Monday, December 30, 2013
On the "Seattle Sound" (Grunge): As a sub-genre of alternative rock, the origins of grunge music can be traced specifically to the mid-1980s in Seattle, Washington. Now this kind of specificity is rare when locating a musical genre's roots. Many genres' origins can be identified within a particular decade, but not a specific place (especially not in one city). Nonetheless, for a city that sees an average of 3 feet of rainfall per year coupled with an average of 225 cloudy days per year, Seattle's weather may have had something to do with the stylistically hardcore (and somewhat downbeat) sounds associated with grunge music. Also, for an American city not named New York or Los Angeles to become a net exporter of musical culture (and talent) for an extended period of time was a massive feat in its own right. And without question, during the first half of the 1990s, Seattle grunge bands such as Alice in Chains, Nirvana, Pearl Jam, and Soundgarden dominated the playlists on American rock radio stations.
Sunday, December 15, 2013
On Why "It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia": When the show first aired on FX in August 2005, It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia did not receive "rave" reviews. As a sitcom about four underachieving bar owners ("The Gang") in their late twenties, it wreaked of amateurish inexperience and needed an element of middle-aged depravity to complete many of its plot lines. At the time, Danny DeVito and his production company Jersey Television were still producing Reno 911!, yet he quickly recognized the show's main void and saw how it could be filled. From the moment Season 2 began airing in June 2006 (take the above clip as an example), the show felt not only more realistic, but also more hopelessly dysfunctional. In effect, the addition of Frank Reynolds (DeVito's character) helped explain why certain members of "The Gang," especially Dee and Dennis Reynolds, act so unsympathetic and egotistical toward others at times. And when Frank becomes friends with Mac and Charlie (the other "Gang" members), the level of scheming gets ratcheted up from episode to episode. Ultimately, the show will enter its 10th season in 2014, which is a tremendous achievement for any TV series these days.
Sunday, December 1, 2013
On Advertising and Consumer Capitalism: Let's relativize these two concepts for a minute. That is, put some distance between them and our "postmodern" selves. Why is advertising important? In a way, it's the "nexus" of commerce and culture. And it's the primary funding vehicle for delivering cultural content, whether that content gets delivered via the radio, television, or internet. Perhaps advertising is also the main reason why many people aspire to live by the values of middle-and-upper-class life. Advertising, therefore, has a homogenizing effect in this regard. But one must dig deeper into the industry's history to uncover its elitist origins. When the ad industry professionalized in the early 20th century, many of the "ad men" had upper-class backgrounds with Ivy League educations. Consumer capitalists needed these ad men to connect the products they were selling to the customers they wanted to buy them. Thus, it became the ad man's job to manipulate consumer demand by creating a kind of "anxiety" within the customer. This anxiety, according to historian Roland Marchand, became the basis from which certain products could be sold. Take the above Listerine ad from the 1920s for example. It's constructed to make you believe the seated woman is unpopular because she has "bad breath."