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Archive for November, 2010

Changing channels

Watching TV yesterday reminded me of one of my brilliant ideas that could change the world for the better: I call it the Cable Realignment Program. The idea is, we consolidate and standardize basic-cable programming for the convenience of everyone who likes to watch reruns of movies and TV shows. Here’s a few facets of the plan:

1: James Bond Channel. There’s always some channel running a Bond marathon, but it’s on a different channel every week. We need to have one consistent place to go for our fix of guns, gals and gadgets.

2: L&O channel. Don’t you hate it when you have to choose between a rerun of “Law & Order” (classic) on one channel, when “Special Victims Unit” or “Criminal Intent” or some other spinoff is playing at the same time on some other channel and you don’t have TiVo? We can fix that, by putting them all on one channel.

3: Cops with Microscopes Channel. Same deal, but with the CSI’s, NCISes, “Bones,” etc. No more having to choose between  Dr. Jack McNeil building his boat or Detective John Kelly playing it cool with his shades or that chick who looks like Dante’s girlfriend chatting with that chick who looks like her sister.

And finally, the Reality TV channel (just to get them all in one place and stop clogging up all the other channels).

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Monster mashup

God, I love the Internet! The new Girl Talk album, “All Day,” dropped yesterday, and today there’s already a user-generated, live-streaming app showing all the samples being used. BTW, the new album is really, really good, but I think “Feed The Animals” is still his best. Maybe that’s just Baby Duck Syndrome, since it was my first exposure to Greg Gillis’ over-the-top rap/rock/pop mashups, but I just don’t hear anything in “All Day” that approaches the majesty and wit of “Feed The Animals.” But some folks didn’t find anything in that album that matched his first album, “Night Ripper,” so I guess YMMV.

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I’m a total sucker for mashups that reveal the chord progressions behind familiar songs, as I’ve mentioned a few times before. This one, by the Ukulele Orchestra of Great Britain, is particularly nifty because they actually do all the songs at the same time, from Eagles to Flack to Gaynor to Handel (see what I did there?) and a few others besides. (If you have the same buffering problems as I did, just let it play through and then start it from the beginning again).

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I really need to start watching Jimmy Fallon’s show. Between this awesome Jeff Goldblum/Biz Markie rendition of “Just A Friend” and the earlier “History of Rap” with Justin Timberlake (please, please, PLEASE watch if you haven’t yet), Fallon’s got some good stuff going on there.

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Cargo culture

I got both my degrees from the same college, the University of Wisconsin. There are two student newspapers there, the “official” paper, the Daily Cardinal, and an upstart independent funded by right-wing types the Badger Herald.

Ironically, the “official” paper was constantly assailing the administration and the mainstream of campus culture, while the “alternative” paper was more of a cheerleader for the authorities. But it had some good columnists, and as an undergrad, I gravitated toward the Herald because I was turned off by the mindless leftism I was suddenly surrounded by at college (in high school, I was basically a lefty hippie because I was turned off by the mindless conservatism I was surrounded by there).

So when I went back for my master’s in journalism, I figured I should be at the Herald. That lasted about as long as my first assignment, which involved writing 1 article with 2 previews of upcoming entertainment events, and I was instructed that the “unifying theme” of the article should be “these great events coming to campus.” I headed over to the Cardinal’s office a couple days later, and I’m really glad I did, even though I was surrounded by some people with seriously messed-up politics (I have a lefty-hippie temperament, but I can get impatient with overly simplistic and unrealistic views, and college lefties are full of those).

But I was struck over and over again by the simple fact that the Herald, more often than not, wasn’t so much practicing journalism as imitating it, as best they could. It was cargo-cult journalism, imitating the superficial, surface appearance without understanding what’s supposed to be happening beneath the surface, like the Pacific islanders who built control towers out of sticks and sat in them with headphones made of coconut shells, thinking that would magically bring airplanes bearing cargo, like it did during the war when America was using the islands for transporting materiel for the war effort.

Which brings me to Fox News. If you want to understand why they are the way they are, I think “cargo-cult journalism” pretty much says it all. “The Daily Show” did a nice bit recently (skip to the 4-minute mark).

(Rally to Restore Sanity and/or Fear sign via Reddit)

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Thomas F. Wilson, who played the bully Biff in the “Back to the Future” movies, sings about what it’s like when people recognize him and ask him questions — apparently the same handful of questions over and over and over and over again, like “What’s Michael J. Fox like?” and “How much do you make?” (for the record, his answers are “Nice” and “More than you do”).

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