Archive for the ‘television’ Category

Idyll Never Again

January 29, 2013

I sympathize with Idle No More, but I don’t think the goals realistic or desirable

The aboriginal peoples of Canada have gathered in common cause. Idle No More; a movement with the explicitly stated goals of environmental protection and native sovereignty. From squalid reserves to broken treaties, the indigenous people of Canada are in desperate plight and can demonstrate legitimate grievance. However, if there is a fundamental flaw in the institution that uniquely addresses Canadian aboriginals, it might be that it exists at all. Reserve life is a failed experiment, and would be in no way worthy of rehabilitation if we weren’t mired in it for the foreseeable future.

When Europeans, armed with steel and pox, came to Canada 400 years ago, they came into conflict with a people very familiar; warlike, greedy, racist, proud, prone to convenience, and not very bright. In other words, the Europeans and Canadian Aboriginals were human beings alike, and what separated them was technology. Speaking as someone who grew up in Canada, exposed to endless vignettes and culturally sensitive middle school textbooks, I was influenced by all manner of stories about “using all parts of the buffalo” and the profound spiritual connection of Native Canadians to the land. Such stories are pure invention, as buffalo jumps and the setting of massive fires to drive game strongly attest. The Native Canadians of yesteryear were a defeated people, outclassed by a European tribe with motives akin to their own.

As Canadians, we lean toward the mosaic side of the cultural mosaic versus melting pot debate, and in the case of the aboriginal people of Canada, that attitude has not served us very well. Allow me a brief aside and an analogy to illustrate my point. In a episode of Law & Order, Lt. Van Buren (a black woman, and the person in charge of her precinct) is told by a racist perp to “Go back to Nairobi, or wherever it is you came from” to which Van Buren replied “I’m from Brooklyn.” Van Buren wins the argument by the simple fact that she is an American, no matter her African heritage.

Now picture a post antebellum America, where former slaves are herded into reserves, guaranteed certain rights, and encouraged to preserve their African culture in isolation. We’d have another case of “our culture” and “their culture.” Instead, despite all the problems still facing the American black person, American culture is part black, and that subculture grows organically and influences every part of American life – from the presidency to the listening habits of suburban white kids. In Canada, in the case of our aboriginals, we have encouraged “their” identity…

It might seem easy for a white male living in a country dominated by white males to dismiss the value of another culture. To insist that “they” integrate instead of preserving their heritage. And yes, it is easy. However, cultures since the dawn of humanity of come and gone, and perhaps more importantly, mutate and change. Artificially preserving cultures despite their lack of material success results in stagnation, and as has been proven by the grotesque failure of reserve life, promotes little more than a perpetual reminder of what once was, and can never be again.

Robin Lindsay

rockrobinoff[@]gmail.com

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The Talented Voter

April 27, 2011

Politics is kind of stupid and kind of dirty – J.P.

The game is so unfathomable, the players so practiced, the information so unreliable, the opinions so varied, and the goals so vaguely defined, that I cannot bear to participate.

Should the voter accept a measure of responsibility for the actions of the elected? If the idealized conception of the democratic state is one where a well informed citizen scrutinizes the choices on offer, and then casts a vote for the politician that reconciles best with their conscience, then the citizen must cry “mea culpa” should their horse disappoint. By the same logic, should the elected prove satisfactory then the citizen may take pride and live vicariously through the good governorship of their chosen one.

But the ideal democratic plane is a fiction, and the fidelity of transmission from political pulpit to interested voter is muddied by all manner of spin and selfish aforethought. All politicians are liars is too sweeping a statement to be taken seriously (and fails to admit of an intuitive definition) but all politicians do choose their words with care; and not to promote clarity but to avoid loading an opponent’s gun. Meanwhile, the voter watching the proceedings, whether debate or speech, must play the game – navigate carefully, pick out the truth from the barrell of tactics, and either forgive or condemn the variant stratagems of the heroes as foul billiards or level partie.

It’s enough to make me fantasize of a good retch if only to distract myself from the exhausting display. Thoughts of self harm began to creep when I attempted to watch a leadership debate the other night. The first 15 minutes were all I could withstand, the last straw being some rather pitiful display between Jack Layton and Michael Ignatieff, where Layton attempted to win points  by casting Ignatieff’s stance on Afghanistan as identical to Harper’s – as if Ignatieff was guilty by sheer association. As worthy an observation as calling out Harper for being like Hitler. Ugh…

Hands up. I am out. It’s not the politicians I hate, it’s the politics. Find someone  else.

