It seems like there are very few good commenting systems on the Internet. Based on my experience, the free or low-cost services can be very barebones, sluggish or just a pain to use (I guess you get what you pay for). After being saddled with Facebook Comments for several years, I was happy when my previous employer switched to Disqus. It’s not perfect, but it was the service I was most familiar with and it offered a fairly robust series of moderation tools that I _definitely_ put to use.
I no longer have to moderate comments on a regular basis but I’m still partial to Disqus, especially because it’s the system used on one of my favorite websites — The A.V. Club. Commenters there have a love-mostly hate relationship with Disqus, particularly during the service’s hiccups. At the same time, A.V. Club stories garner dozens and hundreds of comments and Disqus (mostly) handles the workload.
Unfortunately, that’s apparently about to change in the next few months. In the past few years, The A.V. Club and its sister publication, The Onion, were purchased by Univision. The Spanish-language broadcaster has been expanding into different sites and also added the Gizmodo network (formerly Gawker). One of Gizmodo’s assets is a content management system called Kinja.
Based on previous media reports, it appears that The Onion and A.V. Club will move over to Kinja. Although there wasn’t official confirmation at the time, it’s started a series of comments on A.V. Club. (NOTE: The move has been announced after I first wrote a draft of this post and is taking place Aug. 23.)
In a recent comment, someone asked what was so bad with Kinja. Here was my stab at a response —
I’m not sure about _all_ the objections about Kinja, but the biggest annoyance for me is that posters and their initial posts start off in a “pending” status.
When you’re in pending status, your comment is out of view unless the reader clicks on “View Pending.” Even then, the pending comment is displayed in gray and tagged “PENDING APPROVAL” to reinforce how “pending” it is.
Posts can be moved out of pending if they get enough likes/stars. I also believe that the posters can earn a trusted-sort of status but the process of how this is done isn’t well explained.
I must admit I haven’t seen _too_ much spam on Kinja sites lately, but trolls still abound. Generally, the system puts up unnecessary hurdles to interaction.
All in all, it’s a clunky system. Also, as I understand it, It’s the underlying content management system for the blogs that use it (like Deadspin). It makes it easier to swap content between sites, but they all look bland and cookie-cutter.
For as much as people gripe about Disqus on A.V. Club, the users there have built a vibrant community centered around a common love of pop culture. It’s gotten a bit more combative as the site has published more politically focused articles (which seems somewhat understandable, given the current president’s symbiotic, yet toxic relationship with the media). The comment area has also remained a reliable fixture of the site, even as it undergoes changes (with some longtime features being cut and some dubious elements added — including some sponsored content that the commentariat lustily mocked).
Despite the increasing politicization, The A.V. Club comment area remains a mostly positive forum full of inside jokes, truly awful puns and considerable passion. I sincerely hope that the switch to Kinja doesn’t negatively affect this oasis.
The Los Angeles skyline as seen from the Getty Center in December 2014.
I’ve seen “La La Land” twice, so I think it’s safe for me to venture an opinion. It’s interesting that jazz plays such a interesting role in the film as one of the life passions that one of the lead characters pursues. If I were to compare “La La Land” to a jazz piece, I would say that there are some interesting themes, but the ensemble relies on the same beat too often.
The film contains a lot of enjoyable elements, but it doesn’t necessarily gel — especially at the end, when such cohesion is needed.
The film, being set in Los Angeles and providing several fun, brightly colored musical numbers, inevitably draws on artificial constructs of filmmaking. Unfortunately, writer and director Damien Chazelle seemed to lean on these constructs too often and it became distracting.
For example, it’s not an uncommon staging technique (especially in theater) to isloate people by placing them in a spotlight and fading the lights around them. Although there are other ways to reproduce the same effect more naturally in cinema, it’s not a bad way help heighten an emotional moment.
Unfortunately, repeating the technique about 10 times in a two-hour film greatly diminishes its impact and ultimately takes the viewer out of the story.
It may be that Hollywood-centric stories generally draw from a general pool of cliches and expectations that other L.A. films have established, built upon and distorted over the decades. “La La Land” draws on these expectations, but doesn’t seem to exceed them.
This was especially clear when Stone’s actress character is called into an audition reminded me of the end of “The Muppet Movie” where Kermit and the gang finally gain audience with a studio exec and sign “The standard rich and famous contract.” While Stone is winning in that scene, it doesn’t really go beyond ground tread by frogs and pigs about 40 years ago.
Chazelle can have a deft hand behind the camera. That’s readily apparent in the showstopping opener, “Another Day of Sun,” which was shot in a single, flowing take over two rows of stopped cars on a Southern California highway interchange. The selection of shooting locations is also a fun trip around an idealized Los Angeles, including the Griffith Observatory and the currently closed, but fondly remembered Angels Flight funicular railroad.
