Frugality Review: Superior Nut Company's Gourmet Hot & Spicy Peanuts (Fancy Grade)
I like to bargain shop with my groceries, because quality roulette is a very low-risk way to stave off the bores of routine. And one thing I like to pick up at my local Grocery Outlet is some sort of snack for next to the computer, and lately that’s meant trail mix. Trail mix is the frugal snack compared to bulk nuts - with expensive cashews or pistachios rare among the far cheaper raisins and peanuts.
So I was in the protein and DVDs section of GrossOut and my eyes spotted a large supply of very large (1.6 lb) cans of nuts with a red cap, towering over other nut packages. Buying in bulk was appealing, given my rate of computer-side snacking, so I check the price - $2.49. That’s a trail mix price for a super-sized can of nuts.
There must be something seriously wrong with these peanuts.
We zoom in from Google Earth to a communal hacker space in Silicon Valley. Within 15 seconds, Nash (Karan Soni) has deemed the workspace “unacceptable” and stomps to the door. And in 15 seconds, we have our first signal to the tone of Betas. The listening to soothing music to try to drown out distractions is real to all of us. But hacker spaces are generally considered to be highly productive environments (though easily mistaken for start-ups, which Nerf gun battles are commonplace). Is this the creators breaking any expectations of realism right off the bat, signalling comedic liberty with elements of start-up life? Or a simple plot contrivance to keep the cast at a low rung of start-up experience, but still signalling to the young, loose workspace of start-ups?
NFDHOF #2: "Things Will Never Be The Same Again" Event Pilot
Almost a year ago, I introduced my disdain for overused narrative framing devices with this post on the Documentary Narrative.
I find myself inspired once again, this time by the ugly duckling of this Fall season’s lineup: Revolution. What is it about Revolution that has caused such resoundingly mixed feelings? I wanted to go inside and crack the case, and what I found is this year’s Narrative Framing Device Hall of Fame winner: the “Things Will Never Be The Same Again” Event Pilot.
You know what I mean - when the pilot of a series centers on the drama and intensity of The Mythology Event. The power goes out in Revolution. The plane crashes in LOST.(1) The advantage to starting your mythology series with this Event Pilot is that your pilot crackles like how a trailer only shows the best parts. They come out looking like miniature movies with ad breaks, and your entire premise is explained, which means you have your best shot at getting commitment from any curious audience, back to see if E2 is as good as the pilot.
After The Legend of Korra ended its first season back in June, I asked a few of my Twitter friends and fellow Avatar/Korra fans to participate in a roundtable discussion about the first season. I knew that opinions about the finale were mixed, and I wanted to explore how different people reacted…
Like Korra? Like Avatar (the animated series)? Then read this discussion on them that I participated in! (For the record, I have since completed the original series)
At risk of turning my personal blog into a curation of cool things made by friends of mine, you should check this comic out. To call it a “strip” would be inadequate, as it incorporates interactive elements with unconventional presentation to create an elevated storytelling experience. I love this direction and can’t wait to see more graphic storytelling in this style.
This is QUEST, my first completely computer-made comic. It’s Photoshop, HTML, CSS and a little jQuery. I was really excited to work on an art thing using my HTML skillz since I’ve never really done it in a visual way like this. It’s mostly a tech demo/proof of concept, I hope to tighten up some of the art in the next couple of weeks. Working on this convinced me to have an HTML component in my senior project, but I don’t really know what that means yet.
Despite having kept one for nearly four years, I’m still not sure for whom a journal is written. It can’t be written for other people, for that invites self-censorship (and furthermore, at that point, really, just do some editing and show people a short story if you want attention). At the same…
I do not normally reblog others, but I just had to share this incredible work by my prolific friend Luca. That’s all I’ll say…anything else I could write in this forward would be a disservice (and make my writing look bad in comparison!)
In the past decade, there’s been a lazy trend creeping into television. Scripted comedies are so saturated with this jarring practice, we’re hardly distracted by it anymore. And yet, my dislike for the technique is overpowered by a surprising side-effect.
We can easily point to the success of The Office (UK) as the instigator of the documentary narrative trend. Ricky Gervais and company first effectively utilized the private interview as part of its narrative, and ten years later, The Office (US) is in its eighth season, Parks and Recreation shows no signs of stopping, and Modern Family is coming off a virtual sweep of the comedy Emmys. What is it about documentary framing that makes it so successful?
