Monday, 23 December 2013

Merry Christmas!

I started this blog back in March and I quite honestly didn't think I'd still be blogging by the time Santy was coming back around, so here's a big thank you to everyone who's checked out the blog; I hope you like what I've been writing so far and whatever I get around to next. I've decided my New Years resolution early: try and write a helluva lot more, which I'll get around to just as soon as the new year's hangover wears off.

So have a Happy Christmas (not Happy Holidays - get with it Americans) and a fucking brilliant New Year.


Sunday, 22 December 2013

TV Show of the Year: Gogglebox

The writerly cliche of "it shouldn't work but it does" has become so overused, especially in the world of TV writing, that it's now stupid to think anything wouldn't work, even the zany, opportunist crap that a slowly dying Channel 4 has been feeding us for a while. That's why Gogglebox, a show about watching small groups of people (a good mix of demographics, of course) watch the same TV shows you probably spent your week watching, actually makes for some of the most fun TV of the year. On one side it's a social experiment about how we all do what is one of the most universal activities known to modern man, and on the other side it lets you get a quick peep into other people's domains while they've got their hair down, or they're at least acting like they do; a combination which puts it somewhere in the no man's land between high and low entertainment.

The great appeal of watching people watch TV could be traced back to that great feeling when reading a book and finding that a stray thought you believed too weird to exist anywhere but your own head was in the author's head too. Gogglebox puts it's sights on one less than this, showing us people in their own homes watching TV like they supposedly do every night. It's a daily activity for most of the nation, although unlike a stray thought it's something we quite frequently share, which is why unlike if this show was about people brushing their teeth or taking a shit we don't watch to see if we're doing this whole TV thing right, instead we watch to see these other people simply being themselves, see how they do it differently, and if they do it better than us. Most of these people are funny, because most people are funny. Strangely (especially for Channel 4) we're never set up to laugh at these people, actually we almost always have the same reactions as the other people on screen, which is to say that Channel 4 could have chosen a very different cast and made a much nastier show out of it, one based on feeling superior to the people on screen, while instead there's a jolly atmosphere to everything up to the point where each person becomes a like-able character in what somehow feels like an interlocked cast. Because of this you never end up imagining the camera in your front room, trying to outdo those on screen and putting the spotlight on others to carry on the charade to be best; no, instead you really do "goggle" and like all the best goggling no-one else knows your there.

And in their aim to create a varied show the casting squad have clearly based their choices on age and ethnic stereotypes. No one plays up to the stereotypes, with the editing team giving everyone time to get fleshed out, and the show only further showing the universal connection created by TV and the way we all react to it so similarly. This year's X-Factor was featured heavily on the watch-list, and I was surprised at first at simply how much everyone agreed who should win. Maybe I was just surprised that everyone had such strong opinions of who should win on a show most people usually have strongly negative opinions about, although such communal agreement is a good sign we're not all as broken up as professional worriers would have us believe. Then Sam Bailey hit the screen and the fat jokes came pouring in, the obvious defense being this wasn't a group attack but lots of small individual groups pulling the thread of a joke that was just hanging in front of their faces, although if your going to take the shared enthusiasm for a winner then you'll have to take the shared ridicule of her as well. Thing is, I didn't find this bad, it would have been weirder if this joke wasn't made, by which I'm saying I'd probably make this joke - and you know you would/have - which only makes these people feel even more real, helped by the inclosed aesthetic of the show, which has the cast in their own homes, and the detail we get about them only minimal, and read out by Craig Cash, a member of Britain's favorite family of fictional TV watchers, no less.
I feel like the cast members are too good (they make show afterall) to not get some space here. And no, I didn't go for that other writerly cliche of watching and pointing at the screen everytime someone turned out to be exactly like someone I know. I didn't spot my friends in these people, only little bits of myself I've been self-conscious enough to notice. There is a nuclear family in here, in which we have the slightly chubby dad who embodies the nice at-home side of Tony Soprano, the more kids-orientated mother who's probably known to the kids as the "strict one", there's the son who's in a stage of trying to act older than he is (a moment that reminded me of a younger me: the son making fun of Australians to try and generate some Frankie Boyle-inspired shock laughs ("they think they're better than everyone else") only to find his family not laughing, his parents clearly worried about the fact that this is going out on TV, and the son having to keep up the performance lest he lose face), and the younger sister who wears pink and loves One Direction and acts all over-excited. They aren't as funny as most of the other cast members (characters? sketches?) but this only holds up a mirror to the viewer who probably wouldn't be, even though you'd like to you would be just as funny as these other people if put on the screen. The family sits with a mid-screen divide separating the men from the women, and the other characters all stem from this society-default family type.

