Wednesday, August 20, 2008

10 reasons why lists are so annoyingly popular on the Internet:

1) It’s the Internet; a massive collection of information that offers more content then we’ll ever need. has estimated there are over 175 million websites on the Internet. We barely have time to get through one webpage, mind 175 million. The Internet isn’t like a newspaper, it’s not organized into tight little news packages and stories, we have to sift through all the bullshit being thrown at us. So it doesn’t hurt when it’s already condensed and ready for bite size consumption.

2) A key target audience are Millennials. Aka; the hyper spaz’s with some unidentified malignant form of ADHD. Growing up with the Internet isn’t easy, and it has significantly changed the way the kiddies have gone about processing information. Often called the multitasking generation for their ability to juggle the often mind-numbing barrage of today’s hyper-media, it has consequentially caused a shorter attention span in the effort to absorb as much as possible. Although multitasking has been proven somewhat faulty, condensed lists help remedy the quest to absorb little bits of alot between sessions of twittering, livebloging, IM’ing and Facebook poking.

3) The Internet has become a tool to re-catalogue and document our world. Two years ago when "Web 2.0" was christened as the new way of “democratically” creating web content, it altered the focus of how we created it. Web 2.0 sites such as Wikipedia, YouTube, Flickr, &, are all sites dedicated to creating archival content on the Internet. In essence “Web 2.0” has become our 21 century digital library and the lists we make (even the most trivial) are part of the continuous editing/updating of our web-archive. Also it doesn’t hurt that we’ve become nostalgic bastards in the process, so; nostalgia + re-recording history = list-making.

4) Nobody has time to read anything at length anymore. With the economy in shambles and living in a high-speed world, we’re all forced to work a little harder and accomplish more. Although studies are uncertain if we have more or less leisure time, in taking a page from the Millennials we still try to cram as much in as possible. That leaves less time for recreational activities, such as reading multiple paragraphs.

5) We’re internally wired to find the quick and easy approach. There is nothing more American than finding the quick and easy way of doing something. Lists are the epitome of this, I mean, our country has been founded on them. But it’s just not an American thing, it’s a human thing; we tend to gravitate towards the neatly summarized and condensed. As the Internet increases in use and accessibility, it’s also increasingly reflective of our psychology. Internet lists prove when given the option between long reads and short, we’ll choose whatever easiest on the eyes; “The scanning eye doesn’t have time to digest everything on the page. By organizing the information, lists have a greater chance of catching the eye”(1). Ever read a magazine article and if there are bulletpoints on the side you’ll read those first? Thank your scanning eyes.

6) It helps your article get pushed up top of sites like Digg and Reddit. Lest we forget, the Internet is serious business, and all businesses have marketing strategies. Already aware that people go bat shit crazy for lists, web companies/web startups/bloggers know submitting their lists to these sites is an easy way to garner page views and traffic to their sites. Its practically becoming a science; more “links equals better standings in the search engines, and thus higher traffic, so there is an obvious incentive for the webmaster, regardless of the discussion or sharing of the page”(2). So when you see lists like this, you'll know it’s just a marketing scheme... that you fell for.

7) It’s fun and easier to know a little about everything than a lot about something. Remember the game trivial pursuit? Yeah me neither. But the Internet is like one big massive game of trivial pursuit, with little bits and pieces of facts and quotes floating around. We all love factoids and disposable pieces of knowledge, lists organize these factoids and package them up nicely. Even if you forget what you’ve learned a day later, at least you can tell someone you’ve learned something.

8) It’s someone else’s opinion, which leaves it open for debate. One thing this decade has proven is that everyone has an opinion on everything (I realize the irony here), and in doing so everyone wants to be the first to say it. Therefore a list allows you make stake, chime in, and debate someone else's claims by doing the ultimate thing on the Internet; tell someone you know better then they do. The Internet exposes our interests, and when everyone can see our likes and dislikes on our personal webpage’s, it suddenly breeds competition to see who listed or liked something first. So making a list is an easy way of stating your opinion first, and allowing others to follow suit by commenting. Whether people agree or not doesn’t matter, as long as there is enough buzz for people to talk about what’s been written. Which brings me to #9.

9) It expresses the need to belong. Yes, we all feel the need to belong, wasn’t that the point of "Notes from Underground?" Well I don’t know, but the feeling of needed approval and community is indeed a very strong one, and through list-making and endlessly debating these lists, its gives us a sense that we have things in common with each other. Don’t you agree? Maybe? Please?

