Category Archives: Pop culture

And with a cameo from Adrian Grenier…

I haven’t updated this blog in quite a while, primarily because of my willingness to disassociate myself from some of the ideas presented in earlier entries and submarily (that’s definitely not a word) because of my laziness. This is the trend of the last year or so- I write some pithy comment on a sociocultural evolution which may or may not be horribly misinformed, and forget this thing even exists until, apropos nada, I realise I have a website to maintain and a legion of hungry fans to satisfy by filling their minds with my words (and their stomachs with delicious sangers). And so it has come to that time of the month, so to speak, at which I choose a random subject to vent or perhaps understand a bit better.

The randomly generated (but strangely relevant) topic for this entry is…TUMBLR.

Tumblr, a blog/photolog (phlog?) network, came into prominence this year when it filled a gap in the blogging marketplace: the picture blog. Obviously, it is not at all difficult to put a picture into a blog entry on a website such as WordPress (though this particular one you are reading does have a delightful slogan in regards to its lack of literal imagery), but there has not really been a blogging platform that takes the whole “A picture says a thousand words” adage so seriously. As far as I can discern, the Tumblr community believes the average length of a blog entry is 1,010 words, and so writes a 10-word piece acompanying the giant visage of their choice. This is kind of perfect for our culture for two main reasons:

1. The length of an average Tumblr entry is similar to a status update. The picture provides author with a manifestation of said entry’s subject, saving us from having to either research or imagine what it possibly could be talking about; and

2. The added text, coincidentally (and maybe ironically) actually takes away from the subtext of the picture itself.

I’m not sure how much sense these reasons make, and I don’t feel like elaborating on them because I can’t concentrate as there is a television on in the background playing that god damn stupid “The Block”, a show that was cancelled years ago and brought back for absolutely no reason other than to provide another opportunity for Scott Cam to press his claim for the title of Australia’s biggest poser. I believe the guy, once upon a time, worked in construction et al., but to have him presenting television programmes in his King Gees and steel-capped boots is just insane.

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The inception of hyperbole

If you enjoy writing, then creating a blog is an extremely fun option. I had forgotten this piece of knowledge up until today, as the last six weeks or so I have been trying to write other stuff (which I’m not going to delve into). This other stuff is kind of taxing on my brain, so to write a blog entry is akin to taking a hot shower after a hard day down in the mines. Actually, it’s not just akin; it’s exactly identical to this. Try it out for yourself and see!

Anyway, I would like to take this opportunity to admonish those of you who are attending Splendour in the Grass. I understand why you are excited about this festival, it being the greatest gathering of musical talent ever aseembled in Australia. But what I don’t understand is the constant social media updates regarding it. (By the way, can we drop the “social media” terminology? Communicating with people through blank text makes me feel more antisocial than ever before.) “Going to need gumboots for Splendour in the Mud!” is a general refrain I’ve seen on Facebook and such. For the life of me, I cannot comprehend why someone would want everyone to know this. If I were going, I don’t see why I would broadcast this thought to a whole network of people. Instead, I would ring/text the people I was going with, let them know all about it, suggest they do the same etc etc. It seems  there is a group of Splendour-going people whose sole aim is to piss off as many of the rest of us about our decision, whether through choice or necessity, to not go to such a festival. For a thing with such an array of indie musicians, it will be watched by a surprisingly high amount of populists.

I suppose I’m being too hard on the Splendour ticket holders, and just making an example of them for what I feel is a major problem with Gen Y. I’m also being anticipatory in my spite, for I know that when they return home, their statuses will be full of things like “THE STROKES ROCKED MY WORLD!!!!” regardless of whether the Strokes did indeed rock their world or not. This is another issue that I take umbrage (umbridege?) with: the hyperbolic nature of social media. No longer do people simply enjoy, dislike, or feel negligible emotion towards things they’ve experienced or seen. Instead, these things are crowned “The greatest ________ ever!” or disparaged unrelentingly. I saw Inception this past week, and half expected it to be the greatest movie ever made. for it appears a lot of Facebook friends feel this way. I found it to be an above average movie, one with flaws and draining expository aspects, but an interesting and thought-provoking film nonetheless. Of course, in this day, that kind of statement would be summarily dismissed, for people want the extremes. It seems that society wants to experience the peaks and troughs of culture, yet doesn’t care for the middling ground inbetween.

