Open Thread for September 25, 2009

Is it just me?

Is it just me, or does Glee get more brilliant with every episode?

Is it just me, or has there not really been a worthwhile movie since Inglourious Basterds? (Anyone seen The Informant!?) — Wow, that’s a lot of punctuation.

Is it just me or have we not really seen any major new music released in the last month or so?

Is it just me, or am I totally out of the cultural loop? Take me to task here, in the open thread.

25 Comments on “Open Thread for September 25, 2009”

  1. Stu #

    Get yourself a copy of The Resistance, new album from the British band Muse that came out last week. Not only is the music excellent, but there are plentiful opportunities for prime Overthinking, seeing as it’s made up of part apocolyptic, part 1984-style paranoia, part sci-fi rock anthems with sections of Chopin and French arias thrown in for free.

    I’ve never understood why Muse aren’t as incrediby popular Stateside as they are in this country.


  2. mlawski OTI Staff #

    I’m curious what people thought of the new shows. My reviews:

    -Bored to Death: Big letdown. I’ll try the second episode, though, since I hear it gets better.

    -Community: Awesome first episode, silly (but still amusing) second episode. Quite meta at times, which might get old.

    -Cougar Town: A bit manic, and evidently Not Scrubs. A few good chuckles, though. I’ll try again.

    -Flashforward: So Not Lost it’s not funny. Good concept, shoddy execution. (I miss Lost.)

    -The Good Wife: Not all that original — it’s just a lawyer show in disguise — but surprisingly decent. I like Julianna Margulies.

    -Modern Family: Not Arrested Development, but really funny. Seriously, folks, watch the pilot. It takes a few minutes to warm up, and then it gets awesome.

    Old shows:

    -Curb Your Enthusiasm: Funny.

    -House: Seriously, if this is the best House can do, then that is why I don’t watch House regularly. Hugh Laurie is wonderful, as usual, but the premiere was just a rehash of a rehash of One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s nest followed by some insulting tripe. Then again, after In Treatment, any show about psychology seems like a hack job.

    …Wow, I’ve watched a lot of TV.


  3. perich OTI Staff #

    @Stu: You had me at “sci-fi rock anthem.” I’ll give it a listen.


  4. Genevieve #

    Stu – I haven’t listened to as much Muse as I should, but a friend who’s a huge fan lamented that this album isn’t as good as their earlier work, claiming that “too many of the tracks sound like other bands (most notably “i belong to you” –> maroon 5) and not enough like muse.” What would you say to that allegation? Is it worth it to take a listen, or should I busy myself with the rest of their earlier catalog first?

    ANYWAY as for major new music – what about TMBG’s “Here Comes Science”?!?! I haven’t heard the whole thing, but “I am a Paleontologist” is so awesome, I can’t get it out of my head.

    Also, Glee continues to be awesome, yes.

    Did anyone watch Eastwick? Anyone? If it’s online, I plan to watch… OK, so shoot me, I’m a little bit in love with both Lindsay Price and Rebecca Romijn. I doubt there’ll be much worth overthinking, but all of my other favorite cheesy TV is gone!

    Also, Dollhouse tonight! Or, tomorrow, for dorks like me who don’t own televisions and rely on the kindness of the internet.


  5. Darin #

    Along the it’s you / me meme

    @MatthewW – if you feel like it’s you, well…

    @MLawski – I liked Community also. Is it just me or is the dialogue pacing the new comedy style. I watch Psych and the dialogue speed is on afterburner. It allows for some dense conversations, but I find my viewing experience hurting when I have to back up to relisten to something I missed.

    We also watched In Treatment and I agree that House really is the Hugh Laurie Show. Though, the rehash of Cuckoo’s Nest is in a TV show with character arc. The new House will a) allow the show to go on much longer b) provide for new conflicts instead of the same old with the other characters c) let House and Cuddy finally get it on.

    In general, there are so many movies that I don’t want to pay 18.75 for (I must have my popcorn and drink in a theater), but would love to watch at home, now and pay 6ish dollars for. Someday, somebody will find a way to allow me to pay less than theater, but not much so I can watch it at home. Does anyone actually watch movies on HBO anymore?!


