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By Anna

“The TV said: ‘And other trends that could dramatically impact your portfolio … If our complaints have a focal point, it would have to be the TV set, where the outer torment lurks, causing fears and secret desires.” –Don Delillo’s White Noise

For decades authors have introduced the television as a character in novels, films, and most recently television itself. In 1985, Don Delillo interjected the television’s voice in the lives of his characters in White Noise, overtly expressing the lifelessness of his characters because of over saturation in media. The characters critiqued the constant voice of the TV, but could do nothing about it. Such was the ritual of their lives and turning the television off didn’t seem to be a choice.

My roommates and I frequently reference Patti from Millionaire Matchmaker or talk about the Kardashian sisters as if we knew them. We become so accustomed to the actors and storylines that if one of us were to see Patti on the streets of LA we’d probably say hello like we know her.

In 1971, Stanley Kubrick severely critiqued media conditioning in his film adaptation of A Clockwork Orange. Alex, the protagonist, finds pleasure in Beethoven, rape and violence; therefore, only distasteful media images combined with chemicals can “fix” Alex’s love of violence. What are we to do with violence in the media?

Here, I turn to HBO’s The Sopranos. If any show cloaks itself in sex, drugs, and violence it’s The Sopranos because a show about the mob without sex, drugs, and violence hardly does the mob justice. The plot follows Anthony (Tony) Soprano and his mob life. Nearly every episode references some movie or television show, and the TV is constantly on or focused on, particularly in Tony’s bedroom in which the TV sits on a white Grecian pillar. The television motif continues: Tony’s uncle, under house arrest, gets hooked on a soap opera, Tony frequently retells plot lines from television shows to his therapist, and Tony’s wife watches multiple old films usually alone.

Breaking down the television motif has not been easy because there may not be one answer to its place in The Sopranos, but it’s obvious the creators have a point to make.

  1. What viewers know from television still isn’t real life. Even mobsters have therapists because mobsters have bitter multiple personality mothers.
  2. Television is like a god in our culture, and it’s time to critique TV with itself.
  3. People are constantly wary of what TV violence will do to their children. It’s not the violence from TV the parents should be worried about, but it’s what their kids do with that knowledge and how parents address violence and television that really matters.

These are all off the cuff ideas about the television motif and I have found little answers via a quick Google search as to why The Sopranos frequently references TV, but I it’s a smart show by not ignoring TV. After all, we could use a few more Delillo’s in the world stirring the melting pot of media.

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By Anna

It is in American nature to hang on to the curtails of bureaucracy.  What we don’t know doesn’t matter, except when the media says it does.  In the case of this Twin Cities news clip the media reinforces the long standing racism and classism of society from its white privilege view of East Phillips in Minneapolis.

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What reinforces racism in this clip:

  1. After dark = safe.  Jody reports live in East Phillips at 10 p.m., yet the shots of the neighborhood throughout the news clip are only during the day.  They wanted to show her live in order to reinforce that the neighborhood is safe after dark, but she’s not going anywhere and the news truck is probably right in front of her.  I’d feel awful safe at 10 p.m. anywhere in the Twin Cities with a camera crew too.
  2. Crime = Black thugs.  Forty-five seconds into the clip Jody says the block club was started to “combat crime” as the camera jumps to three black kids walking down the street in baggy clothes.  Only reinforcing the fact that surely if they are black and wearing baggy clothes they are criminals.
  3. Block clubs are not new to combating crime.  The report makes block clubs look like new ideas, yet the Banyan Community block club has been around for a decade and has contributed all along to the decrease in crime.

Though the report is news, it is not helping with issues of race and class. Of course the editor cutting the clip was focused on time, it is difficult to combat racism and classism when people in the media are not aware of the stigmas they present. Viewing media from a lower class and different race’s perspective is imperative in understanding in an effort to change your view of race. We must all, at least a little, take on the role of black spectatorship.

By Ryan

I apologize for the lack of columns as of late; I just moved into a new place, and the entire process was pretty taxing in terms of time.  That said, I should be putting out stuff more regularly now that I’m all settled in.  And what better way to come back than by getting to digest this story?chuck_e_cheese4

Chuck E Cheese character groped breast, suit says

By Heather Ratcliffe

ST. LOUIS POST-DISPATCH

04/30/2009

ST. LOUIS COUNTY • A woman has filed a lawsuit against Chuck E Cheese, claiming the beloved mouse character at a child-theme restaurant put his paws where they didn’t belong.