And another disjointed session of rambling comes to an abrupt close.

World Cup y’all

Alright, I’m bored with studying, so I thought I’d update this baby. And since it’s World Cup time, I thought I’d do a special sports-themed entry. It’s nothing to do with the fact that writing about sport is as easy as putting your shoes on. Nothing to with it at all.

Firstly- Andrew Johns. Woah. In case you hadn’t heard, Timana Tahu opted out of NSW’s State of Origin camp after Joey, the assistant coach of the team, described Greg Inglis, a Queensland player, as a “black c—“. Tahu took offence to this as his mother is Aboriginal, and took the unusual step of declaring himself unable to play. Now, I can totally understand Tahu’s stance on this; it’s one thing for a player to say a racial epithet on the field, in the midst of the battle, but for your own coach to say it- well, that’s just wrong. But the part that I fail to comprehend is that the media seems shocked that Johns even uttered such a term. I would like to take this opportunity to remind the media that, though Johns may be the greatest footballer of all time, he has shown a remarkable aptitude at being an absolute bloody idiot. He participated in illegal drug-taking throughout his career, and when first starting out as a commentator, seemed unable to string two words together without the help of an autocue; even with one, he’d have trouble reading it. In all likelihood, his mental development was stunted as a result of being so precociously talented at rugby league, and only now is it starting to becom eknown. So media, please stop harboring a belief that Johns’ greatness on the field extends to his personal life. After all, he’s the reason someone like Matty Johns can be considered the smart brother.

From one form of football to another- this time, the real version. The World Cup has once again graced us with its presence, and for this I am grateful. Along with the Olympics, this is the only sporting event that truly transcends everyday life, and to see how much these games mean to the players and the fans is indescribable (is that a word?). But enough about the premise re. football > life. I want to talk about World Cup Fever.

There is a reason I capitalised the F in fever as well. This is because World Cup Fever is a television show, aired nightly on SBS at 8:30. I have only seen two episodes of this show (coincidentally, there have only been two made thus far), but I already feel the need to tell everyone to watch this show. Last night was its debut, and in the spirit of Murphy’s Law, everyone that could go wrong, did go wrong. Pre-taped segments went unaired, leaving the hosts red-faced. An interview with Mark Viduka was rendered obsolete as his microphone was dead, and no one could hear his responses. An “interview” with Kim Jong-Il was conducted without the background present on the green screen it was being taped in front of; bizarrely, as we watched Kim answer questions, not only could we see the studio panelists in the background, we could see Kim as well, perched on the original Kim’s shoulder in a manner not unlike Angel/Devil Homer in the Simpsons. The production quality was a solid D minus, and for this reason alone, you should tune in tomorrow (and every day after that). Oh, and the hosts were kind of funny.

Misc.

– Please, everyone, watch this video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iG3MYQHTnWk&feature=related. It is of Paul “Fatty” Vautin’s television debut, and is comedy gold. In fact, do yourself a favour, and trawl through YouTube’s endless collection of Australian tv bloopers. It will be an hour well spent.

– I have $25 effectively put on Spain to win the World Cup. They are clearly the best team in the tournament, won their warm up match against Poland 6-0, and possess probably the world’s best finisher in Fernando Torres. So why am I so nervous about them?

– Uruguay’s starting team against France had 4 Diegos in it. 4!

I am the MasterChef

Tonight, I pulled off what could be considered one of the greatest culinary achievements of all time. Usually, if I’m at home and hungry, I’ll happily put on a tin of baked beans, toast eight slices of bread, and proclaim that to be my lunch or dinner. The food I cook, for lack of a better term, generally only requires the ability to press “Start” on the microwave. The most complex dish I could conjure up was simply ravioli and tomato paste, made from the vestiges of a food tech practical. But then I cooked dinner tonight.

Because she’s Irish, my mum suggested I should make a stew. Because I’m ignorant, I really had no idea how to make a stew, and so approximated one as best I could. This meant making a spicy Asian curry. (INTERPOLATION: Do people who watch cooking shows like reading about cooking as well? I would hope not.) Despite my total lack of experience, I somehow managed to pull off the massaman- in my biased opinion, it was up there with the top 300 Thai restaurants on the coast. More importantly, though, was the fact that I was insanely pleased with myself, as if I had executed a guitar solo perfectly, or eaten a jam doughnut without having the jam squeeze out the other side.

