Thursday, October 09, 2008

Video Killed The Radio Star-Part 1*

In my mind and in my car,
we can't rewind we've gone to far

*The first in a soon-to-never-be-completed series examining the impact of 10 different music videos on TCF's early childhood

So my last entry on this site was posting a video by a band. What a quaint idea. Clearly I'm showing my age.

Videos are the vestigial organs of pop culture these days. As has been widely reported, MTV doesn't even bother showing them anymore, and now Vh1 has morphed into E! with music celebrities. A few random video "breakthroughs" have gained popularity on the Internet (like the one with guys on treadmills), but these videos nowadays are just lumped in with the zillions of other parodies, old commercials, embarrassing home videos, and other viral web stuff that dominates the Internet. The scale of pop media is so much smaller and the scope so much bigger than it was back in the good ole days. And by the good ole days, I am, of course, referring to the 80's.

In 1982 my parents got cable. Some of my earliest memories from my childhood are of sitting on our couch and holding a large plastic box with a bunch of white buttons on the left side. Not electronic, touch-sensitive buttons, oh no. These buttons required at least ten pounds of pressure to lock into place, and only one button on each row or column could be in the "down" position at a time. It wasn't so much channel surfing back then as channel pounding. The box connected directly to the TV via a thick six-foot cable. It could have been the cable box for all I know, and not even a remote. I watched a lot of television.

When I got bored of watching TV alone, I would ask and receive permission from my mom to head over to our back yard neighbors' house and watch with them. The Silers had three sons: Eric, who was six years older than me (my brother's age), Alex, who was a year older, and Woogie, who was a year younger (Woogie's real name was Brian, no one had any idea why he was called Woogie). The Silers were really into Pro Wrestling (WWF), He-Man, football, and destroying things. Their dad owned a camper he kept in the driveway. I think they had a sister too, but tellingly, I have absolutely no recollection of her. My older brother and I spent a lot of time over there.

When you watched TV in 1983 outside of Saturday morning, you pretty much only watched MTV. We'd take the occasional break to play their Intellivision (an incredibly underrated early video game system), but the videos were the main event. MTV's music library in that period was roughly 50 videos, and if you watched for long enough, you could memorize the exact order the videos were played in. We did this. The five of us also developed a "game" that consisted of us adopting the identities of the people in the videos for the course of the video. Eric and my brother (the elder statesmen) always got to choose which person in the video they were first. Eric usually picked the lead singer, and my brother always followed with the lead guitarist. Then, Alex, Woogie, and I would fight over the table scraps of bassist, drummer, or the other random characters in the video. A lot of times Eric would veto our selections and make one of us be the saxophone player that inevitably showed up halfway through the song. Then we would all make fun of whoever had the lamest character, which was usually the saxophone player. It was great fun.

An unexpected consequence of all the time I spent with the Silers watching MTV was that a relatively small number of music videos ended up playing a disproportionally large role in the forming of my psyche. In my relatively sheltered, suburban upbringing, MTV was the window showing me (what I thought were) some viable options for my adult life in the larger world. The great/awful thing about this is that almost all of the videos from the early 80's have cynical or superficial or terrifying overtones. In retrospect, these videos help explain a lot about the failure of many of my high school and college relationships. I'm still unraveling the mysteries of their influence over me.

The first video I'd like to examine is Hall & Oates "Maneater":

The lessons are pretty straightforward here. Women are dangerous, possibly pumas. Stick close to your boys (in this case, John Oates and G.E. Smith from the Saturday Night Live Band). Dramatically stare at the camera every now and then. Make sure your hair is correct. And the girl that shows up at the end may be a huge disappointment.

In 1983, I was, of course, forced to assume the identity of the sax player in the video. Which is why, this Halloween, I'm dressing up as Darryl Hall. Finally, I get to be the lead singer.

Tuesday, October 07, 2008

Dancing Choose

I see you figured in your action pose
Foam injected Axel Rose
Life size....

I've waited on at least two members of the band pictured above in my days as a Williamsburg waitron/bartender (lego men gotta eat too). They're a band called TV on the Radio, and they've just come out with an album called "Dear Science". I would like to recommend that you purchase it immediately. If you need any more convincing (and I have no idea why you would, I just told you to buy the damn thing), check this out:

If you're into Cop Musicals, Care Bears, Totem imagery, or zoomorphism, this is clearly the band for you. And really, what demographic is not covered by at least one of those four categories?

