Saturday, October 25, 2014

Why it's actually GOOD that MTV doesn't play music anymore...

MTV started as a way for record companies to show the promo videos they had already been making for several years. (Not to mention awards shows and live concert events.) It was great in the pre-Internet era. So, thanks to MTV, it looked like video would kill off the idea of bands becoming stars through radio airplay... Or, would they? Eventually, the novelty started wearing off. Concerts, award shows and videos were no longer enough so, MTV branched out. Some worked out great like their many great cartoon shows. (Beavis and Butt-Head anyone?) Many others just didn't as far as us music lovers are concerned. Would a guy who loved Headbanger's Ball really give a shit about The Real World or House of Style? I doubt it...

Unfortunately, most of their programming nowadays has turned into crappy reality shows that no one above the age of 17 will watch. Even worse, the videos had an unintended side-effect. The emphasis shifted from the music itself to the image of the musician. While image has always been part of a Rock Star's appeal, it should NEVER be the primary focus. MTV became their own worst enemy.

As a result, their ratings suffered. I no longer have any faith in the idea that the channel will start playing mostly music programming again. I was holding out hope but, I don't need to anymore. The Internet has made it obsolete.

The record companies and artists no longer need a TV channel like MTV or TV shows like American Bandstand to have their videos/live performances played. The internet (particularly YouTube and Vimeo) has made them all irrelevant. And that is how it should be too. Technological progress continues to march onward, without losing a step.

Oddly enough, the next logical step takes us full circle back to a purely auditory medium: internet radio. I have to admit that I thought internet radio was ridiculous at first. Why pay for something that you can get over the airwaves for free? Of course, time and lame business entities like Clear Channel Communications (now known as iHeartMedia) answered that question.

Traditional AM & FM radio has been made uniform across the country by these massive corporations buying them all out. This started after the previous restrictions against owning multiple media outlets in one market were rescinded in the quite terrible 1996 Telecommunications Act. That's how Clear Channel bought every station in just about every town and made them all the exact same sub-par and hopefully inoffensive garbage that AM/FM has become.

They must have realized their mistake when people started complaining and revenues went south. Plus, they also owned iHeartRadio. So, they now had the ability to give people a choice among any station they owned anywhere through the internet. That's nice. You turn every station in my town to utter rubbish and your solution is to give me more choices that may sound just as generic and lame. Yeah...

Fortunately, the market and the internet offered another solution to that problem: streaming services that let you create your own channels/playlists like Spotify and Pandora. I haven't used Spotify yet but, I have used Pandora heavily when I was still in the Army and living at Fort Detrick. Thanks to all the Signal units on post with their large radar dishes, there was no signal for broadcast radio or television. EVERYTHING came through the internet, unless I was watching/listening to/playing a video game that I already had. Despite my earlier misinformed belief, I don't have to pay for it, either. I have the option of paying Pandora so that I don't have to hear radio ads. That's not a bad business model.

I haven't been using Pandora much as of late but, that will change now that I have regular internet access in my new apartment. My current job has me living far from home (again) and I could only take with me what I could pack into my truck. Therefore, virtually every single last CD & all of my cassettes and vinyl were left behind in my storage space in New Orleans. This is one of those situations where Pandora will be very useful. I hope my next new car has Pandora streaming into the stereo.

Thanks to Pandora, I don't really have to miss MTV or even terrestrial radio anymore. Plus, I now don't have to listen to whatever they decide to play. I can make my own stations playing whatever I want. Technology and personal choice, for the WIN. (That being said, I am wondering why it won't let me create a special station for KISS when it did let me create one for Black Sabbath, Judas Priest, Pantera and Iron Maiden. WTF, Pandora? Couldn't get the licensing rights?)

So, my final question is this: Will streaming services like Pandora and Spotify make YouTube and MTV obsolete, like MTV tried to do to traditional radio stations? The possibility is there with smart phones and stereos in new cars being outfitted with broadband internet access and Bluetooth wi-fi technology. The irony in that would be hilarious to me. Radio ends up winning in the end by using a new transmission medium, the internet, instead of the airwaves. So much for Video killing the Radio Star...