This innate happiness is probably why these people get into cooking and go on MasterChef, I believe, and I am stunned that I didn’t realise it would exist before experiencing it first hand. Inexplicably, I’d assumed making a meal was not seen as a challenging activity, but rather a laborious example of… labouring. Now I see why cooking has emerged as an evolutionary pseudo-art form, albeit one somewhat limited in its scope. I also grasp why MasterChef’s ratings are otherwordly, and still don’t get why they haven’t created some kind of decathlon of reality television. Tell me you wouldn’t watch this show:

DAY ONE- The contestants, living in an enclosed compound, compete to see who is the best singer. The winner gets immunity from malaria for the week.

DAY TWO- Then they proceed to beat the crap out of each other in a series of boxing matches a la “The Contender”. The females can use what we call “The Stinger” on their gloves.

DAY THREE- Sporting black eyes, swollen lips, and generally looking hideous, the contestants have all day to create a delicacy-and-fashion-garment combo, allowing them to hide behind models and great amounts of steam.

DAY FOUR- Another singing contest.

DAY FIVE- Contestants are dropped into Karma nightclub on Jersey Shore, where they immediately proceed to ‘pound out’ each and every guy and girl there (thought the definition of ‘pound out’ varies in accordance with the subjective gender).

DAY SIX- Abandoned on a deserted island, the contestants have nothing to do except deconstruct the series finale of Lost.

DAY SEVEN- Freedom! Interviewees are conducted with contestants; some choose to respond, others let their “FREE TH REFUGEES” signs do the talking for them.

Awesome show, right?

The problem with Entourage

I am a very happy guy. Why? Because I just worked out the reason why Entourage doesn’t work.

To be unreasonably succinct: Adrian Grenier is a bad actor.

To be a little bit more elaborative: we are meant to believe that Vincent Chase, Grenier’s character, is a movie star, not only because of his looks but because of his great ability to act. There are various scenes where Chase’s “acting” is used to persuade other characters, and is then described almost reverentially by whoever is witness to it. But the problem with this is that Grenier, in real life, is not a good actor. So now you have a bad actor playing a good actor, which is an unsolvable problem. If it were the other way round, it would be much easier (for example, Johnny Drama is a terrible actor, who is interpreted excellently by Kevin Dillon). But the problem remains.

Now, the confirmation of this theory lies here: if Grenier had performed as a big-time movie star as intended, it would be plausible to expect that his real life would follow suit; life imitating art, if you will. But Grenier sucks as Chase, has sucked in movies, and is probably a B-grade celebrity at best.

Has anyone seen The Devil Wears Prada? Yeah…

Congratulations MGMT

I think I speak for nearly everyone when I say that MGMT’s first album is soooooooo 2008. Whilst we all danced along to Electric Feel, Kids and Time to Pretend for the entire summer, we knew that it was only a fad- that these intensely catchy songs would soon fade to oblivion, their impact diminishing over time and MGMT becoming less and less a part of our zeitgeist. Messrs Van Wyngarden and Goldwasser realised their cultural significance was waning, and choose to do something about it. It would be reasonable to expect this something to subsist of another bunch of disposable dance songs, with perhaps a few interweaved tracks demonstrating their broad-mindedness and musical nous. To be honest, I don’t think anyone would have really been disappointed with this; MGMT had obviously built a solid foundation on which a lucrative music career could be built on, and besides, no one expected anything more from them.

But now Congratulations has come out and changed all my preconceptions about them. Since I live in the 21st century, I have an amazingly short attention span. Since I live in the 21st century, I only listened to the hits from Oracular Spectacular, and failed to really see what they were doing with the other not so popular tracks. Since I live in the 21st century, I think “The Office” is the greatest sitcom in television history.

(Oh wait. That’s not related at all. But my point still stands.)

When I heard that MGMT announced there would be no singles off their new album, I was intrigued. Why would a band eliminate the very thing that brought the acme of their musical stardom about? The only logical reason appeared to be that they had simply gone insane. When I listened to the album, I was proved right.