The other families/friends have more quirks than this real life Simpsons, which almost guarantees that nobody will like all of them. The most obvious favorites are the older couple (my dad calls them a pair of "alcys") who own a bed and breakfast and spend most of the time boozed up. They're commentaries are usually funny stuff. Then there's the actual "old couple" of the show (my grandad described the man as "sex mad") who's interactions between each other are pretty funny. There's a gay couple who don't fall into any stereotypes, there's two old guys who's blank seriousness feels completely out of place with the others, there's the two average-joe heterosexual middle-agers, there's the two black brothers and their father. There's loads of them altogether, and I guess the biggest compliment I could give to all of them is they can't be summed up with generalizations.

Looking back I had more fun with the show than any other non-fiction of 2013. If you are going to criticize the back staging of the show, of which some things have to be artificially staged to make the show's creation possible, then your criticizing the whole fly-on-the-wall genre, which means your complaining to a brick wall of a genre that's already survived any criticism. The fun and occasional insights created are worth any small cases of forced reality. I know complainers would rather have Channel 4 pick addresses out of a hat at random and then sneak into the chosen houses at night where they can install hidden cameras into the living rooms and broadcast these people's TV watching activity for our entertainment, and all on a clean conscience knowing they're broadcasting hasn't lowered itself to the cheap artificiality of other channels. Those few won't enjoy Gogglebox, but for me it made for some great TV.

Wednesday, 18 December 2013

An Introduction to the Dark Side of Youtube

I must apologize to the gods of focused education who never crossed my mind last year during Media, a course that is advertised as your biggest in into the entertainment biz but when stripped of it's clothes is nothing but one long (unhelpful) drag.

Only it wasn't for me and a few friends who scraped by grade-wise but otherwise had a ball, mainly thanks to Youtube. Just to get on the damn thing, blocked from all schools, makes you feel like a black market trader, and to bring the next round of laughs to the group makes you feel like a caveman bringing fire to the group.

But as any well trained psychologist will tell you: leave some slightly unhinged individuals in an inclosed environment for far too long and when you return to let them out you'll find things have gotta helluva lot of funky since you left.

What this entailed in high school form was a scrambled flurry to find the weirdest videos from what we eventually christened as "The Darkside of Youtube". I gather most of you will never have been, and after entering you may never want to go back (that's if you make it out alive of course) but it's an experience I recommend everyone to have. The videos posted below are each a good introduction to the darkside of youtube.

Don't Hug Me I'm Scared
This video is a good place to start as it's first half is about some kid-friendly characters in a jolly claymation world. Take it's descent into madness as a sign of your arrival.

Dog of Man
The greatest thing about all these videos is they exist completely in their own space. They start to play, creep you out, then end, with no extra explanation and no sequels. They aren't even satires or responses; things on the dark side very rarely have any connection to things on the outside.

As last year started to wind down and lessons became mostly nothingness but pretending to revise Youtube became a popular pass time in a lot of my lessons. This was much broader stuff, but this gem, which was watched on dangerous levels of repeat came as a nice discovery.

Nicolas Cage Loses His Shit
Different from the other videos in form as it's a compilation not an original animation. Of course if you think that unqualifies it for inclusion then the fact is focuses on Nicolas Cage (explanation un-needed) should re-qualify it faster than you can say "pissed blood". As it starts to drone on and the clips become darker the music adds a fantastically tragic tone to it all.

Drug Bust Doody
Check out the creator of this one (or all of them for that matter) Lee Hardcastle, as he specialises in gory animations like this one, which I thought because of it's completely unjustified explosions of gore was most deserving of a look.

Going to the Store
This one has a special meaning to me as I remember watching it years ago at a friends house. I would regularly go around to his where he would show me the many weird videos he had found. At the time it felt like a creepy extension of the anime spoofs he was showing me at the time; it later got me some good rep in those Media classes.

There's another version of Baaa which lasts for something stupid like 100 hours and like all videos of it's type is a test in irritation, while here in the minute long original the focus is on the weird ass animation. It especially freaks me out with my life-long fear of Cronenberg-esque body horror. This proves it's not just human bodies.