I’m going to speak directly, on a not too broad scope, and try to sell you on a non-conventional journalism platform in which to publish reviews.
My name is Andrew Seroff, I won’t bury my mediocre lede either. A little biography to keep you reading (since I flatter myself by even writing to the TV critic community): I majored in television at Notre Dame, under the advisement of TVitterati's own Professor Becker. Since graduating, I’ve become something of an amateur television critic and academic, that is to say, I write about the things I like, but for free. I recently took an internship at a start-up called Miso, which you may know from the last year in news about Social TV products.
I think you’re right to question the current model of television criticism. It’s flat. The only reviews/recaps I read are the standouts, like Cory Barker's Community timeline breakdown, to name a recent example. It’s a matter of economy. I can’t afford to waste my time reading a review that is more long than it is interesting, I need punk rock. Speaking of which, I’ll skip further agreeing with you and get to the point.
In general, I think the internet has a lot to offer. So much so, that many of its downsides go unperceived by its users. Along with its stereotypical criticisms, such as the abundance of spam, pornography, and hackers, I’ve already addressed an unfortunate cultural downside of the internet. Not to become the Debbie Downer of the internet, I’ve got another bone to pick with our Skynet overlord.
I was born in 1989 to a hardware engineer father and a videogame testing mother, and as such, our family was always on the cusp of technology. My brothers and I had the privilege of utilizing every OS as they were released. Our young minds were filled with DOS directories that became something like passwords to our favorite 8-bit games. We were even playing LAN games over our house’s network before “multiplayer” was even a standard game type. Okay, so we were a little young for Usenet and the Atari, but for the most part, we matured right alongside the computer.
This parallel becomes exceptionally relevant in the early 2000s. The internet became a commonplace fixture only a few years previous, and was in a period of commercialization. One of the ways devised to make money on the internet is what we would now call “social networks,” though at the time were known simply as “blogs”. To say that my middle school years were dominated by online interaction would be an understatement. To the children of Silicon Valley families, the internet replaced many of the downsides of awkward middle school interactions. Popularity was determined by how many comments received on angsty blog posts, and “going out” referred less to dates and more to the amount of time spent chatting on AIM.
It took a while to get them all uploaded, edited, and captioned, but all the positive feedback I’ve received thus far has made the work worth it. If you would like to use, have a copy, or have any feedback for any of these photos, just leave a comment or send me an e-mail. Enjoy.
"Relevant Experience": The Plight of the Popular Arts Graduate
I’ve been out of school for a bunch of days - the exact number does not matter. Unsurprisingly, I’ve fallen into a bit of a funk. A funk you would expect someone standing at the crossroads of infinite potential directions. Even less helpful is a five week trip I leave for in several days, which is delaying any serious efforts of preparing to take my first enormous steps into my own.
I double-majored in Music and Television, because I feel that the impact of the popular arts is massive, and universal. What I didn’t anticipate is the uselessness of becoming an expert in fields dominated by opinion. “Experts do not deserve any special role in declaring what is known. Knowledge is now democratically determined, as it should be.”(1) The result is a man with ambition and knowledge lost in a crowd of prolific amateurs.
I am seeking employment in various fields, all of which are exclusive. A degree might help once you get a foot through the door, but the door itself is elusive. This is, as anyone could have described, the Plight of the Popular Arts Graduate.
Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip and the Media: A Textual Analysis of the Battlefield and the Weapons of an American Religious Culture War
A television show that is effectively complex is still a rarity, despite the medium’s relatively recent maturity into respectability. One of these anomalies is Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip, a serial dramedy by esteemed television auteur Aaron Sorkin. The short-lived show managed to critically address a large spectrum of serial themes throughout, the most important of which being the precarious topic of religion. What may have originally started as deliberate conflicting characterization of the two protagonists in love eventually developed into an unapologetic indictment of American politics, media, and society.
Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip uses religion to various degrees in order to illustrate Sorkin’s point about its role in American culture. At its simplest level, the way in which Matt Albie and Harriet Hayes are depicted shows how Sorkin views the personalities of the people they represent. One level deeper, the way in which the media inside Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip portrays issues revolving around religion shows how Sorkin views his medium’s treatment of the same conflicts he attempts to address. As a result of these two levels of religious depiction and discourse, it becomes clear that Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip is not a comedy about a sketch show, but a drama about the battlefield that America’s largest culture war is being waged on.