  6. mlawski OTI Staff #


    1. That was exactly my problem with Community, although for the most part I did like it quite a bit. The dialogue is SUPER SUPER fast. Like, screwball-comedy-from-the-30s-fast. (That was also the case in Cougar Town.) When the lines are funny, the fast pacing works great. But when it’s not, it becomes a chore to listen to.

    2. As for House, I agree it was a great idea to develop his character, but I felt the episode itself was too easy. House didn’t have to analyze himself as much as he would in real world therapy, so the end of the episode when he’s happily involved in a talent show and smooshing his face into cake seemed unearned to me. And the “music boxes fix schizophrenia” solution was reeediculous. Quick, magical solutions to mental ailments on TV and in the movies are a major pet peeve of mine.

    3. I’m not sure if this is what you were going for, but you could hook up Netflix to your TV and watch movies that way. You usually have to wait for the movies to come out on DVD first, so it may not be worth it.


  7. Lara #

    I’ll second that Muse recommendation. Are they really not that popular in the US? The hype over this album is massive here in Australia…


  8. Gab #

    What I watched this week:

    DwtS- Thank goodness Macey Gray is gone. Tom DeLay was huh-Larry-us. Kelly Osborne: WHO KNEW?!?!

    Project Runway- WTF?!!?

    Top Chef- I’m actually a week behind on this one, though, so uh… Well, I wasn’t surprised.

    Community- Agreed with Mlawski.

    The Good Wife- Again, agreed with Mlawski. I thought it was going to be more of a political drama instead of a lawyer one. I’ll watch again next week, though- it isn’t like it was *bad.*

    Glee- Wow. I’m waiting for some major sh*t to hit a fan somewhere. But I was definitely laughing so hard I had tears welling up this week.

    Flashforward- No, it’s not Lost, Mlawski, but I wasn’t under the impression it was ever trying to be. Even though yeah, there seems to be a few carry-overs in terms of casting… Anyway, the surveillance tapes they showed at the end gave me sufficient enough willies to need to see more.

    Did anyone else watch any of Obama’s interviews?

    And am I the only one that cares much about the NFL? I mean, c’mon, folks…

    Oh, I’m taking a friend to see The Informant for her birthday next weekend- she’s in love with Matt Damon, so we have been planning it for a while, which is why I haven’t gone yet. Did *you* see it, Wrather?


  9. Matthew Wrather #

    @pandalawski Not yet. I always like Soderbergh, even the insufferable Soderbergh of Bubble, The Girlfriend Experience, and Full Frontal. So I’ll maybe go this weekend.

    I am a fan of fast-paced TV in general, though it functions like a drug: Over time, it has to go faster and faster to pack the same punch. Watch TV or movies from 20 years ago and you’ll be astonished at how SLOW they seem. They’ll just hold the shot while someone crosses the street or opens a door or something.

    Imagine the Motormouth Continuum of fast-paced dialog with, say, Oscar Wilde on one end (very fast and highly refined) and David Mamet on the other (very fast and not at all refined).

    Aaron Sorkin, to whom I think you can trace the current renaissance in snappy, snappy talk, probably falls slightly Wilde of center.


  10. stokes OTI Staff #

    See, to me the nice thing about superfast dialogue is that when the jokes fall flat you aren’t sitting there thinking “Ouch, that wasn’t funny at all” for three seconds before something else happens.


  11. mlawski OTI Staff #

    @Stokes: Yeah, that’s true. On the other hand, when I wasn’t laughing, I was busy thinking to myself, “Was that just not funny, or did I miss something?” That took me out of the moment.

    @Gab: Re: Project Runway: what’s the WTF about, specifically? I’m curious :)

    Re: Flashforward: The one guy on the tape was a cool idea, but I was too busy worrying about the realism of it all. My brain was like, “Oh, sure. This FBI lady just HAPPENED to be watching all the surveillance tapes in the world and just HAPPENED to find that one tape within HOURS of this catastrophe happening.” I would have bought it if it happened in the second or third episode. (Whine whine Lost would have waited longer. They always took their time with their mysteries. Whine whine whine I love Looossssttt…)