And the grandaddy of all that is mind shattering... Salad Fingers
It's the first of a ten part series that just messes you up more and more with each episode (it comes highly recommended from me) although it's this original episode that still stands as where all this creepy shit can be traced back to.

Hope you enjoyed (if that is the intended reaction?) these videos.

Monday, 16 December 2013

Paul McCartney - New

NEW is a fitting title in the sense that it accepts nothing Paul McCartney has ever made has ever sounded new. John got it right when he slammed Paul for making "granny music" like When I'm 64 which sounded out of place way back in the 60s, and on Sgt Pepper no less; but never fear Beatlemaniacs because to call it old now would be sacrilegious, at least in the sense that if Paul isn't bigger than Jesus (at least not anymore) he is at least more universally beloved. He's like the royal family: old and fossilized, yet also loveable and too important to have killed off, which is really why celebrity after celebrity crammed themselves into the video for Queenie Eye, the album's lead single and worst track, not because they wanted their name associated with the song but because they wanted their name associated with Sir Paul McCartney, the living third of the Beatles people gave a shit about and quite possibly the cleanest celebrity ever: hey, it's good natured ol' uncle Paul, the man who even did some marijuana back in the 60s just so he could fit perfectly into the status quo.

Which is to say I'm surprised Paul doesn't just name all his albums New and change the coloring on the front cover, after all he could have put this music out a few decades ago and it's only the production, which has a fantastically colorful lushness to it, that would set it apart. At least he themes his albums; NEW has been formed from DNA strands left over from Lady Madonna, although it's the moments of quiet ambience where you can really hear the longing in Paul's voice that work best. Which is why "Hosanna"'s the best song on here; you can probably fill an ocean liner with all the different women McCartney has written about over the years, although this song works, just like the other highlights on the album, because it isn't straight up L-word gospel, and not old age sentimentality either; like all McCartney it's masterful nature plays partly on the blankness it's creator provides, yet his simple want to entertain is impossible to criticize when your having fun.

And this is a fun album; it's dominated by filler but makes up for it with highlights that are as enthusiastic as Paul in his youth; the only problem is that this is a pretty basic refresher package of new material and has very little to say, especially not on Paul who's always kept the music and the man far apart, meaning you end up reviewing McCartney more than the album itself. Paul's always been a little flavorless, his almost technical perfection in the beats of songwriting always lacking the personality someone like say John Lennon put into his work. And John hangs over "Early Days" about the early days of the Beatles where Paul goes all soppy Joe on us. But can I really blame him? Could Paul McCartney ever actually give us a Lennon-esque turn over of such a cherished time? I guess not, so instead we have a bit of nostalgic loveliness that dodges any importance that might be expected of it.

Overall I'd recommend NEW. It's forgettable in places but on the good tracks (look out for "Alligator" and "Turned Out") you get a warm fuzzy feeling hearing that Paul still has it, even if it's just for a few glimmering moments.

Sunday, 15 December 2013

SPOTLIGHT: Syronix - 7 Months

While Lester Bangs was explaining to me how to be a rock critic he passed on one golden nugget in particular that I've been trying hard to live by since. He said "Charlie, if you’re gonna be a hotshit rock critic, you gotta find some band somewhere that’s maybe even got two or three albums out and might even be halfway good, but the important thing is the more arcane it is the better, it’s gotta be something that absolutely nobody in the world but you and two other people (the group’s manager and one member’s mother) knows or cares about, and what you wanna do is TALK ABOUT THIS BUNCH OF OBSCURE NONENTITIES AND THEIR RECORD(S) LIKE THEY’RE THE HOTTEST THING IN THE HISTORY OF MUSIC, you gotta go around telling everybody that they’re better than the Rolling Stones, they beat the Beatles black and blue" so here's some music that beats the Beatles black and blue, especially if were comparing in terms of electronic dance music.

In terms of holy-shit-this-was-made-by-a-17-year-old-who-just-so-happens-to-know-the-guy-who-writes-this-nowhere-music-blog the most impressive thing is Broken Hearts, which has a headstart anyway because the fucker actually has lyrics. Which is to say this is all blocky electro music with somewhat amateur sound, although is more Avici-style inspiring and less Prodigy-level scary. Although I'll stand by Broken Hearts as a professional sounding would-be chart hit. After that there's Festive Spirit, which ends the album, and is as good a case as any to argue with us dance music nihilists that there is emotion in computer beats.