10) We are constantly trying to find order in chaos. I was on a gossip site the other day and they were discussing the curse of people dying in threes (Isaac Hayes, Bernie Mac...). I left a comment on the article about how it’s nothing but superstition, and people got seriously upset. It made me think everyone has their own way of keeping themselves in check, keeping themselves grounded. Whether its religion or belief in a higher power we all like to believe everything has an order, a reason. Lists are “itty-bitty utopias, perfectly structured with mathematical elegance(3) that help us understand and connect the important and trivial things around us, which were once unparalleled into one singular thought. Making them into perfectly rounded off and structured “top 10 lists”, help us feel in control of our world, hopefully.

Other lists on lists;

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Album Review; Coldplay "Viva La Vida" & Weezer "Red Album"

In the summer of 2005, at the height of their careers, Coldplay and Weezer released highly anticipated albums. These releases would repel them in polar opposite directions despite the fact that the two bands shared a similar ascension to popularity; beginning with extremely strong debut albums based off of powerful, melodic rock. Weezer arose out of the 90's alternative age, whereas Coldplay came a decade later from the ashes of the Brit-Pop scene. Both broke the molds of their respective genres, rising above them and crossing over into radio territory. In 2005 when they had reached near equal stature in popularity and recognition, Weezer's album, Make Believe, had reflected a stagnation and sounded much more generic. Coldplay's X&Y, on the other hand, illustrated the band's acceptance of their radio-friendly pop as they created songs that were more pleasing to their arena sized audiences.

Coldplay was praised for embracing their pop-dom, whereas Weezer was received negativity for it from both their hardcore fanbase and critics alike. The common denominator was the apparent inclination towards crafting songs for their bigger, broader audiences, rather than well developed, eclectic material. This wasn't too big of a deal because they were still creating strong melodies, but not the varied and structurally dense melodies once found in their acclaimed debut albums. So, it goes for bands that become stadium sized. Now, three years later, both bands have released new albums: Weezer with their eponymous Red Album and Coldplay with Viva la Vida. What's immediately apparent is how their polarization has fueled and affected their sounds and directions as pop-rockstars on their new albums.

Weezer's negative connotation, derived from Make Believe, motivated lead singer/songwriter Rivers Cuomo to take careful steps backward and divulge in what made Weezer so popular in the first place; connection to their devoted fans and their "personal" feeling songs. In knowing this, Rivers reconnected himself with the newly budding youth fanbase, (the Millennials/iGeneration) via Youtube. In March of 2008 Rivers created a profile on the site and asked his fellow Youtubers to help him write a song. When the first single from the Red Album appeared ("Pork and Beans") the video featured many of YouTube's celebrities and internet memes. Although it was admirably wise to try to personally connect with his audience, The Red Album is quite obviously stating that Rivers is only looking to continue his stream of youth-consciousness and, like a Youtube video, appeal to a juvenile, fickle audience leaving little room for growth. The songs on the album are again very well produced, some abnormally breaking the 5 minute mark, but are still mediocre at best, sounding like recycled Weezer.

Coldplay has taken their pop formality to the other extreme, embracing it diligently yet excessively. Chris Martin and Co. learned from their generically crafted song mistakes and with each new album attempt to improve on them. For the new album Viva la Vida, they choose the nineteenth-century painting Liberty Leading the People as the album sleeve, as if announcing the album to be as epic and grandiose as the painting's scenery. They hired auteur producer Brian Eno to give the album an abstract and atmospheric quality and even push some songs near progressive rock territory (the song "Yes" is 7:06). The expansion of material is definitely a step in the right direction, presenting only one problem; the lengthy material is not as melodic as their pop rock work of past albums. Although still strong and pleasurable to listen to, besides singles "Viva la Vida" and "Violet Hill", there isn't much other stand out material on the album. There is no way Coldplay will ever go back to being the band that created the softly acoustic Parachutes; they are too big for that. But like U2, Coldplay must be weary not to get too into their own sound and image, and this album, unfortunately, deviates slightly into that area (as with "Violet Hill" -- politically charged and unlike Coldplay).

This polarity is interesting. It shows how both bands attempted to find their nitch market by attending to and focusing on what granted their success, but both slightly missed the mark. Weezer once again attempted to attach themselves to a generation's apathetic youth, but because Rivers is obviously from a different generation, this ode sounds way too glossy and manufactured. Coldplay however should use this attachment instead of trying to rise above it. In doing so both must write more personally but Weezer less manufactured and more abstract, and Coldplay more manufactured and less abstract. Either way, these two bands aren't going away anytime soon and have plenty of time to try new methods to their meticulous mayhem.

Coldplay "Viva La Vida" - 3 out of 5 stars

Weezer "Red Album" 2 1/2 out of 5 stars

Friday, March 21, 2008

“Truth” ads make me want to smoke

I wasn’t going to talk about this because I thought that these ads had finally fizzled out, but then I saw the new ones which pretty much sodomized my eyes. In case you’re not familiar with them, I’m talking about the godawful Truth anti-smoking commercials. Here is the newest eye raper:

Even though I hadn’t started smoking cigarettes until I moved to NYC (go figure), upon seeing these commercials years ago my initial response was to buy a bunch of Marlboro cartons at the nearest Wal-Mart and light up just in spite of their heavy-handed campaign.