- Lord Publius

Tuesday, October 14, 2014


I want this to become an actual game. The living God Emperor of FPS games deserves the LEGO treatment. Hell, it worked for Indiana Jones, Star Wars and Harry Potter. And while we're on the subject, how about a LEGO Star Trek game too? I don't care which era or if it takes place in the Prime, Mirror or JJ-verse continuities. I just want to see my two most fondly loved childhood special interests combined into a third: video games.

- Lord Publius

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

The Monsters Are on Maple Street...

This video here is a remake of a classic episode of the original Twilight Zone from the 1960's. In the original episode from 1960, it was aliens experimenting on Humans to see how quickly they could incite them to panic. This time, it's the government, wanting to see how quickly some community would go apeshit after a power failure. This episode may be more than a decade old now but, things haven't changed that much. People are still just as afraid of terrorists as ever. It's a wonder that the idea of nuking the Middle East hasn't become a major political movement yet...

I know it's Human Nature to be afraid when something unexpected happens and to distrust strangers but, sometimes, it goes too far. It also scares the Hell out of me at just how quickly people will panic and start acting like an angry mob. I've been the folk devil behind a great many moral panics over the years. It's not fun to be treated like Frankenstein's Monster when all you really want is for everyone to leave you alone. Funny how society will often publicly state a love for diversity but, never actually embrace people who are different... At least I never had an angry mob come after me with torches and pitchforks...

We are supposed to be better than this in an enlightened and civil society. And yet, as this episode from a (sadly) failed attempt to bring back The Twilight Zone demonstrates, we aren't really that civilized at all. If there is any lesson we should learn from this, it's that you should never be quick to judge or panic. You should also never be too quick to act, unless someone really is making a clear and immediate threat against you. Of course, unless someone has a gun pointed at you, that clear and immediate threat may not really exist.

Sure, there are monsters in the world. Lots of them. However, what many fail to realize is that the monster you're most likely to encounter is your own ignorance, paranoia and ungrounded fears of the unknown. You are the worst monster that you will ever face. Not terrorists, religious fanatic assholes, communists, fascists or politicians. And it is up to you to guard against the real monster and not panic. Otherwise you give those terrorists, religious fanatic assholes, communists, fascists and politicians exactly what they want: chaos, the breakdown of civilization and the ability to take civil rights/political power away from you. Panicking in an emergency helps no one but those with impure motives.

The moment you give into fear and panic, that's when the monsters you were so afraid of suddenly appear and take over. They are always with us, just waiting for their time to 'shine', for lack of better term. And that is why eternal vigilance is the price we must continually pay for our liberty. History is already filled with so many examples of people panicking and giving power to the very monsters they were afraid of in the first place. We don't need to do that again.

- Lord Publius

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

The Borg Documentary - Part 2

To those who say that Voyager somehow 'pussified' the Borg, I suggest you watch those episodes again. Voyager's crew had to do some pretty crazy things in their interactions with the Hive Mind but, they never treated the Borg as just another group of bad guys. They were as menacing as ever. The problem is that they became too familiar. An enemy/plot device like the Borg works best when they remain as mysterious as they are ominous. Take their one appearance in the prequel series Enterprise, for example. Archer and his crew had no idea what they were facing and that mystery actually made the Borg scary again.

This is also why popular series of slasher flicks tend to become less scary with each new sequel. Hollyweird just insists on making the mistake of trying to explain the killer instead of leaving him as a mysterious and malevolent force. Just imagine how terrifying Freddy Kruger was in the first Nightmare on Elm Street and then compare him to the joker we saw in parts 4-6. Those movies were semi-entertaining but, they weren't scary. That is the wrong answer. And don't even get me started on how badly Hollyweird fucked up the Halloween series...

Anyway, that's enough ranting from a nerd that has dabbled in fan fiction that no one else will ever see. The next blog will be slightly less nerdy and much more relevant to modern-day issues: People's fears over Terrorism, Government using that fear to infringe on civil rights and how people create Folk Devils to give a face to their latest Moral Panic.

- Lord Publius