While discussing the legitimacy of certain obscure religions, I offhandedly made a perhaps rash comment comparing the Jedi Church to the Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster. In penance for possibly undercutting one of these two electronic churches, I decided to do a little research on the Pastafarians (as they call themselves), in order to determine if I was at fault over my sweeping generalization. I went to the Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster’s website with the goal of finding the three factors we talked about in class: individual, community, and social aspects of this electronic church.
In regards to an individual transformational experience, I did not experience one. The website, though aesthetically-pleasing and easy to navigate, provided very little religious substance. Instead, the majority of the content was discussion regarding the legitimacy of the religion, which, without knowing better, would seem to be the backbone of the faith. In fact, the “Join Us” section ends with
FSM is a real, legitimate religion, as much as any other. The fact that many see this is as a satirical religion doesn’t change the fact that by any standard one can come up with, our religion is as legitimate as any other. And *that* is the point.
While the website affirmed my weariness with the fine line between legitimacy and illegitimacy, it didn’t provide anything that shattered my world view or validate their pasta-based deity. To grant the church of the FSM the benefit of the doubt, I am left to assume that the “good stuff” isn’t available on the website. Like most electronic churches, there is a handy link to purchasing a copy of their gospel (in the right column on the home page), though it suspiciously lie under ads for more advertising merchandise, like car emblems, clothing, and posters.
As it is Opening Day, I figured I’d hunt through the archives and find my column from two years ago. It has been removed from its original publication’s website (ND/SMC Observer), so I figured I’d just copy the whole thing into here.
Funny story about this article: I wrote it on Opening Day, but the Editorial staff decided to run it a week later, and had me change the verb tenses from present to past. Well, here it is in its proper form.
And yes, I realize my jokes and Asher Roth references really dates this article. A testament to the past. Without further ado:
If I were to list my five favorite days of the year, Opening Day of Major League Baseball would be nestled somewhere between my birthday and New Years. Much like the first day of March Madness, I would be quite content spending the entire day camped right in front my television, watching it all unfold. Even if you don’t celebrate as piously as I do, I hope you enjoy the inaugural festivities, and I hope your team wins, so long as you aren’t a Dodgers fan.
Last week, I noted on my twitter that there was a buzz about Scott Adams, creator of the comic strip “Dilbert,” and a post on his blog that dared address the hot-button topic of gender relations. This post quickly made the gambit of virality, starting as a scandal, then turning into a flamewar, and in its final state, Adams posted this follow-up today.
While many hot-headed and intellectually shallow citizens of the internet will be unwilling, or unable to, comprehend his thorough argument (and thus have permanently associated “Dilbert” with misogyny), this piece is a concise case-study of the phenomena of controversial writing, especially on the internet. It outlines the kind of writing that is susceptible to this drama, and how it gets misinterpreted through the internet’s common, yet often problematic act of excerpting and, as a result, decontextualizing writing. On top of that all, the most impressive part of his argument to me is his ability to aptly describe the whole process in plain English, as opposed to resorting to internet jargon and shorthand.
I apologize for not writing so much. As you may be aware, in addition to writing pieces on a variety of cultural events and trends, I am a fencer, and it just so happens that this is my senior year season and second year season as the captain of the Fighting Irish fencing team. Though I wish the day doubled in length, a mere 24 hours is hardly enough to do everything I wish I could be doing, and for that reason, writing has taken a backseat to my final hurrah in both collegiate academia and athletics.
Barring extenuating circumstances, my final tournament will be this weekend, and following that, much of those 24 hours will become vacant, for the first time since I picked up the sport a little over a decade ago. I do have several pieces lined up, and I am of the opinion that they will be even stronger given the time I’ve had to prepare them. Until then, however, I will continue microblogging on Twitter (@aseroff), and look forward to you taking the time to read my articles in the future.
