Thursday, April 3, 2008

Matchbox Twenty

For the first time in my life, I attended a “stadium” concert. Alanis Moressette and Matchbox Twenty performed at the Air Canada Centre. Being overwhelmed by the entire experience, I could only think enough to sing along to the songs during the concert. Only after, on the subway ride home, did I start to think about what I had just seen. Attending the concert with me, was my friend Alina, who is like me, interesting in tech elements of theatre and performance. Not knowing to us, we kept a banter going back and forth about the screens and lighting the band chose to use.
The opening band, whose name I cannot even remember, started the show off with some simple washes and a few spot lights. They played their hearts out to a somewhat filled area, and was not overcome by the use of technology in their performance. I wouldn’t say they solely relied on their musical talent, but they definitely entertained the crowd.
Next came Alanis who had her own backdrop and played up the crowd very well. You could see the progression from the first band to Alanis with the intricacy of the elements of the performance other than her singing. It was funny because she even played her April Fool’s joke from last year, a remix of “My Humps”. The crowd loved it. With her tacky boa, to her bandmates jokingly falling at her feet, she too was entertaining the crowd with, for the most part her ability to sing.
Finally, the main act came on, Rob Thomas leading the band, Matchbox Twenty took the stage like the pros they are. Between a short intermission, the stage had been redesigned with light boards and a projection screen. The entire time the band played, new images were being projected, while lights flashed about. At first glance, this may seem very showy, but to be honest, I thought it was a nice touch. It didn’t take away from their performance, and didn’t really add to it. It was its own show of pictures and interesting shapes. After talking about concerts today being sell-out-ish, I was happy with what the band had done.
Unfortunately after the show, I was unable to purchase the program in our sweet consumer society as they were $20 and I didn’t really feel the need to pay for it. Actually in total, I only paid for the subway ride down to the concert because it was a present, I think I did well.

Dear Mr. President

In reaction to both the March 3rd Class, as well as Duncombe, I almost immediately thought of P!nk’s song “Dear Mr. President”. When celebrity culture needs to step in to comment on the ridiculousness of specifically the state of the United States, I think there is something wrong. In a democratic society, the people have the power, or it should be, but no one utilizes the authority. Apathy is definitely not uncommon for politics, and even more so in the young adult age ranges. With someone with the clout of Pink (who is widely respected), draws the attention of so many people and youths. The first time I heard this song, I was really impressed at the maturity of the commentary. Not only does Pink criticize the politics of Mr. Bush, she calls him on his personal life as well. This song may not be listened to by everyone, but at least she is reaching out and trying to keep people aware and informed about their own country. The allure of the celebrity which Duncombe speaks of in “Dream: Re-Imagining progressive politics in an age of fantasy” is perfect for this. Getting a famous person such as Pink who feels strongly, like the Dixie Chicks about this issue, more people will be willing to follow along. This sounds very bad to start off with, but maybe the drones working for the queen, will be empowered and want to make an actual difference and end up doing a lot more. There is no harm having people exposed to issues, let the public get involved and maybe the democracy of the time will finally support its own definition.

Duncombe, Stephen. Re-Imagining Progressive Politics in an age of fantasy. New York: The New Press, 2007.

Revolution of Advertising

As society changes, so do the meanings being associated with the elements. Keeping symbolic interactionism in mind, advertisers need to evolve with the community. On March 10th we looked at the variations of the Volkswagen television ads. I found it really interesting to see how much these ads represented the culture of their time. With cultural awareness about the bombardment of media we receive everyday, the advertisers are also becoming conscious of the level of ads people can take. Even more so now, advertisements need to be creative, and catchy more than ever due to the competition of other media. Each and every ad that a person views is not going to register in their minds. Companies are trying extremely hard to be one of the ads they see and remember. In order to be different, the ads must appeal to a different side, other than the consumeristic tendencies. Take Buckley’s ads for cough syrup “It taste awful but it works”. We are so used to seeing products that are delicious, that when we hear the word awful, we automatically are curious about the product. Another item that does the same thing is the cereal Honey and Oats, I believe. Their slogan revolves around the idea of how people won’t like their product because it is healthy, so they should have any. Both these advertisements are making the consumer think, which for the most part is a unique tactic.

