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The role of this blog isn’t changing, but all my television-related articles will be on The Examiner’s website. I’ll always post a link to the article here on my Tumblr, though.
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.Read more
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.Read more
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.Read more
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.
|Me:||So how's the television narratives paper coming?|
|Ellie:||Why are you such a downer?|
|Me:||Just curious||Worked on mine all break.||Can't imagine this is helping shake my role as a downer|
|Ellie:||STOP SAYING SHIT LIKE THAT. Seriously. You are making me feel inadequate|
|Me:||Yeah, I definitely didn't send Professor Becker a draft to review, which saved the whole thesis.|
|Ellie:||And my nun just chastised me for not greeting her when i came in, because i was with Britt||I'm debating telling her that we're in a lesbian relationship just to get her off my back||But yeah||Becker||Thesis||Bringing up words like that||Why?|
|me:||lol||Alright I'll stop||...and I'd definitely go with the lesbian thing.||That could be a multi-episode arc right there.|
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:
Survivor, the show that started the entire reality show craze in the United States, uses a certain equation to create unscripted drama. Along with the structure and the events that the reality game show contestants are subjected to, the producers have a very important system to create entertainment and drama: casting. By finding “real” people to fulfill the dramatic roles of hero, villain, leader, and other stereotypes, naturally occurring dramatic situations occur. The structure and events that are created for the contestants is the “expected” drama, and the specific drama that results from these events due to particular character traits is the “unexpected” drama that is essential for reality competition shows like Survivor.
In “Expect the Unexpected,” Haralovich and Trosset cite a particular event concocted by the producers of Survivor to pull at the heartstrings of viewers which ends up leading to unforeseen drama. In the premiere season of Survivor, a contestant intensely practiced at archery to win a challenge, the reward being a taped message from family. For reasons unknown, no tape arrived, and what could’ve been heartwarming turned to heartwrenching.
Similarly, in Survivor: Vanatu, there is an episode with an essentially same premise, except to heighten the drama, they actually flew out family members to the site (of course, unknown to the contestants). Then, they are told they’ll be allowed to chat with the family members, but when a contestant says she can’t type, they pull out a webcam. After a round of chatting, they finally bring the family members out, for more sappy drama. Finally, the challenge, and then a round of goodbyes. The drama created by these short visits from sons, daughters, spouses, lovers, and friends is expected, but it seems this particular type of event draws out the “unexpected” drama too, such as an eagerly anticipated video being the only one that doesn’t arrive, or a technologically-impaired contestant incapable of chatting with a loved one.
By creating and using this family member-contact reward challenge, Survivor is able to generate two types of drama, this “expected” drama of briefly reuniting castaways with family members, and the “unexpected” drama created by certain characters’ qualities being brought to light through events like these.