September 23, 2014 at 11:24pm
In Defense of Reality
In February 2012, I was curled up sick on the couch when the second night of NBC’s The Voice was on TV. I can’t tell you why I decided to watch it, because it had several things working against it:
1) Adam Levine
2) Reality competition
3) Copious amount of advertising content
4) Huge time commitment (up to four hours / week)
5) On TV (vs Hulu, Netflix, et al)
I have never found reality competitions particularly engaging. I watched seasons three through six of American Idol - a lot of friends and family watched, and I really did enjoy the show for many reasons. However, there were many other things about the format (see above) that bothered me and eventually I burned out on it.
Each time I’ve sampled other reality competitions, I’ve been persuaded to stop. The Biggest Loser (watching people sweat is not entertaining), The Amazing Race (I bet the gay couple will be catty! And dudes!), The Apprentice (Donald Trump), and Dancing With The Stars (just… sad, really) are not my cup of tea.
So when I turned on The Voice that night on a lark, the show had quite an uphill battle for my attention. My Adam Levine worries were rapidly assuaged when I began to understand the format of the show and how this job is absolutely perfect for him. Plus Blake keeps him in check. More on that in a minute.
The Blind Auditions are the primary gimmick and also the best way to be introduced to the show. The idea is that there are four coaches (not judges) who have their backs to a stage. A contestant walks out on stage (always in silence, which I fucking love). Then they sing. The theater is packed with an audience, so the coaches can see the reaction of the crowd, but that’s it. If the coach wants that voice on their team, they turn their chair around.
The difference between coaches and judges is enormous. Judges are allowed a certain amount of disconnect, because they are not competing. Except maybe for vanity. The coaches on The Voice are selecting members of their own team, which will then be pitted against other coach’s teams, before going to live rounds for public voting. The coach continues to mentor and guide each of their remaining wards until a winner is chosen. Adam has won twice, Blake thrice.
Blake Shelton. I had absolutely no idea who Blake was before watching the show, but now I’m convinced he’s the reason the entire thing works. Adam Levine is annoyingly cocky, barely manages his ADHD, and has the audacity to look like the Vitruvian Man. Blake is extremely modest, super chill, and kinda looks like someone’s dad. Together, they are the glue of the show, which is probably why they are the only two coaches on all seven seasons. Christina Aguilera and Cee-Lo Green were coaches on four seasons, Usher and Shakira on two. All of them were fine, but I just never got the same sense of involvement from them (definitely not Xtina) that I do from Adam and Blake. I appreciate that the show never focuses on drama, whether between coaches or contestants. American Idol certainly has its share of both, and I know many other shows make those conflicts a primary focus. I’m not interested in that.
My other major problems with the format (commercials, recycled content, country music singers) are easily solved with a DVR, which I didn’t have in 2012 but I do now. I consumed last night’s two-hour premiere in 45 minutes. The two new judges this season are Gwen Stefani and Pharrell and I already get a great sense of camaraderie from them. Gwen wears every emotion on her sleeve (Usher and Christina always seemed kind of phony) and Pharrell is full of insight and extremely inspiring (Cee-Lo and Shakira were unintelligible). The first two nights of blind auditions this week have been some of the best episodes of the show I’ve ever seen.
Also, The Voice is forgettably hosted by Carson Daly. It’s not his fault.
See you next week.
I’ve written some on depression. Don’t really have anything new to say. But I just wrote this email to a friend which expresses my feelings today.
I recently recorded a series of videos about what Apple might be
up to in the “wearable” “space”. They were ramble-y (as all my videos are)
and didn’t state their conclusion first, a cardinal sin for pundits. So, allow
me to spoil my theory and then elaborate upon it in detail.
No One Wants To Die
Nintendo is dying. As I tweeted, Nintendo: we love you. It hurts us, your loving fans, to see you slowly sink into the dustbin of video game history. It’s not even that you went the route of Atari (or, arguably, the iOS App Store). You went out of your way to…
These Podcasts Broke The Internet
I SWEAR I’m going to start updating this thing. I wish I thought about it more often, because out of my various creative endeavors on these here internets, writing is the thing that started it and the thing that I still most enjoy. I just don’t make the time for it, and that’s a shame.
For now, you’ll have to be satisfied with the first ten episodes of This Podcast Broke The Internet, my best-yet podcasting adventure with Carter Kalchik. We’re really making something great here and I’m convinced that each week we get better.
If you’re not iTunes friendly, you can check out Volume 1 and Volume 2 on YouTube, or you can use the links at the bottom of this post to direct download any particular episode.
We’d love your feedback, so be sure to chat to our Twitter @PodcastBroke or use the hashtag #PodcastBroke. Thanks for listening!
