Tuesday, October 28, 2008

A TV Set Within A TV Set (part one)

A couple months ago, a co-worker brought up an interesting point. We were talking about The Simpsons, as we frequently do, and he mentioned that if The Simpsons has an overarching theme over its 20 seasons, it is the influence of television on our culture. I was fascinated by this idea, so I kept thinking about it, and kept this theme in the back of my mind while watching the show ever since.

References to other TV shows on The Simpsons are both obvious and many. But a more subtle feature of the show is that they can easily show, through the medium of animation, what is being watched on their TV set. Watching TV on TV is to the 90's as reading screenshots of blogs on CNN is to today. It's bizarre at first, like using 2 mirrors to see the back of your head, but you get used to it after a while. Especially when you've watched The Simpsons for as long as I have.

Maybe it's my on-the-fence birthyear, that fine line between Gen-X and Millennials, that helps me relate to the show so much, even after critics say the show is losing its touch in its old age (more on that later). I was 9 years old when I started watching The Simpsons. Like every kid my age, I tried to live vicariously through Bart Simpson, who seemed to be the star of the show (at the time), although I was definitely more Milhouse-esque in real life.

During my teenage years, I never really related to any one character in the show, as adolescent characters are noticeably few, save the awkwardly-acned fast food worker or spraypaint-loving hooligans. During these very years, however, the show took a decided turn, focusing less on the juvenile antics of Bart and more on the jovial idiocy of Homer. It's like someone out there was preparing me for an adult life as an analog boy in a digital world.

As an adult, I am a disciple of Homer's humor, his schemes, and his accidental, if not genius, commentary on American culture. At the center of all this, and more importantly, getting back to my original point, is the role that the television played in this animated baby-boomer's life; not so much what he watched on the TV, but the TV set itself. As Marshall McLuhan said, "The Medium is the Message", and if this is the case, Homer could be McLuhan's poster oaf.

For Homer, Home is where the TV is ("Now let's go back to that... building...thingy...where our beds and TV...is [episode 1F04]). No matter what surreal 5 second trip the family takes while seating themselves on the couch, the intro to every episode is stabilized by the familiar glow of the credits on the family TV set.

(continued next week...)

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

We Are Chance Lewis

On October 30th, 2008 A.D. at 8:00 p.m., my new band/solo project/franchise, Chance Lewis, will release its 4 song e.p. at Velour Live Music Gallery in Provo. The 4 songs on the e.p., titled "We Are Chance Lewis," are conveniently placed at the top of this page for your listening pleasure.

In the spirit of the schizophrenia and narcissism that this project satirizes, here is a short review of the disc, written by me, Chance Clift:

"We Are Chance Lewis"

It's not only onstage banter, it's the name of Chance Lewis' first EP, coming out September 2008 (alternate titles included "Thank You SO Much For Coming" and "Let's Play a Show Together SOON"). "We Are Chance Lewis" is a semi-self-titled collection of 4 new songs from a songwriter whose band is half named after himself; So naturally, it deals with the schizophrenia and narcissism associated with both the human genre and the musician species. And the fact that we've probably been taking ourselves too seriously. And by ourselves, I mean myself. We Are Chance Lewis.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

What "Main St." Are YOU Talking About?

With the onset of tough economic times, we've all heard a lot about "Main Street" in the news recently. This is of course a euphemism for the antithesis of "Wall Street", but I don't think it's a very accurate one.

In the Main St./Wall St. analogy, Main Street is supposed to represent ordinary Americans, small businesses, and the focal point of small town life. The person who came up with this analogy obviously hasn't spent much time on a Main Street over the past decade.

All of the small town Main Streets I have seen have much more to do with the past than the present. They are like real-life 20th century museums, and are usually associated with words like "historic" or "preservation".

Most contain at least two of these things:

-An antique shop(pe)
-An out-of-business (or at least soon-to-be) old school movie theat(re), usually called something like The Roxy or The Avalon
-A used bookstore, or
-A cafe/coffee shop/diner

Most of these establishments cater to hipsters, intellectuals, and the elderly (not included on the list: Vintage clothing stores, which cater to all three). This is hardly a random sampling of "average" Americans.

Might I suggest a better buzz-analogy for Cable News pundits to use in describing their overly black-and-white telling of the economic crisis:

Wall Street vs. Wal-Mart

Wal-Mart is a much more accurate metaphor for average Americans, and it has little or nothing to do with Main Street. Wal-Mart stores are conveniently placed at, what sometimes appears to be, every other freeway exit. This is appropriate, since the freeway is probably the closest thing to a 21st century geographic equivalent of the classic Main Street.

Besides, what better symbol of gas-guzzling and buying-way-more-stuff-than-we-need (while crying poverty) than a big box store within earshot of a 5 lane interstate highway? THAT is the American Way.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

I'm Now Part of The Solution

Like most college students, I get stuck in playlist autopilot from time to time. I often feel like my music collection resembles that of my married friends: you can tell the year they got married by the contents of their iTunes library.

To make matters worse, the few times that I have embraced new music in the past couple years has been through illegal downloading and burning CDs from friends. Well that all changed earlier this year, with a little help from my good friends Stafford and Pell.

Stafford and Pell have been known to fund my schooling over the past couple years. This ends up spilling over into them funding recordings of some of my songs as well. Anyway, thanks to their support, I have been able to once again become part of the solution, and pay for music, the old-fashioned way. Here are the top four albums I have purchased, with my own money, in 2008:

1) Against Me!, New Wave: Probably one of my favorite bands to emerge in the 2000's. This record manages to combine punk and pop in a perfect way that somehow manages to not be "pop-punk".

2) Weezer, Red Album: Classic Weezer. Rivers Cuomo is once again owning his insecurities like the badass nerd that he is. "I am the greatest man that ever lived," need I say more?

3) Beck, Modern Guilt: One of the more melodic Beck albums. 60's soul meets Danger Mouse beats. Good stuff.

4) Jack's Mannequin, The Glass Passenger: I just barely got this one, and like Everything in Transit, I expect this Jack's Mannequin record to grow on me. Which is a good sign, since I already like this one a lot. I think I just need to listen to it as the soundtrack to every possible day-to-day situation first to fully appreciate it.