The Rebel Sell and Josie

Through culture jamming techniques, advocates for change, may have a chance in promoting maybe not a revolutionized society, but one that helps to control the media intake. Jamming the ideas, and going counter culture takes a lot of effort, can be mistaken quite easily and in fact supports the capitalist culture. Elfont and Kaplan’s film which came out in 2001, Josie and the Pussycats, is a satirical commentary on the popular culture industry including music, film and television to achieve a common goal of major companies. As Heath and Potter explore in “The Rebel Sell” rejecting the capital society is not the same as rejecting the consumer culture. I believe that Josie and the Pussycats’ critique of society successfully satirizes the consumers through a method coined by Bolter and Grusin in Remediation: Understanding New Media, hypermediacy. It is not used in its common practice of a “style of visual representation whose goal is to remind the viewer of the medium” (Bolter and Grusin 272) but rather to remind the audience of the exaggerated emphasis of the consumer practices in today’s society. Using the theory of capitalism discussed by Heath and Potter from “The Rebel Sell”, Josie and the Pussycats will be justified as a critique of mass society through the examination of the four elements, “capitalism requires conformity in the workers […], conformity of education […], sexual repression [and] conformity of consumption” (Heath & Potter: 2002). To some it may just be a movie about a silly comic, but even then, what is that saying about our society?
In order for a capitalist society to function, according to “The Rebel Sell” it requires “conformity in the workers” (Health & Potter: 2002). Working through the ideas of functionalism, basically each person is a needed part of the whole, to help ensure that society functions properly. Each and every part of a culture has a purpose and a role in continuing and the advancement of a culture. In the film Josie and the Pussycats, this key theory is expanded as Wyatt, a big time major record label manager is forced to fire the band Du Jour after they stop working for the societal machine and start hindering the success of the consumer market. The machine that is seen in the film is a giant plot of subliminal advertising through “popular” music to sell whatever the funding companies want. When the members of the fictional band Du Jour find this message, they want answers, leading to the malfunctioning of their part in the machine. Without this band, the subliminal advertisements cannot be sent, and the companies are now losing money, and consumers are not purchasing. Another element to this aspect of capitalism is that “[t]hese parts need to be as simple, predictable, and interchangeable as possible” (Heath & Potter: 2002). After Du Jour is taken care of, Wyatt is in need of a new band. With simple calculation, he is able to take the predictable struggling band and use their want to become famous to replace the fallen Du Jour. The scene takes place in a public place where the corrupt manager talks to the women of the band “The Pussycats” saying that their dreams will come true, signing them immediately with no more than a short questioning period of the speed of the signing. This clearly depicts how the directors of Josie and the Pussycats are in fact using the model of capitalism to poke holes throughout it. Wyatt, one of the main players in the consumer market, easily replaces the workers, in this case a band, using the simple and predictable mentality of the individuals of the culture he has helped to create. At another point in the satirical film, the other two members of “Josie and the Pussycats” are being attacked as Wyatt’s boss; Fiona wants to prevent questions being asked. The film takes MTV and uses Total Request Live, or TRL as one of these conformity elements to help the plan go round. Carson Daily, who acts as himself, the host of TRL states to one of the Pussycats “If I wasn't a key player in this whole conspiracy to brainwash the youth of America with rock music, we could totally date” (Elfont & Kaplan: 2001). The film is blatantly mocking the consumer industry to help raise well needed awareness around the use of media and consumption in today’s society.
“The Rebel Sell” by Heath and Potter, explores another part of the theory of capitalism stating that “capitalism requires conformity of education”. Josie and the Pussycats once again touches on this in its quest to parody the consumer industry. While Fiona, the mastermind running the subliminal advertisement plot, she teachers the political and media heads from around the world of the parts of the their plan. The scene flashes to a room full of teenagers who by a societal norm stand out as clearly delinquent who thinking they are listening to a new song. One of the girls had been seen before in a previous scene where Wyatt is playing Du Jour’s last song, and the rebel teen admits that she plugs her ears when music like that comes on. He then tells her he wants to talk with her and hear what she has to say about the music industry, only having her to be kidnapped and brought to the brainwashing den we see her currently. Fiona explains how the teenagers believe they are listening to the newest songs, when really they are listening to Mr. Moviefone stating the latest trends and values the system wants you to think. They are walking, talking “drones[,] where their independence and creativity is beaten out of them” (Heath & Potter: 2002). This is their new education. Each and every person is receiving the similar brainwashing schooling, as the next person. Unless you are hidden away, taking no part in your culture, which as stated above, is fairly impossible, you are being affected by the learning. There is no longer individuality only the impression of choice. Mr. Moviefone can be heard dictating sayings surrounding fashion such as pink being the new orange or Reeboks are the new Pumas. It may feel as though you are choosing, but Josie and the Pussycats is shedding light on the fact that there is no choice, or there is but the options are being chosen for us. For the consumer industry in the film, Elfont and Kaplan use the music as the way of educating. No one is immune to the brainwashing. Education being a tool in social integration typically teaches about norms and values of a society, but when the society is overwhelmed by the capitalist mentality, it is in fact doing its job. Another example can be found in the approach the girls of “The Pussycats” take while they are literally being groomed when they arrive in New York. All three band members, Josie, Melody and Valerie are put through a fashion update receiving new clothes, new makeup, new hair resulting in a new attitude. When they arrive at the studio all put together as Wyatt feels is appropriate, they are trained to trust Wyatt and his doings with the “Mega Sound 2000” which is the cause of the subliminal messages. Through education, whether found in school or not, the population is being taught how to accept and respond to the consumer industry. This is clearly depicted as a problem needed to overcome in the critique of the consumer society found in the 2001 release Josie and the Pussycats.