  12. Gab #

    @Mlawski- Well, and forgive me for forgetting names, but the gal that stayed consistently has been at least somewhat boring, while the guy that was kicked off was always trying and being exotic. And he had just as much as, if not more, skill than her- Hell, he won a challenge ACCIDENTALLY because he’s so good (remember the dye? He DIDN’T FINISH AND THEY LOVED IT). I was really surprised they kicked him off for one example of shoddy execution with a vivid concept (that at least one of the judges really liked), whereas they let her stay with her plain dress that they didn’t think she had much of a mental idea about. And it isn’t like I didn’t like her dresses, either (after all, I’m kind of old-fashioned and prefer stuff that’s more wearable, so really, I PREFER her style)- it’s just that the judges say at least once an episode that part of being a designer is taking risks and thinking outside the box, etc., etc., and her designs, as compared to his, do nothing of the sort. Going by the judges’ criteria, she should have been the one to leave. And it makes me wonder if she would have been the one to go, had he not changed his mind with two hours left-it would have been put together much better AND he would have had his concept, so then it would have been would they keep an ugly design with vision or a simple one without it.


    And in Flashforward’s defense as compared to Lost, how many “just so HAPPENED” instances are there in the latter? In Lost, there ARE no coincidences, EVAR, so why is it hard to swallow some in Flashforward? I dunno, I guess if you wanted to make more Lost comparisons, any I can think of still reflect positively on Flashforward. The “realism” was, I think, pretty much out the window from the first few seconds, just like with Lost. In Lost, it’s clear in the pilot that some bizarre stuff is happening, but what happens as the series goes on? We find some rather scientific explanations for some of the freaky shit going on- or if it’s not exact science, it’s at least somewhat reasoned out (eg. Smokey- we at least know he’s not just some random OR free-thinking occurrence, but under the control of some other force, even if we can’t explain THAT; or the cause of the crash itself). I see Flashforward taking the same approach. I mean, come on, everybody on the planet either seeing the same moment in their own futures or seeing nothing because they’ll be dead at that moment? Yeah, okay, so maybe Lost would have taken a bit longer to start dangling its carrots, but the central mystery in Flashforward is being presented as what caused the incident- and if the lone creepy guy is part of that, then, well, he needs to be there to push that home in the minds of viewers. Call me crazy, but I think by the end of the pilot of Lost, it was clear that the show isn’t about the crash, and the slew of coincidences in Flashforward served to keep our focus on the primary mystery, the incident itself- every other “mystery” is secondary.

    Still, I was surprised about one of the carrots being dangled so soon- the Other Man. I was expecting THAT to take at least another episode, but I so called it as soon as we saw his back in real-time, regardless. That’s okay, though. I don’t expect it to be a good as Lost or to have the same pacing, but again, I was never under the impression it’s trying to be Lost in the first place.


  13. lee OTI Staff #

    I’ve made it through episodes 1-3 of “Glee,” and I’ve noticed that the Cheerios (the cheerleaders) never appear out of cheerleader uniform. Does this bother anyone else? I feel like the producers are using their uniforms as a lazy shortcut to “otherize” that group. I mean, I understand that the show isn’t supposed to be a realistic depiction of high school, and that the Cheerios really are meant to serve as the “otherized” counterparts to the gleeks, but this is one element of the show that challenges my suspension of disbelief.


  14. Stu #

    Genevieve, don’t listen to your friend. If he thinks I Belong To You sounds like Maroon 5 he has deeper problems with his ears. ;-)

    Unless Maroon 5 have ever suddenly broken off in the middle of an upbeat track to have a two-minute operatic Middle 8 (in French) before returning to exactly where they were with a clarinet solo, that is… I can’t say I’m too familiar with their catalogue, though.

    The Resistance is pretty different to their older stuff, definitely, and a lot of it seems to be trying to subvert the expectations of their fans. Which does mean, I imagine, that it would be a strange album to hear as your first Muse experience. If you want to familiarise yourself with the band, their last album, Black Holes & Revelations, is probably their best (the other contender for best Muse album is Origin of Symmetry, but their other two albums are also gems – they rarely put a foot wrong).

    Muse definitely haven’t sold out or anything like that, though, if that’s the implication your friend was trying to make. In many ways it’s their strangest, most experimental and most musically challenging album yet, in fact.


  15. mlawski OTI Staff #

    @Gab: Well, agree to disagree. But imagine, if you will, the Flashforward pilot as written and directed by the Lost guys and starring Henry Ian Cusick rather than Joseph Fiennes. Now isn’t that a lot better?


