PopCult Rudy Panucci on Pop Culture

Art Blogging

Scape Number Four

The series continues.

Music Blogging

So I decided to attempt to write something Jazzy sounding. Despite using saxophone and marimba, it still came out sounding like soundtrack music to a bad suspense film. Listen for yourself to a Jazz Sketch.

I wrote this in July of 2004. Since then, I have recycled it through the wonders of Midi, and I’ve incorporated parts of it into one movement of my symphony. It’s in the “Anxiety” movement. The most striking feature of this tune is that it’s at least a minute too long. There really ought to be a prize for anyone who makes it all the way to the end.

But there isn’t.

Don’t even ask about the symphony.

Rise of the Ti-vangelicals

Once in a while, something becomes so ubiquitous that I get sick of hearing about it. I have now reached that point of burnout critical mass with TiVo, the subscription digital video recorder service.

For those of you who aren’t familiar with TiVo, it’s basically a hard drive in a rudimentary computer that is connected, via phone line, to a database that contains all the TV listings for your area. You can do some cool things with it, like set it to record a program every time it airs, or record one program while you’re watching another. You can do a few other things with it, but basically, you’re paying $10 or $12 a month for a machine that does the same thing that VCRs have been doing for decades.

How cool is it?

The die-hard TiVo loyalists will go on and on about how cool it is to fast-forward past commercials, or how nice it is that TiVo automatically records their favorite shows (even though it occasionally records the wrong programs or cuts off the beginning or end of a show). They talk about the days before they got TiVo as if those were the dark ages. In their eyes, TiVo is the greatest thing since sliced bread! They’ll never miss a TV show again.

To which I have to reply….Big freakin’ deal! I’ve been doing that for over 20 years with my VCRs, and I don’t have to pay a monthly service fee. Essentially, TiVo is for people who have been too lazy to figure out how to operate the timer function on their VCRs. Whenever I talk to these Ti-vangelicals they get a peaceful, spiritual glint in their eyes while they talk about how easy it is to record a show when they’re not home. I feel like I’m dealing with a lapsed Amish person who’s experiencing electricity for the first time. Where have you people been for the last quarter-century?

Watch this?

Last year I made the leap and bought a DVD recorder. One of my VCRs crapped out on me, and I lucked into a great deal and upgraded to a wonderful Panasonic model. Now, I never missed taping a show that I wanted to watch before that–and I tape obsessively–but the DVD recorder added the one feature that TiVo offered that I couldn’t duplicate with a VCR. I can now start recording a show, and then halfway through I can start to watch it from the beginning while it’s still recording. This is the major selling point for TiVO. It’s the big feature they hype in all their ads.

But you know what? In the 13 months that I’ve had the DVD recorder, I’ve never had any need to use this feature, even once. I haven’t decided which it is yet, but in terms of necessity, the “watch while you record” function is either a bell, or a whistle.

Now that Charter, my cable company, offers Video On Demand, the need for something like TiVo is even more questionable. I can choose any program from the movie channels and watch them whenever I want to. So I don’t even have to bother taping “Rome” or “Extras.” They can be summoned up at the touch of a button. Charter also offers a TiVo-like DVR, but it costs an extra ten bucks a month and isn’t much better than TiVo. I can do a better job with my various recording devices, and I don’t have to pay any extra for the priviledge.

What’s more bizarre about this phenomenon is that TiVo does some really horrible stuff, too. I mentioned that it can cut off the beginning and end of some shows. It also records shows that it thinks you might like.

Republicans are watching

Let’s say you record an episode of “Beverly Hillbillies” because it had an interesting guest star on. TiVo will remember that, and one day you’ll come home and your TiVo will be filled with dozens of episodes of Beverly Hillbillies. And TiVo keeps a database of what you watch, to allow it to do this. You just know that information will find its way into the hands of Republicans, someday.

Do you really want a record kept that shows that you watch “Saved By The Bell” and “Real Sex” back-to-back? Also, when you fast forward past a commercial, TiVo has developed a method that gives you a pop-up ad for the same product while you’re skipping the commercial. Pop-up ads? On TV? And people are paying for that?

And the disc does fill up, so you have to go through and delete shows every so often. If you want to keep a show, then you have to record it to a VCR or other outside device. One report says that 30 percent of the programs recorded on TiVo gets deleted without being watched. It seems to me that TiVo causes more headaches than it cures.

“TiVo” has become a generic term for a DVR (digital video recorder), which can’t be good news for the folks at TiVo. Every week or two a new article pops up in a trade magazine about how TiVo is doomed. Yet the Ti-vangelicals still run about, blathering about how “I TiVo’d this last night” or “I’ll be sure to TiVo that.”

Come on people. Say you recorded it, and get over yourself! It’s just a video recorder. You pay extra each month because you can’t figure out how to set the timer. We get that. Now move on.

Bush Watch: The Good One

I’ve always been drawn to music that has the air of obscurity about it. The less likely someone is to appeal to a mainstream audience, the more likely it is that I will become a fan. In 1978 I became a fan of British singer/songwriter Kate Bush after seeing her only appearance on Saturday Night Live. It took me months to track down her album (I finally found it at the Budget Tapes and Records in Cross Lanes). I’ve been a follower ever since, even though she almost had a hit one time. Her only brush with mainstream success in America was the top-40 hit “Running Up That Hill” in 1986. Even when she didn’t have a US record deal, I made it a point to get her albums. I, like many other Kate Kultists, am an obsessive Kate Bush fan and admirer. Tracking down all her music has been rather easy of late. Kate has taken more than a decade off to raise a family.

Now, after 12 years of her self-imposed exile, Kate Bush is finally releasing some new music. A double-CD collection titled “Aerial” will be released worldwide on November 7th. The lead single, “King Of The Mountain” debuted on BBC2 last week, and through the miracle of streaming audio, I was able to give it a listen.

It’s pretty good, mellow and in the mold of her 1989 album “The Sensual World.” My tastes run to her more experimental work, 1980’s “Never For Ever” and 1982’s “The Dreaming,” but as any Kate Bush fan will tell you, even lesser Kate is good music. The new song is not bad at all. It’s a dreamy surrealistic song about Elvis, with a looping rhythm and ethereal production.

While it’s a great song, I’m hoping that the Aerial CD will offer a little more diversity of style. Kate’s last album, “The Red Shoes,” was her most disappointing. It was hurt by a sameness that resulted in a lackluster album that probably convinced Kate that it was time to take her long vacation.

So hopes are running high that Aerial will be a major return to form. In addition to the import single available from Amazon, “King Of The Mountain” is available on iTunes. I don’t use iTunes, so you’re on you’re own in terms of finding it there. If you’re a die-hard Kate fan, it’s worth the effort. Of course, if you’re a die-hard Kate fan, you’ll spring for the import single anyway.

Twelve years is a long time to do without that angelic voice, so anticipation is high. It’s so nice to know that somewhere in the world, somebody named “Bush” is doing something useful and entertaining.

Photo Blogging

C-130 over Summers Street.

Great Escape from the Marquee Malaise

I’ve never made any secret of my intense dislike for Marquee Cinema on Corridor G. I don’t like the layout, the crowds, the thin walls, the sound system, or much of anything else about it.

So I was thrilled when I learned that we were getting a new multiplex in Nitro, just a ten-minute drive from my house. Mel and I have seen two movies out there, and I have to say, I’m delighted. The sound system is great, the movies are in focus, and get this, if you have to stand in line to buy a ticket, YOU CAN ACTUALLY DO IT INSIDE!

One of the things I hate most about Marquee is that you pretty much have to stand outside while waiting to buy tickets, rain or shine, heatwave or torrential downpour.

One thing I’ve noticed about Great Escape is that the crowds haven’t been too big. Now, as a person who doesn’t buy into that whole “movies are better if you see them with lots of people” claptrap, this doesn’t bother me, but as someone who likes to have a shorter drive to go to a theater that isn’t Marquee, I’d like to see more folks flocking to the theater. It’s like I have a choice between lamenting the size of the crowds, or watching the place go out of business. I’d like to see them stick around, so I’ll deal with larger crowds.

So what I’m saying is, get yourself out to the Great Escape in Nitro. You can wait in line inside, the service is better at the snackbar, and there are no stairs to deal with. Also, you don’t hear the movie that’s playing next door. It’s a first-rate operation.

I like Park Place, but I don’t care for the parking building, and this is even closer to me, so it’s Great Escape for me from now on. And they’re listed in the Gazz theater box listing thingy “Movie Finder,’ which is cooler than chocolate-covered robots!

Art Blogging

The Library
Digitally Assaulted Photograph, September 2005

Music Blogging: ‘Ode to W’s Brain’

dumb-ass-bushWhen I see our President on television, like many of us, I wonder just exactly what is going on inside his head. I don’t have any solid answers about his thought process, but I have a feeling that inside the presidential cranium, it sounds something like this:Bush Thoughts

Photo Blogging

Window Planes

I had to grab this cool reflection from the window of the Art Emporium on Hale Street. It’s got that whole disorienting thing going on.

Bodyslam The Director!

Last Saturday night, I had a wonderful time screening the film “In The Ringer” at the South Charleston Museum, located in the LaBelle Theater on D Street. As part of the “New Films from West Virginia” series, the Museum presented the debut feature documentary by Amy Trent, starring none other than noted WV filmmaker Daniel Boyd, and telling the story of his career……. as a professional wrestler.

I’m not making that up. Danny (who I’ve known forever) got involved in the Nitro-based XMCW wrestling promotion, and found himself in the ring. Just exactly how that happened is the story of this film. The short version is that Mister X, one of the XMCW wrestlers, was scarred for life when, as a child, he was passed over for a role in one of Danny’s movies. When the esteemed Professor Boyd showed up to watch an evening of wrestling, he found himself involved in a life-changing confrontation with some surprising outcomes.

In-ring action

First-time director Amy Trent does a wonderful job of presenting this storyline, using in-depth interviews with the involved parties, along with some in-ring action to illustrate the key points. In professional wrestling circles, this sort of storyline is called an “angle,” and this is as fine a delineation of an angle that I’ve seen. It helps that this is a credible, realistic story, unlike much of what you see on WWE television shows these days.

There’s a surreal quality to watching somebody you know in real life, up on the big screen doing bizarre things, especially when he’s sitting right behind you in the theater. But it’s sort of fitting, since I usually get that feeling watching the movies that Danny directs anyway. You have to find an extra layer of the suspension of disbelief because you know so many of the actors.

Dan’s films have been so entertaining that it hasn’t been hard to remove myself enough from knowing everyone in them to enjoy them. Still, I can’t quite wrap my mind around the idea of watching my tiny, old friend and college film instructor doing suplexes and taking chair shots to head.

Not to be missed

“In The Ringer” is not something to be missed. It was a wonderful, fun evening, and the air was thick with kayfabe. If you get a chance to see the film, don’t pass it up. I’ll keep you up to date on any further showings. I’ll also keep you up to date on any further wrestling activities from “Stone Cold Danny Boyd” because I got the distinct impression that “In The Ringer” is only the beginning of the story.

And I also want to comment on how nice the restored LaBelle Theater is. They really have a nice thing going on over at the South Charleston Museum, and it’d be nice to see more people come out and support it. Steve Fesenmaier has been programming a terrific slate of West Virginia films for a year now, and it’s a great thing to have in the area. This Saturday they’re treating us to an evening of films devoted to Appalachian music featuring Jack Wright and the Carter Family.

You can read more about the films that Daniel Boyd has produced and directed here.