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.


Valentines Day, out. Fun Day, in.

February 11, 2009

I, personally, am a big fan of slamming V-Day.  But for once, I will not waste valuable blog space complaining about couples.  I will simply point out that, if you’re a dude, 2/14 is pretty sweet this year.  If you’re a taken dude, you will be so sad you’re committedand will not be able to partake in Saturday’s events.  (Though, you could probably convince your gal pal to go with you if you can somehow convince her that it was her idea…

February 14th, 2009:

12am to 11:30am

Sleep.  Then maybe some Madden ’09.

12:15pm

Handmade Market at The Empty Bottle for FREE!  In which they “…strive to create a  market, with affordable handmade, mostly local items. There are a ton of crafters in the city, and we try to make this accessible to up and coming designers, jewelry makers, and others. Come out and help support your monthly crafter’s market”

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3pm

The Chicago Auto Show!  Yes!  If you believe what you hear on the news, I think no one in the United States has bought a single car since the Spring of 2008.  Now’s the time!  And, since American automobile companies are so ahead of the game, I’m sure all that well-invested electric car research has already produced a car that runs on a hybrid of electricity and energy expelled by resorting your coworkers recycling after they’ve left for the day.

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7pm

Impress everyone around you by informing them what The Minutemen was referencing when they named their stellar double-album “Double Nickels on The Dime”.  Everyone at Quimby’s bookstore will be impressed.  Accept, of course,  Michael T. Fournier… the writer/critic/historian who will be in attendence, speaking about his most recent entry into the 33 1/3  lit canon.

8pm

No one’s cared about the NBA All-Star game since Magic Johnson came back to chuck up 3-pointers over Isaiah Thomas for the feel-good story of, well, the last time anyone cared about professional basketball.  But what’s this, The Skillz Challenge?  Eff yeah, I’ll check it out.   Especially since my boy Derrick Rose is playing against Devin Harris, Jameer Nelson and Tony “Shit Tattoo”Parker.  The challenge is legit too, as the past winners are sweet (and much more impressive than the dunk/3-point champs… hi Craig Hodges!) — Steve Nash ’05, Dwayne Wade ’06-’07, Deron Williams ’08.

10pm

Your choice of awesome concerts:
Flosstradamus and  Gatekeeper at The Abbey Pub;  The Chamber Strings, Kevin Tihista, and Lonesome Cougar at Cobra Lounge; Fucked Up, A/V Murder, and Boystown at The Empty Bottle, or drop a hundo wit your shorty to see Jeff Tweedy @ the Vic.  If you can’t afford a hundo, just make a video and you won’t have to worry about spending money on a g/f:


Did You Get That Memo: Office Culture is Pop Culture

October 9, 2008

(Originally posted last February on the UR Chicago site but no longer accessible.  I had to save my baby).

Can you believe it’s been nearly a decade since Office Space? That’s roughly 36 financial quarters of bad Lumberg impressions and Swingline stapler jokes. The unforeseen longevity of a movie like Office Space -– a cynical look at corporate drones — stuck with the American audience long after its theatre run. Though the defining modern corporate farce is getting old, it seems like “life at the office” has become an increasingly prevalent touchstone. A new breed of unflinching, cynical, critical, tragi-comic and sometimes downright depressing office themed productions have hit a cultural nerve.

There have always been the silly corporate comedies and hyper-real farces a-la Office Space, Dilbert, and (can I throw in) Fred Savage’s short-lived Working, but it seems the new crop of pop-culture corporate landscapes have a biting, sad, desperate underpinning. What’s the deal?

The obvious jumping-off point is NBC’s excellent adaptation of The Office — a satire that turns a documentary-style camera on the lives of paper salespeople in first-world Nowheresville. It’s a show that’s both funny and melancholy — simultaneously hilarious and hitting a little too close to home. You’ve also got the inanity of Carpoolers, a silly single-cam show that’s the brainchild of Kids In the Hall graduate Bruce McCulloch. If you flash back 50 years and add some slick suits, the politics, binge drinking and philandering could easily be that of the sloganeering Madison Ave execs of AMC’s period drama Mad Men.

Elsewhere in the business world, author Matthew Beaumont documents the hilarity of London’s fictional Miller-Shanks office in a story told strictly through exchanged e-mail in e. If the U.K. doesn’t hit close enough to home, local cube dweller Joshua Ferris is getting stellar reviews for Then We Came to the End, a wry comedic novel chronicling the dismantling of a Chicago ad agency.

Of course, I can’t get too far into an office-themed blog without mentioning OFFICE, the group of former Chicago worker bees who produced a killer EP, quit their day jobs, and now professionally churn out bouncy pop tracks with some seriously sardonic underpinnings. Elsewhere in the music world there’s been a huge response to the National’s CD, Boxer. The album, with equal parts charm and anxiety, chronicles the Willy Loman-esque slide of a modern corporate worker into a nostalgic shut-in.

So if popular music, books and television are meant as means of escapism, what’s to say for an audience that’s developed an interest in fictionalized versions of working stiffs? Is the emergence of corporate-themed amusements just a mere coincidence, a blip on the radar, or a hint of more to come? Whatever the explanation, the subject matter has resonance and the writing is good, so I will continue to ignore the inherent irony of hanging around the office every week to talk about The Office.


LOST Withdrawl, Philosophy, and the Thing About the Giant Four-Toed Foot

July 11, 2008

Ahhhhhhh. How long must I wait for the next season of LOST. I can’t take it! I have been able to get my fix vicariously through a co-worker who has started renting the LOST DVD’s and stops by often to give us updates on what’s going on. She’s nearing the end of the 3rd season already, how we all wish we could watch ’em again — for the first time.

What do they say about naivite? Ignorance in bliss, but any creature that knows it is ignorant would never choose to stay ignorant. I.E., a pig is only happy because it doesn’t know what it is missing. Wow. I probably just destroyed decades of philosophy, so I’l go look it up … ah … here we go:

“It is better to be a human being dissatisfied than a pig satisfied; better to be Socrates dissatisfied than a fool satisfied. And if the fool, or the pig, is of a different opinion, it is because they only know their own side of the question. The other party of the comparision knows both sides.” -John Stuart Mill

Anyway … I digress. Knowing what I know about LOST, I would kill to be able to watch it over again.

LOST “Live Together, Die Alone” Season 2 Conclusion

Which brings me to the foot thing. That four-toed foot at the end of Season 2 — weird right? A few things we already know about the foot (via the LOST rumor factory

  1. It was previously supposed to have six toes (either because ABC thought 6 was “weird”, or that it was hard to tell the foot has six toes as opposed to five).
  2. “The statue may be in reference to a story “Headlong Hall” by Thomas Love Peacock, chapter 4 notes: ‘Here you see is the pedestal of a statue, with only half a leg and four toes remaining: there were many here once. When I was a boy, I used to sit every day on the shoulders of Hercules: what became of him I have never been able to ascertain.’ (Lostpedia)
  3. (I can’t find the citation to this one anymore), but in discussions with writer/producers there was a hint that the foot is allegedly a visual pun that references a physics or philosophy author by the name of “Foot”, or “Foote”

Anyway.  I was going through my old photography books and came across this:

It’s a photo entitled “Near The Hermitage” by Boris Ignatovich a communist-era Russian artist known as an “extreme realist”.  The photo itself is of one of the giant statues in New Hermitage, St. Petersburg.  One of four massive Atlas statues that hold up the Museum roof.  Now ya know.