Posts Tagged ‘television’

The Ramones. (long essay for college)

March 6, 2012 Leave a comment

I’m going to go out on a limb here and assume that everybody thinks of the Beatles as the most influential rock and roll group of the 20th century. And as there were no rock and roll groups in the 19th century and there aren’t any as influential or universally beloved as the Beatles in the 21st century, it feels safe to call them the most influential pop band of all time. Indeed, it was John, Paul, George and Ringo who invented the self-contained band–a handful of musicians who would write, sing and play their own songs exclusively. During the 60s, the Fab Four were the biggest thing since sliced bread, but after their dissolution and into the 1970s, rock music took increasingly more theatric and ludicrous turns. Acts like Led Zeppelin opened the door for progressive rock (prog rock henceforth) and heavy metal, two genres less focused on songs and more focused on performances. These genres took skill and years of practice to get into, and were only amassing global popularity in the early 70s.

It was into this musical landscape that the second most influential rock and roll group of the 20th century was born. It was a time of guitar virtuosos and organ solos. When performers took to the stage, it was frequently in elaborate outfits. Rock music became less about rebellion and more about hobbits or satan. This was the environment surrounding four “middle class” New York boys determined to make their impact on the world. And to think, all Tom Erdelyi wanted to do was start a band. When he met John Cummings, Douglas Colvin and Jeffry Hyman through their mutual fandom for The Stooges, the pieces were in place for the Ramones to take over the world. Tommy had found Johnny, Dee Dee and Joey. All that was left was for them to convince him that he should play drums instead of being the manager. (He’d stay on as producer for their first four albums.)

Their passion came out of the New York Dolls, the Stooges and a rebellion (at least on Johnny’s part) against the idea that excessive displays of skill were a necessary part of being a rock band. Unlike their primary influences’ focus on clothing and makeup, the Ramones played strictly in jeans and leather jackets with outgrown Beatles haircuts. Their first shows were at a hole-in-the-wall bar in a New York abandoned by young urban professionals headed for the suburbs. CBGB was the only bar that would have them, and even then, their audience at their first shows was mostly comprised of the members of Television, Blondie, the Talking Heads. Being entirely unique in their style, there was no competition with the Ramones. Read more…

Chairs vs chairs.

January 4, 2012 Leave a comment

Think back, in your mind, to the last chair you sat on. I’m going somewhere with this analogy, I promise you, but for now, just think of the last chair you sat on. Perhaps you’re sitting in one right now. (Little computer joke.) I believe in the Zuckerberg Character philosophy that “a guy who builds a nice chair doesn’t owe money to everyone who has ever built a chair”. Chairs are sort of basic, mechanical objects, aren’t they. Enough legs to make balance a certainty; a back if you want your sitter to rest their back on the back of your chair. A seat, preferably, or you have legs jammed up your goolies. And it’s never good to have chairlegs jammed up your goolies no matter how restful your back is on your chair back. But the last chair you sat on is sort of a basic, mechanical thing, right? You can break it down to legs, seat and back. That’s all you need in a chair for it to be called a chair. And you evaluate its quality as a chair by how long it lasts as a chair and how comfortable you are in that chair.

So why do we let manufacturers tell us that other basic mechanical things are so much more complex and difficult just because they’re newer? With a number of things, there’s only really one metric of quality: it works or it doesn’t. Binary. Does it do the job it’s supposed to? I’m not talking about things like guitars with varying sounds or monitors with varying contrast ratios or engines with varying strengths and stuff. I’m talking about things like chairs. Tables. Music stands. Canvas bags. Knives of varying purposes. Do these things do the things they’re supposed to do? And thus, you can judge them. And you’ll notice these are all old things–things we’ve had around for years. But what if I was to tell you there was another thing, a new thing, that’s come along in the last twenty years that has a pretty much binary quality but you’ve been convinced is a matter of highly differing qualities and standards?

It’s cables. Read more…

REVIEW: A Scandal in Belgravia (Sherlock)

January 2, 2012 3 comments

John: Punch you?
Sherlock: Yes! Punch me! In the face!–Didn’t you hear me?
John: I always hear “punch me in the face” when you’re speaking, but it’s usually subtext.

If you’re a fan of Sherlock, then you should already be aware that the first episode this season contains the best use of “Stayin’ Alive” to fend off imminent death. If you’re not a fan, that fact should likely pique your curiosity about the series. Sherlock is the new adaptation of the Sherlock Holmes mythos/universe from Steven Moffat and Mark Gatiss, both late of the new series of Doctor Who. It’s also one of two adaptations competing for my affections this winter, along with Sherlock Holmes: a Game of Shadows, the latest from the Guy Ritchie camp. Of the two series, Sherlock is the far more cerebral, deductive adaptation, with Holmes taking the physical route. It’s nice to have them both taking opposite approaches. It means you get to see how the two series cross-pollinate.