The original ads, airing around 2000-2001, set out to simply expose “Big Tobacco” as a malicious corporation that conducted amoral target market studies. The Truth actors activists presented themselves as earnest, pun-loving and truthful citizens, going straight into the belly of the beast with intentions of exposing the big bad tobacco businessmen, as seen in this shining example:

Well, OK that wasn’t so bad. A lie detector test, hmm...what an idea. But, I wasn't quite sure what the ad was trying to prove. Was it that tobacco companies/employees hide the truth about cigarette addiction? I don’t know the last time you’ve read the labels on the packs of cigarettes but um...

All these things are caused by constantly smoking which is, as you know, motivated by addiction. They don't put "may be addictive" on the packs because it's kinda common knowledge. If you can't figure out that cigarettes are addicting, you may be an idiot, or by today's standards, no smarter than a fifth grader. Which brings me to the next commercial:

Out of nowhere, around 2003 the Truth actors campaigners started to get a little condescending and smarmy about their “findings” in their new sarcastic ads. Then I found out the American Legacy Foundation, which makes the Truth ads, is actually funded by the tobacco companies due to a court ruling. Wait a sec? So, the Truth anti-smoking advertisements in which sardonic actors performers go to the tobaccos companies to embarrass and expose them as liars, are actually funded by big tobacco? It’s almost as if the tobacco companies are paying for us not to smoke. So why do these ads attack the companies? Isn’t it completely superfluous? This one “exposes” the fact that tobacco companies aim for teenagers. Which is surprising considering that they are not companies who are already willing to acknowledge that their products cause death or anything. It’s the teenage seduction thing they really should be held accountable for and embarrassed about. Yeah, Truth ads are really making a big statement, especially with their latest brain buster:

These commercials have to be worse than cigarettes because I feel like I’m gonna have a brain aneurysm every time I watch one. At least cigarettes won’t kill me until much later. As if the Truth supporters actors condescension wasn’t enough in the original ads now they have to sing and dance like morons to grab my attention? Oh yeah, I forgot, people don’t stop doing something until they’re told through synchronized song and dance. Not only are these ads disregarding the old adage “if you tell someone not to do something they’re probably going to want to do it more” but they fail to accept the fact that smokers willfully smoke. We don’t care if the tobacco companies lie to us, we smoke because we chose to, not because we are mislead and manipulated. That’s the Iraq war (cheap shot).

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Highest grossing weekend movie “Meet the Spartans” suggested as one of the possible signs of nearing apocalypse

You may not have noticed it, or maybe don't even care, but this weekend Hollywood unleashed one of the most hideous and insulting movies to ever grace an American movie screen, and that’s saying a lot. I wouldn’t be as disgruntled if “Meet the Spartans” had done poorly, but somehow the movie enticed enough people for it to gross 18.7 million, making it number one in the box office.

My first thought was to say, “This movie is a reflection of our society's desensitized and eroding social values from our over saturated pop culture hyper-commercialism, as well as a depreciation of and indifference for the art of filmmaki...", but no, it would be too generous to analyze it. This “movie” instead just convinces me that American audiences are genuinely in a daze. You know when someone says to you, “This movie is dumb” as they're watching it? Well, now I don’t know if there is a reason to even say that phrase anymore, because “dumb” sounds refreshing compared to what this movie is.

It’s not like I’m just hating on movie spoof/parodies. The “Naked Gun” series and the first two “Scary Movies” although ridiculous, are really well made, and I stress well made. Those films have some actual thought processes behind them. But these new films such as "Date Movie" and "Epic Movie" hardly include a plot let alone jokes. They’re simply jumbled and shallow REFRENCES TO POP CULTURE. And although I can argue that these references are not only unfunny, but questionably immoral, what’s really immoral is people finding this as an acceptable form of entertainment. There is no longer any craft put into these films nor will there be for any film like to come. In fact, I’m so confident that this film is bereft of any talent or ability I will demonstrate:

Just pick a pop culture event from each column and insert into each blank space.

A group of _________ defend their land from the menacing_______ and along the way run into__________who help teach them to___________ so they can go back to___________.

Congratulations! You see how easy that was? And you can do that with any pop culture event! You are now a writer of a major motion picture. Who needs professional writers when you can do the same thing for a fraction of the cost? Oh, is that why the writer’s guild is on strike? Huh, you learn something new everyday.

Update (2/6/08); Seems as though The Soup agrees.

Update (5/5/08); ...and so does Maddox.