking fun of it. The world/market they're now operating in is post devolutionary. It's the world of Sigue Sigue Sputnik and all that's left is to give you a wink and nudge while they market to you. It's a world where they run through the procedures of the governing corporate structure to create "art" for the youth market.

It's fascinating to me. Here's the video for the single, Fresh, off of Something for Everybody.