Conan: High Budget Low Brow Gold

January 22, 2010

Though I’m sad Conan O’Brien will not be carrying on the legacy of The Tonight Show, I feel partly vindicated that once O’Brien knew he would be off the air, he lightened up again, and his ratings soared.

If feels the new time-slot (ney, audience) forced him to be more buttoned up, less silly/absurd, which really is what made Coco the beloved goofball that he is.

Seeing a new clip this week reminded me of how far Conan had come from his self-admitted low budget late night gig.  Take for example, Whale Week, a week’s worth of skits from mid-era Conan in which they incorporated a giant whale costume because it was too expensive to use once:

Look how far we’ve come.  Earlier this week Conan claimed to be planning unfunny but very expensive skits, including this alleged $1.5 million prank of dressing the most expensive car in the world up as a mouse, while playing a rare Rolling Stones original recording.  Hilarious.

Check out the video here (as NBC has pulled it from their website).  First of all, it’s funny.  Second of all, it’s expensive (though prolly not $1.5 mil expensive, as you can borrow a car of the lot for the free pub).  Thirdly, it’s funny-cuz-it’s-weird Old School Conan.  The skit seems to reference his old absurdist one-offs I always loved (isn’t that right, Cactus Chef playing ‘We Didn’t Start the Fire’ on the Flute?).

Oh, Cony-cone-cone.  We still love you.  Can’t wait to see where you’ll wind up next.  Cabin Boy 2?

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The Digital Switcheroo

May 22, 2009

Photo Courtesy of CNL822 on Flickr

Watching baseball last week with all the jitters, smears, and pauses of digital broadcasting,  I realized I haven’t officially bitched about the digital switchover. All this info (well, except for the Kanye part) I think is pretty valuable:

  • With good reception, digital broadcasts look good. It is a huge step forward for television clarity.  Admittedly.  It does work.  So, if you get a new TV, yay, you get a new TV with potentially much better quality and more channels.  Everybody wins!(?)  The following bullet is much more important…
  • DIGITAL SIGNALS ARE NOT CRYSTAL CLEAR. It’s true.  Before I got a digital converter I didn’t realize this, my coworker didn’t realize this, so I assume some of you have been (or are in the process of being) mislead as well.

Now that people are using digital receivers, we’re realizing that digital TV reception is as bad or worse than analog TV.  Those that haven’t gone digital yet (or in some cases can’t even afford to), hear the Networks pitching the switcheroo and it’s like they’re doing you a favor.  It’s important to know that TV Networks/the government/Big Businss are NOT just doing it for your benefit.

I’m not one for conspiracy theories, hell, any rant that mentions “the government” usually makes me tune out.  But this is true, apparently: The initial digital switch plan (I shit you not) was a delayed reaction to  Post-9/11 communication issues. According to Bloomburg

The government mandated the switch to free up airwaves for advanced wireless services and emergency workers’ radios, to raise money and to provide clearer pictures and more programming.

Broadcast networks volunteered to give their analog frequencies over to  emergency police and fire communications.  Though, “volunteered” is a stretch.  Television networks were well aware that this act, which appears fairly selfless and sensible, had an overwhelming business-minded upside.

Giving up these frequencies and moving to a digital signal would mean that every American that does not subscribe to a cable subscription (~20% of the population, skewed towards the less affluent) must buy a brand new TV, update their televisions on their own dime (that’s 285 million sets as of ’05),  or  get cable.  It was a sweetheart deal all around, exemplified by the nifty bullet points below:

  • Government gets low-freq emergency channels (Which is great… whoopdie-doo.)
  • Broadcast Networks, who have been trying to go digital anyway, get to do so with the government bankrolling them, and in the name of public good.
  • Broadcast Networks now have multiple channels to run second-tier content on, which can steal share back from cable stations like The Weather Channel, Univision, Telemundo, and in NBC Universal’s case —  ESPN.
  • Cable companies  profit off of new subscribers unwilling to make the digital switch
  • Electronic stores (namely Radio Shack) make a killing on digital converter box sales, and on selling peripherals around the digital conversion.
  • Everybody gets to pretend they’re helping John Q. Public

That last bullet is the kicker, because, if you installed the digital converter box you quickly realize that reception can, and does, still suck.  What’s worse, broadcast channels that used to come in a little fuzzy on an analog television will not even register through the digital box.  No longer do you have the option of watching a fuzzy screen — it’s all or nothing now.

Digital TV is a snob — if it’s not crystal clear, you’re not allowed to watch it.   You cannot even manually tell your digital converter to include a channel that is not registering — this is what is happening to CBS (WBBM) on my TV and a friends in Chicago.  I wonder if they’re losing ratings because the digital boxes they forced on their viewers refuse to recognize it as a channel.

The funniest part is those antannae… you know the ones you were supposed to be able to throw away…  those rabbit ears they made fun of in the “swtch to digital” PSAs earlier this year?  Yeah… you have to buy a new one.


Lost: A New Testament

May 18, 2009

Wow.  What an ender.  The season overall was a bit iffy but you have to expect a little fall-out from Season 5’s incredibleness.  I wanted to think this out a bit longer but since someone has taken my photo and posted it on their blog, I guess I’ll post this while it’s still getting hits, yes? Okay.

This finale has certainly made it worth following the series to its end next year.

What happened?  Well.  Plenty.  But the first scene was BY FAR the most interesting and pivotal scene of the year.  The rest of the episode could have been Vincent the Dog sniffing people and it would still be worth the hour-long program.

Here’s that first scene:

Wow.  Right?  So.  To recap.  Guy in white; Jac0b, guy in black; who the hell knows but he has a beard too.

So we finally see Jacob.  He’s a cool dude.  He’s blonde with stubble and could be part of the band The National with no one the wiser.  He’s got sandals, he seems fond of the ancient Mesopotamian art of weaving, and apparently,  the dude knows how to make a mean salmon lettuce wrap.  We also learn later he is fond of female short story writers. (Wiki pointed me towards the title “Everything Rises Must Converge” might be a nod to Pierre Teilhard de Chardin — a Jesuit who had keen interest in spirituality,  human paleontology as well as the fabric of the cosmos.)

I digress.  So, Jacob’s on the beach — could that be the Black Rock in the distance?  Yup.  It’s gotta be, and no doubt it’s carrying a young Ricardo (aka pre-ageless Richard Alpert).

Then, who’s this coming to the beach, a dude, unnamed, wearing a black tunic (as opposed to Jacob’s white tunic).

A quick except c/o the worth-reading Los Angeles Times blog:

“They come, they fight, they fight, they destroy, they corrupt,” Black says bitterly. “It always ends the same.”

“It only ends once,” says White serenely. “Anything that happens before that — it’s just progress.”

“Do you have any idea how badly I want to kill you?”

“Yes.”

“One of these days, sooner or later, I’ll find a final loophole, my friend.”

“Well, when you do I’ll be right here.”

“Always nice talking to you, Jacob.”

Yup.  This all brings us back to backgammon.  I know, right?

So, rather then go into details about this, I’ll just do bullet points because they’re fun to do:

  • (TOP) The opening scene of Lost Season 6 Finale with Jacob and other discussing the end of things, loopholes, and the violent tendencies of human nature.
  • (BOTTOM) John Locke  talks to Walt about the worlds oldest game — two players, one dark, one light, played with dice made of human bone.
  • I like this parallel (not only visually), but the fact that “the world’s oldest game” is played by a dark and light character,  with humanity as the dice — the unpredictable, unreliable variable (if you want to push this analogy waaaay overboard).

Plenty more to talk about but I’d like you to get to know the biblical Jacob and his older twin, Esau.  Oh, and Jacob’s 12th son — Ben.  All of the below text was copied, prettymuch en masse, from Wikipedia on Friday 5/15.

Jacob, Esau, and Ben – (wiki)

  • The mother of Jacob & Esau, Rebecca received the prophecy that twins were fighting in her womb and would continue to fight all their lives, and after they became two separate nations. The prophecy also said that the older would serve the younger; its statement “one people will be stronger than the other” has been taken to mean that the two nations would never gain power simultaneously: when one fell, the other would rise, and vice versa.
  • When the time came for Rebecca to give birth, the first to come out [was] named … עשו, Esau (`Esav or `Esaw, meaning either “rough”, “sensibly felt”, “handled”, from Hebrew: עשה‎, `asah, “do” or “make”;[4] or “completely developed”, from Hebrew: עשוי‎, `assui[citation needed]).
  • The second is named יעקב, Jacob (Ya`aqob or Ya`aqov, meaning “heel-catcher”, “supplanter”, “leg-puller”, “he who follows upon the heels of one”, from Hebrew: עקב‎, `aqab or `aqav, “seize by the heel”, “circumvent”, “restrain”, a wordplay upon Hebrew: עקבה‎, `iqqebah or `iqqbah, “heel”).[5]
  • As youths, Jacob tricks Esau into giving up his birthright for a bowl of stew… lentils that Esau referred to as “that red stuff”… Esau’s lack of appreciation for the long-term value of such an intangible right when he was more interested in fulfilling his immediate needs
  • The Bible depicts Esau as a hunter who prefers the outdoor life, qualities that distinguished him from his brother, who was a shy or simple man, depending on the translation of the Hebrew word “Tam” (which also means “relatively perfect man”).[1]
  • According to the Bible, Esau is the ancestor of the Edomites.[1] In the Book of Genesis, Esau is frequently shown being supplanted by his younger twin Jacob.
  • Jacob’ had a dream about a ladder that went to heaven, and “heard” God telling him that the land he was standing on was his… “The land on which you lie I will give to you and to your descendants; and your descendants shall be like the dust of the earth, and you shall spread abroad to the west and to the east and to the north and to the south; and by you and your descendants shall all the families of the earth bless themselves. Behold, I am with you and will keep you wherever you go, and will bring you back to this land; for I will not leave you until I have done that of which I have spoken to you.” Jacob
  • Jacob, at some point, also wrestled with an angel, and then demanded a blessing. Declar[ing] that from then on, Jacob would be called יִשְׂרָאֵל, Israel (Yisra`el, meaning “one that struggled with the divine angel”…
  • Jacob/Israel’s wife, Rachel, went into labor and died giving birth to Benjamin (Jacob’s twelfth son).
  • Benoni, the original name of Benjamin, since Benoni was an allusion to Rachel dying just after she had given birth, as it means son of my pain


Geronimo Jackson: LOST Rock Found

April 24, 2009

The Fictional Geronimo Jackson -- they look like Sawyer's people

Except for a few times in Season 1, when the lovable Hurley would put on his Discman to listen to some god-awful Grey’s Anatomy reject songs while observing life on The Island in slo-mo, the two things I  tend to obsess over — LOST and pop music — rarely come together.

But lo and behold, hipster culture dictator Pitchfork Media broke a VERY interesting development a few weeks ago:  The story of a fictional classic rock band Geronimo Jackson / real San Diego throwback rockers The Donkeys. The Phork reports:

On a recent episode, the character Jin (Daniel Dae Kim) is heard listening to a Geronimo Jackson song called “Dharma Lady”, and last week, the song appeared as a free download on iTunes. Over on the “Lost” message board Dark UFO, someone noticed that “Dharma Lady” is almost the exact same song as “Excelsior Lady” by the Donkeys

The non-fictional Donkeys

Well played Dark UFO dude!  Pitchfork, thorough journalists as they are, took it straight to The Donkeys’ label, Dead Oceans, to pose the question, “Are the Donkeys Geronimo Jackson?”.  The reply was revealing, also, hilarious:

“It seems as though it’s possible that the Donkeys also existed as Geronimo Jackson in 1977. It might be possible that they were part of a Dharma Initiative experiment on time travel … Geronimo Jackson is likely to appear on extras of the season five ‘Lost’ DVD, where they will feature the band recording ‘Dharma Lady’.”

Hahahah.  It seems they did indeed.  Alrighty then.  A simple “yes” would have sufficed.

Anyway, Geronimo Jackson seems to be a recurring reference in the show — on T-shirts, on posters, but most prominently in the scene below.  Hurley and Charlie (who could easily pass for clerks at Championship Vinyl) sift through the Dharma record collection and come across the GerJack LP Magna Carta…

Innnnnnnteresting Charlie.  Hmmm.  You say you’re an “expert of all things musical,” but you’ve never heard of them, eh?  Hmmmm.  Maybe that’s because YOU’RE IN THE BAND in the past (future episodes)!?!?!  Wha? Sounds ridiculous, but why not?

I personally like to think that Charlie is bound to show up again.  First of all, one of the lesbians hiding in the Looking Glass told Charlie that the stations’ passcode was the song “Good Vibrations” and that it was originally programmed “by a musician”.  That’s a weird tidbit of information to throw out there as your dying words, isn’t it Bonnie?

Also Charlie gets the code on the first crack before he drowns.  Is it too crazy to assume that Charlie himself wrote that passcode?  I don’t think so.  Meaning, Charlie didn’t die at that point, and is sure to have lived and done other things, like, ummmmm, jumping through time and forming a band in the 70s. It’s possible.  After all, we’ve seen people we thought were dead come back to life in the show before.   Isn’t it possible that Charlie is in the band Geronimo Jackson?  Could be.

Also, is it at all possible that Geronimo is actually the name of Jack’s son?  Doubtful.

You can down the Donkey’s on music blog Gramotunes.com: The Donkeys – “Excelsior Lady


LOST: Now with bullet points!

February 12, 2009

SPOILER TIME!

  • Is anyone else sick of The Oceanic Six yet.  Seriously.  It feels like I’m watching Melrose Place or something. 

 

  • For all the hemming and hawing about it being an “impossible” task to get them all back on The Island, ALL OF THEM BUMMING AROUND LOS ANGELES! Even the Korean and the Scotsman.  I pray to God they get these bastards back on the island soon or it’s going to be a terrible, terrible season.

 

  • People that get the nose-bleeding disease fall into dangerous bad acting territory… first Fisher Stevens character (Minkus?) last year, and now Charlotte who starts looking a bit like a zombie, regresses to her childhood, and babbles something about chocoate before she passes away.  (Note:  I’m convinced Charlotte was channelling Claire’s Austrailian voice during one of her rants about “This place is death” etc.  My co-viewers were not as convinced).

 

Some plot twists and plot follow-ups in the last two weeks…

  1. The British twerp is Charles Whidmore.
  2. The clapsed-jaw British-speaking female soldier on the island is Eloise Hawking (*wink* Stephen Hawking *nod*)
  3. Eloise Hawking is, indeed, also the creepy “Grandma Time”
  4. Eloise Hawking is, indeed, the mother of Daniel Farraday (*wink* Micheal Faraday *nod*).
  5. Charlotte has already been on the island.
  6. When english girls say “Dharma” it sounds like “Dahmer”.
  7. Jin is alive
  8. The “Smoke Monster” existed in the 80s
  9. Christian Shepherd is (or at least is manifested as) Jacob.
  10. The Wheel that makes the island flip through timespace is as cheesy looking as ever.

As is standard in all LOST revelations, answered questions will now lead us to MORE questions like…

  1. Why did Charles Whidmore leave the island?
  2. If Eloise is Faraday’s mother, is Whidmore his father? (Methinks yes.)
  3. Did they perhaps leave The Island together because Eloise got knocked-up?
  4. What was the falling out between Eloise and Charles now that Eloise is now working with Benjamin Linus?
  5. Whidmore funded Faraday ‘s research, but does Faraday know that Whidmore may be his father?
  6. Is Miles the son of Dr. Pierre Chang? (aka the guy from the Orientation videos?)

Lost is Back in the Future

January 22, 2009

Through the darkness of future past,
The magician longs to see
One chance out between two worlds:
Fire, walk with me.

-Twin Peaks

As all great shows do, LOST’s Season 5 began last night and answered a few questions (that most already knew) and added a whole bunch more.  So now, as great politicians do, I will pose questions for myself to answer:

 

Q: Why is Sawyer so tubby?

A:  Despite the amount of ‘Suspension of Disbelief’ required for LOST fans, I’m still dismayed by how doughy Sawyer looks.  That said, I guess I have to accept that Sawyer is played by a real human who is not stuck on a mysterious time-jumping island.

 

Q: Why is Sawyer obsessed with putting a shirt on for most of the episode, and why do they focus on him getting jabbed by a sharp bamboo stick?