Robin Lindsay

rockrobinoff[at]gmail.com

The Virus of Mediocrity

March 11, 2011

To comfort the disturbed and to disturb the comfortable – Cesar A Cruz

There exists a conflict of idealized peaks in the world of art. Take a moment to chew on the following:

What you don’t read  (or watch, listen to, etc) matters as much as what you do read.

If you are like me, you think the above pretty much the case, that exposure to the lesser arts can only make you dumber, less interesting, corrupted, and soft. Many think that danger doesn’t exist, that one can move freely and without consequence between doses of  Goosebumps and Gore Vidal.

Imagine you are charged with picking one of two extremes for a high school student. In the first, the student is exposed to nothing but the lowest common denominator from the world of arts. Popular young adult situation comedies, top 40 radio hits, and mass market fiction. Their high school career spent ignorant of anything but what is easily digestible and then forgotten. In the other extreme is challenging literature, film, and music, all of which serve to enhance the students understanding and appreciation for the human experience. Your pick.

Now, those extremes are unrealistic and unfair, and it is obvious that one cannot spend 100% of their time in either the intellectually stimulating ivory tower, or caked in Pizza Pop residue and plopped in front of Melrose Place. However, if you accept that one extreme is preferable over the other (or even a more moderate version of the above scenario that nonetheless emphasizes one approach) then you must acknowledge that it matters what we watch/read/listen to.

However, the above is almost beside the point. The question at hand is whether anyone can be worse off for what art (or craft) they have been exposed to, not for what they have missed. Can the brilliantly erudite aficionado of the complete works of the artistic greats be somehow damaged for attending a Coldplay concert? I will argue he can.

Coldplay are catchy. They are also nauseatingly sentimental, two dimensional, obvious, uninspired, and totally lacking in anything  substantive. The fact that adults listen to this worthless and altogether trite dredge is a tragedy, but they are catchy. Catchy isn’t a problem, and nor is it easy. Many a band attempted little more than to compose a single head-bobber and failed. But Coldplay’s catchyness is the musical equivalent of thinly veiled propaganda serving as a vehicle for  shallow poetry and cynical contrivance.

But here I was not six months ago walking along and idly muttering a melody “Look at the stars, Look how they shine for you…” They got me. Stuck in my peon brain is this tired dreck. It took no conscious effort to summon the lyrics and melody – they are with me forever, potentially inserting themselves into whatever other endeavor I attempt, musical or no, and maybe even without my knowledge.

No artist exists in a vacuum is obvious to everyone. What might not be so obvious, is that maybe they should do their best to do just that.

Robin Lindsay

rockrobinoff[at]gmail.com

The Greys

December 2, 2010

Throwing her arms in the air in bemused exasperation she exclaimed “I don’t get sports.”

The other night between bouts of Quizzard, the lone female in the room availed herself of the opportunity to inquire as to the male obsession with sports. I have to admit that I might not be the best person to ask, as my sporting obsessions tend toward individual contests; whiling away entire afternoons in front of the television watching golf, tennis, or snooker will no doubt maintain as habits for years to come.

That said, I have enjoyed the occasional baseball game, and even football can prove diverting. Hockey or basketball not so much, though World Cup soccer has the capacity to engage my full attention for a game or two (especially if the UK are taking on the Krauts). The Olympics are a big snooze. Running? Throw the thing? That manages to engage the attention of adults? I have to admit I have for some time wanted to be an Eastern European spy who also happens to be a Biathlon (that’s gun-skiing to you) medalist, but that’s a story for another day.

The appeal of sports is rooted in four major concepts: vicarious competition, tribalism, and appreciation for athletic aesthetics are the obvious first three. The fourth, less obvious but entirely indispensable, is the narrative. Each and every game of anything is also a story, and not only is the story about the events that transpire over  the next couple of hours, but it is also a tale in context. What and who do these teams represent? Are the big, bad, and rich New York Yankees bashing a small market minnow into submission? Will the minnow prove to be a David in the face of Goliath? Or are The Yankees taking on their arch nemesis, The Boston Red Sox – the darlings of perennial vigils held in hope of an eventual victory in the face of The Evil Empire (until recently anyway, they finally won).

