Daft Punk?!!

I like to think that I’ve developed a somewhat significant immunity to television advertising.  With the notable exceptions of the local Fuccillo car dealership ads (which are ubiquitous, and have, of late, ripped off Bob Dylan, for crying out loud) and most VW advertising (which I love), I tend to hit the mute button and let commercials slide by me.

The extent to which I am utterly mortified by the latest Heineken ads, however, obviates the claim above.  I hate this commercial from the very depths of my soul.  Seen it yet?  Here it is, courtesy of YouTube:

Delightful, no?  Odd, alien woman in futuristic bloomers is full of beer and ready to serve!  And she replicates herself!  What more could someone ask for?  Clearly, it’s not necessary to explain the deeply screwy message behind this ad.  [Although, if I were more up on my postmodern theory reading for the coming semester, I might have a word or two for Nancy Haraway and her high hopes for women as cyborgs.]  What is striking, however, is the running commentary on YouTube.  Of the 31 comments currently posted, 26 are about the song.  The song?!  The song?!?!  The song which is all about the beer?!

I think that I’ve heretofore downplayed the importance of music in commercials.  I should have paid more attention when Moby made his career by selling his songs to ad agencies, or when Sting resurrected his via a Jaguar ad.  Better yet, I should have taken note when iTunes had a special section devoted to purchase of the songs from their tv ads.  If networks are formed and utilized in large measure to name and locate tracks rather than assess images, I wonder whether we are in a moment when aural appeal has begun to eclipse the visual.  If only they’d make a visual mute button for my tv…


I’m writing up my syllabus for a first-year seminar in American Studies (I’m still riffing on the title. It should include the idea of “the good life”—as that’s the common theme among the first year seminars–and also cue the students that we’ll be looking at a number of digital media technologies: games, online video, information networks, etc.. “The Digital Good Life”? “The Good Life Goes Digital”? Needless to say, suggestions welcome).

I find it difficult to go on with a smile in my heart, however, when I read things like this:

  • They’re going to make a sequel to the film Wild Hogs. Seriously?!! We just can’t get enough of middle-aged men on Harleys?! Touchstone, you’re killing me!
  • I suppose it’s official: the movie version of Alan Moore’s Watchmen is going forward. From the director who brought us 300. And some truly bizarre casting. When I heard they’d got Patrick Wilson, it seemed safe to assume he’d play Veidt. But Nite Owl?! I hope Wilson has a deep affection for Krispy Kremes, or similar fat-bomb snack-sized product.
  • Meanwhile, Rush Hour 3 was the top opener at the box office last weekend, and apparently scored the fourth-highest opening of the summer. Please, see anything but this film. For the sake of the children, and all future race relations.

I suppose these are the examples that let me complicate the concept of the digital good life. If there are ways that media networks can make us smarter, there are ways it can make us dumber too. While I love Steven Johnson’s thesis of the Sleeper Curve, this is definitely a case of “everything bad is NOT good for you.”

**On a brighter note: someone has made Watchmen legos? Who knew? But what’s up with Rorschach’s hat?!?!


Fall is a’comin’

The fall semester quickly, all too quickly, approaches. In the best possible scenario, it engenders celebratory feelings. Yay fall! All of the excitement and anticipation of a new school year: new classes, new students, new projects. Hooray!

Normally, that kind of spirit would beckon us to get down, to party!  Heck, even “tear the roof off this place,” as the common parlance states. The folks at Buildings and Grounds must have gotten the same idea.  They are apparently familiar with a different architectural metaphor, however.  At good old 423 Western, my office building, they’ve left the roof untouched and torn the stairs off the place. As such, it’s about a four foot leap to get onto the porch and into the building. Since I finished up my high school phys. ed. requirement via correspondence, it’s safe to say that I’m working from home for the time being.

But I am glad to see that everyone on campus is eagerly anticipating the new semester!

Guilty Confession #1

I am a balky and generally irresponsible user of RSS feeds.

I know that they are revolutionary and wonderful. I know that they will bring information to you, instead of you having to go and seek out the information. I know that they are far more time efficient than clicking on individual sites to see if they have been updated.

I know.

Part of me quails at having to add everything that I currently read in granular form to a aggregator. I’m sure that if I just sat down and did it, it wouldn’t take nearly as long as I think it would, and I’d be happier for it. [Of course, this brings up the question I’ve asked here before: which reader, my friends? Ashley suggested Newsgator, and after using GoogleReader last semester for my class, I’m still digging it. But it’s been months! So, is there anything out there that’s new and world-shaking in the universe of aggregators?]

