Saturday, February 26, 2011

Save Antiques Roadshow

I've recently read several intellectual arguments for or against the Republicans budget proposal that would cut funding for PBS and NPR. To be frank I don't understand half of what they are arguing about and nor do I care. They can argue about politics, freedom of speech, and educational programming until kingdom come, but if Antiques Roadshow is taken off PBS I will be legitimately pissed.

For those who have not experienced the brilliance of Antiques Roadshow, it is a program that travels around the country and gives local people the opportunity to have their antiques appraised by professionals. It may sound a bit droll, but nothing can describe the suspense that builds as the expert slowly reveals the unique history of an antique and you wonder: will it only be worth a few hundred dollars or a few thousands? (In my experience it is always the Native American artifacts that consistently hit the jackpot.)

Not only is it suspenseful and an interesting, but the “human” aspect of the show is brilliant. Those who bring in their antiques are consistently eccentric, and the antiquarian’s extreme passion for obscure topics (e.g. 19th century toy soldiers) is boundlessly entertaining. I remember one episode where an appraiser was so moved by the beauty of a Ming Dynasty Magdog statue that he began to weep. At this moment I knew that this show had all the potential elements for a Christopher Guest mockumentary (here is an example of Christopher Guest's genius work). Where else can you find such raw human emotion anywhere else on national television? Nowhere.

You may argue that allotting millions of dollars to keep one show running is not pragmatic, but I would like to remind you of the other irreplaceable shows that PBS gives and has given us. PBS is the creator of Wishbone, the television series about a jack Russell terrier who relates the events of his master to classic works of literature. Because of Wishbone my brother passed high school English, and I felt that I possessed more knowledge about literature than my classmates. Subsequently I felt English was strength of mine. So it could be argued that my exposure to Wishbone at a young age inspired me and predisposed me towards my current path in pursuing a PhD in English literature.

How can we cut a program that grooms our future intellectuals through the assistance of a clever jack Russell terrier? Also, how else am I supposed to watch Masterpiece Theatre when PBS is the only provider? No more Downton Abbey? Can we support such injustice? These are serious questions.So please sign the following petition so we may continue enjoying the epic episodes of Antiques Roadshow.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Conspiracy Theory

While a fair number of people consider Simon and Garfunkel lyrical geniuses, few hail them as the inspiration for Christopher Nolan's film "Inception." It seems that Simon and Garfunkel have been cheated out of fame for the movie's plot, despite the fact that the evidence is blatantly obvious. I stumbled upon it when listening to "Sounds of Silence." Within this song is the basic idea that drives the movie.

Hello darkness, my old friend
I've come to talk with you again
Because a vision softly creeping
Left its seeds while I was sleeping
And the vision that was planted in my brain
Still remains
Within the sound of silence

To give this theory a healthy dose of irony, I believe that someone played this song while Nolan slept as a child. Who planted this idea in his brain while he was sleeping? That is a discussion for another conspiracy theory blog post. Now I must go and scour the musical duos' lyrics from "Little Boy from New York" to discover the connections to Nolan's Batman trilogy.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Arcade Fire's Album of the Year

I'm tempted to attribute the above misspelling of Arcade Fire to reading too much Tom Stoppard, but I think the closely trailing WTF safely rules that out. These two comments represent the topic that is feverishly being tweeted and facebooked about: who is Arcade Fire and why do they deserve to win album of the year. For those miffed tweeters, facebookers and bloggers, let's attempt to answer the question.

From what I can gather, the root of the problem is the differing opinions about the criteria of album of the year. A girl's facebook comment succinctly illustrates one of the main reasons for outcry when she states that "anyone who wins album of the year should be known by EVERYONE". While I would like to avoid the dangerous tangent of debating the merit of award shows and review critics, I do see some problems with these complaints. I expect award shows, like the grammys, to choose artists based on musical merit and not popularity. If the award was given on popularity, Justin Beiber would have swept the awards. Now ideally popularity and merit should walk hand in hand, but often this is not the case in pop culture. If anything, I often use reviewers and award shows as a resource to find new artists; they save me some time sifting through thousands of the up and coming.

Another common compliant is that neither Eminem or Lady Gaga won. Both Eminem and Lady Gaga are great artists - I listen to them both. I think Eminem is an incredible rapper, and undoubtedly he was Arcade Fire's most menacing competition. However, Arcade Fire won this year because they have mastered an important criterion that people commonly overlook when deciding who to back for album of the year. A majority believe that album of the year equates to the largest number of best selling hits per album. Yes, this is part of it. But it also about the album as a whole: how the songs cohesively work together to create a larger work of art (i.e. the album). Arcade Fire has been experimenting with this in their previous albums, and The Suburbs represents a masterpiece where they seem to have nearly perfected it. In this album, Arcade Fire coagulates sixteen diverse songs into one fantastic symphony. That my friends, is why the unknown band, Arcade Fire, won best album of the year.