1. Internet Killed the Late Night Talk Show Star

    Alex Ross author of The Rest is Noise and New York Times music critic writes on a recent his The Rest Is Noise Blog New York Times article on late night TV:

    “….[T]he median age of [Jay Leno’s] viewers has crept up to 55.6 from 46.6. Mr. Letterman’s audience is slightly younger, at 54.7.” The latest findings by the League of American Orchestras, drawing on their own studies as well as the most recent NEA study of arts participation, indicate that the median age for the classical audience is forty-nine. In fact, that’s younger than the median age of the entire prime-time television public.

    Yup, so classical music is younger and hipper than late night TV. The demographic that fondly refers to themselves as “baby boomers” and likes to think of themselves as revolutionary likes late night TV more than classical music.

    Now most would think of classical music as stuffy olde-tyme stuff, but even the so-called “revolutionary” baby boomers would have no time for the likes of Iannis Xenakis, Charles Ives, or even 19th century composer Gustav Mahler— or even hell let’s bring Johann Sebastian Bach. No, that shit is too goddamned weird– “I’m a counterculture baby boomer open to everything– except, for well, almost everything.”

    Late night talk shows on the other hand provide a pasteurized, puritan, and safe view of what “rebel” means. It’s okay to make jokes about politicians and celebrities. Those programs provide hand-holding for what it means to be funny and new– but you know not too funny or new.

    Johnny Carson, Jay Leno, David Letterman, and Conan O’Brien were the popes deciding what banter is funny and different but yet not too funny and different was okay around the water cooler.

    For all the talk of “counterculture” and “revolution” the baby boomers are a conservative lot preferring sanctioned music over contemporary classical that was too damed weird and humor wasn’t conformist. Granted, there were many comedians like Bill Hicks and George Carlin that were not water cooler safe– but the baby boomers preferred the late night talk shows. Some how because they preferred the safe, curated form of humor everyone else is supposed to think that’s a cultural touchstone.

    Bill Hicks on Leno

    Now at 55+, the audience cannot even stay up late enough for Jay Leno to tell us all about a movie we have been marketed to death by. The same audience may not be able to go to Probably Bad News but they’ll do their best to not doze off during Jay Leno’s “headlines.” They essentially crave curated humor, thatt’s okay to laugh at.

    Perhaps when NBC shuffled Conan O’Brien from 12:30am to 11:30pm and installed Jay Leno at 10:00pm killed the whole “tradition” of late night TV. Or more appropriately, Jay Leno struck the last nail in its coffin while demanding a paycheck to fund buying more fucking cars since making millions per year and doing fucking Dorritos commercials just are not enough.

    O’Brien seemed liked an intelligent man who enjoyed telling pop culture jokes and referenced things I had seen on the Internet several days ago. I did not find his show very amusing personally as he covered a swath of pop culture I simply do not care about or find interesting in any way. Though O’Brien seemed better at the job and far more clever, Leno won. Leno was somehow more docile and willing to shill shitty movies/TV shows and their celebrities. The ratings were safe since he was a hit before– and well better be safe than sorry NBC thought.

    I don’t know if the United States is such a young country that we have to consider everything an institution longer than 5 years but some things need to die– or are just a bad idea. Despite NBC’s last-year-1+1=2-logic Leno’s ratings are lower than O’Brien’s were according to Nielsen’s second quarter ratings. NBC took an oozie to late night TV in an attempt to resurrect it.

    All they proved trying to get back ratings is the same thing the talk show host’s staff found can be found on the Internet 24/7 and usually better.

    On YouTube or blogs or the World Wide fucking Web are tons of people hawking shitty movies, have weird ass skills, and dumb ass headlines. We don’t need some fucks to have their staff find them and then parade them on stage at a specific time.

    If you have a need for mindless programming, may I introduce you to 4chan?

  2. Coke Subs and Chris Elliot

    (Rest of the episode here and here.)

    Any, any, ANY excuse at all to post an episode of Get a Life, the how-the-hell-did-he-get-a-show Chris Elliot sitcom fondly remembered by grown up awkward youth and ex-convicts alike.  (Check the comments on that clip: “Dude I saw this while I was in jail like 20 years ago. Thanks for posting it. It is one of my favourite episodes of any show.”)

    And that excuse would be…

    On Friday, the police in Ecuador, acting on intelligence gathered by the United States Drug Enforcement Administration, raided a secret jungle shipyard near the country’s border with Colombia and discovered what American officials called “a fully operational submarine built for the primary purpose of transporting multiton quantities of cocaine.”