There has always been a notion of sexual repression throughout history. This oppression helps to further capitalism. While trying to “stamp out individuality, capitalism denies the full range of human expression, which includes sexual freedom” (Heath & Potter: 2002). Although Josie and the Pussycats has a female as the leader of the scheme, there is still repression of both sexualities. First off, women are dominated throughout the film and made to be sex object through the eyes of Wyatt. They are made by the male dominated capitalist industry as tool of selling what they want. Using female sexuality is a strong way of repressing the openness and flexibility of normal sexual expression. By controlling their sexuality, through means such as preventing dates for Josie and her love interest, Wyatt was able to control female urges. Fiona, the head of the corporation, takes sexuality to a new level. Female sexuality is crushed as she clearly creates a competition among the girls from who is the prettiest and who weighs the least. This is one of the worst forms of oppression as now a female with power is subjecting the women of the film to the ideas created by the hegemonic males leading the industry. To further domination of males through the film the only characters that are portrayed are less than smart are two females. First of, Melody is the epitome of the stereotype of a dumb blond. She is unmistakably the dumbest member of the group as she misinterprets key elements of society and finds joy in simpler things than the rest of the cast. On the other hand, a friend of the band, Alexandra Cabot is continuously providing a stupid feel to the text of the movie. At one point leaving the fly on her pants down, allowing for others to make fun of her. Also she seems to lack an actual role in the film as her character is never clearly defined or needed to enhance the plot. Men in contrast, normally are not sexually oppressed find themselves dominated by women. Wyatt is led by Fiona who dictates his every move. She also suppresses the power of the male politician by mocking his every move as she explains the brainwashing scheme. Neither males nor females are allowed to express themselves freely, as they wish throughout the entire movie. Josie and the Pussycats, does not necessarily focus on the actual sexual repression, but does take not of the issues of dominance in the industry. The comment on this in a reverse fashion, but do critique both aspects of the oppression to help display the satire of consumer and capitalist societies.
The fourth and finale element that Heath and Potter discuss in “The Rebel Sell” is how “capitalism requires conformity of consumption”(2002) in order to function as a whole. This is a main focus of Josie and the Pussycats as the brainwashing scheme is put in place as Eugene Levy explains in his cameo appearance as the “government has been planting small subliminal advertising suggestions in today's rock music [which] now get these kids to buy just about anything [and] have them chasing a new trend every week”. Although Frank argues in “Why Johnny Can’t Dissent” that “[c]onsumerism is no longer about "conformity" but about "difference"” (1997) he is still in turn stating the same idea. While new trends are being created every day, the fact that people are taking part in “trends” shows how patterns and predictability, ultimately conformity, not to the trend itself, but to the act of buying is still a dominant factor. During the entire length of Josie and the Pussycats there are a number of product placements deliberately put to accentuate the mediacy describe by Bolter and Grusin. We as members of a thriving capitalistic society are continually and transparently being exposed to advertisements of all kinds, maybe even subliminal suggestions. Heath and Potter (2002) state the role of ads “to inculcate false or inauthentic desires” which enable conglomerates to sell what they want people to buy. Aiding in the brilliance of the critique of mass society presented by Josie and the Pussycats not one of the companies who’s logos or products are found in the movie were paid product placements. Whether the companies see this as a positive free ad, we have to see this as a personal attack on those companies depicting them as the worst offenders. All of the hidden messages that Mr. Moviefone announces in the music throughout the movie gives the opportunity for the companies to control the conformity, not only take advantage of it. Each suggestion that is planted in the consumers mind so the companies do not have to anticipate the changes in the mindset of their market. This also leads into the fact that their market is no longer limited to certain targeted groups; their products are wanted by all. In fact, Josie states that they are selling their music through their own music. This may seem very far fetched in real life, however once again, the film is clearly reflective of our current society as synergy becomes a central tool is marketing products using remediation. Each product helps to sell the other. Between Heath and Potter, and Frank, capitalism requires conformity in any sense. The obedience of the market only helps the supremacy of the capitalistic society and the consumerism within.
At first glance, Josie and the Pussycats seems like an innocent remake of an older cartoon. With preposterous plot ideas, and girls in cat ears, no one would think this film would have such an impact. By looking at Heath and Potter’s “The Rebel Sell” and the parts of the capitalist theory, we can see how the film is a successful parody of life in a consumer society. From the capitalist requirements of conformity of workers, education, sexual repression and consumption patterns, Josie and the Pussycats looks as though it is going so far over the top that we accept the inclusion of a boy band that gets attacked by Metallica. However, once we analysis its core, we see that the reason why the film is so insightful is that their ideas of brainwashing and subliminal advertisements are not that far off from the real world. Luckily the purposeful product placement help to hypermediate the setting, reminding the audience that this is in fact mocking and ironically criticizing the entire industry in which it is releasing itself too.
Ironically as in the movie, Fiona sells cat toys to go along with the theme of the band, and as the audience knows we are being sold the items because they want us to buy them, people are still open to purchasing the “collectors items” from the film. They too are emerging themselves in the culture, but really can you blame them? They are right to say that this is how our society runs, we know that, and so do they. The film itself has at least tried to make a difference by making the audience more aware of what the industry is comprised of, only to turn it against their fans, who is reality are asking for it. .

