Day: June 28, 2012

Peaches en Regalia: The Music Video

Zappa was not a fan of MTV. He hated the way it deemphasized music in favor of superficiality. In that Spin interview I linked (the thing that started off this whole Zappa-a-day thing I've been doing), here's what he had to say:

Guccione: Do you think much music came out of the '80s that was valid, as music or as social criticism?

Zappa: Well, I kept doing it. I'm sure there were a few people in America who did it, but you never heard it, because the bulk of what you heard is what you saw. The beginning of the '80s gave us MTV, and music changed and switched from an audio to a video medium.

Guccione: For better or worse?

Zappa: For worse, because I believe that the way music is to be consumed is through your ears, and it shouldn't be too important whether the person performing it looks like a model. The record companies thought it was the greatest thing that ever happened to them because it was a way for them to get cheap commercials. And so the tail started wagging the dog. The record companies stopped signing groups that could play in favor of groups that looked good in pictures because they figured we could always get a producer to sing their songs and do their stuff for them, and that happened plenty of times. So you get a bunch of models to make the video and forget about the music. So that part of that worked. A young audience who never experienced any music to speak of started watching MTV the same way they watched Saturday morning cartoons. And it caught on. There was no competition. Before MTV if you wanted to have a hit record, there were probably 10,000 stations in America where you could break something regionally and have it spread. Now there is one MTV with a short playlist, and because of that the record companies put their own balls into the bear trap and sprung it on themselves, now they can't make a move without calling MTV and getting permission, they call up in advance to say we are getting ready to make a video, we are going to have such and such pictures in it, what do you think, and MTV is a total censorship organization and it has all the major record companies at its mercy. I started getting really weary of MTV when they started inventing rock n' wrestling, where we're seeing videos of Hulk Hogan urging kids to take their vitamins, urging kids to grow up big and strong like him, and be an American. It really was on the level of a Saturday morning cartoon.

But of course music videos are distinct from MTV. (That is, of course, quite a lot more obvious 20 years later, now that MTV doesn't actually show music videos anymore, and the vapid superficiality of the American music industry has moved on to American Idol and its myriad imitators.) Music videos themselves? The idea of fitting a visual to a song? Yeah, Zappa got how that could be pretty cool.

I am sure it is not coincidental that this looks absolutely nothing like anything you'd see on MTV. (Also, it made me dizzy.)

Not a Luddite, But...

Until recently, I used to tell people that, for a computer scientist, I'm something of a Luddite. I don't use Facebook or Twitter, I don't have a smartphone -- I don't even text.

More recently, it's occurred to me that it's not that I'm a Luddite, I'm just a guy with a different set of priorities. And actually my tech savvy is probably responsible for some of that.

I don't have a Facebook account because I want control of my privacy settings. It's not like I'm anonymous or anything; if you're reading this, then profoundly embarrassing things with my real name attached to them are just a couple of clicks away. A couple of clicks max.

But that's my call. That's not "third-party site suddenly changes its privacy policy without warning" territory. And whatever I may put on this site, it certainly doesn't constitute permission for advertisers to sell it to each other.

I understand the appeal of Facebook. I did the MySpace thing, back when that was a thing people were doing. It was cool to get back in touch with people I hadn't seen since high school. But ultmately it was a new place for them to send me all those damn chain E-Mails and personality tests I had asked them all to stop sending me; it was a time sink of the sort I'm not much interested in anymore, and if they really want to get in touch with me they can Google my name. I'm not hard to find.

As for Twitter -- well shit, if you read this blog you already know that even my off-the-cuff single-sentence posts won't fit in 140 characters. I am not at my best in short bursts; I am at my best telling long, rambling stories that set up an atmosphere. (Kazz once compared me to Garrison Keillor. I'm pretty sure that was after he kicked that beer can into the back of my head.)

On texting, well, my initial opinion of it is pretty much what Samuel L Jackson had to say about it on Boondocks (NSFW):

But that's because I have a simple, 12-button flip phone. I understand that texting's a lot quicker if you've got a touchscreen or a keyboard, and I understand its value for quick, asynchronous, precise communication. It's not a replacement for a phone call, it's a replacement for voicemail. And voicemail sucks.

As for why I don't have a smartphone: Well, to start with, I've always been a horsepower guy. I sit at a computer all day at work and then I go sit at another one at home. As such I've never really felt much need for a laptop (I got my first one for free maybe a year and a half ago and barely use it), let alone a smartphone.

On the other hand, I do like toys. And I can really see the appeal of a Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy that fits in my pocket. Not to mention, you know, I am a computer scientist, and this is the future of computing.

So yeah, I've kinda hit a point where I want a smartphone.

But then you hit the predatory pricing.

I'm with Sprint. They've been good to me. But I will be goddamned if I'm going to enter into a two-year, $60-a-month-minimum contract with them.

I'm a temp. I don't know if I'll be employed come December. If I get hired, I'll probably buy a smartphone (just in time for all the Christmas sales!). But I'll also probably jump ship to Virgin or Cricket or one of the pay-as-you-go carriers.

Meantime, I've got this little Samsung flip phone I've had for some 5 years, that is serviceable as a phone and alarm clock and little else. For example, I discovered the other day that it doesn't even have a way to transfer the photos you take with it to a computer. Which I guess is okay, because I never use that camera anyway and it's scratched to fuck as it is.

(I discovered this after getting my picture with Phil LaMarr at Phoenix Comicon last month. That's not a very long story but it is a story for another day, I think.)

Bright Side of Life

You know, I spend a lot of time complaining about stupid users. So let me take a moment to thank the smart ones.

If you have ever packed something appropriately, so that it's properly cushioned and doesn't bounce around, thank you.

If you have gotten it in the mail as soon as it was ready to go so that I didn't have to call and remind you, thank you.

If you made sure that all your stuff was properly backed up so that I didn't have to dig your computer out of a stack weeks later, thank you!

If you haven't shipped a horrific, toxic-looking keyboard back for me to dispose of for you, seriously, thank you so much.

And if you've actually thought to wipe down your equipment before shipping it back, I could kiss you.

Really. I got an old computer back today that somebody actually took a minute to clean first and it legitimately made my day.



So, um. I just started watching Eureka last season, I correct in understanding that they built up Carter and Allison for three years, made the audience really want them to be a couple, finally hooked them up in season four, made the audience really like them as a couple, and then...made her an absolutely terrible person in the final season?