Episode 1 - Frank Langella and Breakfast Foods
Episode 2 - Unconventional Gaming
Episode 3 - The 86th Academy Awards
Episode 4 - The American Sitcom
Episode 5 - Sci-Fi ‘99
Episode 6 - Metacast
Episode 7 - Apptastic (Or, some other made-up Buzzfeed word)
Episode 8 - Dune by Hayao Miyazaki
Episode 9 - Deus Ex Minecraft
Episode 10 - Why Do We Podcast?
February 16, 2014 at 8:29pm
This Podcast Broke The Internet 2: Unconventional Gaming
This week, Shawn and Carter discuss the games Journey and The Stanley Parable and question what these games have to say about the state of the industry and the art form. (Spoiler: we are not CoD fans.)
Many thanks to Nate for our new logo. Check it out in iTunes.
The page for the show is forthcoming. For now, copy and paste this link into ‘Subscribe to podcast’ in iTunes, or click here for a direct download of the episode. As always, please send feedback via Twitter (Shawn | Carter) or use this email. Happy listening!
Also, check out some sweet, sweet outtakes from the episode over here on YouTube.
This Podcast Broke The Internet: A SCHP Joint
I hinted, I teased, I taunted. But now it’s time to unveil… This Podcast Broke The Internet. Copy and paste this link into your iTunes subscription, or click here for a direct link.
I would like the show to speak for itself, so please go have a listen and let me and Carter know what you think.
If any of you are handy with MS Paint, I would love to get some fan-made artwork for the cover album. Size should be 1400 x 1400 (or no larger). Send anything you come up with to this email address.
February 8, 2014 at 10:19pm
The End is in sight. #interrobang
The Blank Page
When I was in school to be an English teacher a lifetime ago, I was part of a program that met weekly with early-adolescent students with writing deficiencies to help them with their process. And as students ourselves, my cohorts and I were tasked with making a study of this exercise.
The resulting paper that I wrote was entitled The Blank Page, and it focused on how the students would use space on a page to define, explore, or limit their creativity. I also focused on the differences between hand-writing on blank paper and typing on a PC word processor.
In my little experiment, one of the surprising results that I demonstrated was that the children flourished in a word processing environment while finding a piece of blank paper intimidating. Time and time again, the students created longer, more complete, and more intellectually complex work when they had a keyboard in front of them than when they had a pencil and a piece of paper.
I’m not a scientist, but I’m familiar with the idea that correlation does not imply causality. However…
When I interviewed the students, a recurring explanation for the phenomenon was that a computer (and specifically Microsoft Word) is intelligent enough to help with all of the things that bothered a student who has trouble writing “from the hip,” which, as I thought about it more, was never a problem for me. It generates nice, clear margins. A spell check is a click away. You can set a tone with different fonts. If you make a mistake, highlight and delete.
With a piece of paper, you’ve only got your own handwriting to work with. If you don’t know how to spell antidisestablishmentarianism, you’re going to fake it and wait until an Oxford English Dictionary is handy. And if you just made a two paragraph diversion that clearly doesn’t work, you’re either using the rest of that nub of an eraser you’ve been chewing on, or you’re striking a bold line through half a page. Or, more likely, balling the whole thing up and starting over.
I haven’t spent much time blogging since my high school days. I’ll blame Facebook for the initial dearth of my internet writing. When I had a Xanga, I felt like I had an audience (whether I did or not). Once I abandoned it for Facebook, my internet social life no longer included the idea of an audience. Just… friends. Whatever that meant.
Then came YouTube. And reenter the concept of audience. I deleted my Facebook, abandoned my friends, and focused on two fronts: my story-telling (see Deus Ex Minecraft and my Five Things intros) and my vlogs, which were very much a continuation of everything I used to do with Xanga.
When I ran my writing study with the students, I told myself that I did not suffer from the word processor / paper and pencil dilemma. I could use either tool to equal result. Because, then and now, I often spend time hand writing before transferring to PC, and with documents like scripts, I usually don’t even bother.
But, you see, it’s not just about PCs and paper. It’s about any tool made for any creative process. It’s my Kodak Zi8 HD camera. It’s my Google Nexus 7 (bringing you this very post). It’s a cell phone. It’s a guitar. It’s a microphone. It’s an iPad. It’s Siri, it’s Google voice, it’s whatever turns the ideas in your head into something visual, or tangible, or otherwise ready to be shared with the masses.
Any of these things is a blank page, and that’s why sometimes the hardest thing to do is to just fucking start. I felt sorry for some of those students because they were so intimidated by the blank page. But it turns out… I am, too.