Bolter, Jay David and Richard Grusin. Remediation: Understanding New Media.
Cambridge, MA.; MIT Press, 1999.
Frank, Thomas. “Why Johnny Can’t Dissent.” Michigan State University. 1997. March 6
Heath, Joseph and Andrew Potter. “The Rebel Sell.” This Magazine. 2002. Red Maple
Foundation. March 5 2008.

Josie and the Pussycats. Dir. Elfont, Harry and Deborah Kaplan. DVD. Metro-Goldwyn
Mayer (MGM). 11 April 2001.

WWJD? Nah, more Like WWTDD? (What Would Tyler Durden Do)

Now that I have been sucked into the fun of, I tend to visit the site looking at different articles that grab my attention at least twice a day. One article caught my attention surrounded itself with the tagline What Would Tyler Durden Do? Being a huge fan of “Fight Club”, I immediately clicked, and was introduced to a new site, Being along the same lines as Perez Hilton, I was really disappointed. If something is going to affiliate themselves with the shocking content of “Fight Club”, they need to fully embrace the mindset of Tyler Durden. This site did not do that in a very effective manner. Simply taking articles and making fun does not seem like a very mature way of criticizing today’s culture. Even though they are somewhat countering the obsession with celebrities, they are just doing the same thing. It bothers me to think that our way of being counterculture is in fact no better, potentially even worse. Tyler Durden is a complex character who knows that he is being captured by the capitalists, and does want to change things. This website is far from any of the values that are depicted in the film. Attached is a picture of the Warning that is played prior to the film on it's DVD to give you an idea of what the character is like, and how the website does not do this justice at all. I was just expecting so much more from this site than what it was offering. Not to say that I won’t be visiting it again, but it will not be for the quality of AdBusters or the Yes Men.

"If you are reading this then this warning is for you. Every word you read of this is useless fine print is another second off your life. Don't you have other things to do? Is your life so empty that you honestly can't think of a better way to spend these moments? Or are you so impressed with authority that you give respect and credence to all who claim it? Do you read everything you're supposed to read? Do you think everything you're supposed to think? Buy what you're told you should want? Get out of your apartment. Meet a member of the opposite sex. Stop the excessive shopping and masturbation. Quit your job. Start a fight. Prove you're alive. If you don't claim your humanity you will become a statistic. You have been warned... Tyler"

Fight Club. Dir. David Fincher. 1999. DVD. Art Linson Productions.

