Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Random Shit

News flash: The blog has been neglected. Then again, I never pretended to be a good parent. Devotees will probably remember that we went through a lull at this same time last year, and picked up nicely in the summer, and with any luck the same will happen this year. Just bare with us a few more weeks while we finish school, please. Until then, expect the sporadic posts to be light and fluffy, and hopefully wildly entertaining. Unless they're not like today's post, which is very lengthy and boring. Just kidding, or am I?

For today's post, I'm just going to go stream of consciousness on your ass and blog about whatever the fuck sounds good. This blog used to be called Midwest Music and More, after all, so file this under the "More" section if it helps. And yes, I do talk about Dexter.

School sucks. No, not really. There's nothing wrong with getting an education. Well, that's not true either. Okay, third time's a charm. School is time consuming, expensive, and sometimes boring, but on the whole, learning is awesome. I'm especially fond of my Literature of Science Fiction class. Its pretty much what you might expect, we read Science Fiction short stories on our own time and geek out about them in class. I'm really quite fond of the geeking out part, though I should note that we're often not geeking out in the nerdy Sci-Fi way you might expect based on whatever perception you have of a Sci-Fi nerd. (Then again, there are plenty of times where we do geek out just like you might expect too) Example, today we discussed a short story titled "(Learning About) Machine Sex," in which we learn about, you guessed it, machine sex. Sort of. Long story short, this brilliant female computer programmer develops a computer/program for guys to fuck because her own experience in messed up relationships leads her to believe that men aren't looking for love or companionship, just sex, and if they could get it from a computer, they would. Deep down, she hopes she's wrong, because it would validate this incredibly dark, nihilistic view of life that she's developed based on her experiences. As she's developing this technology, she meets a cowboy who tells her that nobody will buy it. He believes in love, something our, uh, protagonist gave up on. He also mentions that this program immoral. This character later reveals that he's gay, which I find to be interesting because the story was published in 1988, and if you thought America was conservative now (its not just a Midwest thing, Kansas isn't the only state to outlaw gay marriage you know), imagine what it was like 20 years ago at the tail end of Reganomics, right before the Bush Sr. took office. I personally think its interesting that in the late 80's the author would make the only redeeming, moral character in the story a gay man. I wish this was something we could have discussed more in detail, but the class is only so long we had to talk about other things, which leads me to...

Sonic Youth is to Science Fiction like bread is to butter. Who knew? I remember reading a couple of years ago that Sister was based on Phillp K. Dick, or his stories, something like that. Apparently the title refers to the fraternal twin sister of Dick's that died shortly after birth and apparently haunted him his entire life. Then, as if on cue, when I saw Sonic Youth a few weeks after learning of this, Thurston Moore spent the first few minutes of their concert in Lawrence talking about films based on Dick novels, and had to remind himself that he was there to play a show, not geek out on Sci-Fi talk.

Well, today we also discussed a short story titled "Burning Chrome" by William Gibson, author of the short story-turned movie "Johnny Mnemonic" and considered by many as the author that shaped the Science Fiction sub-genre called Cyberpunk (think the Matrix, but without a happy ending). Somehow, other classmates, who are basically bona fide Science Fiction scholars, started talking about his other works. Neuromancer obviously came up (I haven't even read the book and I can already tell you its considered a classic), which led to a mention of the Sprawl trilogy. Though my ears perked immediately, I figured it must surely be a coincidence. After all, if Sister truly is all about Phillip K. Dick and/or his writings, why then write yet another song based on a Sci-Fi classic for their next album. Wouldn't they have been bored of songs about Sci-Fi authors by then? I let it go, until a few minutes later when a student brought up his novel Pattern Recognition. You've gotta be fucking kidding me, I thought to myself. After getting home, I hopped on the 'net to check out this Gibson character and see what he's all about. I was unable to find anything to directly link the song "The Sprawl" with Gibson's trilogy, so I checked out Pattern Recognition. As Wikipedia describes it: The novel's central theme involves the examination of the human desire to detect patterns or meaning and the risks of finding patterns in meaningless data. Hmmm, not seeing a connection here. But wait, there's more. Other themes include methods of interpretation of history, cultural familiarity with brand names, and tensions between art and commercialization. Jackpot. Sonic Youth has always expressed interest in the tensions between art and commercialization, not to mention a fascination with pop culture in general. How else do you explain "Expressway to Yr Skull" (which is alternately titled "Madonna, Sean, and Me"), the White(y) Album, and even "Kim Gordon and the Arthur Doyle Handcream" (which comes from the same album as the song "Pattern Recognition," Sonic Nurse)?

But then I remembered how I once stumbled across a book called Dude Ranch Nurse. Either Sonic Youth gets all of their song ideas from books, including cheesy western romances, or I'm reading way too much into this Sonic Youth/Sci-Fi thing.

Moving on to something completely different. My girlfriend, Jenna (you may remember her, she's posted a few times under the clever pseudonym "Girlfriend"), and I recently bought a new high-definition screen. Though we think or ourselves as intelligent, productive people, we long ago came to terms with the fact that we are, sadly, entertained by pretty moving pictures. The addition of this new television (notice how I used the word television...a nod to all my fellow Mr. Show fans), which makes these pretty moving pictures even prettier, has basically turned us into zombies. But because I'm still a snob and refuse to give in completely to the fact that I actually enjoy some of the crap network television has to offer (thank God we don't have cable, otherwise I suspect this would no longer be a music blog), I tend to find myself critically analyzing the shows I find myself inexplicably glued to. Take House for example. Its less of a soap-opera than ER and Grey's Anatomy, but its certainly more predictable. Every single show someone has a mysterious ailment. House makes his staff test for it. While they do this, he bothers people. His underlings think they have an answer, and as they're either telling the patient, or about to, the patient codes. More tests, more ideas as to what the problem is, House acts like a jerk some more, they determine what the problem is, but at the last minute another mysterious symptom to kicks in, ruling out every possibility they've come up with. House continues to act like a jerk, has an epiphany, solves the problem, treats people like crap, and gives the patient a new lease on life. This has been going on for FOUR FUCKING SEASONS (well, only technically, considering the writer's strike and all), yet its still wildly popular, and I can't help but watch it. Its shameful, I know, though not as shameful as watching CSI: Miami (An Irish guy named Horatio??? I want what you're smoking!), though sadly I've been known to do that once or twice too.

I mention all this because I recently found myself falling for this ridiculous show called Dexter. With the writers strike crippling the networks and making viewers impatient, CBS actually did something smart: they brought in a Showtime series, Dexter, to fill in their Sunday evening gap. Though the series debuted a few years ago, thus not making it any newer than anything else they were showing, the fact that it was originally from a premium cable channel meant that it would be new to the average person. Yes, some dialog had to be cleaned up, and probably some other things too (violence, sex?), but its not like there aren't people watching edited versions of The Sopranos or Six Feet Under (Michael C. Hall's previous Showtime gig) on television, so this experiment was a good idea.

At first, I found myself completely turned off by the premise. Before the show had even aired, CBS previews made it look like CSI: Miami for people who love really bad plot twists. (Spoiler Alert) Imagine the following: "Coming to CBS this Spring, a new series about a serial killer chasing cop with a secret: He's also a serial killer. Dexter is just as likely to put these criminals behind bars as he is six feet under, usually in several pieces." Sounds like the worst fucking show ever, doesn't it.

Well, truth be told, its not. Don't get me wrong, its hardly mind blowing, most of the actors are terrible, most of the characters are bad archetypes from other recent crime dramas (CSI, The Shield), and the plot twist's are fairly easy to spot a mile away (Spoiler Alert: I called that whole Ice-Truck killer is Dexter's brother thing, just ask Jenna). But regardless of these flaws the show is certainly more entertaining than you might expect, mainly because you find yourself liking Dexter, the character, though eventually I suspect this leads into liking Dexter, the show. You see, part of the reason is that, as a viewer, you're inside Dexter's head, and privy to all sorts of things that the other supporting characters, including his sister and girlfriend, are not. After a while, you see things his way. You want him to have sex with his girlfriend, but understand why he doesn't. You want him to open up to his sister, but understand why he can't. Most of all, you're rooting for him to kill someone. That sounds sadistic, I know, but he's just taking out the trash, really. Remember, he's a serial killer that kills serial killers, or something like that. Anyhow, the show is so addictive, Jenna and I skipped ahead of the CBS broadcast and watched the rest of the season on our computer (thanks Netflix!). The last episode was worth it. And all that blood looks great in high-def.

If you made it this far, I applaud you. Here's something about music so you don't feel cheated. The new Wolf Parade leaked, but all I want to listen to is the new Stereolab song that Pitchfork premiered. It sounds just like you probably expect, but there's nothing wrong with that. Their new album, Chemical Chords, is out 08/19/08 in the U.S. from Duophonic UHF Disks/4AD. I, for one, cannot wait!


Femme Fatale said...

HA! "Pattern Recognition" makes a whole hell of a lot more sense than what my ITunes calls the song, "Attern Recognition."

I was supposed to read Neuromancer for my sci fi class years ago, but it ended up being one of the few I never got around to. Let me know if it's any good.

I think Michael C. Hall is the key to what makes Dexter good. Maybe I'm just still in love with Six Feet Under. (P.S. Which was an HBO series, btw...)

*Goes to check out Stereolab song...*

The Moon said...


I just spent the past week streaming Dexter Season 1 & 2 from this chinese you tube site... why did I not think to use netflix?!?!!?

Any who, yeah! Dexter = Good

I think I might check out the book...?

SonicRyan said...

You actually can't stream Season 2 on Netflix because the DVD set isn't out yet, so unfortunately you're stuck with your Chinese You Tube (is that kind of like a Chinese New Year?). Yeah, I'm probably going to buy the book for Jenna and then steal it when she's not looking.

The Moon said...

Ha ha, nice! =P

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