Congratulations is plain weird. From Andrew Van Wyngarden’s sometime faux British affectation, to the occasional screams heard on certain tracks, it seems there is nothing remotely normal about any facet of this album. And this is why it is so good. The duo have taken umbridge at the fact that they are popular in the traditionalist sense of the word, and seek to destroy this and rise, much like a phoenix, from the ashes of their demise. For there is rarely a predictable, good ol’ MGMT moment on Congratulations. From the first track, the delightfully zany “It’s Working”, the listener is made to work to appreciate the music and lyrcis presented. It’s almost as if they feel a role reversal is necessary; they earned our love on the first album, now we have to earn their’s. It’s a band who have no thought for musical self-preservation, and is analogous to the sportspeople who behave in much the same way- whilst you may not be a fan, you do have to respect them for it.

It’s easy to say that this is the year’s most daring album by an ultra-popular musical act. (Oops! I just did!) But this is underselling the album as just being deliberately confluential. The truth is, it’s merely what the guys probably wanted to do in the first place. By creating a safer, more commercially viable debut, they set themselves up with maximum artistic license for their follow-up. In a way, this is a vanity project for them. Though rather than wallowing in self-indulgence, MGMT feel the need to highlight their inspirations, whether it be The Television Personalities, Brian Eno, or even Lady Gaga.

The actual music, I suppose, is rather important to the import of the album itself. But I only have one thing to say about it: it’s wholly unpredictable. Even the 12 minute epic “Siberian Breaks” is constantly changing.

The lyrics? “If you’re conscious you must be depressed/ Or at least cynical”. This sums up MGMT fairly well, I think. They’ve toured the world, lived out the most fantastical elements of “Time to Pretend”, and have had enough of it. These are just two guys who want nothing more than to write music that challenges you, music that provokes an emotional response. And I’m fine with that.

Once

Arze is Ezra backwards

I should be honest, I’ve been perusing “Stuff White People Like” (I’d put in a link, but have no idea how to) quite a bit lately, and so am understandably a bit influenced by its thinking at this moment in time. I have also been listening to Vampire Weekend far too frequently, leading to my urge to scream “IS YOUR BED MADE?” when my mother woke up this morning. So it’s only natural that these two interests would intersect in the form of yet another debonair and witty blog entry. Unfortunately, this is not that blog, as my style of writing is best described as “a series of rambling, quasi-coherent, pseudo-literate pieces of crap”.

Here’s the thing about Vampire Weekend: they’re white. Stunning, isn’t it? But really, these guys would have to be the whitest (in the vein of this entry’s appropriation of the term “white”) band in the world. To support my case, I shall provide a series of bullet points, because that’s what lazy writers do.

  • They all went to Columbia University, an Ivy League school. If you know even a little bit about American university, you’ll know that Ivy League schools are a simultaneous breeding ground/ nursery for the upper-middle and just plain upper classes of America- a status almost entirely populated by those of a, shall we say, paler complexion. I have no idea how much these schools cost to attend, but a totally unresearched estimate would put it at about $40000-$50000 per year. In other words: Columbia is so rich, it has its own television station.
  • Their name was originally used for an amateur film their singer Ezra made.
  • Ezra and the drummer originally formed a comedy rap group. This alone is the whitest thing I could possibly imagine doing.
  •  “First the window, then it’s to the wall/ Lil’ Jon, he always tells the truth” is pure hipster irony.
  • The largest and most crucial reason for their whiteness, though? Simply put, their music. See, by starting up a comedy rap group, there can be no denial that these guys recognise (and appreciate) the influence African-American rappers have had on today’s musical zeitgeist. However, they have gone one step further incarnated as Vampire Weekend, as their music is often infused with African tribal themes and instruments. Their eponymous debut album, when it’s not talking about racing across college lawns, seems to often find it’s locus in Africa, both geographically and instrumentally. By skipping the middle man and focusing purely on Afro-stylings, Vampire Weekend have done something which is so diametrically opposed to the norms preceding it that it can only be described as “white”.

After reading this, please don’t think I’m a (COLLOQUIAL TRANSITIVE VERB WARNING) hater. I can’t think of a band that dually appeals to both the glib and the thoughtful niches of indie music. Being extremely talented musicians and songwriters doesn’t hurt their standing either. Groovin’ The Moo cannot come fast enough.

Also, a quick shout out to my sister, who sang on community radio on Sunday to rave reviews from completely unbiased schoolmates. If you want to listen to it go here and click on the one titled “BAND-PLAYED-WALTZING-MATILDA”. I’m feeding the ego.