The energy of the opener and the subsequent song helping to establish the female lead lend the film a tremendous amount of energy. This energy seems to fade gradually as the film progresses into the story between Emma Stone’s Mia and Ryan Gosling’s Sebastian.
Although music remains a present campanion through the film, if often takes a backseat to the drama of Mia and Sebastian’s courtship and the ultimate fate of the relationship.
In the climax of the relationship storyline, music plays in the background until it suddenly stops on a critical beat of the dialogue. The song’s sudden silence adds a unique texture to the scene in a way that feels more natural than the camera blocking for the scene.
The camerawork during these scene — an argument — plays up a common filmmaking technique. The scene starts with the two characters in the frame together — even when one character is speaking and facing the camera, the other character is still in the frame.
This shifts as the argument builds tension. The couple stops sharing the frame as Chazelle isolates each character — helping to signify the growing distance in the relationship. I think it was a fascinating decision to show close-ups of Mia and Sebastian’s faces, allowing the emotions on each of the actors’ faces to unfold in grand scale.
Ultimately, I don’t know how effective the scene is because of relying on a standard technique.
I love that Chazelle deploys different camerawork depending on the scene, although I wonder if it wholly comes together. The final number, a medley sequence recounting the events of the film if they had gone differently, is exhiliarating. It makes a play for the viewer’s heart, but it didn’t quite work for me. It relies on there being a great love story at the core of the film and I don’t think that ever fully took root.
There’s enough to “La La Land” to make me want to visit, but I’m not looking to stay.
Richard plays a saxophone cover of “Hello” during karaoke night at Keys on Main in Salt Lake City on Tuesday, Aug. 9, 2016.
It’s been interesting getting used to a different karaoke scene. Back in Chico, I knew where I could go out and sing every night of the week, even when it wasn’t practical to go.
Since I moved back to Utah nearly three months ago, I’ve gone out to karaoke four times with last Tuesday being the latest. Part of my challenge is that I now work most evenings, except for Monday and Tuesday. The pickings have been relatively slim, but I’ve still been able to find some gems.
Although my sample set for testing is limited, I’ve been impressed with the quality of the performers in Salt Lake City. Conversely, I was disappointed by the general unprofessionalism of the karaoke night I found in Provo on Monday. I’ve also been happy to take advantage of late-evening runs on the TRAX light rail and FrontRunner commuter trains, although it does end my evening at around 11:30 p.m.
Beginning with a Twist
My first time getting back on the karaoke horse was last month at Twist, located just north of 400 South and Main Street in Salt Lake. It was in what could be described as a small street or alley, so I didn’t know what to expect. Thankfully, I was pleasantly surprised when I walked up to the establishment. The entrance was raised and set back from the street. Patrons have to walk up some broad, shallow steps and past an enclosed patio to enter the restaurant.
Inside, the establishment was divided into three areas. The main serving area was the top-most level with the bar and kitchen. I didn’t immediately see the karaoke setup, so I headed down the stairs to a basement that included a smaller bar area and bar games, including pinball.
The basement area was too small to host karaoke so I headed up a second set of stairs and discovered a mid-floor that housed some restrooms. As I made my way around the space, I thought that it seemed a little risky to have so many stairs in an establishment that caters to people drinking alcohol, especially with the restrooms on a mid-level. Thankfully, some of my concerns were ameliorated when I discovered a second set of restrooms on the main floor — there really wasn’t a reason to go down the stairs unless a patron was partaking of games in the basement.
When I reached the top of the second set of stairs, which ended near the back of the business, I could see the karaoke setup. I didn’t immediately see the karaoke host, so I moseyed to the bar and waited, somewhat distracted by the large projection screen hanging over the opening to the basement.
The evening was off to a slow start, which is unfortunately pretty predicatable for most karaoke nights. Thankfully, the night eventually started and I was able to pick up a mic and have some fun.
My setlist was a mix of songs that are particular favorites and one Fourth of July song because the holiday had just passed. I warmed up to the karaoke host when he was surprised that he had Los Cadillac Fabulosos’ “El Matador” in his library. He was eager to sing it himself on a future night.
Here are the songs that I picked for that night:
“Mr. Blue Sky” by ELO.
“El Matador” by Los Cadillacs Fabulosos.
“America the Beautiful” by Ray Charles.
“Most Beautiful Girl (In the Room)” by Flight of the Conchords
The set up was basic — the by-now common laptop connected to a sound system. I don’t remember where the flat-screen monitor was on a stand or a table top, but it was an average situation with no serious demerits.
The crowd began to trickle in. Many of the first people to sing seemed like regulars and their friends. A couple of the regulars seemed to be fairly talented and I found myself thinking about the quality of performers possibly being a little higher in Salt Lake than relatively small Chico.
