Strange little decade fetishes

24 11 2010

The ’80s are the new ’50s … and the 1990s are the new 1960s, I guess. Eh?

A bit ago, I was listening to the radio (which I haven’t done on a regular basis in years) and except for the sonic gyrations of Katy Perry, everything was pretty much as it was the last time I regularly listened. Or, more accurately, it was like a time machine of my teen years. Alanis Morissette was swallowing her jagged little pill, Weezer was rocking out, Gavin Rossdale was crooning sans Bush, Usher was doing some R&Bing. I looked up some Weird Al Yankovic videos for good measure, because that’s what we listened to when I was 13. And just imagine cruising through certain parts of Maryvale or South Phoenix (or down Boulevard in Atlanta) with Eminem cranked up. Yes. You know the feeling. Or you don’t.

At that moment, I felt that it could have been 1995 or 2000 again. Really, I felt like a time traveler, which tells you something about radio. So imagine that you made a time machine that goes back all the way to 1995, or perhaps a couple years earlier to when Kurt Cobain was still alive and young boys weren’t mourning in pea-green sweater-veils and stringy hair. My, how much the world has changed.

My thoughts immediately turned to the first “Back to the Future,” which recently celebrated its 25th anniversary. In that film, the “future” is 1985. Heck, that’s almost before my past now. If you did a parody of that film in today’s world, you could have some kid go all the way back to 1995 and try to get their strung-out grunge-loving dad to marry their grunge-loving mom somewhere in a glamorized pre-hipster conceptualization of the Seattle rock culture. (You might want to bring in Weird Al if you’re planning any parodies.) Universal Studios is already working on the motion-simulator ride for its Hollywood and Orlando theme parks. Or not.

It seems like at the moment, the 1980s and 1990s are getting to be almost as fetishably foreign to us now as the 1950s were then. You already see a lot of romanticization of the 1980s, as evidenced by my recent iTune-age of the “1000 GREATEST HITS OF THE 1980s.”

Time and decades were a difficult concept for me to grasp as a child. “Happy Days” was the ultimate confusion. By that time in my youth, I had learned that there were old things and new things. But the advent of “Happy Days” was a layered mess of reruns of an old series that took place 20 or 30 years before. Very, very confusing for a youngster like me. At the time, people were fascinated with the 1950s in a very special way. Music from the era was all over oldies stations and was popular with other kids. (Side note: it won’t be long before the Phoenix, Arizona, oldies station KOOL FM will be playing Madonna instead of the Marvelettes.) Enter “Back to the Future,” which didn’t make much sense to me when I was very young. Particularly because the second film was coming out and they were going “back to the future” in the movie, weren’t they? But they had done that in the first movie? But that was set in the past, not the future … OK, I get it now.

Incidentally, Back to the Future (the first one) is one of the tightest films or stories I’ve ever seen, plot-wise, and I think that’s why its popularity has endured. Modern movies and films and music would do well to learn from this example, regardless of genre. The key to its memorable nature is its straightforward plot, built in two perfectly intertwined layers so that the time-travel plot is a device for the emotional exploration of Marty’s parents’ relationship. How many things have you seen that balance this dichotomy so well?

Anyway, the point of this post is: leg warmers are going the way of the poodle skirt, Happy Days was awesome, BTTF is awesome, and holy moly, Weird Al is still going strong. Oh, and Gavin Rossdale is still as appealing as he was back in the day. That is all.





Fun with GarageBand

28 04 2008

videoGoofy video that I put together… experimenting with the Mac’s built-in music editor. Wait til I’m on MTV.





Bohemian Rhapsody

18 04 2008

Bohemian Rhapsody failed to embed. Sigh. So posting the old-fashioned way. Enjoy this short cell phone clip.





Getting to know the Mac a little better…

18 04 2008

Out of Box ExperienceI’ve written a bit in other places about how I now use a MacBook Standard at home and how weird it is. It turns out that I enjoy this system a lot, but figuring out the Jobsian way of doing things (oh, OK, I drag the mouse and that scans through the photos. OK.) is creating a bit of a learning curve. There’s a few semantics, too, but I’m getting there. The system pretty much can be used at its most basic level with little or no extra learning effort, but mastering all the cute little media applications is a bit trickier.

Today I created a short sound clip of trumpet fanfare using GarageBand. It did a good job of approximating the musical notes (looking over them, they appeared to be for a far better song than I had done.) It’s cool that a computer would include a music-making app. It’s a nice touch. I hope people will learn how to use this software and make their own music instead of ripping copyrighted material. One must, however question the placement of the (only two) USB ports on the left side instead of the right, as well as the lack of anything beyond the most basic features and OH WELL these things aren’t that big of a deal. They’re part of the Mac experience. Coming off a gi-normous HP laptop with every bell and whistle imaginable, including a TV tuner, I’m going to have to, uh, make do with less. But… using the new computer and system has been an overall pleasant experience.