  16. Gab #

    @Mlawski- Yes. ;p


  17. Trevor #

    I’ve been out of the loop culturally for a week. Are people still pissed at Kanye?

    One thing I can recommend to my bibliophilic friends is “Our Noise: The Story of Merge Records”, which I saw reviewed on the Onion AV Club and decided to buy so that I can review it myself for the local newspaper I work for. One caveat; before this book, I wasn’t aware of there being such a thing as “Merge Records,” except maybe noticing now that their label is on the back of my Neutral Milk Hotel and Arcade Fire (and She & Him) CDs. I’d always felt at a disadvantage in my formative years of music snobbery (circa 1997-2000) because it seemed like all the cool independent labels either died before I was aware of them (Factory Records) or co-opted by “the Man” (A&M, IRS). Alas, one state border over there existed a hip, cool record label that didn’t implode and is in fact still going strong. Based solely on my NMH/AF/S&H portion of my record collection, I can say with some certainty that I will get something out of this (like a book review when I finish it, but also a greater sense of what an indie music label can do given sound management and an ability to ensure the loyalty of acts without screwing them rotten behind closed doors).

    That’s all I got, really.


  18. Gab #

    Trevor, you make me wonder something for the bajillionth time, so I’m going to now ask it of anyone willing to take me up on it: Where did this notion that music from indie labels is automatically better and/or more genuine than records from bigger labels come from and why did it come about at all? But then why is it always “snobby” to prefer indie- and is it really so? Does caring too much about the label OR not caring at all mean a person is disingenuine in their interest in what they listen to?

    Oh yeah, just watched Dollhouse. Two BSG actors in one episode, duking it out! :O But I can’t remember, did Alpha *die* at the end of the finale? I was sort of looking forward to more of him this season.

    Oh, and Lee, this isn’t the first time cheerleaders walk around in their uniforms in a filmed depiction of high school. Given some of the other aspects of “everyday life” at their high school in the show that need to be disbelievingly suspended, I’d say that’s kind of small potatoes. BUT, I do see a GENDER argument against it, naturally. After all, the cheerleaders are always dressed as if they’re about to go to a game, but the football players don’t walk around in their pads and helmets every day. IIRC, a jersey may be worn every now and then by the guys, but it’s with some jeans and without pads or anything like that. I noticed *this* differentiation pretty early on. Ahem.


  19. lee OTI Staff #

    @Gab: speaking of suspension of disbelief, I just finished the last episode (4) of “Glee” and find this show to be stretching my limit in that regard. I think it was the combination of the dancing football team and the re-hiring of the disgraced former glee club director that put me over the edge. I’m going to give this show a few episodes, but it’s trying my patience.

    @Trevor: are people still pissed at Kanye? Perhaps, but he’s definitely fading back to his normal level of notoriety. Check out Google Trends:


  20. Matthew Wrather #

    If you’re interested, we’re going to court a shitstorm and talk about it on the podcast tomorow.


  21. Genevieve #

    Gab, as expressed so eloquently by Jack Black in “School of Rock,” rock & roll (and most music, frankly) is the ultimate way of “stickin’ it to The Man;” music issued by major labels antithetical to that, at best.

    In a less ideological sense, though, there’s the perception that major labels are more interested in presentation than substance. Since the origins of the modern music industry, there have been those “cookie cutter” bands who succeed solely because they are marketed correctly. Major labels are often nothing more than image brokers, caring little for actual talent.

    Also, there’s the financial aspect. When you buy from a major label, a much smaller percentage of the price is going to the actual artist, compared to the smallest labels (such as Righteous Babe, Rising Son, Philadelphonic) which are typically just the biggest name performer and half a dozen or so of their pet projects/closest friends. Also, larger labels tend to lock an artist down into a long-term contract, which can end up being hazardous to their creative health.

    Then, swinging back towards the ideological side of things, there’s the contingent of people who *always* choose small, independent ventures over giant corporations, whether it’s for groceries, music, or whatever.

    Mainly, I think the issue is that smaller labels offer greater creative freedom, because the larger the corporation, the more intricate the bureaucracy… and the more people’s opinions you have to take into account, the less authentic the music. Generally.