It was fun to sing again, although I’ve gotten a bit self-concious about singing after watching a recording I made at a live concert where I’m heard singing along with the crowd on a song. This self-conciousness has extended to when I sing along with the radio in the car. It’s not enough to deter me from singing or staying away from challenging songs, but it’s a good reminder that I’m still a rank amateur and these evenings are just for fun (especially when singing difficult tunes, like “El Matador”).
All too soon though, I noted I had to catch the light-rail back to my car before the system shut down for the night. As much fun as it is, I definitely I don’t want to be stranded away from home for the evening.
Unlocking Keys on Main
About three weeks ago, I stopped in a place across from Gallivan Center on Main Street that advertised karaoke on Tuesday — Keys on Main. As with Twist, I didn’t have a good idea of what to expect but the evening was ultimately a success.
The evening got off to a slow start — I guess it would be more noteworthy if a karaoke night actually started on time. There was a small group taking turns singing, so there was already a modest rotation by the time I added my name to the list.
As with Twist, there seemed to a handful of regulars joined by a small group of others. So far, I haven’t really seen a place since I’ve returned to Utah that was hopping. That’s probably because of the day of the week — two years ago, I went to a place off of Highland that eventually got crowded, but it was on a Saturday.
Whatever the crowd, the regulars were definitely solid singers. One fellow named Richard even brought a saxaphone to play Lionel Richie’s “Hello” as a solo and then joined Millie as a duet called “Millard.”
The set up at Keys was as professional as Twist and DJ Wes ran a pretty tight show. Instead of being casually set up in a corner of the bar, Keys’ karaoke set up on small stage that also accommodated dueling pianos (which were actually keyboards that were turned off, much to my disappointment). I definitely like having a stage to perform on, but any place that isn’t cramped or awkward is OK.
My song selection was based on tunes that I like singing, but haven’t had a chance to sing in a while.
“Little Lion Man” by Mumford and Sons.
“Fat Bottomed Girls” by Queen.
“Here For a Good Time (Not a Long Time)” by Trooper
Some of the songs have generally gotten a good response (like Queen), while others are just fun, like the Trooper tune. After I sang “Here for a Good Time,” a couple of guys said they really enjoyed it and wanted to know the artist. They were interested to learn that it was a band from Canada, which they reasoned why they didn’t know the song.
Again, I had to leave early so I didn’t get stranded. One patron was generous enough to offer me a ride to the train station, but I had plenty of time to get back to Salt Lake Central Station.
Disappointment in Provo
On Monday, Aug. 15, I decided to finally check out the limited downtown Provo night scene. While I’m happy to live in downtown, there’s only three late-night spots on Center Street and I have had no real compulsion to visit any of them. For example, City Lights looked appealing on the outside, I was turned off by photos of interior’s light wood paneling that screams family basement from the ’70s.
I’m not going to say which establishment I visited because what I found might get them in trouble (although there may be enough context clues for someone to take a big guess and figure it out).
I was pleasantly pleased when I first entered the business. It felt a bit like a dive, but I prefer places that are comfortable and a little lived in. I was excited when I heard somone singing on a back stage. The crowd seemed pretty diverse, although tending to be on the younger side. Overall, it was a pleasant surprise considering what I was expecting from Provo.
I grabbed a beverage and headed back to see if I could sign up for a song, even though it was getting late. I stopped in my tracks when I saw that the karaoke host was using YouTube to play the karaoke tracks. I politely waved at the karaoke host when he looked my way, but I decided I wasn’t going to try to sing that night.
I’m generally positive about karaoke tracks on YouTube … at home. It’s exciting that several karaoke music companies post their music videos to YouTube. It can be great fun to do YouTube karaoke at a house party.
However, a professional karaoke event is not a house party. Some things that people can get away with at a house party can’t fly in a place of business. For example, playing a stereo or watching a football game is generally OK at home with a small group of friends. At a local business, the owner needs to have a license or face fees from licensing groups.
The main problem with YouTube is that it is generally licensed for private, personal use. I don’t know if Google has a YouTube that’s available for commercial use.
In some ways, it doesn’t matter as the KJ handled YouTube in an amateurish way. The YouTube status bar was often visible during performances and autoplay would automatically start another (unrelated) video after the singer was done.
On top that, the KJ would scramble to mute the sound when an ad came up. Overall, I wasn’t impressed with the host. He was obnoxiously enthusiastic and interacted with performers to the point where it was distracting. Toward the end of the evening, he jokingly cursed at the audience for not being engaged.