The album's named after how long it's creator has been making original music, and the 16 tracks here are a collection from those 7 months. I don't know enough technical terms to sell it more than that, although there's some small story or meaning behind each of these tracks. So give it a listen/download or try and find your way around the soundcloud EDM community.

Wednesday, 11 December 2013

Asher Roth: King of the Blumpkins

Back in 09 Asher Roth released the scourge of all frat boy wisdom and even in it's drunken vagueness the best piece of romantasized American college hijinks that's hit the mainstream in recent memory with 'I Love College'. At the time I felt almost embarrassed liking the song, as catchy and fuck-it-and-worry-about-the-consequences-later as it was - it betrayed my grundgy rocker code and possibly even the code set down by being a mature-for-his-age Brit who was too young to even be attending these parties. It fell off the radios quick, because alas Roth still isn't a household name, and his white skin is his biggest claim to fame in the rap community, although before it disappeared completely I saw the song playing late one night while channel surfing and quickly scribbled down the name, oblivious to me at the time, in the contents page of a magazine I had been reading. Somehow I managed to lose the magazine, the song forever hanging there as a piece of insight into the adolescent world I would annoyingly never hear again, not aided by the fact that the man behind it hasn't made much noise since; there's whispers he'll release another album next year, which will be his first since his debut in 09.

Luckily it wasn't lost forever when I found 'I Love College' again earlier this year, completely by coincidence, and discovered it's just as fun as I remember it. And last week after finally getting around to watching the fantastically inspiring Eminem movie '8 Mile' which sent my mind into delirious fantasies of being a famous rapper, I listened to Roth's debut album, which has him 'Asleep in the Bread Aisle'. And what a fucking gold mine it is; everyone thought music was in the shitter in 2009 which must have went some way into making people miss sight of this treasure trove of unapologetically adolescent party rap and soothing confessionals that was right in front of their faces.

My wannabe rapper fantasies carved a mini-narrative into 'Bread Aisle' which I suspect was Roth's rapper fantasy too; or why else would things kick off with 'Lark On My Go-Kart' which is the most aggressive track here, Roth throwing out swears and adolescent vulgarities as fast as he can. It's the most black sounding of all the tracks here, and the most intensely fast; Roth gets it right when he complements his flow as "oh so sharp". In the fantasy this is the start of the night; darkness has descended and the first hits of drunkenness have begun to take effect. This is taking your shirt off, jumping on a table and yelling "Look guys, look how good I can rap". This track needs to quickly get everyone in the room and in the know; which it does with a real intensity.

Things never do reach the intensity of the opener again, which is ok as we quickly delve into party land. Standing on the table this is what everyone is wanting. The aforementioned college track delves into it's own delinquency and through sheer self belief holds it's head up high. You have the whole room chanting "Chug, chug, chug, freshman, freshman, freshman, do somethin crazy! do somethin crazy!" and things aren't any less delinquent on "She Don't Wanna Man" where Keri Hilson becomes the only featured artist on the album up to snuff. You'd think this fantasy in which you paste your head of Roth's body would belittle an artist who is surely well-tuned in his craft yet The Asher Roth Formula almost supports this open invitation; almost every track has a moment where Roth's flow wobbles, when he raps "All up in your fridge eating left-over shit/Tuna sandwich, butterscotch, crimpets/Cheetos be my choice of chips/I enjoy for a bit" things seem to knock him off balance for a second. It brings you out of the music, something you'd think Roth would want to avoid in the name of professionalism, although these moments find their way onto a good variety of tracks on here; in 'La Di Da' another party-ready highlight he raps "so many questions unanswered, I don't understand/Could you please explain sir" something doesn't quite seem right. Roth never falters when it comes to self confidence, of which he has in droves, but these moments where we are reminded he's not a master manage to break the barry that rap, the hardest genre to supplant yourself onto because of the raw talent required, has set up.