Now, I have a newer computer at work, too, and the process of migrating everything over created a couple rough spots, methinks, but it will be totally awesome once that’s resolved. Hey, no one said progress was easy.





Writing challenges and musical insecurity

6 10 2007

As you may or may not know, I want to write and I have ideas in my head, but I’m not sure how to get them on paper/computer, and I don’t know what’s the best way to proceed. As I see it, there are a number of questions you have to ask yourself when constructing a piece, and here is the list of things I’m asking myself:

  • Fact or fiction? In some ways, nonfiction is way more artistic because you can talk about something that really happened and find research sources. You spend more time crafting and perfecting your art. And fiction is way more limited, because in order to add reality to an invented scenario, you have to decide upon a “realistic enough” sort of scenario.
  • “Novel” ideas, anyone? With books having to compete with far more interactive kinds of media, is there a way for the ol’ tome to get in on the business? It’s my feeling that old-fashioned book reading could benefit from a little modernity, just enough to get people in on the game. Perhaps authors can start blogs and discussions and encourage people to share their perspectives and fan art. The fan art and fanfiction (and yes, slash) are seemingly a biproduct of this sort of need we have now to be participants in the media we consume.
  • Why create a standard text story in the first place? Maybe interactive storytelling is the way to go. Stories constructed from the start in an inherently interactive manner. Don’t ask me how that would get done, but I’ve done a little research into interactive narratives and perhaps that’s a good starting point. On the other hand, reading purists know (and I feel) that text has its own value; an intimate connection with the author as the words stream through your head in a sort of musical rhythm designed to dance through the verbal centers in your brain. The resulting imagery is often more powerful than any movie, and most people can attest to disappointment at the seeing a movie after reading an associated book. The trick is you, the reader, have to be of the right mindset to receive text. More and more, it’s getting hard for me to focus on something so old-fashioned as a book.
  • So you’ve decided you want to write a fiction book. How fictional should it be? Should it be set in a real place or a fictional location? How much should this place resemble real life?
  • Do you want to play it deadpan and straight, or do you want to have an element of humor mixed in?
  • How to narrate the story? Third-person narration feels safer because the narrator doesn’t have to have a stake in the story, but first-person narration can have its benefits. It depends on how involved the narrator should be. You can even have an omniscient narrator speaking in the first person about events happening to others. In any case, how reliable is this narrator going to be? The default typically is a “journalist narrator” who uses colorful commentary to describe the situation, but ultimately steps back and lets things unfold. Still, things could be done differently. A more unreliable narrator might choose to withhold information or give their opinions. In any case, it’s something to think about when constructing a story.
  • What’s the point of writing this? To have fun, make social commentary, address inner fears of the psyche or maybe do all of these and more? Maybe there’s something out there I can’t think of. In any case, it’s important to figure this stuff out.
  • Is there a workable storyline going on here? Is this a sustainable plot? Where is this going?
  • Has this same exact story been done BETTER by someone else?

I think that’s enough for now, but I’m working on some ideas. We’ll see.

Oh, and WordPress has added a tags feature (or else I’m blind to the fact that it was there before) so I can now add tags instead of relying only on categories. Now I’m wondering how exactly I’m going to use these in concert now, seeing as I’ve been applying a tag approach to my use of categories. Ah well.

Oh, and whilst at Borders today, I purchased four CDs. One of them was a Richard Marx CD (my first) and the others were from shall I say “cooler” artists. (Remember that “one of these things is not like the other” sketch from Sesame Street?) I was a little awkward about the Richard Marx disc and I put it near the bottom of the stack. I mean, I’m not such a wuss as to not buy the actual CD, but I’m still insecure enough to try to sandwich it between more socially acceptable items and pray to the deity of your choice that nobody says anything about it. So the Kevin Bacon-esque clerk chuckles a little and asks me straight out, “You a big fan of Richard Marx?” and I flatly denied it in the same way that I might flatly deny that I have some horrible disease, which was silly, but I did it. It turns out that *he* actually enjoyed it and I squashed him without really intending to, and I felt a little bad about it.

I’m going into this awful amount of detail about this extremely mundane event because music is such a personal and telling thing, but at the same time it means nothing at all. It’s a singular reflection of one aspect of our inner emotional state, and in some cases represents our fleeting emotional and social desires. Exposing your musical interests via playlist is a bit like opening up your soul to show who you are and maybe even who you wish you were. So, then, it’s not really in vogue to be emotionally vulnerable in this day and age. Sarcasm, stoicism and a stiff upper lip are common sights. For that reason, you (me, whatever) cringe at the thought of enjoying really emotional or cheesy things, until you reach a certain point that it’s so ridiculous that you can only celebrate it. I think that’s where I’m at now. And don’t get me wrong; maudlin, over-emotional and perhaps clingy people drive me up the wall. But sometimes it’s nice to indulge, and yet I feel very defensive at the store counter. So, everyone, the moral of this story is it’s time we embraced the Softer Side of Sears. And Richard Marx.