Posts Tagged ‘television’
December 21, 2012 | by Dave Tompkins
What’s Christmas without some ancient demons embedded in the chimney? On the evening of December 25, 1972, BBC viewers celebrated the birth of Christ by being scared to death. They learned that their homes could be resonating with discarnate traumas absorbed over centuries, that the limestone walls have been listening, recording, and screaming—and that the ghost of Christmas past had been using their minds as its personal VCR. Scripted by Nigel Kneale, The Stone Tape is about a British electronics company who’s in a race to beat Japan to a super washing machine and a groundbreaking recording medium based on the “magnetic susceptibility” of certain minerals and their capacity to retain terrible memories. Holed up in a Victorian mansion, the team of bickering scientists working for Ryan Electronics would discover that haunting was a new form of playback. Merry Christmas.
Kneale had grown up on the Isle of Man, home to a mongoose named Gef who could prove his own existence in six different languages, including Russian and Arabic. Kneale’s imagination flourished in television, a medium with a reputation for killing souls. His teleplays seemed intent on trying to out-weird each other: a taxidermist gets stuffed by a pond of vengeful toads; a man is choked to death by his own bike wreckage; a porn cinema is haunted by dolphins. He also gave us titles like “Vegetable Village,” “Clog-Dance for a Dead Farce,” and “The Big Big Giggle.” One of my favorite Kneale shows involves a frumpy supermarket cashier who enlists the store mascot—a woodchuck called Briteway Billy—to wage telekinetic war against her tyrant boss, pummeling him to death with nonperishable canned goods. How many soup cans can a supermarket woodchuck ghost hurl?
December 18, 2012 | by Alex Carp
Eli Horowitz is not particularly tech savvy, but he’s spent a lot of time thinking about what consumer technology can do. Until a few months ago, long after most of his friends and colleagues had bought iPhones, the former McSweeney’s editor and publisher was still taking their calls (and text messages) on a frayed LG flip-phone that was too worn down to snap closed completely; he had started to think of it as “more like a flap-phone.” By the time he upgraded, however, he’d already been long at work on The Silent History, a digital, serialized novel containing stories that, with the help of GPS, can only be read at the physical locations where they are set. “We came up with the very clunky shorthand description of a serialized exploratory novel for iPhone. Which just rolls off the tongue,” said Matt Derby, one of the novel’s authors, on a recent weekend on the Lower East Side. Read More »
September 27, 2012 | by Elisabeth Donnelly
The documentary Gregory Crewdson: Brief Encounters is a beautiful and contemplative look at Crewdson’s process, focusing on when he was working on Beneath the Roses, a multiyear project that brought film crews of sixty or so people to small towns in the Berkshires of Massachusetts to help produce his large-format photos. The film, a ten-years-in-the-making work directed by Ben Shapiro, is an intimate look inside Crewdson’s artistic process. Since that’s covered in the documentary, I wanted to talk to Crewdson about one of his big inspirations, the cinema. Crewdson invited me to his studio and home in the Berkshires, a former church hidden behind a fence, where we (along with another writer, Stu Sherman) had a free-ranging conversation starting with the movies and edging over into his work. We started, of course, with Mad Men, which Crewdson calls “the greatest work of sustained art in the past ten years, and I’d include any movie or book or art work, so that shows you what I think of it.”
When it comes to Mad Men, do you like the set design and period detail?
I think it’s perfect in so many different ways, but it’s so beautiful to look at, so exquisitely detailed and rendered. The light’s so beautiful and the decor all fits together like a complete, perfect set piece.
It’s funny that you love Mad Men so much. I have to admit that when I watch Breaking Bad—or even just seeing stills of characters, like of the wife, Skylar, on the bed—they’re very reminiscent to me of your work.
My pictures are very much influenced by movies, but it’s weird because now it seems like the opposite happens, and now it’s like the movies use my pictures as reference. It’s a dialogue or something. I guess it just happens.
September 5, 2012 | by Brian Gresko
I was born in a house with the television always on. The lyric comes from “Love For Sale,” a song penned by David Byrne and recorded on the Talking Heads album True Stories, but the same could be said for where I grew up, in suburban Philadelphia. My dad watched television even when cooking dinner, which seemed crazy to me, minding an open flame while keeping one eye on some “reality” courtroom drama—not sure you can rightfully call those staged scream-fests real. Judge Judy was such a constant presence, she feels like a family friend. I hear her gravelly voice chewing some idiot out and smell Dad's stir-fry.