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

I Started Something I Couldn't Finish

After having to physically remove myself from watching the Bengals-Ravens season opener two weeks ago, I've been thinking a lot about the troubled history of Cincinnati sports in general and the Bengals in particular. The short version of the history is something like this:

  1. The Reds - The Reds were terrible in the early 80's, but they got better in the late 80's. Pete Rose got kicked out of baseball, and then they won a World Series and were very competitive for about six seasons thereafter. They got royally screwed in the strike year when they had a 66-48 record, good enough for 1st place in the NL Central. They were good the year after, but no one seemed to care anymore. They've sucked ever since.
  2. The Bengals - Vacillated between terrible and decent in the 80's under Sam Wyche. Were really good for a couple of seasons. Lost a heart breaker to the Niners in Super Bowl XXIII; a game that is constantly replayed on ESPN and the NFL network in attempt to further demoralize and humiliate Bengal fans. The Bengals went on to make the playoffs the next season and then sucked for 14 straight years. I mean really sucked, like "not a single winning season" sucked. Then they had another good season on 2005, won the AFC North, and tricked people into thinking they could be good for an extended period of time. Now they suck again.
  3. The Xavier Musketeers - Really don't fit in to this equation at all. The most well run sports organization in Cincinnati for the last 25 years, hands down. The program has steadily improved through four different coaching regimes and two different conference affiliations. The team has made a postseason appearance in the NCAA tourney 17 times since 84-85, and appeared in two Elite Eight's in the last five years. They have had one losing season in the last 23 years. I just included them to make myself feel better, most Cincy sports fans don't really care about the Muskies, but clearly I do.

So I guess the question I'm really getting around to is this: can I bail on the Bengals for a little while? I had to do it in the 90's, and I didn't (and don't) regret a minute of it. I had a friend back in high school that kept trying to convince me, every fall, that this season was going to be different. Someone named Harold Green or Darnay Scott or Peter Warrick or Ki-Jana Carter was going to make a difference. I knew better back then. I went out of my way to pretty much ignore the entire NFL (this was before I did fantasy), and you know what? I was fine. Really, I was a pretty happy guy back then. I mean, I never stopped loving them or started rooting for anyone else, I just didn't watch them or read anything about them.

Then all this shit with Carson and Marvin Lewis happened. They actually took their time with Carson. They developed him. Made sure he didn't get Klingler-ed. Gave him an offensive line and a running game. Two great receivers. Sure the defense sucked, but who cared? The defense always sucks in Cincinnati, that's our identity in the AFC North. The team looked good. We won the AFC Central. There didn't seem to be any reason why they couldn't continue to be good for as long as Carson was taking the snaps.

Then Carson got his knee blown out. Then everyone got arrested. And the offense just kept looking a little less explosive each season. And now.....I kinda might need to bail for a while.

Under normal circumstances, I would definitely give someone shit for writing what I just wrote. But the thing to remember is this: Mike Brown still controls the Cincinnati football team. Which means, basically, that they can never be good. Ever. He's the most colossally inept owner in all of professional sports. From Wikipedia:

He is often cited as one of the worst owners in the history of professional sports.

The Bengals are like this girl that I was really into in high school. She was a tall blonde Catholic School girl who liked James (the band) and did theater. That was pretty much all I needed. We talked on the phone for a few weeks, and then I finally got her to come over to my house to "watch a movie" some weekend night. I was stoked. I had rented "Alive" (yeah I know, bad call) and convinced my parents to leave us alone in the living room to watch it. After I played her some tracks off the new Chapterhouse album I had just picked up, we were about to lay down to watch the movie. Some little argument broke out just then, and I went into flirty/teasing mode and made some comment about her being a little bitchy. In my teenage mind, getting a girl riled up with a little jokery was just a good solid replacement for foreplay. Right after I said it, the girl bolted up off the couch and walked right at me with a glint in her green eyes and a little smirk on her lips.

It worked! She was totally staring me down, walking over to me slowly and sexy-like. I stood there in the kitchen, unblinking, waiting for the magic to happen.

She punched me in the stomach. Really hard.

We didn't hook up that night. We, in fact, never hooked up (and not because I stopped trying). My friend Dave showed up later on with some hot-ass 16 year old from the other Girls' Catholic High School and made out with her on the couch while we sat silently watching Ethan Hawke eat frozen body parts.

So that's kinda like being a Bengals fan.

Soooo....can I bail now?