My larger objection to aggregation is this: I really miss the aesthetics of the page. Most of the feeds I read are blog feeds, which means that there’s a pretty tight correlation between form and content. Bloggers, like many web writers, are increasingly attentive to the ways that their page reflects their identities, their proclivities, the tone of their writing, etc. Hence, the development of templates and widgets in both Blogger and WordPress. While a reader will pick up pictures occur within the post itself, they neglect (by necessity) the other aesthetic and semiotic components of the site itself.

I wonder if the next wave of feeds will find a way to attach aesthetic elements to your feed that will appear in various readers?

Back-to-School Clothes

A new year, a new look for the blog. I’ve been meaning to dither with the CSS here for awhile now, but it wasn’t until I got inspired by some new graphics that I took the plunge. The header image is one of many that I took on my last visit home, at a place called the Boneyard at the Neon Museum. It’s a bit off the beaten path for most Las Vegas visitors (meaning that there’s no gambling or strippers within a half mile radius of the place), but it is one of the most concerted public, non-profit efforts to preserve iconic pieces of the unique architectural history of the city.

I couldn’t help but think about the work the Neon Museum is doing as I read Derek Kompare’s In Media Res piece last week, which focuses on Vegas as a peculiar and specific urban space in CSI.  I have to confess that I’ve seen little of the show (I’m done with the procedural drama, I think.  It’s just a form that bores me.).  I know someone who works as a forensic investigator for the LVPD, however, so I’ve looked on from afar at the continuing success of CSI.  As an increasingly popular evocation of the city, however, the representation of Vegas on the show obviously resonates both with academics (see the comments to Kompare’s piece) as well as students (in Tim Anderson’s response, he notes a string of class projects inspired by the show).  That same resonance recalls the ambivalent track record of the city’s architecture.   Most critics consider the place a paragon of bad taste and philistinism.  Brown and Venturi momentarily transformed that critique into evidence that Las Vegas is in fact the apex of postmodernity; of course, that in and of itself became less celebrated as we understood more about the consequences of global capital and simulacra.

For my money, then, the Neon Museum is doing yeoman’s work: they’re preserving a specific Las Vegan aesthetic, but grounding it in the economic, political, and cultural history of the city itself.  If the ethos of the city seems to be that it “destroy, reinvent, and destroy again” as Kompare writes, it’s good to know that there is a fledgling opposing force at work—one that is focused on preserving, maintaining, and recording the semiotic and material traces of the city as it used to be.

Viva Las Vegas, indeed.

What I Did on my Summer Vacation

Whoa.  A month away from blogging.  I feel as if I should have some really good excuse.  [I don’t.]  Instead, I have a bulleted list of what I’ve been doing instead.  Think of it as a shorthand take on the classic back-to-school essay topic.

  • I’ve been out to Redlands, CA, home of my alma mater, and spent a delightful weekend arguing with brilliant people about how best to read J. M. Coetzee’s Disgrace.
  • I incidentally discovered that the exterior summer shots in The Rules of Attraction were shot at said alma mater.  This is ironic, given my sick fascination (shared with some students.  They know who they are!) with all things Bret Easton Ellis.  Less so with James Van der Beek and his enormous noggin.
  • I spent about a week in fabulous Las Vegas.  This is less exotic and exciting than it sounds, as I grew up there and so it feels a bit like returning to Mayberry.  I did, however, get a chance to visit the Neon Boneyard,  which is the coolest social history project I know.  I have many pictures.  A future blog post may be a bit like your grandparents’ slideshows of Yellowstone.
  • I painted the interior of my house.  A lot.  You know the callus that you have where you hold a pen (assuming that people still hold pens)?  Mine is now twice as big, because I hold a paintbrush the same way.
  • I started reading for my fall classes.  With a little trepidation, I chose a book that I had read as a graduate student–Richard Powers’ Galatea 2.2.  The first time through, as a 25 year old, I was utterly unable to get past the protagonist’s chauvinism, and I gave my poor, long suffering professor (later my dissertation director) no end of trouble about it.  This time through, of course, I think it’s brilliant.  Raise your hand, all of you who think I’m about to get it from my students in the fall?

Somewhere in there, there was also a fabulous pesto, a Marxist reading group, research on rape narratives, beginning the final Harry Potter novel, programming a new cell phone, etc.  But that about covers my month off.  Now begins the frantic lead up to the start of classes at the end of August.  On your mark, get set…