Religious and Ideological Mudslinging: Cable News and Bill Maher's "Religulous"
When we discussed several television news clips that addressed religious topics, it was clear that the content of much of the programming, especially pundit roundtable shows like Hardball, The Glenn Beck Program, or The O’Reilly Factor, is entertainment focused on criticizing figures and politicians of the opposing political parties, as opposed to actually reporting and discussing news events. This is probably caused by a variety of factors including ratings and time-filling, but most importantly, a news channel must create an image of accuracy and importance, often at the expense of other cable news networks.
The documentary “Religulous” was essentially equivalent to the aforementioned pandering and mudslinging. In the film, Bill Maher travelled the globe searching for the most obscure, extreme, or colorful examples of religion, and then proceeded to unfairly argue with these innocently unprepared interviewees. His argument has the benefit of certain advantages, including selection bias, knowledge and preparation for his own questions, and post-production editing, and he exploits all of them to paint his desired picture of religion being equivalent to diagnosable lunacy.
A while back, there was a fad going around the internet to make “geek charts,” which attempted to categorize all the different sets and subsets of geek culture in a single graph. After one particularly sleek, silly, and egregiously incorrect flowchart went viral, I vowed to create my own graph, one that is both attractive and reflects my comprehensive knowledge of the subject.
I had the passion for the project, but it wasn’t getting made. At first, my studies took up all of my time. I didn’t want to half-ass my project, since it would inevitably become the Authoritative Graphical Plot of Geek Subculture. Then, I had some other smaller, but more important projects cut in line. Finally, as I put the finishing touches on my scrap-paper draft, Patton Oswalt published what I contend to be the definitive essay on the status of modern geek culture, arguing it to be the horrendous mutation of its pure, pimply-faced predecessor, by way of the internet’s exposure of its precious “hidden thought-palaces.”
I was, to put it plainly, a little disappointed. Here I was, planning to prove my nerd sagacity with my magnum opus of cultural wisdom, but as I surveyed the land I was about to declare my kingdom from the top of a windy vista, out of nowhere, a wispy, floating manifestation of Oswalt appeared next to me, whispering in my ear, “My generation liked it before it was cool, now its mainstream and conformist and lame!” as he disappeared in a poof of self-righteous dust.
For the record, I am not trying to undercut Oswalt’s argument here. Merely pointing in the direction I’m heading.
I know I’m late to the game on these. I’m way behind on my movies (still haven’t even seen Toy Story 3, that’s how bad it is), although maybe I’ll go see True Grit tonight.
Exit Through the Gift Shop
What I found most impressive about this film is its universal intrigue. I was in a room with my family, with various levels of interest ranging from “opposed and begrudgingly watching” to “been waiting a while to see this and heard great reviews” (that’s me), and as much as some people couldn’t contain outbursts such as “What’s the point of graffiti?” and the like, no one could stop watching (which is a rarity in my ADD household). And at the end, we had to have a discussion on art, and the film, and the characters it portrayed. Even the least enthusiastic viewer jumped on to Wikipedia, searching for some critical point he missed to make sense of it all.
The “Cool” Geek: The Interdependence of the Paratext and Multi-Authorship to Promote Subculture in Scott Pilgrim vs. the World
The relationship between subculture and the mainstream has always been one of codependence, especially in the realms of film and music. For every British Invasion, there was a Jimi Hendrix, and for every Rat Pack, there was the French New Wave. Most recently, a new cool has surfaced from American subculture: the geek. With the rise of lifestyle-defining technology such as the internet, and the hipster-themed marketing of consumer electronics, more and more people are identifying with this new subculture. On the coattails of the popularization of technology, video games and graphic novels have found new resurgence not only as viable mediums, but trendy articles of the new, cool geek culture. Scott Pilgrim vs. the World (2010) and its paratext represents an attempt to capitalize on the geek subculture entering the mainstream, through the multi-authorship of Bryan Lee O’Malley’s video game and indie music-themed graphic novels, the directorial stylings of Edgar Wright, the musical direction of Beck and Nigel Godrich, and Michael Cera’s perpetuation of his typecast as the quintessential cool, yet socially-awkward geek.
The First Show to Steal My Heart: A Narrative Analysis of "Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip"
Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip was a primetime episodic-serial dramedy created by Aaron Sorkin (The West Wing, Sports Radio) that aired on NBC over the 2006-2007 television season. Much like his other television shows, the narrative style of Sorkin, who, along with creating and producing the show, received writing credit on all twenty-two of the show’s episodes, is deeply imprinted in Studio 60. It then follows that Sorkin can be credited with much of the unique and outstanding narrative qualities, keeping in mind the elaborate and massive crew that was essential to the production of the show. The culmination of every intricately executed aspect of Studio 60 resulted in a critically acclaimed series cut short by an expensive budget and a dwindling viewership.
