Friday, March 21, 2008

Pop Culture Roundup

This past week I finished The Buzzard which, as mentioned last Friday, is an account from former production manager Jim Gorman about the heyday of Cleveland radio station WMMS. Basically, it chronicles its rise and most successful years of cutting-edge programming, attention to personality as well as current musical trends, and constant re-invention to keep up with the times, and then the beginning of its descent into mediocrity and staleness ("just another FM rock station") through inter-office politics, corporate paranoia, and character assassination of former employees who had contributed to its success. Gorman is very restrained while describing these later events, and should be given credit for that. Actually, the included pictures of a few of the corporate guys responsible for the politicking say it all. They turn out to be your basic "guys who don't know or care about music running a piece of the music industry" people. It's pretty sad to read Gorman's account of manufactured division destroying something that, up until that point, had been doing just fine.

On a related note about WMMS, the book repeatedly mentions how the local Cleveland pop culture rag The Scene (owned by the New Times...a lot of major metropolises have some version of this thing) always tended to dog the station for some reason or another. Keep in mind that Gorman was writing about a time period from the mid 70s to the mid 80s. Well, just this week I was listening to The Maxwell Show, and at one point Maxwell made a comment about how The Scene still dogs the station. This has been going on for 30 years! I just thought that was interesting.

We watched The Prestige this week, which is the Hugh Jackman/Christian Bale movie about rival magicians, as opposed to the Paul Giamatti/Edward Norton movie about rival magicians. We were told that The Prestige was the better of the two, so we decided to watch it first. Jackman and Bale's rivalry begins in a sporting way, until an act of hubris on Bale's part causes tragedy for Jackman, which sets off much more fiery back-and-forth attempts to outdo and ruin the other. There are numerous plot twists, which continue to quite literally the very last second of the film, at least as I interpret it. And each twist is at least marginally foreshadowed at some point. There is a strong theme of what revenge and obsession can do to people.

I also finally got around to watching the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles movie...the new computer animated one, not the animatronic one from 1990. I guess it's just called TMNT to differentiate it from those earlier movies. This movie takes place after the Turtles have already defeated Shredder, and they've hit kind of a low point in their crimefighting careers: Leonardo is off on sabbatical, and the other three are just kind of piddling around back home. Meanwhile, Laurence Fishburne tells us about an ancient warrior who became immortal after some stars lined up just right, but the downside was that he turned his whole army to stone and the spell produced some monsters. So now the immortal guy, sounding suspiciously like Patrick Stewart, is trying to reverse everything. Eventually, the Turtles and April O'Neil, sounding suspiciously like Sarah Michelle Gellar, leap around and kick bad guys and stuff. The animation is well done, and they go for kind of a noir thing with it. I wasn't really feeling the plot, though. But if there's a sequel, they dropped some strong hints that Shredder would be back for it. Sweet.

So #1 high school QB recruit Terrelle Pryor finally decided to sign with Ohio State (or "the University of Ohio State," according to him). So he waited an extra six weeks to do what pretty much everyone figured he was going to do anyway. Sure, dude. Thanks for nothing. Of course, by the time you're ready to start, Michigan's defenders (that's The University of Michigan, not Michigan University) will have worked out the kinks on how to properly defend guys like you. Enjoy that.

Around the web, go to Barack Obama's campaign website and watch his "More Perfect Union" speech. No, seriously. Go watch it. Go. Watch. It. Now. NO. SERIOUSLY. GO WATCH IT.