By now everyone's hammered out of their minds; they've never heard shit this dope. There's nothing left to prove, and no-one left to entertain. Now you've got some things to get off your chest, which could very easily fuck up in Roth's face although this, the most interesting aspect of the album, makes the case for him as smarter than you thought. For a reference point: during the final rap battle in '8 Mile' the end-boss battle type moment the whole film has been building up to, Em finally spits some smart stuff as he recounts the tragedies we have watched him slug through during the rest of the film to the surprise of his opponent who was planning on using such quips himself. Em then turns the gaze on his opponent and spreads the word on this guy's life, which in the world of this film come as great insults, the exact lines being "But I know something about you/You went to Cranbrook, that's a private school/What's the matter Doc, you embarrassed?/This guy's a gangsta? His real name's Clarence/And Clarence lives at home with both parents/And Clarence parents have a real good marriage". This could all be directed at Asher Roth, a privileged white suburbanite college graduate who has better college parties than you. The lack of any B-Rabbit style tortured life story could be the butt of the joke, but then look around and you'll see your in the house of some over-privileged prick who's parents are out for a conveniently timed business trip, not in ghetto clubs or spitting it to a very hostile crowd somewhere along 8 mile. Roth's rap is unique in it's laid back nature and it's lack of even sarcastically-swung aggression; which if you think about it for a second makes sense for a kid who isn't rapping to provide for his daughter or prove himself among a club of all-black people. That's Roth's music's unique selling point and what makes him so easy to impose your self on; his raps, without any larger-than-life persona spilling into the lyrics, focus solely on his music and the messages he gets across that are so frequently passed off as "privileged white people problems". It's not that these problems need a spokesperson, they most surely don't, but it's nice someone is getting them across anyway, and in such an unashamed fashion too.

Eventually the night starts to drone-one and the party-goers are starting to slow down; it's the perfect time to start singing "His Dream" which tells the story of an older man reflecting on his life with a few regrets, mainly centered on leaving behind his dreams to focus on being a good parent. It's scored with a backing track which smoothly fits the lonely melodrama of the story. The themes here are big, and it's place on the album can clearly be read as a concept: "This is the emotional one; the one that's gonna make all the critics teary-eyed" which is easy to say since Roth himself isn't caught in this bind, yet this track is so much more than that. It takes real courage in what your saying and that people will believe in it to put out lines like "So he's well aware how vital a father figure is/How big of a responsibility it is/To be a good husband and care for your kids/Never miss an event, helping them with their homework" but that's what Roth does, and even if it's done out of blind-confidence it's at least appeasing to listen to for the sake of hearing serious themes and not have to mock yourself or the song to feel alright about it. By this point the party should be in hysterics, and it is damn funny how far everything quickly goes from spring-break-college-party to this, but everyone's silent while you bust this one out. You've got them all listening, admiring even.

This fantasy's a nice one to have, of being a cool rapper still waiting for a big break, and Roth creates the backing track for this fantasy with "Bread Aisle". And please don't get me wrong, I don't make this comparison as a form of insult; Roth's raps are solid but his flow has a rigidness to it that makes the structure fully visible; he doesn't possess the looseness of Slim Shady. Yet this means you can hear him trying. There's nothing wrong with a rap god, quite the opposite really, but Roth's style taps into a homespun remedy that hasn't yet been heard in the mainstream anywhere else. It's exciting to listen to this disc, listen to him thanking Eminem and also modestly comparing himself to him in "I As Em" as I suspect most rappers of his age do, and listen to him giving a brief chronicle of his life and his changing musical interests in 'Fallin' because his thoughts feel like they have a real weight to them. If Eminem or Jay-Z gave us such small details of their lives, their musical lives even, then we'd call it a cop-out, yet Roth's words take on a greater meaning because they feel so untarnished; he hasn't built a stage persona to stop himself from seeming small, he's simply stayed himself and rapped about things that are big.

And it's this same truth that lets Roth sing songs others simply couldn't get away with. In 'Sour Patch Kids' he raps "Donate your dollars, raise a dollar/Help a mother, save a father/'Cause poverty is probably our biggest problem/And it ain't gon' stop with Obama/To save the world we must start at the bottom" which would sound like the-big-man-pitying-the-small-people if it came from a giant such as Jay-Z and would sound like a inside joke if it came from the likes of Kanye West, yet I can do nothing but believe Asher Roth's aim is true. In 'Last Man Standing' a single which Roth released with Akon in 2011 he says "Face it, I didn't want to be famous, but that's the way it is" although we've had 10 years of Eminem giving us the same schtick to know that this is bullshit, only Roth knows we know it's bullshit. It's said because that's what rappers say, and it's probably what we'd say too, but you'd have to ask yourself if you'd be as unfussy about it as Roth is. Going back to those sour patch kids, Asher Roth raps "But money doesn't mean/A damn thing to me/I just want to be/I want to be free" and fuck it, I believe him.