But seriously, YouTube karaoke could be trouble
I am not a lawyer, but my impressison is that karaoke hosts generally need to use tracks licensed for commercial use — they can’t just download them from iTunes. There may be some winking at these restrictions (I don’t know how many karaoke hosts or regular people who can vouch for every song in their library). However, using YouTube as a core component of a professional gig seems like an invitation for trouble, especially if a licensing group does decide to look closer at an establishment or KJ.
But you don’t have to take my word for it. When I shared my concern online, one friend who’s a KJ responded: “Very unprofessional and they could get into some trouble if the right people found out.”
Back to Keys
I returned to Keys on Main last week. It definitely confirmed that the singers that I though were regulars were indeed regulars (although there was no sax that night and some people I thought were regulars were not present). The crowd was also about the same as before — filling less than a quarter of the seats in the large space. I don’t know if they anticipated more people — there were song sign-up slips on most of the tables, so perhaps there was a time when the place gets busy.
I drove into the city that night, so I didn’t have to worry about catching the last train out of town. I did have to watch my beverage intake and limited myself to one, which is for the best in more ways than one.
When it came time to pick songs, I stayed towards the tunes that I like singing and usually get the best reaction.
“Graduation (Friends Forever)” by Vitamin C.
“The Distance” by Cake.
“Africa” by Toto.
“Lights” by Journey
I was surprised to find that I haven’t sang “Africa” in a few months, considering that it became such a favorite in Chico. I started off with “Graduation,” explaining that I usually sing it at the end of the school year, but didn’t get to during the spring.
A couple of song choices were dictated by the fact that the songs I would’ve preferred to sing where either unavailable or unplayable. I would’ve rather sang Cake’s cover of “I Will Survive,” but “The Distance” was OK. I jumped to “Lights” when The Tragically Hip’s “Blow at High Dough” wouldn’t load (which is a shame given that the band was just ending what will likely be its last tour).
All in all, the Monday Tuesday karaoke scene isn’t too bad. It’s not hopping like it was most nights in Chico, but it’s something that can get me out of the house every once in a while. I don’t know if I’ll be making the trip every week, considering the time and distance involved (especially with curling league starting on Mondays), but it’s a nice option.
Yes, Comcast is a huge conglomerate, but does it and 5 other companies really own over 90 percent of _all_ media?
It is ironic that a letter to the editor about media literacy would contain a wild, unsubstantiated claim about the media. Both the Enterprise-Record and the Chico News & Review ran a letter from Richard Sterling Ogden promoting a community radio program focusing on media literacy. Unfortunately, both copies of the letter ran the claim that “Six corporations own over 90 percent of media…” This claim has been floating around for years and, as far as I can tell, it’s a bit of easily repeated hokum that doesn’t have a scintilla of proof.
It’s frustrating when these unfounded and demonstrably false claims are repeated without any verification because it can diminish otherwise valid concerns about media consolidation. Because I loathe to see inaccurate, feel-good noise drowning out valid, useful information on the Internet, I often respond whenever I see this unproven claim repeated and taken as gospel (Here’s an example from Business Insider). What follows is generally what I post.
The simplicity of the statement “six corporations own over 90 percent of media” is its undoing because “media” could mean everything, including print, radio, broadcasting, recorded music, cinema, pay-TV, online media, etc., in every country across the world. Six corporations may have their fingers in many of those categories, but not all, and not in all countries.
Even if you generously narrow the definition of “media” to just the United States, one can quickly deduce that there’s no apparent merit to the claim.
For example, of the 1,774 full-power TV stations in the United States, about 20 percent of them are public television stations. Public television stations are licensed by various schools, colleges, non-profit entities — not, as far as I can tell, the nefarious six corporations.
The remaining 80 percent is less than 90, even if the rest of them were owned by these corporations (which they’re not). Yes, most TV stations air programming from broadcasters like Disney-owned ABC, CBS Corp. or Comcast-owned NBC, but the actual stations are owned by different companies. There are only about 79 stations owned and operated by the sinister six — that’s just 4.5 percent of the total number of stations. Again, 4.5 percent is not 90 percent.
The linked table itself acknowledges that the six companies control 70 percent of cable networks. I don’t have the time to verify that claim, but it’s not necessary because 70 percent isn’t 90 percent.
I could do the same thing for radio stations, newspapers and news websites. When you add them all up, I don’t think you’re going to get to 90 percent.
Ultimately, people who decry the potential for mass manipulation shouldn’t engage in it themselves.
Here’s a breakdown of how much airtime each candidate, and advertisers, received during Thursday’s GOP presidential candidate debate aired on Fox News Channel.
Thursday’s debate of Republican candidates running for president in 2016 on Fox News Channel turned out to be pretty exciting. While most of the post-debate analysis has been focused on what the 10 candidates said, some are looking at how much airtime each candidate received. I took it a step further and considered how many commercials aired during the program.
My findings? Advertisers handily won the airtime battle.