Jennifer Sorbello, 22, of Arnold, filed the suit Tuesday in St. Louis County Circuit Court, accusing a man dressed in the mascot costume, William Thigpen, of groping her breast.

The suit says it happened Aug. 2, 2008, at the restaurant at 720 South County Center Way.

“He looked at her, reached out, grabbed her breast and moved along,” said Mark Potashnick, Sorbello’s attorney. “Her jaw dropped in shock and disgust.”

Her stepfather captured in incident in a photo but didn’t know it until after they reviewed the pictures, the lawyer said.

Sorbello accuses Thigpen and the restaurant of assault, battery and discrimination in public accommodation. She’s asking for unspecified compensation, including punitive damages and attorney’s costs.

Potashnick said his client did not know Thigpen.

Thigpen and officials with the restaurant’s parent company, CEC Entertainment of Irving, Texas, could not be reached for comment.

According to the suit, Thigpen was greeting patrons when he touched Sorbello.

“As a direct result of Thigpen’s conduct,” the suit reads. “(Sorbello) has been damaged in the form of emotional distress and humiliation.”

To the woman brining this suit forward:

Emotional distress and humiliation!?  Listen, whatever you felt in those few moments when a man in a mouse costume grabbed your breast-and I sympathize with how degrading that would be-I promise you that it will pale in comparison to living the rest of your public life as “the woman who was gropped by and sued Chuck E Cheese.”  It’s like you don’t even know about the internet!  We live for this kind of stuff.  This story will not die!  There are already 200 comments on the original article, and tons of links on popular blogs, including USA Today‘s website.  What’s more embarrassing-having some perv touch you in public or having some perv touch you in public and then having millions of people read about it?  I hate to question you after what you went through, but your actions here are pretty questionable.

To the man in the Chuck E Cheese costume:

Have you no shame?  Oh wait, obviously you don’t, you work at Chuck E fucking Cheese.  And not even servicing the skee ball machines or making the nasty-ass pizza; no, you my friend get to wear the costume and “greet patrons,” which you saw as an opening for copping a feel.  You disgust me almost as much as the aforementioned pizza.

To the stepfather:

Why are you at Chuck E Cheese with your 22-year-old stepdaughter?  And taking pictures of it!  You’re a douche.

To Heather Ratcliffe:

Well done, my friend.  Well done.

By Ryan

No where do things happen faster than on the internet.  I can honestly remember being 14 years old, hearing a news story, and developing some sort of reaction to it, and, inevitably, some newspaper or magazine would run a column in that same vein a few days or weeks later.  This was how it worked.  To quote Dan Bejar, “Your backlash was right where I wanted you!”  That is to say that there was a time when people had a chance to think about things on their own before hearing other people’s opinions on them.vampire-weekend-for-web_0

Flash forward to now when, thanks almost entirely to the internet, backlash is instantaneous.  You read about a band from Columbia called Vampire Weekend in Spin?  Blog commenters have already dismissed them.  Barack Obama just won the Iowa Caucus?  The cable news networks have been dissecting John Edwards’s missteps for hours already.  You don’t hear news anymore, you hear reactions.  In early 2008, I was proposing to anyone who would listen that the backlash to the backlash was the new backlash.  That is, people make up their minds about things right as they happen, make crazy statements, and then have to reevaluate them at a later time.

Take the Nadal-Federer Wimbledon final last summer for example.  Even as it was happening I got a text message from a friend asking “Greatest tennis match ever?”  Let’s be clear: none of my friends like tennis.  The only explanation was that they had read about the match as it was happening online, and the coverage had been so over-the-top that they had actually tuned in to watch, then wanted to jump onboard with the “greatest ever” hyperbole.  When the match finally ended, everyone and their mom was talking about how it was clearly the best tennis match ever, only to be followed immediately by old-timers and insiders proclaiming it to be “not even close.”  Whatever the match was, I have a feeling that stories that came out later that month, year, and so on had/will have a better assessment when they use phrases like “one of the best matches ever” in light of our overreactions being brought to light.