    According to the D.E.A., the fiberglass submarine, about 100 feet long and 9 feet high, was the first of its kind to be seized and was captured “before it was able to make its maiden voyage.”

    Check out the whole article from The Lede (NYTimes) here, complete with clip from VBS TV of captured coke subs in Colombia.

    Good to know that privately owned subs come at such an range of price points.  From back of Boy’s Life kits to DIY oil barrel subs to the Sharper Image jerking around, there’s truly a sub out there for everybody.

  3. Blue – An Erotic Life

    Wow.  Someone finally made something beautiful and true with blobby lumps of clay.

    BLUE: An Erotic Life is a stop motion animation that narrates the life story of a blob of clay dealing with sexual addiction. The piece plays on the contrast between graphic adult content and grotesque stop motion. The combination of the two makes for an absurd, dark humored short film.

    BLUE: An Erotic Life is my BFA Student Thesis from Parsons School of Design.

    by Tibo Charroppin, via Coilhouse

  4. Half-Remembered and Half-Right: The Bullys “Sluts”

    Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.

    I’ve been looking for this track for about six years now and I just found it on an old data CD I just dug up out of an eternally unpacked cardboard box.  It stuck in my head for a few reasons:

    1. About damn time there was a good honest anthem about preferring ’em promiscuous, nicely under two minutes.  Know thyself, said that famous Greek.
    2. The heart of this band was Johnny Heff, a NYC firefighter who died when the Twin Towers collapsed.

    The spring of 2001 was my first headlong dive into punk rock appreciation, coming to it from the nerdier side of things (being a long-time Sonic Youth fan, going through that awkward ska face in high school and then, finally, wolfing down Greil Marcus’ Lipstick Traces in about three days).  This being the heady early days of file sharing, I took what came along over the token-ring network (yes, token ring).  The one lone random track from the Bullys that made it’s way to me was this one.

    Scroll forward a few months  to October 2001 and for whatever reason I decide to look up this band who so eloquently warns off the decent women from their animal lusts.  I was listening to his voice when I found out Heff had died in the rubble.  Real strange to encounter that, a sort of missing feeling, knowing that someone you appreciate is someone you’ll absolutely never meet.

    Apparently his band mates are still soldiering on.  Going to have to see if I can track down a show this summer.  I  you dig what you hear above, they’ve got three albums out, available here.

  5. A Helpful Reminder That Everything You Were Taught is Wrong

    Matt Yglesias had a good post this morning about the sort of dumbed down cause -> effect common wisdom that gets tossed around at all levels of education and historical analysis.  In this case, he takes aim at the old chestnut we all learned in high school about the poor Germans in the Weimar Republic running around with wheelbarrows full of paper marks to buy a loaf of bread and how that hyperinflation made all the Germans toss up their hands and say “hey, why don’t we give this Hitler guy a try?”

    I understand that this is an accurate recounting of German folk history, but I wish people recounting it would note that Germans sort of misremember what happened. The hyperinflation of 1919-1923 was bad, but there’s a reason charts of it end in 1923, namely that the democratic government of Germany managed to tame the problem and in 1924 a new and perfectly stable currency, the Reichsmark was introduced. The Weimar Republic had its problems, but from 1924 on it was one of the very best places in the world to live in terms of economic prosperity and political freedom. Then came The Great Depression and a certain political party’s rise to power.

    Click through to see some of Magical Matt’s awesome graphs to that point. (Ya can’t stop the man from graphing!)  I distinctly remember being told this as part of my high school world history class as another one of those elegantly reductionist formulas to be memorized and regurgitated for my dark lord, the AP test.  While I do find value in the study of history for root causes and charting their effects, I’m constantly frustrated by how reductionist it all was.  Teaching to the test and teaching to every level of interest/comprehension/attention-span takes an axe to the network of events to serve up little slices of official truth, sometimes bearing little resemblance to actual events.  My post-schooling education has largely been a matter of a pulling at these neatly arranged strings of events to see which connections hold up and where those severed links trail back to.

    Wired‘s June 22 Today-in-History note about a 1783 volcanic eruption that dealt death and disruption across the Northern Hemisphere hit my brain in a similar way.

    1783 was the year of the Treaty of Paris that ended the American Revolutionary War.  The traditional line trotted out to American school kids is that we kicked so much British ass due to our guerrilla warfare against the line marching, fife-playing Redcoats of the King’s Army.  The French eventually became our our allies, sending troops and supplies towards the end of the war after we proved our mettle in battle.  Then, the story goes, the French absorbed our gnarly revolutionary spirit, decided they didn’t like getting taxed by a be-wigged, high-living royal dandy either and had themselves an even crazier revolution.