I didn’t have a stopwatch, but based on my review of the broadcast, I estimated Fox News aired a total of about 16 minutes of commercials during six breaks. If it’s correct, that means that commercials took up a larger portion of the 2+ hour-long debate than any of the individual candidates. That’s more than current frontrunner Donald Trump’s 11 minutes and 14 seconds, as calculated by The New York Times. Ads had nearly triple the airtime of Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, who was one of the leading candidates.
Since Fox News was running the show, it could and did take commercial breaks during the event’s scheduled two-hour running time (it ran over by about four minutes). During the first break after about 30 minutes, The New York Times’ graphics department tweeted a breakdown of how long each candidate spoke during the initial segment.
I was interested to see how little time some of the candidates received, especially compared to Trump, who has become a major attraction in this election’s early going. By that point, each candidate had relatively little time to speak — Walker got only 34 seconds, but even Trump got less than two minutes. I was amused by Fox News airing commercials during a civically-oriented event, especially because I’m used to commercial-free debates before the main general election (less than 15 months away!). I was curious if Fox News would have more commercial time than airtime for some of the candidates.
Ultimately, I was surprised to see that it’s likely that advertising outpaced _all_ of the candidates instead of just a few.
I didn’t have a good way of keeping time of the commercials during the debate, so I tried to collect the data after it ended. Thankfully, I was able to find a Washington Post transcript of the event and a YouTube user’s upload of the entire debate sans ads (that YouTube link may be yanked down due to possible copyright infringement).
The video was 1 hour, 49 minutes. Thanks to Fox News showing the time on its rotating channel logo, I could see the recording started at about 5:58 p.m. Pacific daylight time and ended after 8:04 p.m. PDT — about 2 hours, 6 minutes. My math determined there was a 17-minute difference between the two durations. I subtracted about a minute to account for short teaser promos that the YouTube user also edited out, but I don’t have a firm idea of how long those teasers really were.
The transcript indicates there were six commercial breaks during the broadcast. If the breaks were of equal length, each one would be 2 minutes, 40 seconds. It’s plausible that there were 15 total minutes of ads — that would make each break about 2 minutes, 30 seconds.
So, by my estimate, Fox News aired 15 or 16 minutes of ads. By comparison, here’s the final airtime tally as calculated by the Times:
Although advertising time dominated over the candidates, 15 to 16 minutes of ads over a two-hour period (or 8 minutes per hour) is extremely light by today’s broadcasting standards. It’s common for networks to air 18 to 20 minutes of commercials an hour. We could have seen nearly 40 minutes of ads during this two-hour event.
I initially lamented the intrusion of advertising into a civic event, but many people noted the breaks were relatively short and some enjoyed what was being advertised. On the other hand, some were frustrated by the total number of breaks in the broadcast.
My top comment of 2014 was about “How I Met Your Mother” – “They had the option to not run the pretaped segment and shoot a different ending.”
Kids… in May of 2014, your father tuned in for the final episode of a television program called “How I Met Your Mother.” Coincidentally, watching the show is how I met your mother.
Just kidding. The only thing I met in the spring of 2014 was a new chicken wing place, but that’s a story for another time.
Anyway, the show had long been a favorite of your father’s. It featured six friends your father’s age as they made their way through a Los Angeles TV studio made up to resemble New York City. The main character, named Ted Mosby, was on a quest to find his ideal partner.
What attracted your father to the show was relatively inventive and funny storytelling and an energetic set of characters played by actors whose individual dynamics played well off each other. The show, especially in its early years, seemed like a worthy descendant of “Friends” and “Coupling.”
Ted’s quest continued for nine years through numerous twists and turns, including dating one of his friends, Robin, but it was finally leading to the final episode where Ted would finally meet the woman who would become his wife.
After eight seasons where each season took roughly one year of time, the final season was primarily set in a single, long weekend where each of Ted’s friends met the mother before fate (and the show producers) finally allowed the story to reach its natural conclusion. Ted met the mother… but that wasn’t the end of the story.
And kids, much like this poorly thought-out story-telling mode that I’m struggling to stick with, the story of “How I Met Your Mother” went slightly off the rails.
You see, despite nine whole years of saying the story was about how Ted met the mother and spending an entire season of episodes expressly building up to this resolution, the show’s producers made it clear in the last five minutes of the episode and the entire series that we were all wrong — the story was about how Ted, who was
telling the story in a series of flashbacks, was indirectly seeking his kids’ blessing to rekindle an older relationship years after the mother had died.
Needless to say, that resolution didn’t sit well with a lot of people who took to the Internet to voice their dismay. One of those people was your father. Back in 2014, websites encouraged readers to leave comments at the end of stories (and to help prove Sturgeon’s Law everyday). People could also click to approve comments that they
liked or found useful.