Despite quality in every department of production, it is the methods in which Aaron Sorkin and his staff told the story of the variety sketch show Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip that made the series so outstanding. One of the techniques used is an attention to realism whilst maintaining a functional dramatic structure, something Sorkin achieves in the early episodes of the series by maintaining equilibrium between serial and episodic elements. In order to do this, Sorkin uses the protagonist Matt Albie (Matthew Perry) as a means of viewer perspective, while simultaneously providing omniscient narration. In addition to establishing stable and engaging structural norms, Sorkin goes to incredible lengths to instill familiarity with the fictional studio and the world of television in order to induct the viewer into plots that exceed interpersonal drama, venturing into the realms of politics, institutions (especially the press), and the economics of entertainment. The resulting episodes contain equal parts drama and realism, with Sorkin’s narrative devices creating a tone of “narrative density”, or a multitude of plots occurring in a story time residing in a similar screen time (like 24), with seamless crosscutting and ellipses only occurring at act breaks, to create an aesthetic of chronological fluidity and the feeling that plot arcs are not just interwoven, but concurrent as well.
As the series progressed, Studio 60 evolved from the highly effective rigid construction of the early episodes. As characters became richer and more sharply defined, their traits led them to more dramatic situations, including those that left the confines of the studio, as, in turn, single-episode storylines. Further complexity is added through the introduction of “curveball” characters, or characters with primarily observation roles (journalist, lawyer) whose sole purpose is to provide a new angle on existing runners and characters. These characters drop into the world of Studio 60 only for a few episodes, to disrupt the relative balance established in the early episodes by providing both new episodic situations to the studio, as well as new perspectives to engage the serialized drama through. In order to facilitate these broader, more serial plots and “curveball” characters, while maintaining the series’ characteristic tone of “plot density”, the middle period of Studio 60 strayed from its defined agency, venturing into subjective narration and omniscient narration severed from Matt’s core essence.
By developing and perfecting these elements throughout its run, Studio 60 reaches its pinnacle of its storytelling method by the late episodes of its single season, most notably in the final four episodes of the series. All the development to the mythos and the history of the variety sketch show throughout the series gets its payoff, as the show returns to its core conflicts and series runners, while using “curveball” characters and changes in agency to strengthen them. This final period of episodes features qualities from both the early and middle episodes, refined to their most effective form, in order to provide the optimal dramatic narrative of Studio 60.
My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy is a world without sampling.
It all started when I tweeted:
Aseroff: Kanye’s new Bon Iver track isn’t sampling. It isn’t homage. It’s plain plagiarism.
after listening to “Lost in the World,” the final track of Kayne West’s latest album, which is essentially 5% rap and 95% “Woods” by Bon Iver. Among reasonable responses, such as this one from my dear friend and fellow musician Analise:
Lalalanalise: It wouldn’t be his first offense. Aseroff: Don’t I know it. I just hate how he becomes critically acclaimed by piggybacking on much more talented artists. Lalalanalise: Seriously. Though he just confirmed my feelings of Pitchfork being a bunch of serial wankers. 10/10. HA. Wow. Just. Wow.
That is what a nice, critical debate looks like. Well, more or less. Then, after a retweet from an e-friend, some rando from Oklahoma drinks some Haterade and summons up the strength and courage to defend the most famous rapper alive.
MF_Fried: Bon Iver helped Kanye with the recording of his album so Bon Iver was cool with it. Ps woods is a rip off of hide and seek.
I did a little research and confirmed the first part, Bon Iver frontman Justin Vernon contributed on several tracks for Kanye. Didn’t see anything about Kanye helping with Bon Iver’s album, which seems unlikely because Kanye isn’t the type of person to be an uncredited producer, especially on a critically successful indie-folk album. The postscript was just reeking with ignorance, however, and I couldn’t keep my mouth shut. “Hide and Seek” by Imogen Heap is a surprisingly worthy comparison to “Woods,” but….well, lets just say class is in session: