Now that the Christmas season has passed and the gifts have already been received, let’s take a nostalgic look at popular gifts through the years. The 1970s saw a boom in electronic technology, but many presents were still pretty old school.
Atari Pong: Before Xbox, Nintendo 64, or Sega Genesis: there was Pong. While you can probably play it on your cellphone today, it was a huge gift in the 1970s. In 1976, they sold for about $55.
The Internet offers a plethora of options for those interested in reading insightful and relevant content about popular culture. But, sometimes you need to get your cultural fix while working out, cooking dinner, or sitting in traffic. The exhilarating world of podcasting opens up new opportunities for pop culture analysis in the relatively young medium. However, as is the case with the written word, it can often be difficult to separate the podcasting wheat from the chaff. For every intelligent and well-produced episode, there are hundreds of rambling, amateurish productions available for download on a daily basis. Here is a list of ten particularly rewarding podcasts covering the worlds of film, television, music, and literature. I always look forward to seeing new episodes of the following pop up on my iPhone:
#10: Film Junk
Although it took me a while to get into this podcast initially, it is now prominent in my regular rotation. Three movie fans from St. Catherines, Ontario talk weekly for a couple of hours about all aspects of the cinema, from movie news, to trailer trash, to reviews of new releases. While this podcast leans dangerously towards irrelevant rambling on occasion, the hosts are amusing enough that they are entertaining to listen to even when they talk about hockey or their collections of Star Wars memorabilia. The insights of documentary filmmaker and co-host Jay Cheel are of particular interest.
With Election Day coming, some people bemoan the fact that all candidates are too much alike. Whether one is a liberal Democrat with socialist leanings or Tea Party Republican with libertarian tendencies, chances who you vote for will be somewhat sane. That wasn’t always the case—at least in England, where voters had a real choice. Look at this footage of campaigner Screaming Lord Sutch, who paraded his lunacy as a weapon. While many people preach the importance of diversity, where is the true voice of neurodiversity? It lives in the past, but should be remembered and honored. All hail the bipolar, manic depressives, autistic, voice hearing, multiple personalities that have always brought the human race forward. We need crazy, as the sane world we live in promises to normalize us to death.
The Google is connected to the government…Continuing in the vein of M.I.A’s cryptically revolutionary statements, miss Maya has crafted a new video that speaks of connections, without actually saying anything about them. Confoundingly enough, this short (less than a minute) video even has its own website. However, MIA’s well-publicized baggage aside, this brief piece plays a bit like an early Cabaret Voltaire sound audio-terrorist sound collage, subversive sonically.
It is mid-morning on August 23, 2010, and school bells all over the mid-Atlantic region are ringing once again. My academic year does not begin for another week, but, essentially, my summer is over as well. This week marks the beginning of my annual scramble to get prepared for the onslaught of the fall (and eventually spring) term. Finalizing my course syllabi, reading all the new books that I have assigned for the upcoming semester, triple checking the campus bookstore to ensure that all of those books have been ordered—all tasks that will keep my busy this week and that will bring my summer to a screeching halt.
Since I have been at this teaching thing for just about a decade now—and since I had a career as a student than spanned pretty much 2/3 of my life prior to purchasing large packets of red pens—I should not continue to be surprised when mid-August finds all manner of stress and trepidation bubbling to the surface of my consciousness. I have found that being “on the opposite side of the desk”, as the saying goes, does not make the beginning of any academic year significantly less anxiety-inducing than when I was searching for the latest Trapper Keeper design, or pair of Reebok Pump shoes, or copy of OK Computer, or edition of Foucault’s Discipline and Punish. Therefore, it never fails that the barrage of Back-to-School advertisements that flits across my television screen from roughly July 5 to about right now still causes me to cry out in anguish. (At the same time, snow days still bring me immeasurable amounts of giddy joy.)
Having said all that, I have to give credit to Brigham Young University, specifically the members of the Harold B. Lee Library Multimedia Production Crew, for producing what is probably the best Back-to-School ad this season. Riffing on the popular Old Spice campaign, Stephen Jones and co. make studying sound immensely more delicious than, say, the folks over at Ross do—despite the cotton candy:
Regardless of where and when you study, here’s to a great academic year for teachers and students alike. May the upcoming months bring all of us many celestial sandwiches. Oh, and a few A papers, too.