Monday, June 13, 2011

Winner of the PWR 2 Webby: To All You Forty-Something Female Cat-Owning Spinsters Out There, Let’s Get Grinding: A Review of “Grindr”.

You know you’ve reached a critical stage in your life when your 17 cats look up at you from their bowls of catnip and broken dreams with eyes that say, “You really need to get yourself a date.”

When my precious feline friends first confronted me, I was initially angry and confused. After 25 years of living sans gentlemen callers and only leaving the condo every Tuesday at 2 pm for a grocery and cat food run, why now my darling babies? Why look at me with a gaze of innocence and question, completely out of the blue, and question the lifestyle I’ve maintained for two and a half decades? What have I done to instill this worry in your minds? What about the life I lead concerns you?

After a Cats: The Musical Marathon, hours of soul searching, and 15 minutes of When Harry Met Sally (It was just too much for me. Are they friends or what? Why does it have to be so complicated?), it came to me. A possible solution. The internet. I got on my computer and researched. I regret having started my search with questions like, “My cats are telling me I need a man. What is wrong with them?” If anyone out there needs a number for a psychiatric facility, just hit me up. I’ve been offered complimentary stays at all of them North of the Mason Dixon Line.

But computers are pretty smart these days. Fairly quickly, it picked up on my dilemma. Before I even realized it myself, my computer had figured that even though I wouldn’t admit it, my cats were right. I wanted to break into the dating scene and my internet indulgence was a subconscious cry for help. Pretty soon I was being led to blogs, chat rooms, and online encyclopedias, soaking up all the information about dating in the 21 century.

And then, eureka. The goddess divine that is Wikipedia brought me to the solution. Grindr. For those of you darling readers, who like me, are living in denial, suffocating under a mountain of cat litter and nostalgic thoughts from your pre-school days when boys actually wanted you to play with them on the jungle gym, listen up. Grindr is a program that one can install into one's phone and-well, actually, I’m a little unsure of how is works. I mean, my phone has one of those fancy dials and is mounted to a wall (a birthday present from an antique store from Fluffy) so would I have to them plug it into my computer (?), I mean I don’t know. Whatever, it doesn’t matter, on to the point! This program is like a mini condensed dating site. When you pull it up, hundreds of profiles of singles appear. And this part works by “geolocation,” so the profiles you see on your “home page” are organized by who lives the closest to you! How convenient!

And this, ladies, is the best part. All of the profiles I’ve seen so far have been men! AND not a single fun loving twenty something bar maid with blonde hair to compete for their affection! Gosh they must be SO bored! All dressed up with nowhere to go and no one to go with.

C’mon gals. Lets infiltrate Grindr and give all these eligible, good-looking males something to get excited about. As soon as we flood the “grinding” scene with our mature manners of seduction that only come with age and a lifestyle of seclusion (like fine wine in the bottom of a cellar) I guarantee we will be received with open arms and hearts by the array of strapping young gentlemen “grinders” and Fluffy, Mr. Fuzzles, Sir Tubbington, Fifi, Georgie, Mittens, Butternut, Whiskers, Sissy, Pickles, Carlos, Snuffles, Cupcake, Waffles, Puddles, Binks, and Billy Crystal will finally be able to eat their cat nip in peace.

Runner-Up: My Beautiful Dark Twisted Pitchfork

The Beatles’ Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club. The Beach Boys’ Pet Sounds. Bob Dylan Highway 61 Revisited. Kanye West’s My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy? On November 22, 2010, the music-review site Pitchfork granted Kanye West’s new album its highest distinction: a perfect 10 out of 10. The 10 is a distinction rarely bestowed – in the last decade, only four non-compilation albums have gotten such a high score. For a site that normally gives only one rap album a halfway decent score (say, an 8.5) annually (ostensibly only to appease the hip-hoppers in its audience), this review suggests that Fantasy may belong among the pantheon of greatest albums ever released.

But does that really make sense? How does an album that proclaims “Have you ever had sex with a pharaoh?/Put the pussy in a sarcophagus” (“Monster”) merit perfection? At the end of this review, critic Ryan Dombol positively bubbles “With his music and persona both marked by a flawed honesty, Kanye's man-myth dichotomy is at once modern and truly classic. ‘I can't be everybody's hero and villain, savior and sinner, Christian and anti Christ!’ he wrote earlier this month. That may be true, but he's more willing than anyone else to try.” It is perhaps true that relate-ability can elevate music from “good” to “great”, but Kanye’s album falls far short of that standard. On “Runaway”, which Dombol hails as a “rallying cry for all humanity”, guest artist Pusha T opines “I’m just young, rich, and tasteless.” I choose to focus on the line of a guest artist because here, Pusha T says in one line what takes Kanye West multiple minutes to tell you metaphorically. He seems to be informing us that he is an asshole, which should come as no surprise to anyone that pays even a minute amount of attention to pop culture. And speaking of relate-ability, I can’t help but consider the ways in which “Profit, profit, nigga I got it/Everybody know I'm a motherfucking monster/I'm a need to see your fucking hands at the concert” profoundly impact my daily existence. Which is to say, not at all. In this album, perhaps more so than any other that Kanye has ever released, the audience is overwhelmingly struck by the reality that everything that Kanye is talking about only relates to the life of Kanye West. Unless you, too, are a narcissistic pop star that was unfortunately introduced to twitter (or, as Kanye himself would expect, Michael Jackson), there is little in this that makes me reevaluate my own life in a new way. All I glean is that, somehow, Kanye realized that he was imperfect, and decided to write about it.

But wait, there’s more: “'Runaway' marks the rare moment where Kanye sides with his detractors-- if the whole world thinks he's a douchebag, well, this one time he's inclined to agree.” Whaaaaa? When did it become a best-album-ever-scale accomplishment to realize one’s inherent flaws? I would be willing to wager that better part of all music released in the last century featured at least some critical reevaluation. In fact, it’s not even that uncommon in rap music. Pitchfork also asserts that “[the album] begins to feel as if Kanye is stage-managing his own award show with enough starpower…to flatten the Grammys, the VMAs, and the rest all at once.” Seriously, if we’ve gotten to the point of evaluating this album on the starpower of its guests, then we really are hopeless. There is little value in a music review that fails to break from the context set by its own artist. And, let’s face it, we’re probably giving him too much credit. For an album that is introspective at its core, there is a lot of bravado on display – Kanye is constantly talking about his own prowess at just about anything. It’s easy for the artist (and even easier for Pitchfork, it turns out) to pass this off as irony – that Kanye’s just providing you a stereotype of himself so he can subtly undermine it later. It’s art, they’d tell you. Ironic art, however, is a total cop out. We can never know what Kanye meant, but this album is chock full of the pussy-in-a-sarcophagus stupidity that makes mainstream rap painful to listen to.

Let’s agree, please. Kanye may well be the best producer alive. And he’s not a half bad rapper – I’d choose him over 50 Cent or Lil Wayne any day. But he’s not the best ever. And that’s just the dark, twisted truth.

Rahul Sastry

Runner-Up: Product Placement: Yay or Nay?

Product Placement. We’ve all seen it and to be honest, it doesn’t bother me too much...when used properly. For example, it can:

Discretely add to the realness of a scene. As is the case in the Mac laptop pictured in The Office below. Barely noticeable and not at all inappropriate for the work setting. All in all, I think The Office does a good job of slyly incorporating product placement without cheapening the show. It’s almost like a subliminal message.

and even...

Add an element of humor to a plot. Take the not-so-subtle, but very hilarious example of Junior Mints on Seinfeld a few years back. The entire episode revolved around Kramer’s comical obsession with the candy. “Who’s gonna turn down a Junior Mint? It’s chocolate, it’s peppermint, it’s delicious!” Discreet? Not quite. But did millions of viewers feel the sudden urge to discover what they'd been missing? You betcha.

Trouble viewing the video? Check it out here!

But alas, every now and then, an out-of-place second product pitch can be the most painful 5 seconds of your life. Well, maybe not really, but it’s pretty bad. Take for example, the shameless (and almost comical) plug for Vitamin Water on Gossip Girl recently. Now for those of you who don’t watch the show, Gossip Girl follows the “scandalous lives of Manhattan’s elite”. The characters are known for their impeccable taste in fashion and their exquisite taste for the fanciest of foods and drinks which include tea, scones, caviar, tarts, French macaroons, champagne, and apparently...Vitamin Water. I don't have a problem with Vitamin Water, but really? As if momentarily diverging from the main storyline and lining up an array of the brightly colored bottles (placed beside a Chanel book of course) wasn’t enough, Eleanor Waldorf proceeds to flip through a book for the Vitamin Water design competition. *cringe* Thankyouverymuch CW, but I personally would like the cherished snippets of show that come in between frequent commercial breaks, to actually be focused on the plot.

So what do you guys think of product placement in TV shows? Cheesy at all times or clever when used correctly? Does anyone else feel that out-of-place product placements distract from the show and should be left for the commercials?

-Posted by Erika Roach

Friday, June 3, 2011

The Obscenity of "South Park": Vulgarity for Humor

Recently the Comedy Central show “South Park” has taken a turn for the worse. For those unfamiliar with this popular television show, one must understand the unique audience that this show attracts, namely high schoolers and drunk, stoned or procrastinating college students. The show follows several 4th grade kids in their adventures. “South Park” can be described in many ways including immature and obscene, but can it really be considered a constructive social critic?

In the past I have enjoyed “South Park” because I believe it balanced humor and immaturity with a genuine point of view of two average American citizens, the creators of the show, Trey Stone and Matt Packer. These two individuals air a show every Wednesday night during the season and begin working on the next week’s production every Thursday morning. Therefore, each show is supposed to be very relevant for the audience in sharing their perspective on contemporary world events.

However, in the current season I have seen a falling out of the balancing condition the show had previously captured. The lack of creativity and loss of a real message for each episode has been replaced by obscenity. For instance, in the show that aired on April 27, titled “HumancentIPad,” I was astonished by the amount of truly indecent and vulgar scenes and discussion taking place in the episode. This particular episode made me question the new priorities of its writers. It was the first time that I was concerned about young people watching this show. I also felt a pang of guilt that there were most likely middle school students and other young kids watching this show. I realized that with the easily accessible episodes available online, these episodes could be watched by virtually anyone with a computer regardless of age or parent censorship.

The most recent “South Park” episode dealt with racial stereotypes and multiple personality disorder. I did not find it funny, entertaining or contributing anything more than giving me an avenue for procrastination from the stress of finals. I believe the only times “South Park” has a comical effect is when it comments on a current topic that is relevant to the common American viewer. I believe “HumancentIpad” was a failure because those unfamiliar with the movie titled “Humancentipede” would not understand and therefore think that Trey Stone and Matt Packer just have the most distorted and morbid sense of humor imaginable. I would recommend Packer and Stone stop trading humor and creativity for vulgarity. They need to reevaluate their choice of topics and revert back to their roots: making these cartoon characters act completely irreverently and obscenely in order to create humor, not just to criticize a point.

-Nolan Pura