iPod Update and the Apple Store

So, after lots of deliberation, I finally caved. I purchased the new 2GB iPod Shuffle for $70. Realizing that I did not want the player to be used for videos, so really it limited my options, if I were to get an iPod, the Shuffle was really my only choice. Once I had made my decision, I was off to Yorkdale Mall in Toronto to visit the Apple Store. Having read reviews of the Shuffle online, I had been introduced to the “Amazing” Apple Store. When I arrived, just as all the articles stated, it was one of the busiest stores in the entire mall. I went in, looked around and found the Shuffles attached to a table with some sort recaps of the technology that I could be purchasing. At the store, I was really interested in seeing the colours. Since the blue was too blue, and the green was too green, I chose the classic silver look and now all I needed was some help. Standing in the middle of the Apple Store, I felt like a deer caught in the headlights as everyone else seemed to know how to maneuver about. There was a group of employees standing talking, but no one was around to help me. I waited another 5 minutes or so, before I finally was sick of waiting and approached the group of “Experts”, who might I say were quite intimidating, and asked if one of them could help me. I must have looked ridiculous wandering around, looking at the same product for so long, but I honestly was not ‘cool’ enough to understand the concept of the store. The Expert then jumped right into it, assuming that I knew all about the products, which in this case, was the truth, and asked “what I would like to purchase?” I answered knowingly stating “The Silver 2GB iPod Shuffle”. The employee then went behind the counter, grabbed the box, came back out and question my method of payment. Visa it was. She took a wireless checkout item, and completed all my information in the middle of the store, completing the transaction with my receipt being sent to my email account. I walked out of the store carrying a new iPod and felt like I knew how to work the Apple Store now.

Currently, I am still enjoying my Shuffle and it seems to be working well. Apple sent me a survey to see how I enjoyed my experience at the Apple store. Upon completing it, I felt even more part of the culture. Feeling somewhat guilty about this, especially after this class, I simply brushed it off, and went on walking with my white earbuds.

Dream x2

Everywhere I turn it seems my friends, my coworkers and even my family are involved with this addiction. They wake up and need to do it. They need to do it after they eat, even while they eat. There is no end. Video gaming has taken over life as I know it. From Mario Galaxy and Wii to Zelda, it all seems somewhat distanced from my understanding. I am used to the original Nintendo, not Super Nintendo, N64, I mean Duck Hunt or Super Mario Brothers, the first one. These new systems, new controllers, crazy games, take the fun to a new level. It is the evolution of gaming, and society itself. Duncombe expands on this idea through Grand Theft Auto – San Andreas. With the avatar, CJ, being a young, poor, black, male, he clearly does not represent the entire population and target market for this game. However, CJ does in fact appeal to these same flaws. The game displays very explicitly violence, crime and sex through the eyes of CJ. For Duncombe, this is an outlet for people who struggle with allowing themselves to go against the norms and values of a society. A quote from Empire Records (1995) “damn the man” said by a young man who is determined to not be sucked into the capitalist society and save his friends. This same idea applies to the mentality behind gaming, and specifically games which allow players to be someone else. Duncombe speaks of the idea of taboo, being something that is prohibited socially or formally. For Freud, these are pretty much all of our basic instincts, which happens to be the same idea behind politics. Grand Theft Auto – San Andreas is the outlet for the instinctual desires. Even things so simple as driving an SUV or wearing a tank top can be seen from certain people’s points of view. This sense of rebellion is one way for culture followers to feel as though they are at least sticking it to the man once.

Duncombe takes this a step further and introduces rebellion to politics. Maybe not bringing the two things together, but forces the reader to acknowledge that revolution only comes from rebellion. Take Martin Luther King Jr. or Rosa Parks, both cases, only by acting out of the norm, was anything done to correct it. I highly doubt that all video gamers will end up changing the world, riding it of all evils, but maybe CJ will inspire at least a small change, or ignite a passion to “rebel” even more resulting in a bigger impact on the existing society.

Whether a young, black, male named CJ, or a dream inspires change, at least it is happening. I guess I could get used to the new Nintendo lingo and star collecting Star Bits or playing with the Wii remotes.

Duncombe, Stephen. Re-Imagining Progressive Politics in an age of fantasy. New York: The New Press, 2007.


Activism is becoming more and more popular each day. Duncombe suggest something called progressive politics which takes elements of today’s society and implements key parts to help make their point.

Duncombe talks about politics in terms of ideals and how people need a platform which reflects the needs of the population they wish to lead. The leaders need to manifest the morals and norms of the culture in which they live. He states that “politicos don’t need to think much of popular culture, but they do need to think about it a lot” (Duncombe, 41). Along with this idea, the politics need to be a “popular […] democracy” (Duncombe, 32). These are both great examples which depict how popular culture is now leading our world, whether people want it to or not. There is no denying the power behind the industry and its members. Keeping activism in mind, this same idea that should be implemented in politics, and be replicated on the other side, the progressive side. By using celebrity and popular culture, activists can grab the attention and appeal to a larger audience. With this wide target group, the progressives can in turn raise awareness and make more movement towards their end goal.

