“Couldn’t pay me to sit through that.”
The haters of American Idol are legion and the above comment came from a friend when I told him I was going to the final performance night. And this is one of the nicer comments I’ve heard regarding A.I., a favorite topic of mine. The show, to recap for those who could possibly be unfamiliar with, was originally conceived and produced by Satan. (Regular ‘lopers already know that Satan also created DRM, cable TV, and Microsoft.) Critics of the show have noted that this blight on the rich tapestry of human accomplishment—following thousands of years of progress in the arts and technology—is surely proof of the impending apocalypse. That this over-hyped, overplayed and played out excuse for reality television is still being massaged into the network lineup year after year by the evil overlords at Fox is proof that the dumbed-down masses, who get product placement so blatant as to be shameless shoved willingly in their faces, are also in league with Satan. How else can you explain why 25 million Americans fawn over these wannabe singers, these “pitchy” middle-of-the-road hacks seeking quick fame and fortune?
Make that love.
We had some friends over for dinner recently and the discussion, as is common, turned to movies. Everyone’s opinion on what makes a good movie may differ, but there is one fundamental thing a movie needs: movement. For example, my friend Dave said that while he liked “Cloverfield,” he had a problem with the monster itself. It didn’t seem to have a purpose and its movements were random. Now Godzilla, on the other hand, was always on the go. He moved and did it with purpose. He was on his way somewhere. I had to agree. I too liked “Cloverfield,” but the monster’s intent was like its shape, amorphous and random. So what could have been a new, genre-defining monster movie was merely an engaging and likable affair that featured a bit of credibility stretching by using a hand-held camera POV for its duration. There is a world of difference between “like” and “love.”
This year, two movies in particular were competing for Best Picture at the Oscars. One was Paul Thomas Anderson’s “There Will Be Blood,” loosely based on “Oil!” by Upton Sinclair, and the other was (eventual winner) Joel and Ethan Coen’s “No Country for Old Men,” based on the Cormac McCarthy novel of the same name. Both movies feature sadistic central characters and have a theme of “the times they are a changin’”; the first due to unabated oil development around the turn of the last century and the other to a rising tide of drug running and criminality along the Texas border in 1980. But there’s a key difference to what separates the first movie from merely being an attractive, if long-winded exercise in greed and megalomania, to a thought provoking, riveting, and accomplished feat of storytelling in the latter: movement.
Every year begs to be reviewed. As arbitrary as yearly events are, their placement in a 365-day box has been something that always fascinates us and makes the December weekend newspapers a bit more interesting. Top X [where X=5, or is divisible by] lists spout either a particular reviewer’s or a collection of reviewers’ primary picks in entertainment, sports, business, politics, etc. As handy as they are, lists have a short shelf life and are interesting for about the time it takes to read them. The main reason being that most of what ends up on these lists is forgotten by the following February, rarely to the end of the following year. (Unless, of course, it is a Grammy-nominated record and ends up somehow being relevant 18 months later.)
Back in June, I read a review of the new Ash album “Twilight of the Innocents” on the Guardian Unlimited website where it was mentioned that the band, a personal favorite, was about to end its recording career. Their traditional recording career that is. From this point forward the band members would be “dedicating ourselves wholly to the art of the single for the digital age.” For this I applaud them as, presumably, one won’t have to buy expensive imports and will just be able to download new Ash songs from the website or an online retailer like iTunes.
For those not familiar with Ash, you may remember the wonderful single “A Life Less Ordinary,” from a terrible movie of the same name. Always a bit of an indie underdog, Ash’s last album, a pop-rock meisterwerk called “Meltdown,” went virtually unnoticed in this country. I thought then that something might give, like a breakup or a total sell out. Instead, they’ve taken matters into their own hands. With the latest album not even released in this country, the internet could be the band’s savior, as long as there are no international or crazy DRM restrictions involved. I wish them luck in their future. But what I really like is this newfound artistic freedom that bands like Ash are planning, and how it is actually starting to take shape with other bands.
Unless your name is Elton John, we all pretty much have our own personal reasons why we love the internet. For proof, try to find someone who has a set of bookmarks even remotely similar to your own. They are the digital equivalent of snowflakes. But one myth that needs to be shot down is the “internet is for lazy people” canard. The internet certainly does not make you any lazier than you were in the first place. It’s always easier to apportion blame on something that can’t argue back. In fact, the internet can inspire you to be less lazy, while saving you a lot of time, money and hassle too.
Unable to sit still for too long, I probably suffer from a physical equivalent of ADD. I gotta move. And as much as I love my house, it’s really there to eat, sleep, put the kids to bed and watch the occasional movie or baseball game. (Which, by the way, I consider active activities. Thanks Netflix, Blockbuster and DirecTV.) After all, life is a collection of experiences and if you like to get out and take charge of those experiences, the internet is your friend. Your big, wise, all-knowing friend.