(Hello, due to extenuating circumstances, your regularly scheduled Griph will not be posting today. Instead, he's unchained me from the radiator to fill in for the Thursday post. I also update Pre-Sonic Genesis semi-weekly, should you find yourself interested in even more novelties of questionable worth. -CJ)
For the past month, I have found myself summering in scenic Lincoln, Nebraska in an effort to leave behind the harsh Texas sun for the merely capricious heat of the midwest. Unfortunately, this means leaving my limited social circle behind, which leaves lots of time to devote to the endless variety of media available to any technologically enabled person these days. If you are anything like me, and may God have mercy if so, then even living as spartanly as possible you tend to acquire media faster than you can readily consume it. So rather than focus on one thing in particular, you tend to form a vanguard of the few things that strike your interest and keep it nearby to pick at almost randomly. You have your own name for it, but I call mine The Stack.
So with two hours until this needs to be posted and absolutely no idea what to ostensibly entertain his faithful audience with, I decided to fall back on the narcissistic standby of trumpeting my own self-interest in a quick look at what occupies the half dozen hours between deciding I need to go to bed and actually falling asleep.
The Corner - David Simon and Edward Burns: If you are reading this and have not watched David Simon's sublime HBO show The Wire, I am not going to lecture you about why that is incorrect. The Wire is one of the greatest television shows to have ever been aired, you already know this. The show is not just good, but it is objectively good. Science can put it under a microscope or set the DVD over a bunsen burner for a half hour, but thirty reports out of thirty reveal hey this is a very good television show guys. But before The Wire, there was The Corner, a book David Simon wrote after following a group of speedball addicts and dealers around the slums of Baltimore for a year straight. The Corner was made into an HBO mini-series, which more or less became the basis for the first season of The Wire, which largely took place on the same streets that Simon wrote about in The Corner, but with (mostly) fictional characters on both sides of the law. The Corner is absolutely gut-wrenching and visceral, to the point where the gonzo-journalism starts to wear at your soul. Simon and Burns don't pull any punches on the war on drugs, and definitely do not have an answer (Season Three of The Wire revisits this, down to a few word for word scenes, with a harsh look at why both sides of the law wouldn't be able to handle a sudden legalization of the drug trade). But while they have no easy answers, they know the current system isn't working. The works of Simon were a major factor in my need to switch to attain a Bachelors of Social Work, and I can't recommend them enough simply as a starting point into the preciously small library of work that tackle social problems without being preachy.
Midlake - The Trials of Van Occupanther: Due to the choice of dreary name and needlessly wordy and opaque album title, Midlake's 2006 sophomore album The Trials of Van Occupanther can and has found itself criminally ignored. This is, predictably, a shame, as Midlake are one of the best Americana-twinged bands in recent memory.
The album gets compared to Fleetwood Mac fairly often, and that's not entirely an inaccurate way of looking at things. The band relies on lush seventies style production, with every instrument playing warm and a little fuzzy over analog synths older than most people reading this. The band relies on softly sung vocal harmonies barely hovering above the instrumentation, both of which are appropriately understated considering the subject matter - a bizarre magical realism exploration of isolation on the American frontier. Or at least that's how I hear things. Think of it as The Decemberists, but you are fifty times less likely to punch the members in the throat. But don't just take my word for it; in grand Come On Let's Go tradition, here is a music video showcasing the opening track:
Cabelas Big Game Hunter 2010: Hey, listen. I am not a strong man. Sometimes, the allure of cultural garbage is just too strong. And the allure of a free Gamefly account that seems to permanently never actually send you anything you actually want to play is even stronger. So here I find myself taking part in what I can only describe as genuine hunting pornography. I really doubt that there is a secret society of hunters that whisk potential recruits around the world to stand in glowing blue circles to open fire on an endless parade of foxes, but you sure can pretend there is for a few dollars and the endless shame of the game taking permanent residence on your achievements list. As an added bonus, there is a veritable party boat of homoeroticism that I have a sneaking suspicion is intentional, given the developer's cheeky self awareness popping up in achievement titles like "Metal Deer Solid"
Of course, there's tons of other stuff there, some of which I will savor, some will just get a cursory glance before being thrown back on The Stack, potentially never to emerge. Out of all the problems our information saturated society has saddled us with, The Stack is probably the best of them.