Another tactic that Duncombe speaks of in “Dream” is the notion of Las Vegas and being fake. The city of Las Vegas exudes the technique of utilizing elements of places from around the world, allowing Las Vegas to be everything and everywhere. Take the Paris part, they have a L’arc du Triomphe, and an Eiffle Tower, just to name a few. This is the same idea for all of the world of entertainment of this time. From wrestling with Hulk Hogan and the Rock, to something as simple as reality television, fake television is dominating the airwaves. Take “The Hills”, a well known MTV reality television show. A spin-off of another show, they had a huge fan base. This did not suffer even after the cast admitted to staging all the scenes. “What is being sold, and what is being enjoyed, is illusion, but not delusion” (Duncombe, 42). Just because something is not real, does not mean the audience is not fully aware of this. They are just acknowledging the reference as real. Take satire, people are conscious (for the most part) of the humorous intentions behind it but they are still able to appreciate and consume the information. This idea of never forgetting that someone is in taking something fake stems from the playwright Bretch, who wanted people to remain responsive to what was going on, on stage as opposed to just accepting it. Bretch came up with the V-Effect, or the alienation effect, meaning the audience never forgets they are watching a play. In Duncombe’s case, this applies to examples such as Billionaires for Bush. These people were clearly costumed, yet it helped to get the message across.

Duncombe, Stephen. Re-Imagining Progressive Politics in an age of fantasy. New York: The New Press, 2007.

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Fake vs. Real News

As the Jones article depicts, most young adults are either not informed about political information or they are informed by late night satirical shows. For me, I am fairly apathetic and am one of the people who are not informed. I am not proud of this fact, but I am admitting it. I try to understand political happenings as the occur, but with so much going on all the time, I am overwhelmed, especially now with shows such as The Daily Show. Fake and real news is everywhere. It is our lives. If I were to choose to make an effort, whether ending up overwhelmed or not, I would rather go the funny way first. Jon Stewart, or Steven Colbert provide an easy outlet for teenagers like myself to say they are involved and be “cool” because they watch the show. I could participate in some discussions, maybe just adding small comments, not actually getting involved, but from the outside it would appear as though I am up to date with my political understandings. At the same time however, I do no get politics, I just don’t, so as much as I would pretend to be getting it, I would have no idea what I was talking about. Like it was discussed in class, I truly believe that you cannot get all the information from one source. This is the same for anything not just political understandings. You have to get it from different angles. Make your own decisions using the information they provide for you. This may seem hypocritical, but its really the only option, especially for young adults. Realistically, I am not going to go investigate whatever Bush says and cross-reference it to a journalist, I am just going to take what I am given and listen. But being aware that this information is either there to “inform” me or to make me laugh about some information, at least I can see where the two cross paths and make some deductions on my own.
Honestly, once I get some time, I am going to start watching more and more “fake” news, just to start the ball rolling on getting informed specifically about politics. If that’s what fake news can do for me, then at least something from that industry is grabbing my attention.

Jeffrey P. Jones, "'Fake' News versus 'Real' News as Sources of Political Information: The Daily Show and Postmodern Political Reality" <>

Everybody - Stabilo

Everybody by Stabilo

After the class the other week on the death of media, I was driving, and herd this song, which I have not heard in quite a while. It originally being released in 2001, it encompasses the ideas of how media and everyday things are being taken for granted. “Doesn’t anybody know what a radio’s for” is the 2nd line of the song and it hits me one of the hardest. Even just by reading this blog, I talk about buying an MP3 player, I own CDs, and claim I love music, but yet I don’t listen to the radio. This is tough because my dad used to be part of the Radio Marketing Bureau of Canada, and would always encourage us to listen, even to the commercials. And just the other week, my computer’s external harddrive broke, leaving me with no music at all. I turned on the radio for the first time in a long while. People do not listen to the radio anymore, like my grandparents did, we want to mediate our own listening. It is free, but still, no one wants to have to listen to the long and unimportant ads they play.

This song depicts the death of media and how no one does anything just to do it anymore. We have left or are leaving the general elements of life behind, and it is a cry for people to maybe not make a drastic move, but simply to acknowledge this is happening. “Doesn’t anybody know, doesn’t anybody know?”

You can listen to the song at There are 2 versions of the song, so take your pick.