Your father would comment on various topics from time to time. His comments were only sporadically liked, but he would see his most success in 2014 when he wrote the following on a review at The A.V. Club:
“They had the option to not run the pretaped segment and shoot a different ending.”
At the end of the year, 233 people had liked the comment making it by far the most liked comment your father had written in the 2014. Your father had been responding to speculation that the show’s creators, Carter Bays and Craig Thomas, had to stick with the ending that they filmed with the actors that played Ted’s children when they were teenagers several years ago. The actors had obviously aged and didn’t look like they did nine years ago.
My simple point was that Bays and Thomas didn’t have to stick with the ending that they planned out years ago. Had the producers wanted to choose a different ending, they certainly had it in their power to do so.
But they didn’t.
In interviews after the show, Bays and Thomas have said the ending was what they had envisioned all along.
Although Bays and Thomas had set their course several years ago, their vision of the destination was unsatisfying given the direction the show actually took. One can set out with a destination in mind, but the goal can change based on the actual journey.
The journey of “How I Met Your Mother,” especially in the early years, had a strong focus on Ted and the woman he would ultimately end up with. As the years progressed, that relationship ended and future stories focused on other relationships Ted was seeking or other hi-jinks involving the rest of the group.
The earlier relationship was still a component of the series, but it didn’t seem like a primary focus despite some fans wanting the two characters to get together. I was satisfied from a line from the very first episode where Ted said this woman wasn’t the mother.
From that very first episode to the last season, I had bought into the premise that the show was about Ted meeting the mother.
Practically every aspect of the show, up until the final five minutes of the series, had been pointed in that direction and I would’ve liked to see the series end with a happy or satisfying resolution along those lines.
However unsatisfied I may be with the ending, I can respect the creators’ decision to end the show as they feel fit. I didn’t feel they had to be constrained by the ending they filed years ago, and it doesn’t seem like they were.
And that kids, is how I met mango habanero chicken wings. Oh, but the place closed so I went back to Chipotle after a respectful mourning period.
Instead of watching Miley at the MTV Video Music Awards, I watched yacht racing on TV. In this photo, Luna Rossa Challenge heads close toward the bridge during the first race of the Louis Vuitton Cup Finals on Saturday, Aug. 17, 2013, in San Francisco.
The response about Miley Cyrus’ performance at Sunday’s MTV Video Music Awards was surprising. The Los Angeles Times has a decent recap. Since I haven’t cared about the VMAs since … well, I’ve never cared about the VMAs or watched them live … I spent my evening watching yacht racing on San Francisco Bay and a travel show about trains and national parks.
The performance was a medley of three songs, in which Cyrus sang in two of them. The first part featuring Cyrus’ song, “We Can’t Stop,” included performers in teddy bear costumes or wearing teddy bears won at the county fair. Cyrus herself wore something that looked like a teddy bear jumper with the bear’s ears forming much of her top.
The first part — which lasted about half of the total performance — was a bit bizarre and off-beat, but perhaps an interesting way to present an underwhelming song from a so-so singer. Or maybe not so interesting — there were some stone faces in some of the audience reaction shots. Some of Cyrus’ dance moves and gestures foreshadow the second part of the medley — where things go a bit bonkers.
The second part featured Robin Thicke and his summer hit, “Blurred Lines.” Before Cyrus continues singing, she tears off the already skimpy bear outfit and reveals a flesh-tone top and bottom similar to what the female dancers wore in Thicke’s video. If you’ve seen the video, it’s OK to accept the costume for what it is, but Cyrus’ performance goes over the top at this point.
There are risque dance moves and extremely awkward poses where Cyrus sticks her tongue out and gestures with her arms in a bratty fashion. Cyrus somehow obtains a foam finger and uses it in sexually suggestive ways. It was more lewd than provocative.
The third part of the song featured Thicke’s new song “We Can’t Stop,” with performances from Kendrick Lamar and 2 Chainz. The song seemed energetic, but I didn’t discern a hook that I would enjoy listening to again. Cyrus is absent for most of this part until the end where she and that darned foam finger appear again.
I’ve already tipped my hand when I said Cyrus’ performance wasn’t very provocative. As the performance progressed, I felt her routine was other things — tawdry, annoying, superficial and overdone — but it didn’t seem provocative enough to deserve even a scintilla of the commentary that it has sparked.
Much has been written about how Cyrus has been working to transform from her “Hanna Montana” image and how Sunday’s performance is one more calculated move in that process. Perhaps it was, but all the calculated moves in the world don’t always add up to a winning number. Arguably, Cyrus has been trying to change her image since 2009 when her performance of “Party in the U.S.A.” at the Teen Choice Awards sparked a similar outburst of chattering.