And cross-pollinate they have, with “A Scandal in Belgravia” taking all of the best elements of Ritchie’s Sherlock Holmes into itself–including slow-motion analysis before fistfights, as well as a lot more comedic nudity and overt romance–and keeping the best of its own traits–the firecracker wit and the thoroughly modern atmosphere. The biggest barrier to a new audience for a Sherlock Holmes adaptation is the language and the setting. Victorian England is hardly relateable for a new reader, and it has a tendency to dull the characters. You either keep the setting and modernize the action or you change the setting entirely, usually changing the characters as well. A pair of high school students, maybe, dealing with things that aren’t murder mysteries. Or, you set the story of Irene Adler in present day London and make her a dominatrix. I don’t know if she was in the book. Read more…

REVIEW: Todd and the Book of Pure Evil (Season 1)

January 3, 2011 5 comments

Living in Canada, you get used to native produced series being–well, being kind of terrible. They say it’s the phenomenon of cultural cringe that makes us naturally averse to our own television. All I know is, I’m no fan of either Being Erica or Little Mosque on the Prairie–same goes for Dan for Mayor or Corner Gas. When it comes to Canadian television, the only show I know that everybody agrees is good is Murdoch Mysteries: a legitimately engaging detective drama set in 1890’s Toronto. No one I know would agree on Todd and the Book of Pure Evil, however. No, no, no. Todd and the Book of Pure Evil is a TV show made almost entirely for my generation. Terrible lesbian twins, penis monsters, humour that’s about as politically incorrect as television will allow post-watershed. I think at some point in the last four hours, I saw blood coming out of a guy’s ass. Oh right, that was just when it started.

Premise is as follows: Todd Smith (Alex House) is a Canadian high-schooler from somewhere anonymous in Manitoba who, one day, while high off his ass, consults three metalheads outside of his school on how to impress Jenny Kolinsky (Maggie Castle). They tell him that any metalhead worth his salt knows about the Book of Pure Evil. Todd asks the Book to give him wacky metal powers, that include the ability to play a guitar solo so blistering as to make Jenny’s boyfriend bleed out of his ass. You’re damn right I’m gonna say that as many times as I can. Let’s say the episode concludes with everything back to normal–for some definition of normal–and now, Todd, Jenny, his friend Curtis Weaver (Billy Turnbull) and a girl who has a crush on him Hannah Williams (Melanie Leishman) have all banded together to find and destroy the Book of Pure Evil. Guidance counsellor Atticus Murphy Jr. is stalking them, trying to find the Book of Pure Evil for a shady evil syndicate of evil. Read more…

REVIEW: Angel Attack/An Unfamiliar Ceiling (Evangelion)

September 13, 2010 Leave a comment

Angel Attack:

It opens with a shot of water. Then, something indescribably large swimming through flooded out remains of buildings. Tanks are lined up on a mountain road. All is quiet. A kid is waiting by a payphone for a rather well-endowed woman from the military. Seriously, she put an arrow leading to her cleavage on the picture she sent him so he’d know who was picking him up. He’s fourteen; she’s in her late twenties. When she finally picks him up, she teases him that he’s not as cute as she thought he’d be. Say hello to Shinji Ikari and Misato Katsuragi. The subtext only gets weirder from here.

Indescribably large menace runs around wrecking stuff all nimbly pimbly, so the local military drops an N2 Mine (it’s as powerful as a nuke, but not a nuke, cos it’s Japanese) on it. And it emerges unscathed and still wreaking havoc. They give the go to Gendo Ikari to launch the Evangelion, gigantic humanoid robots, to fight back. He looks far too pleased at this development. Read more…

Introduction: Neon Genesis Evangelion

September 12, 2010 2 comments

Eva, Eva, Eva. I guess it would be you, for my first series review. Oh, Evangelion. You crazy diamond. Sure, there are anime that are as well known as you, Evangelion, but I’ve yet to find one that evokes more internet flamewars. Oh, Haruhi came close with Endless Eight, certainly. But you, Evangelion. You’re just special, aren’t’ya.

Neon Genesis Evangelion, for the entirely uninitiated, is one of the most notable anime series ever created. Remember, this is the internet age where everything is notable and nothing is, so if it were today, you could take that with a grain of salt. However, Eva first gained its notoriety from 1995 to ’97, when all you got was airtime on Japanese television. People had to talk about this series in person, which I imagine must’ve been hella awkward. The internet was around back then, and I’m sure the fanboys still flocked to it to talk about the last two episodes, but then, I’m putting the horse in front of the cart. Read more…

REVIEW: Network

September 10, 2010 Leave a comment

In my collection of favourite movies is something I can guarantee my target audience hasn’t seen. (For example, people who are over 18 years of age and don’t know who Rob Zombie is.) It’s a satire of television from 34 years ago called Network, directed by Sidney Lumet and written by Paddy Cheyefsky. It features some of cinema’s finest performances from Peter Finch, William Holden and Faye Dunaway. It comes from a time when dialogue could be traded monologues instead of stilted and interrupted half-baked thoughts. It also comes from a time before reality television. How can a movie so accurately portray a society that hadn’t come to exist yet? Maybe the society always existed and we just didn’t televise it. Read more…