The Death of Media

Like I have stated in previous posts, I am all for realism. With this realism we have to take into account the idea of documentaries. Like the presentation about The Death of Media, documentaries are one of the ways people today are trying to find out truth. Although documentaries claim to be “what really happened” I feel it is important that people watching these videos are not getting trapped in the mindset that documentaries are all truth, just like the media they are trying to get away from. Take the documentary Loose Change 2nd Edition created by Dylan Avery, which discusses the ideas of 9/11 and how the US government is actually behind it all, even going so far as to show documents with the Twin Towers being targeted and explosions going off 5 floors below each collapse of the towers. Information that is very interesting yet must be taken like the media that people do not want to trust already. Yes it may seem more real, but really they are just exposing the opposite ideas of mainstream media for the most part, whether the counterpart was a lie or not. Questioning things is not a bad idea, but the untrusting ideas run both ways. Bowling for Columbine is another example where the directors are telling you truths, but they are pointing out the extreme! I am thrilled that people are not taking everything they see as truths, but at the same time this needs to be applied to both sides of the spectrum. Just because its counter-culture does not mean it is right. The information available in the documentaries is very interesting and should be watched, but watched as a “Hollywooodized” movie. People are getting paid, and someone is paying for it to happen.

Bowling for Columbine. Dir. Michael Moore. 2002. Atlantis Alliance Communications.
Loose Change 2nd Edition. Dir. Dylan Avery. 2006. Louder than Words.

to iPod or not to iPod?

After class this week, I was thinking about my buying experience of the iPod. I thought I would share because I think it is somewhat of an interesting story.
So a few years ago, in the hype of the new video iPods and the huge memories available, I wanted an MP3 player. Coming from a home where most of my clothes were either hand-me-downs from my older sisters, or clothes I got for being part of a team, brands were not something I normally thought about. However when it came to this huge purchase (and it was, as I was paying for it myself) I was not about to jump in with any company. A lot of my friends had iPod or were expecting them for Christmas, and I did not know what to do.
Like I said, I was not a typical high school student, as much as I liked being a part of things, not necessarily cool, I liked to belong, but stand out at the same time. After getting my eyebrow pierced, I had to continue to live up to not following the norm.
I did some research online and compared prices and found out that the Sony Network Walkman was the same price as the iPod and everything minus the "click wheel". I thought to myself "This is perfect!" So off I went attempting to be counter-hegemonic by purchasing the not so cool MP3 player, but still being part of the movement. I loved it, I would call it my MP3 player, not an iPod, and I enjoyed the fact that it was Sony, still a respectable company, but not Apple. The player worked just fine and I had accomplished my goal.
Later that year during the summer, I broke my MP3 player, and when I went to get the part fixed, I was shocked to hear that the Sony Network Walkman, was no longer being made, thus I could not get it fixed. I was not impressed by this. Still to this day, I do not own an iPod (although I want to), and my Sony MP3 Player is still not fixed.
That's what I get for trying to go against the mainstream.

Film, Music and Remediation

During the first seminar presentation, a lot was going through my mind, especially examples. Transparency in film is a very interesting topic, and the discussion of whether a film like Cloverfield (2008) with a hand held camera was more transparent than say a comic book feel movie like Sin City (2005) really made me think about realism in films and whether or not they in fact make me feel like I am part of the movie or just watching it. Being a fan of realism, I was shocked to find it so hard to think of any movie that did this. The first movie that I thought of was Memento (2000) where the main character is trying to avenge the death of his wife; however he has lost his ability to create new memories since the incident. Working backwards throughout the movie, the audience is thrust into the life of Leonard as we are unaware of the backgrounds of the characters, just as Leo is due to his lack of memory. As the movie progresses we slowly learn the motives behind the characters, and are drawn into more of a realm of irony as we know more than the main character. Starting off, this movie is a prime example of transparency in film, but works its way back to the audience realizing they are watching from the outside.

Next, the group brought up Music and Remediation where they discussed concerts. A week or so ago, when I was at home, with my media, a lovely TV in HD, I watched the Justin Timberlake concert for HBO. I have never been to a real concert, but I was able to identify how much of a production the entire evening was. From fireworks, to shots on the stage, to costume changes, the production was not solely about the music, it was a show people wanted. Justin Timberlake would dance, play piano and sing after explaining to the crowd how he could swear and do tequila shots on stage thanks to HBO. In our world today, I don’t think someone getting up on stage and simply singing is enough any more. We crave the fireworks, the dancing, even the feeling that we can swear because the network airing this, is somewhat “rebellious”. We want the most for our money, how much media can we get with our one ticket?

From here, the idea of MTV and mindless teenagers came up. I wish this could have developed into a bit more of a discussion, however I shall do this here. Josie and the Pussycats is a satirical comment on today’s MTV driven mindsets that youth, among others are consumed with. The notion of young adults buying what they are told is cool, thinking what they are told and even just living exactly how the hegemonic mentality is expecting them to. For those who thought they were too cool to see this movie, check it out. It does a very interesting job of playing with subliminal messages in music poking fun at endorsements, and especially product placement. In every scene there are at least 50 companies, which actually did not pay to be there. The creators of the film used all the products without getting the companies to pay for the placement. Through the music in the film, the major companies input messages such as “Orange is the new Pink” or taking it the step further, implanting ideas of what brands are the new cool ones, causing people to purchase items they might not necessarily buy. I know most people thought of this movie as a joke, exploiting certain actors, however you really have to give it a chance. It does a great job at poking fun of the industry as the huge subliminal message at the end, was simply about one character being cool and that everyone should be like them. If you have not already seen it, check it out.

Overall, this presentation gave me a lot to think about, and I hope you check out some of the ideas that I have brought forward. If anything, you have some new movies to watch.

Josie and The Pussycats. Dir. Elfont and Kaplan. 2001. Marc Platt Productions.
Memento. Dir. Christopher Nolan. 2000. Newmarket Capital Group.


In the first few pages of the book, Bolter and Grusin talk about Strange Days, a film that depicts a wire that allows pure content, with no remediation, no censorship, in a way. When one is “plugged in” to the wire, they are receiving a straight feed of their life; nothing is limiting the content of what they are seeing. Enjoying the use of intertextuality quite a bit, I made the obvious connection to The Matrix. The similar idea of “plugging into life” takes over the minds of the characters. Although I have not seen Strange Days¸ the preview which Professor Reilly showed us in class definitely gave me the same feeling. We are not living life to the fullest. Everywhere we go, whether in “A Matrix” or not, the content we are seeing, we are seeing for a reason. Someone, whether intentionally or not, has placed something somewhere, done something close to us or even just walked by, causing a form of hypermediacy to dominate our lives. In The Matrix some powerful group of agents are ruling this computer generated world where humans believe they are living. They are actually just letting a computer run their lives. With the help of some savvy rebels, you can get out and take that blue pill, and see the truth. Which somewhat ironically, is what the people can do in Strange Days, by plugging in, not getting out.

Furthermore, another example of plugging in, or even virtual reality that is also discussed in Remediation is the film Minority Report. One scene in particular sticks out, where Tom Cruise’s character and the Precog are being chased; they run into a building where people have been placed in “pods”. With the help of virtual technology, these people are experiencing whatever they want. Some are enjoying sexual fantasies, while others may just want to see a loved one. It is interesting because in contrast to both Strange Days as well as The Matrix, the use of virtual reality and mediacy in Minority Report, is voluntary. The hypermediacy and what is being mediated, is the person’s own choice, not that of the hegemonic group.

Looking at all three versions of plugging in, whether to experience reality, enter a false reality or a personal reality, we cannot deny the need for mediation, hypermediation and remediation, that all of the population not only allows but opts for.

Bolter, Jay David and Richard Grusin. Remediation: Understanding New Media. Cambridge, MA.; MIT Press, 1999.
Minority Report. Dir. Steven Spielberg. 2002. Cruise/Wagner Productions.
Strange Days. Dir.Katheryn Bigelow. 1995. Lightstorm Entertainment.
The Matrix. Dir. Andy and Larry Wachowski. 1999. Groucho II Film Partnership.

Friday, January 18, 2008

Week 2 - Class Discussion of Terms

During a fairly basic discussion of some base terms that we need to acknowledge for this class, the prominent idea of hegemony once again arose. Although I have taken other classes where the idea of a dominant class rules, every time this idea comes about I attach myself to a new part of the theory.

Coming from the media side of things, and dealing with ideas of intertextuality I almost immediately thought of the film Fight Club. For those of you who have not yet seen this movie (if you haven’t I own copies, and you should borrow one), the intent of the film, although some people find it hard to follow, deals with the reorganization of society. They do this by planning to eliminate records from all the major credit card companies in “Project Mayhem”. Appropriately titled, if this were to happen, there could be no hegemony, no one group could rise above thanks to capitalism in particular, everyone would be at the same level. Fight Club is a prime example of counter hegemonic ideas using Hollywood, a key player in hegemonic views to get their points across.

Fight Club. Dir. David Fincher. 1999. DVD. Art Linson Productions.