Sports are dramatic. Yes, it is cheap drama, and the tension no more sophisticated than that built by a nauseating television program about hot doctors screwing each other… but no less either. Males like sports because they are allegories for murder and conflict – the stuff of many a good story.

So, I raise my arms and ask: How can anyone who claims to be a grown up willingly sit through an episode of Grey’s Anatomy?

I Have the Feeling Few will Agree

November 26, 2010

What is plain to those that reason from a result and then work backward, is the internet was invented for the purposes of porn and email. If porn wins and email places, then outrage is to show, and it is both a hilarious and frustrating phenomena perpetrated by none too few a poster. Sprinkled daily amidst my news feed on the Facebook, are links to news reports about WHAT THE AMERICANS ARE UP TO NOW, or how STEPHEN HARPER IS STEALING YOUR RIGHTS, or how CHEMICAL GAZITRON WILL TURN YOUR NEWBORN INTO A HORSE.

A recent article in the feminist blog Jezebel accused The Daily Show of being a boys club, something long standing Daily Show presenter, Samantha Bee, dismissed. Emily Gould at Slate accused blogs like Jezebel of exploiting the worst tendencies of women, and introduced me to a new term: feminist outrage porn. If I understand this neologism correctly, I take it to mean that some women “get off” on pointing out injustices to the world. That much like a charitable contribution makes the giver feel good, so does the keen feminist also experience a similar rush of satisfaction when she uncovers a hereto unknown nugget of sexism.

But let’s not pick on women or feminists, for the phenomenon of outrage porn is not unique to the fairer gender. We all have our pet causes, and when worldview reinforcement presents itself in the press we cannot help but perk up and take notice. Not only will certain news items be of more than common interest, but will confirm our rightness, and that what we are so very right about is also important.

But back to Facebook. I have a few rules for myself about that never neverland of narcissism. The first is that it is not to be taken seriously, and what must follow from that rule is that anything serious that might show on Facebook is therefore verboten. For that reason, I never join groups about politics or causes, and have some reservations about those that do. Yes, consciousness raising. However, then there is fooling oneself into thinking that clicking a button is doing your bit.

So, while I am thankful in some senses there are those keeping me up to date on the latest monstrous inequity perpetrated by the man in the name of greed and shallow caprice, I find myself caring a bit less about it for the effort of cutting and paste.

Robin Lindsay

rockrobinoff[at]gmail.com

Peep Show ist Rad

September 15, 2010

The marriage of Sam Bain and Jesse Armstrong to David Mitchell and Robert Webb bore wünderfruit by the name of Peep Show. The oblong Mitchell was perfectly cast as the anxious and cynical Mark Corrigan, and Webb admirably portrays the arrogant and deluded Jeremy Osbourne. Whereas the ‘odd couple’ dynamic of the fastidious conservative paired with the slovenly liberal is older than television, Peep Show is nonetheless a breath of fresh air to all those in their 20s and 30s who pine for intelligent comedy. Fawlty Towers belonged to our parents, but this latest batch of Cambridge Footlights belong to us.

For all those who posses a basic distrust of modernity and feel detached from contemporary youth culture, we have as our banner carrier one Mark Corrigan. While his depressed and lonely existence, habitual lying, and paralyzing fear of women is not to to be emulated, such lines as “She’s dragging me into the 20th century, with its meaningless logos and ironic veneration of tyrants” and “your lazy cynicism and sneering ironic take on the world encapsulates everything wrong with your generation” speak to what many of us think about kids today. Jeremy (Jez) represents the worst of those kids, and his unbelievable stupidity, good looks, and success with women, make him all the more loathsome and yet enviable as well.

Peep Show is an English comedy, and in ways not limited to geography. It is vicious, unfriendly, embarrassing, greedy, and any trace of warmth is noticeably and decidedly absent. This continues a tradition predating Monty Python, where the intense classism and fear of embarrassment inherent in English society not only informed the day to day lives of people, but provided grist for the comedy mill as well. Peep Show is archetypal in that respect, where the filth and unwelcome parts of humanity are brought to the fore so as to be poked fun at and laid bare – without a life lesson to be found.

Peep Show is the greatest situation comedy to date.

Robin Lindsay

rockrobinoff[at]gmail.com


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