Thursday, 5 December 2013

An Article About Comments About an Article About Comments

Look Ma, I'm being all meta. Inspired by what Carl Wilson was doing in this article about a new book by Stephanie Barber that collects all of the Youtube comments on Bob Seger's 1976 hit "Night Moves" Adam Robinson of HTMLGiant made this article where he collected the most interesting comments from Wilson's article. So I'm following the rabbit hole down even further, aided by a whole site of these Sad Youtube comments, hoping to find out whatever it is everyone wants to find out about Youtube Comments.

I remember the early days of Youtube; the first time I ever encountered it was during the 10 minutes of "fun time" at the end of an ICT lesson in what must have been 2007, long before Youtube was declared a public enemy in schools across the land. My friend Lee showed me the site. The first video I ever watched was Matrix Cow, which seems to have helped greatly to shape my view of the internet at such a young age. I quickly started using Youtube mostly for music videos and added anyone I could find that had some sort of Nirvana connection on their profile. I even joined lots of Nirvana "groups" something recent Youtube users will know nothing about; they were joinable pages were people with the same interests could talk and make a big group playlist. I actually talked to a lot of these people, and a lot of video game fans too. There was a nice atmosphere to it all; you could post "bulletins" to everyone on your friends list, another thing that's now been removed. These were the first "online friends" I ever made, who are unique in that instead of being forced to be friends with them by the environment: school, work, home address etc you choose where you meet these people; playing Left 4 Dead online or posting questions about what your favorite Nirvana album is. I have such fond memories of this time; which is sad because I don't keep in touch with any of these people anymore (most don't even have the same accounts as before) and Google, who notably didn't own Youtube during this golden era, seem to want to do everything they can to make Youtube as unsociable as possible; ironically enough by adding tons of Google + features and trying to make everything more accessible. Hell, I wouldn't even know where to begin becoming a part of a community on Youtube like that again.

Speaking of thinking about being in times now long gone; Sad Youtube collects tragic Youtube comments of people caught up in memories brought on by the song they're posting on. Almost all of the comments start with "I remember" followed by someone telling of a great time in their life, usually linked to another person: a brother, sister, parents, ex partners etc. before describing how things have fallen apart since. Some just wish that they could be in that time again, others go into grisly detail; one describes his sister getting murder, another describes his life falling apart after becoming a rent boy. All show a link to that particular track and a glowing section of their lives. It's an expectedly downbeat experience reading these comments yet there is something inspiring in the thought that these people get momentary happiness from the music. I'm sure we all have songs that trigger something in us; the neurons in your brain dusting out old pathways to things long forgotten and bringing you back to an old place. It's rare you get this feeling, but wonderful when you do, so the fact these emotions are caught on Youtube comments of all things is impressive to say the least.

Youtube comments and comments sections in general have become so big that there's already a whole category of performance art dedicated to them; Wilson even references Marcel Duchamp, the grandaddy of conceptual art (thanks school art project) although most people still have only a negative perception of comments sections, and rightfully so, which Wilson acknowledges when he wonders whether "its typos-and-all excerpts offer cheap laughs at other people’s misery" although does note that this is not at all the case. I'll admit I found even the wondering of whether these comments were used as a punchline a little jarring; showing a very negative view of internet users, which comes across as a petty over-generalisation. Comments sections, in idea and execution, are representative of 21st century culture. In this article from a few months back David Drake asked you whether Drake was the voice of the current generation; citing his throwaway nature as his biggest appeal to youngsters. He is a man of the moment; his lyrics come out as swiftly as they form in his head. I doubt he puts little thought into his lines, he's as good an artist as any, but he mimics internet culture by making music out of small moments or momentary moods as if they will soon be gone forever and he needs a way to preserve them. Youtube comments are quick thoughts and moods, as are Twitter and Facebook updates, meaning they catch an insignificant moment and put it on the internet forever, only it isn't seen or responded to forever, maybe even never, but the fact it's out there is good enough for the average poster.