Our house was small enough that, unless I played music, I couldn't escape the tube's empty murmuring, not even in my room, which abutted my parents'. As a teenager, then, it made sense that I'd fall in love with Talking Heads' song “Found A Job,” from their 1978 album More Songs About Buildings and Food. David Byrne, the band's vocalist, guitarist, and songwriter, doesn't so much sing as sing-narrates the story of a couple, Bob and Judy, frustrated watching television because “nothing's on tonight.” Byrne as narrator intrudes upon this domestic scene like one of those omniscient charlatans on infomercials—But wait! There's a solution to their problem!—suggesting they “might be better off... making up their own shows, which might be better than TV.”
By the song's end, Bob and Judy are collaborating, creating their own TV program, a show that “gets real high ratings.” They've saved their relationship and turned their whole lives around. “Bob never yells about the picture now, he's having too much fun,” the narrator tells us. He wraps it up like a fable, inviting the listener to “think about this little scene; apply it to your life. If your work isn't what you love, then something isn't right.” While Byrne tells the story, his guitar noodles on the edges of a funky, bass-driven rhythm, until, at the end, a six note melody emerges like an epiphany over the groove. Bob and Judy have learned to sing a new tune.
June 20, 2012 | by Adam Wilson
Sunday. Father’s Day. It was a lovely day, high sixties and sunshine, the last spring wind before summer stills the air and AC units plug windows, dripping dirty water on my sunburnt, hairless head. I was at the King Suite at the hotel 6 Columbus on Fifty-eighth street, a comfortable and accommodating establishment decorated in a 1960s mod style. Zebra-patterned throw pillows and four-hundred-thread-count sheets. A Guy Bourdin print was hanging over my bed. The bathroom mirror was circular, haloed by a curved fluorescent bulb that adds a golden aura to my cheeks and shiny head. The bathroom walls were blue tile. The curtains looked like textile cutouts from old issues of Vogue. The bed was large and soft and sexy. The ceiling high and airy. I was here to channel you, Don, to gauge the world through your big brown eyes. I wanted to feel the tidal pull of a room without a past, a bed whose every morning comes complete with clean, new sheets.
That day, through my window, I could see the Columbus Circle fountain, and Central Park beyond it: fathers and sons, fathers and daughters, fathers and dogs and wives and husbands, all out for postbrunch strolls. Families skipped light-footed in the sunlight, smiling and carrying shopping bags. The fathers had received gifts that morning: new ties, new socks, new oversized grill spatulas. Their bellies were swollen with bacon and Bloody Marys. Their faces flushed rosy. They wore sunglasses and stupid shorts; their shirts were thickly pinstriped, overly pocketed, Hawaiian even; all varieties of dad-dork style. These are the new American men: nonsmokers, light drinkers, carb cutters. Boy did they look happy. It was their day.
And where were you that morning, Don? Last we saw, you’d dressed your wife as a Disney princess, and then abandoned her on set so you could drink up at the bar. Megan was lovely, G-ratedly grinning for the cameras. It made you sick to your stomach, didn’t it, the way she gave up her ideals for a little taste of fame? There was something unabashedly babyish in her joy, like a little girl playing dress up. And you were her jaded daddy. You’re the blunt realist who’s seen the gears that turn the wheels of capitalism. You work those gears, pull the levers, propagate the charade. But to buy into it like Megan did? To hang her star on an ad for Butler shoes?
June 6, 2012 | by Adam Wilson
I feel like Eminem when he wrote to that dude Stan, recommending psychiatric treatment before realizing that Stan had already driven his car off a bridge, pregnant girlfriend tied up in the trunk. Or like the guy in that Phil Collins song “In the Air Tonight” who could have saved that other guy from drowning, but didn’t. Or like Count Vronsky in Anna Karenina, who was so busy partying with socialites, he didn’t realize his girlfriend was depressed and fucked up on morphine until it was too late.
[Spoiler alert! -Ed.]
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