“Party in the U.S.A.” was a hit four years ago. Based on Sunday’s performance, it seems like Cyrus is playing the same schtick and hoping to strike gold again. We’ll see how that goes.
Speaking of the same schtick, several of the commentaries noted that pundits often vent about the VMAs, even if the controversies seem contrived. MTV may fashion these moments to help create buzz and keep eyeballs on their channel, but I have to wonder why at this point. MTV has long since moved past music television in its programming and an event like the VMAs seems as vestigial as an appendix compared to the network’s current offerings of pregnant teen mothers, teen werewolves and more pregnant teen mothers.
That said, MTV’s strategy seems to still work — the performance has gotten eyeballs to the brand. The old folks have done their part by either waggling their fingers at Cyrus or just shaking their heads.
As for me — after dipping my toes in this folderol, I’m just waiting for the next yacht race to start.
Although it recently left local theaters, I wanted to mention why the advertisements and basic premise of “The Purge” teed me off. I had no intention of seeing it — this sort of home under siege thriller is not my kind of movie, but the dystopian future concept was infuriatingly flawed. I was constantly thinking of more and more reasons why it couldn’t work (or would very quickly fall apart).
The A.V. Club posted a review of the film and I added a comment detailing why I thought the society of “The Purge” would simply be unworkable based from the ads. My comments on the matter received 137 likes from fellow commenters, so I thought I would present them here.
I supplemented the list after someone who saw the movie pointed out some details that were missing from the trailers. It was interesting, but it didn’t seem to make the premise any more workable than before.
If all crime is legal, what’s stopping the terrorists foreign and domestic from bombing the hell out of everything? If there is a Fortress America in the near future, the idea of the Purge seems to give terrorists a free pass for 12 hours. Perhaps this would allow the military to stop threats without the mamby-pamby law, but that brings us to:
No law-enforcement or military organization would readily be available to maintain order. Even if they weren’t stood down as the review indicates, there would probably be a lot of fragging among the ranks or trying to defend themselves from civilians who felt slighted over the past year.
However, that’s apparently not the case — a commenter noted federal employees are out of bounds. This fact instantly betrays the idea of equal (non) protection under the law.
A commenter also noted that there was apparently a “no heavy weapons” rule. That sounds intriguing, but it seems unenforceable considering the likely lack of law enforcement during the Purge. Unless there are federal agents monitoring the annual massacre and doing nothing besides looking for violators of that one specific clause. That seems particularly evil.
Let’s say the government and rich people try to use robots to defend their property. No human thought means there would be no desire to strike back during the Purge, right? Sure, until someone hacks the system.
The idea of the Purge is a health and insurance nightmare. First, there would realistically be no medical care during the event because no rational person would probably expose themselves during it. Second, paying for medical care after the fact would be a nightmare — what sane health insurance company would cover injuries that would be inflicted during the 12 hours? There’s no legal recourse to sue the person who inflicted the injuries … because all crime is legal. The injured citizens would have to pay for their injuries entirely out of pocket. Only the ultra-rich would be able to afford to pay for medical care from what happens, leading to economic ruin for everyone else and the rest of the nation.
The movie appears fixated on the idea that some would go all-out killing each other, but the laissez-faire nature of the Purge seems to indicate that any number of other heinous crimes could and would take place. The ads show rioting, but any number of unconscionable acts would likely happen, like sex crimes of all sorts.
Perhaps some sex offenders would be “taken care of” during the Purge, but how does that balance out the fact these sex crimes could happen during the 12 hours and be all hunky dory?
Even if heavy weapons are excluded, that brings up a point I forgot to mention earlier — there could be cyber terrorism from outside sources.
Also, what’s to prevent a bank from stealing everyone’s money? Even if you invest in a bank that _promises_ it won’t steal your money, a bank could go back on its word and be in the Bahamas before you can say “D’oh!” Again, there would be no legal recourse and the weakening economy would again damage this society’s chances for survival.
Finally, this whole system seems geared to create a really violent, really stupid populace, like that of “Idiocracy.” Only the ultra-violent or ultra-rich would seem to survive this nightmare, leading to an increasingly violent population.
I’m sorry this is a bit long, it’s been bugging me for weeks for all the reasons stated above — and the fact that “Star Trek” did it as a small aspect of an episode nearly 50 years ago (the “Red Hour” in “The Return of the Archons“).
Apparently, that’s not a coincidence — the writer/director apparently had it in mind, according to Badass Digest.
I should probably accept that this home-invasion movie isn’t for me, but the half-baked political angle rankled.
I recently attended ’80s night at LaSalles Bar, but it didn’t turn out as advertised when the DJ started mixing in dance hits from the ’90s and the aughts. Although that was fun in its own way, I was expecting ’80s music and didn’t appreciate the bait-and-switch (especially when there was another DJ out on the patio playing similar music). If there isn’t enough interest or desire to sustain an entire ’80s night, maybe it’s time to rethink the theme.