Wilson praises the Night Moves book, calls it a "page-turner" even; which is understandable if you've ever found yourself hypnotized by a comments section, most likely where an argument has broken out making for a usually fun read. Wilson writes there is "repeated fights about whether music today has gone all to hell, some fairly thoughtful and some more on the level of... (you can guess the rest)" I saw a great many of these when I went through a Led Zeppelin phase a few months back where no one seemed able to rate any of the Zeppelin catalogue, not even the pretty damn poor stuff, on it's own merit; beneath each video was a landslide of references to modern pop and Zep's grand superiority. Wilson then writes of another trend I find even more annoying: "This leads to another YouTube standard: a poster saying that he or she is a teenager and yet loves this song and hates rap and/or Justin Bieber" which is a fantastically fucked up 21st century convention the internet has made possible; people having to state their age, as if on an assembly recruitment line, then slating musicians of their own generation to gain acceptance from an older audience; which is the equivalent of walking into a local countryside pub and saying how much you hate these shitty modern day smoking laws just so you can get a drunken pat on the back from a group of guys you would in no other situation ever talk to.

The comments posted on Wilson's article, collected by Robinson, are insightful in their own right, but into something else; you'd think commenting on an article about comments would give these posters a more self-conscious attitude before clicking "post" yet an argument over modern music quickly breaks out. The longest comment sounds enlightened enough "To dismiss the current or the old as crap is the mark of a philistine who doesn’t really love music. They only love what music represents to them" which makes you want to agree just so some person on the internet will consider you a "real" music fan, although this comment takes on a very modern view, taken mostly by people trying to reach the "moral high-ground" on internet forums, where they completely deny the act of having an opinion, in this case wanting to like, or at least accept everything. Although this doesn't work; I feel like a real music fan, although I don't just hate Justin Beiber or Nicki Minaj, I hardly give them a chance at all. When another poster writes "Viva La Vida by Coldplay was the last hurrah" referring to good music in general it rings more true; the comment seems juvenile in it's single-mindedness and in an opinion I think there's a good chance you don't agree with. But that's opinion, or more precisely that's the opinion when put through the speedy response of a comments section. It's not enlightened, but it's at least more interesting than telling me I need to accept everything. People trash modern music. They call each other dinosaurs. They slide in jabs at Google +. They fit in funny comments and weird ones too. The best comment, and the one that gets it right without taking any sides is "Whatever you listen to when you’re young will always be the standard by which you judge all other music" which is a frightening thought really.

Robinson's article drew four comments of it's own, sadly showing the current lack of activity on a site that was swarming only a few years ago.

"night NEWS" Whatever this means 

"Barber (and Slutsky) indeed picked a medium-about-a-medium – comments about song-based videos – that lends itself to the spontaneous emoting (and thought) that it's built for, as Wilson explains well, but Barber also picked a particular song that depicts, is about, and provokes marination in nostalgia. (The song seems to have been effective enough to have gotten Wilson to end his blogicle wringing out a bit of just that marinade.) There are beefs and some name-calling on that thread, but it looks to me dominated by disclosure (and appreciation) of madeleine-moments. Interesting, sure, but from the point of view of a comment-thread skeptic–'vile cesspool' etc.– (which is [cough] not my point of view), a safe choice. A book of Obama Derangement Syndrome threads, or – why not? – Franzen or Tao Lin threads would have a much narrower range of, eh, personal reflection." An article with such wide appeal was never going to lead to a friendly discussion, but the straight shots of emotion provided by these sad youtube comments did lend as this commenter put it a sense of disclosure and appreciation 

"dude I want to comment on this post so bad" my favorite comment for it's obvious simplicity 

"The number of times commenters refer to age BLOWS MY MIND -- In "Night Moves" and beyond. "I'm 15 and I love this classic song." "I'm actually old enough to remember this song when it came out, and this is really what it was like, folks." "Kids today, this is how it's done!" &c., &c." Another person annoyed by this phenomena that I find most prevalent on the imdb message boards, at least when I frequented them up until about a year ago 

I like the discussion created by youtube comments because it's bare-bones nature has no equivalent. And I especially like all this discussion over such an unthought-about thing.

Monday, 2 December 2013

A Review of Zero Dark Thirty by a 17 Year Old Brit Who Hates Politics

I'm part of a group that is about as far away as you can get from the one the makers of Zero Dark Thirty were aiming for. All Brits could do when the film released last year was point and snigger at the American patriotic propaganda it must be. The arguments over torture flew over our limey heads meaning all we saw was America making the movie everyone knew would be made-made quick enough for the whole country to wallow in pride, and make Obama look good while doing it.