A:  My best guess is that Sawyer (who was stuck in a giant Skinner Box during Season 2), will now start living through Abraham Maslow’s “Hierarchy of Need” theory.  In which shoeless/shirtless Caveman Sawyer can not become truly “self-actualized” until his base needs are met — Food, Water, Clothing, Shelter, Companionship… or as Sawyer would see it — mangos, beer, flannel, a tarp and Juliet(?).   In fact, as LOSTwriters are prone to do, I wouldn’t be surprised to see an unsubtle hint, like a character named “Maslow”, show up on the island.

 

 

Q: Did I catch LOST using both the titles “3 years Before” and “3 Years Ago” in the same episode?

A: I thought I did… bullshit right?  It feels like they’re being aimlessly deceptive.

 

Q: Does the ability of all characters to jump through time and space revolutionize the show?

A: Prettymuch

  

 

Q: Do Tell.

A: It’s a smart move on the writer’s part.  Any loopholes that previous seasons have created can now be closed by depicting their preceding events (in the past) that haven’t been shown yet (in future episodes).

Also, it’s a great storytelling tool that allows the viewer to be sympathetic to a character’s implausible plight.  In that way it reminds me of the film Memento, where moviegoers observe a hero with no long-term memory in scenes which run backward from end to beginning — thereby projecting the character’s brain issues onto its viewers.

 

Q:  Intriguing.  Please go on!

A: If you insist, good sir…  by telling the stories of the “past”, “present” and “future” simultaneously, at some level the viewer will be rattled by revelations that the characters themselves are experiencing.

Also, if you care to geek out about physics even more so (like I occasionally try to), good ‘ol Einstein showed that all “time” really runs concurrently.  (As well as fixed and unalterable as Daniel Farrady emphatically argues.)

So… viewing LOST in what David Lynch might call “the futurepast”, with all times going on at the same time, is actually just as valid as viewing a story from what we perceive, relatively, as the right way — beginning, middle, and end.  Ohhhh, Science — fucking with my brain again.

photo via the Chicago Sun Times

Q:  I feel dizzy and humbled by this new knowledge.  Does this have any direct implications within the reality of the show beyond clever and overly-smart script writing?

A: Absolutely maybe!  For the first two seasons we’d been watching (what we thought were) real-time events buttressed by compelling (and suspiciously coincidental) background stories that manifest themselves on the island.

The first twist was that Beardy Jack (and later other characters like Sun and Kate) were being shown in what we first thought were flashbacks, then concluded were flashforwards, but know now thanks to Season 5 (and Einstein, I guess) that the correct timing of events is all um…. Relative.  I mean, it would be a flash forward or backward only if you view the Oceanic 6’s time on The Island as the “present”.  (And now even that’s messed up.)

So, now that we know that they ACTUALLY JUMP THROUGH TIME AND SPACE, all the things that seem like ridiculous happenstance and coincidence could actually be an intricate and calculated set of events put into motion not by chance, but by necessity.  (And, as a further mind-fuck, possibly set in motion by their future selves in order to set-right the only future that wouldn’t unravel the Fabric of the Cosmos).  And now, if you’re keeping score, we’ve stumbled into Donnie Darko territory.  Break out the emo eyeliner.

More on this later… some thoughts on the future/past, and maybe a sprinkling of mind/body and dream/reality concepts.  So yeah, stuff you talked about while high, or in your Philosophy 001 class, or possibly both simultaneously.


Drugged-Up Pantless Wonder Wins the Hearts of America

January 13, 2009

#1 Song in the Country.  Jesus.

Lady Gaga was, um, a spectacle on The Tonight Show last week.  There’s something funny about a pantless poorly-cordinated bimbo staggering around stage, attempting to play a keyboard, singing about how she doesn’t know where she is and had too much to drink the night before while Thriller rejects bounce around her.  Roofie-Pop… so hot right now.

This will probably be pulled off of YouTube eventually (but you can see it on Hulu),  so here are my screencaptured highlights:

Lady Gaga strikes a pose:

Lady Gaga does a very loose Robot:

Lady Gaga does a very poor Charleston:

Lady Gaga paws at a piano held up by one of her backup-dancers:

Lady Gaga does the Charleston again, while 24‘s Mary Lynn Rajskub and Dustin Hoffman smirk behind her: