Sunday, September 23, 2007

Media Notes & Morning Shorts

Today's New York Times featured a stand-alone section for the new fall television season. It reads like the first try at such a thing for the paper, although I'm not sure if it is. Beyond plenty of self-conscious apologia ("Many people in the culture department of this newspaper never watch television unless it’s an adaptation of a George Eliot novel on Masterpiece Theater. But one of the smartest editors I know once admitted, after a few drinks, to going into his study when no one else was around and watching “Reba”'), Alessandra Stanley structures her introductory essay around the notion that TV is the new music. Or rather, those who always felt bad about watching TV can now justifiably act as snobby about it as music fans.

It's not enough for television, good and bad, to stand alone as an art form worthy of an entire pull-out in the Sunday Times; it has to supplant music. "Before the Internet, iPhones and flash drives, people jousted over who was into the Pixies when they were still a garage band or who could most lengthily argue the merits of Oasis versus Blur. Now, for all but hardcore rock aficionados, one-upmanship is more likely to center around a television series". Apparently, keeping up with Lost is a lot more difficult these days than holding an informed opinion on the new Arcade Fire, or somesuch, requiring sequential viewing and deep thought. And therefore so much more relevant a cultural signifier and mark of distinciton. These are the conclusions that one draws, apparently, when assigned to write about low culture for the Times.

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On a brighter note, the screenwriters of America seem to have found a new love for the record store. As the institutions disappear from the landscape on a practically daily basis, they're being repopulated in screenplays. And not just in obvious films like Music & Lyrics, where the Hugh Grant sadly notes that the same copy of his solo album still sits on the racks year after year. There's the record store in Knocked Up, a site of male bonding between Seth Rogen and Paul Rudd. In I Think I Love My Wife, where Chris Rock browses the sort of chain record store that's all but extinct in Manhattan, and bumps into an old friend who's checking out the new Killers (shock). It's a big plot device in Reign Over Me, in which Adam Sandler stumbles on the Who.

And most to the point, it's even in a small Texas town in Friday Night Lights, the first season of which I'm working through on DVD. A character can't find his Nirvana CD, and insists on wheelchairing it four miles to the record store (Mom: "Can't you get it on the computer?" "No!") only to run into his ex browsing the racks, on her way to school. Dramatics ensue, in a way that, as the character said, just wasn't gonna happen on iTunes.

So here's to you, screenwriters, reminding us of the social and cultural importance of the record store just as it fades into oblivion.

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Kirstiecat has some disarmingly beautiful photos, along with a setlist and review, of Bill Callahan's performance at the Lakeshore Theater in Chicago.

Local Cut has the scoop on an unbelievably cute ad by the Oregon Human Society encouraging pet adoption, scored by the incomparable Laura Gibson.

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