  22. Gab #

    I’m starting with you, Genevieve! Is a person a fake fan of art if they really like someone from a big label, though? I don’t want to make fallacious arguments, but say the Beatles are on a big record label- would that mean their music isn’t as good or genuine any longer? This whole indie v. big thing kind of confounds me because the “big” names, the “indisputable” icons of music are usually signed to a big company at some point. Think of the “more cowbell” skit from SNL. Classic, right? Funny as Hell. But underlying the humor of Will Farrell’s gut flapping around as he bangs the pants off of that cowbell is an important vein to this whole debate, and that’s the corporate/studio influence. That song, “Don’t Fear the Reaper,” is “classic,” but how much of it was from Blue Oyster Cult and what, if anything at all, was changed because of the studio execs? So I guess what I’m trying to wrap my tiny brain around is, well, in the end, does it really matter? If so much has gone down in history as “influential” or “iconic” or “genre-defining” with big studio backing (and, potentially, influence), why do some circles that wouldn’t dare say the Beatles were insignificant or Led Zeppelin had no impact on music at all still bash people outside their circle for buying something from an artist signed with a company like Virgin or Atlantic? I just have never understood this whole thing or wanted to take a side because I think there’s hypocrisy no matter where you look. ::whimper:: Sorry, everyone. I sound whiny and confrontational, but I can’t really word it any better.

    So it’s bad to complain without giving a solution, I realize that. Ergo, my answer: eliminate money, and there will be no need for big record labels. If we lived in a Star Trekkian, purely Marxist/Engelsist (I so made that word up) utopia where there was no need for capital, art like music could be distributed freely and without limitations. So there ya have it: let’s go commie and share music.

    Realistically, though, corporations are never going to go away because the way our society works is too grounded in them; and unfortunately, this means the best way of getting your art out there is being with one of them. So art, namely music, is always going to gravitate there in order to be fiscally successful.


    There is an argument to be made for defining “success” in different terms. If your only goal in the music you make is to touch souls, and you do that by playing for nothing at a coffee shop, you win. You did it. You are a success. If the soul purpose of writing the song was to get some bad breakup joo-joo off your chest, and you feel it leave you as you play the chords or whatever, you did it. You’re a success. I hope what I’m trying to say *here* makes sense…

    Alright, I’m just going to stop now before I hurt myself (or someone else).

    Lee: Maybe my working for a school district made me think it was actually more unbelievable that he would have been *fired in the first place* than his getting rehired later. I find (and have been witness to) a striking and depressing parallel between how teachers and aids get shuffled around from school to school instead of fired when something scandalous happens to when priests get caught in molestation fiascoes and get transferred to different churches.

    So on a related vein, oh BOY could I say so much about Polanski and related celebrity criminals and such… But I’ll save it for the podcast discussion, since it’s all, no doubt, going to be discussed by y’all.


  23. Trevor #

    @Gab – The whole notion of indie being “cool” or “better” than major label music is open to interpretation, but from my own experience it usually doesn’t matter what label a band or artist is on, so long as the music connects. I have just as much love for a major-label artist like Radiohead (well, when they were on a major label) as I do for Joy Division (on Factory) or Arcade Fire. And your example about the Beatles demonstrates that major labels have often times gotten it right. What makes them less appealing is the copycat effect, for me at least. Just because I like the Beatles doesn’t mean I’ll “love” the Byrds (though I like them just fine) or just because I like Radiohead I’ll like Coldplay (a tired comparison, no doubt, but I remember that’s how a lot of people tried to sell me on them at the time they were first breaking. I like a few of the songs I’ve heard, but I haven’t been inclined to go out and buy their records). I think by and large, a lot of what gets recorded on indie labels wouldn’t find a home on a major label, and that’s not necessarily a bad thing. For every Neutral Milk Hotel that gets nurtured and allowed to expand their horizons, there’s a Wesley Willis who is exploited for gain (though my whole argument could fall apart if it’s pointed out that Willis was indeed on a major).

    As I’ve gotten older, the appeal of being deliberately obscurist has worn off, or at least the “being obscure for obscurity’s sake”. All the really good little record stores in the area are dead and gone, so I have to go to Best Buy for my CD-purchasing (I could do Amazon online, but it depends). When my cousin worked for the local college radio station and I’d sit in on his show, it was hard to find much nice to say about a lot of the subpar indie stuff that was mandatory for playing. So to say that music is more “authentic” because it’s on a smaller label…sometimes that’s true, sometimes that’s a load of crap.


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