It’s something about how obsessive we’ve become about…everything.  We hear/see/read/taste/smell/feel something and make bold claims about it immediately without really taking any time for discernment, and it’s a real problem.  I don’t pretend to have any ideas on how to fix this because, admittedly, I love to read the first round of backlash much more than the second round; there’s something exciting about all of us reacting together.  And maybe that’s it-we need the universal experience of the first response, if only so we can better figure out how to make a solid judgment on where we differ so that we can craft a healthy second response.  Because, trust me, it’s only a matter of time before the backlash to the backlash to the backlash is the new backlash.  And no one wants that.

Compiled by Ryan

The links:

This article about NBC’s upcoming Parks and Recreation is a little inside baseball, but it’s interesting if only for the sense of concern about early test screenings of the pilot.

-If you have some free time this weekend, you may want to check out The A.V. Club‘s 10 best Simpsons episodes from the last five years, complete with video of full-episodes.

Dinosaur Jr. have a new album coming out, and judging from the fact that it’s Dinosaur Jr., it’s going to be great.  Peep the great album art:

dino

Sunset Rubdown are also prepping a new record, only they went the “damned awful” -route with their artwork:

dragonslayer

This NY Times Op-Ed piece about personalities as hedgehogs and foxes (with a focus on the financial and media worlds) is a pretty good read.

-Favorite headline of the week: “Is Antarctica Getting Too Popular?”  Let the record show that I liked Antarctica before it was cool.  And I’m still not sure it’s all that cool.

The YouTube highlights:

I’ve been a longtime supporter of the Kidz Bop serious for obvious reasons.  While the latest video doesn’t match the excitement of earlier efforts (Asian kid at 2:37 of “Since U Been Gone“), it does feature another wildly-misappropriated-for-Kidz-Bop song in Pink’s “So What”:

If you haven’t seen the trailer for Where the Wild Things Are yet, you’ve really got to visit the internet more often.  Even if you have, it’s worth re-watching:

Also on the trailer front, Taking Woodstock, directed by Ang Lee and staring Demetri Martin:

New music spotlight:

Dan DeaconBromst

Long a cool kid’s secret, Dan Deacon burst onto the (relatively) big-time scene in 2007 with the wonderful Spiderman of the Rings, a record so irresistible that it drove legions of hipsters to dance.  Because we all do that cool kids don’t dance for nothing!  Or whatever.  Bromst is a less immediately rewarding record than its predecessor, but that doesn’t mean it’s anything less than stellar:

Dan Deacon – “Snookered” from Bromst, out now on Carpark

The DecemberistsThe Hazards of Love

I’m not a big Decemberists fan; I enjoyed Crane Wife, but even that grew old.  I usually have a soft spot for vocalists that others would consider annoying, but for some reason, Collin Meloy just irks the hell out of me.  Still, I’d rather listen to this than 99% of the music you listen to.  (Me 1, general internet audience [mostly my friends and family] 0)  The Hazards of Love is conceived as a rock opera of sorts, and, well, I expect to see a lot of “EPIC FAIL” feedback from the online community on this one.  Like I said, Meloy works best in smaller, less bombastic doses.  There’s a few decent songs here, however, and I’ve no doubt that hardcore fans will enjoy it:

The Decemberists – “The Rake Song” from The Hazards of Love, out now on Capitol

Swan LakeEnemy Mine

If you hate the incestuous Canadian indie scene, now would be the time to look away.  Swan Lake is Carey Mercer (Frog Eyes, Blackout Beach), Spencer Krug (Wolf Parade, Sunset Rubdown, Frog Eyes), and Dan Bejar (Destroyer, The New Pornographers, Hello Blue Roses).  Enemy Mine is their second album, and, they claim, more collaborative than their first.  It may sound more cohesive, but each songwriter contributes three songs, and every song has that writer’s musically-talented fingerprints all over it.  Thanks to the good folks at Jagjaguwar, I’ll give you a taste of all three (Mercer, Krug, Bejar, respectively, and note that you can download these tunes for free by visiting the above link):

Swan Lake – “Spanish Gold, 2044” from Enemy Mine, out now on Jagjaguwar

Swan Lake – “A Hand At Dusk” from Enemy Mine, out now on Jagjaguwar

Swan Lake – “Spider” from Enemy Mine, out now on Jagjaguwar