The problem is I was always going to watch Zero Dark Thirty anyway because that's the curse of being a film fan and having a new movie by someone like Kathryn Bigelow come out. I had mixed feelings about The Hurt Locker; it took an interesting perspective on the war in iraq, which has still seen surprisingly little coverage in movies, with it's character study of an adrenaline junkie bob disposal man, which worked on paper, and as a good look into a war we're all very confused about, but failed as an intense war film. Locker did deal with some heavy stuff but became too obsessed with it's characters, which is why Bigelow's fiction-as-journalism directional style felt too light on it's feet, because there wasn't enough journalism. It presented everything with the melodrama of the story while the filmmakers seemed more interested in the more medial military details. On the other hand Zero Dark Thirty is all medial details. You go in expecting gun fights and interrogations (controversial interrogations that is, which sound even better) and you get talking in boardrooms and devising plans; it doesn't so much divert your expectations as it makes you feel stupid for thinking the real thing was going to be as Die Hard as we all secretly hoped it would be.

The other thing that Thirty does different to how you'd expect is being so simple. The hunt for Osama Bin Laden sounds pretty complex, and at the very least we know it took a long time, hence I went in for a JFK/Zodiac-style mess of information. Both of those films had more characters and more points of view, but then again both those films didn't know where they were going, whereas Thirty takes us on a journey we already know the ending of with the preciseness of an SAS mission. So instead of a blur of dates and names we see most things from the perspective of Maya (Jessica Chastain) who's in charge of finding Bin Laden. She lacks a real personal life, instead replaced by an amazing drive to get the job done, which makes her actual moments of personality all the more thrilling; referring to herself as a motherfucker in an important meeting is a highlight. Maya lacks much character but she is a great character, and not just because of Chastain who works much better with more slight moments and gestures than screaming and shouting but because a huge character would have put some sense of desire into catching Bin Laden, but Maya wants to catch him for no more complex reasons than those of your average person on the street; he's a bad guy, he wronged many people, he deserves it, and it might just help with the war. The war in this case is as much an unexplained background force propelling people's actions with it's vague bluntness as it is to the real life public.

In the final third of the film we follow a SEAL squad (headed by Joel Edgerton) as they're sent on the mission the whole film's been building up to. In contrast to Maya these guys have the most exciting part of the film; finally we're out of those grey office blocks and into the suck. This section seems like it would be hardest to film, being that we all know how it ends, yet instead of getting things over and done with Thirty lingers on every small moment of the mission, which has even more impact when you think of the pace of the film preceding it. And you think the film might try to divert your eyes again, Apocalypse Now-style building up to something a lot less explosive than expected, which it does in some ways: the actual kill is more slight than the soldiers opening the door on their way in, and it isn't even issued by our expected hero Edgerton. But this film doesn't divert expectations. I mean how could it have? It would never have got away with it. After all that's why this section works so well. It drags things out and brings us right into the moment, and gives the moment the gravity the rest of the film hasn't allowed it to have; we haven't been waiting 2 and a half hours to kill the bad guy in the movie anymore, we've been waiting 10 years to kill Osama Bin Laden. I don't think people watched this section so intently because they felt scared or excited, I think they kept watching, wondering if it had all been worth it. Forget the news reports and the celebrations that followed, we've already had all that, in this section we watch to see what it was all actually for. The first time you watch Thirty you witness Bin Laden's killing in detail for the first time, but your reaction to his death, whatever it may have been, already happened more than two years ago.

In the end I really liked Zero Dark Thirty, more than any other film last year actually, although it takes a while to set in. Both JFK and Zodiac also took real stories of great cultural weight, so great that both films didn't even have names, just the names of their case files, yet they didn't shed any light on those cases, they simply made stories, some elements even fantastical, out of their confusion. But Zero Dark Thirty presents the Osama Bin Laden story in minute detail; I had no questions left when things were finished. Which makes Thirty the only film I can think of that tackles 21st century information-finding well; because we no longer have the imagination to be left guessing; we need to know everything, every detail, or it wasn't a worth-while story at all. Bigelow doesn't use Thirty to criticize this change, she actually uses it to make a great case for it; making us care for the how, not the what.