I’ll admit I don’t know exactly why the DJ started mixing in more recent music during a night ostensibly dedicated to Michael Jackson, Madonna and their pals. However, I found some possible insight in a Facebook item from a friend about the demise of a once-popular ’80s night in the Seattle area.
As the CHS Capitol Hill Seattle Blog reported, the host of the 17-year-old Seattle event, DJ Trent Von, noted a diminishing audience in recent years. He observed that the audience for such music is still out there, but not necessarily at a nightclub on a Thursday night.
That sentiment was echoed by Seattle Gay Scene writer Michael Strangeways who observed that theme nights go away when the likely audience grows older and drifts on to other activities (like careers or families).
Perhaps we’re seeing something similar in Chico. While the 1980s were arguably one of the greatest periods of pop music, many of the people now going to LaSalles or most Chico nightspots were born in the mid-to-late ’80s and came of age in the 1990s (or later). While people still just wanna have fun when they go out, maybe they think more of Katy Perry instead of Cyndi Lauper.
So what should places like LaSalles do? I don’t particularly care for continuing an ” ’80s Night” event when there are fewer and fewer songs from that era. Maybe a refocusing of the evening would be appropriate.
Although it sometimes sounds silly and wishy washy, perhaps radio stations are on to something when they promote “playing the hits of the ’80s, ’90s and today.” The way it is now, the music of the 1980s are just a part of the Saturday entertainment at LaSalles and the marketing should reflect that.
On a related note: I loathe the bait-and-switch when it comes to publicized events. In addition to an ’80s night that kinda isn’t, LaSalles also hosts a sorta karaoke night Sundays. I say sorta because the disc jockey spins dance music in between singers.
Perhaps it may be sometimes necessary to play a tune or two while waiting for more singers, but it’s infuriating if you’re patiently waiting for your turn to sing. It essentially doubles the waiting time.
Some of the other bars in town are guilty of this practice too. I stopped trying to sing karaoke at Buck’s Crazy Horse Saloon because the DJ did the same thing — interspersing dance music with live singers. It’s not worthwhile for me.
As someone whose livelihood depends on the First Amendment, it can be irksome how this essential enshrinement of the four freedoms of assembly, the press, speech and exercise of religion is misinterpreted. Some of it can be a simple, yet gross misunderstanding where people like Hank Williams Jr. wrap themselves in the First Amendment to deflect criticism of their words by private people or companies.
Amid the nationwide series of Occupy protests and earlier efforts to disrupt BART mass transit in San Francisco, I’ve seen some well intentioned, if not fully informed assertions of the First Amendment, especially with regards to protestors claiming where and when they can protest. While there are (and should be) broad rights to protest and address government grievances in public spaces, people don’t have carte blanche. While the First Amendment is broadly written in the Bill of Rights, more than 70 years of Supreme Court rulings have defined the “public forum doctrine” where government agencies can set reasonable, content-neutral restrictions on access.
I first became interested in the current situation when the classic Occupy Wall Street group faced possible eviction from Zuccotti Park, ostensibly for cleaning. It was an interesting situation, especially with private ownership of what appears to be a traditional public forum (they’re apparently required to allow public access around the clock). It reminded me a bit of when the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints acquired part of Main Street in Salt Lake City and turned it into a plaza (with significant speech restrictions that didn’t apply to LDS representatives).
Ultimately, the “public forum doctrine” under the First Amendment generally allows agencies to set reasonable time, place and manner restrictions on access to traditional public forums, provided that these rules are content-neutral and narrowly serve a significant state interest. [“Perry Education Association v. Perry Local Educators’ Association,” 460 U.S. 37 (1983)]. The Supreme Court also held that a government may enforce a narrowly crafted content-based exclusion that’s vital to serve a compelling state interest (which is stricter than a significant interest).
Despite protestors’ claims, the public forum doctrine still applies. On Thursday, U.S. District Judge Morrison C. England Jr. ruled that Sacramento’s 3o-year-old overnight curfew in parks doesn’t violate protestor’s rights. According to the Sacramento Bee —
England said the Sacramento ordinance “as drafted and applied” does not discriminate against the views of park occupiers, and it governs in a reasonable way the “time, place and manner” of demonstrations in all city parks.
As layman who has studied the First Amendment, I believe the public forum doctrine is sound and should be honored when it is applied fairly and equally. Looking at the Zuccotti Park situation and others, my questions would be: Are the current restrictions reasonable to an average person, do they serve a significant state interest and are they being applied equally to all?
Generally, I’m in favor of people maximizing their free speech rights (like in California shopping centers), but protestors don’t seem to have much ground to stand on if the law is being applied fairly.