    One facet I don’t recall getting much discussion in the classroom is the scale of French aid to the Americans.  The French spent 1.3 billion livres in their efforts to stymie the British, outspending even the Americans.  For a country that was already sinking deeply into debt, this was a risky move.  Having a volcano erupt at that point was not what Louis XVI needed.  Europe was blanketed with a poisonous haze followed by crop failures from a long, severe winter.  Death and debt naturally followed.

    Why don’t they teach this?  Well, it raises a lot of uncomfortable points: humanity’s susceptibility to natural catastrophe, the high costs of foreign intervention and the uncertainty of the future.   Much more comforting for future Excel spreadsheet operators and fast food counter-wipers to have some dots to connect that spell out “America! Fuck yeah!”.

    So in short, history is all one big Connections episode, with the backbeat of Method Man’s sage advice that Cash Rules Everything Around Me.  Cash and Volcanoes.  And if nothing else, at least we can get a Simpson’s reference out of the deal.  “Slavery it is, sir!”

  6. Song of a Weakling Child: The Dispute Between Aphex Twin and Stockhausen is over

    This clever video fuses two masters of electronic music together: Aphex Twin‘s “To Cure a Weakling Child” and Karlheinz Stockhausen‘s “Song of the Youth”.

    In 1995 BBC Radio 3 recordings from several electronic artists including Aphex Twin, Plasticman, Scanner and Daniel Pemberton for a story called “Advice to Clever Children“.

    What Stockhausen had to say about Aphex Twin:

    I heard the piece Aphex Twin of Richard James carefully: I think it would be very helpful if he listens to my work Song Of The Youth, which is electronic music, and a young boy’s voice singing with himself. Because he would then immediately stop with all these post-African repetitions, and he would lookfor changing tempi and changing rhythms, and he would not allow to repeatany rhythm if it were varied to some extent and if it did not have a direction in its sequence of variations.

    And Mr. Richard D James’ (Aphex Twin) response:

    Mental! I’ve heard that song before; I like it. I didn’t agree with him. I thought he should listen to a couple of tracks of mine: “Didgeridoo”, then he’d stop making abstract, random patterns you can’t dance to. Do you reckon he can dance? You could dance to Song of the Youth, but it hasn’t got a groove in it, there’s no bassline. I know it was probably made in the 50s, but I’ve got plenty of wicked percussion records made in the 50s that are awesome to dance to. And they’ve got basslines. I could remix it: I don’t know about making it better; I wouldn’t want to make it into a dance version, but I could probably make it a bit more anally technical. But I’m sure he could these days, because tape is really slow. I used to do things like that with tape, but it does take forever, and I’d never do anything like that again with tape. Once you’ve got your computer sorted out, it pisses all over stuff like that, you can do stuff so fast. It has a different sound, but a bit more anal.

    I haven’t heard anything new by him; the last thing was a vocal record, Stimmung, and I didn’t really like that. Would I take his comments to heart? The ideal thing would be to meet him in a room and have a wicked discussion. For all I know, he could be taking the piss. It’s a bit hard to have a discussion with someone via other people.

    I don’t think I care about what he thinks. It is interesting, but it’s disappointing, because you’d imagine he’d say that anyway. It wasn’t anything surprising. I don’t know anything about the guy, but I expected him to have that sort of attitude. Loops are good to dance to…

    He should hang out with me and my mates: that would be a laugh. I’d be quite into having him around.

    From: “Advice for Clever Children

  7. People in Paper Houses Shouldn’t Throw Molotovs

    paper house, rockport, mass.

    Those gentle souls at Atlas Obscura reminded me about this here paper house that Elis F. Stenman built back in the 1920s.  Yes, paper.  Specifically, newspapers.

    The Rockport Paper House’s walls, doors, and furniture are made of varnished newspapers—roughly 100,000 of them. 215 layers of paper were stuck together with a homemade glue of flour, water, and apple peels to make 1-inch-thick panels for the walls.

    Apple peels?  Well, while I couldn’t find a glue recipe (not even among wheatpasters, the most opinionated of DIY glue makers) it makes a bit of sense, as that peels would have some amount of pectin in them, a fiber, gelling agent and occasional adhesive used to seal cigars.

    While the idea of paper as a building material is not uncommon–see China and Japan–this all-recycled newspaper approach is definitely inspiring to a materials scavenger like myself.  I’m reminded of the newspaper wood by designer Mieke Meijer I saw a few months back or architect Li Xianggang’s Paper-Brick House.  Guess I’ll start raiding more Village Voice boxes towards the end of the month and saving my apple peels.

    More photos and description here.

    photos via Atlas Obscura.