Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Times Finally Reports on Nineties Nostalgia

NYTimes did a piece on Nineties Nostalgia (the existence of which, somehow, surprised them). What struck me is how smart Nick is in their redeployment of Doug and others. They're not only responding to pressures from social media outlets, but now also responding to audience participation on social networking sites to determine their schedules.

The other thing, as I've continually been thinking about nostalgia these past few months: we're nostalgic for forms of media engagement. As those forms change more rapidly, the thing we can be nostalgic for gets more and more recent. After school cable television was the primary form of entertainment. But check out these social networking stats (passed on me by Tyler, of course....). Notice the crazy-weird spike of internet usage by the youngest demographic. Also note that 11% of Facebook users are 13-17 years old. ELEVEN PERCENT! This is more than 75 million kids.

Forget about watching stuff like Nick. KIDS are online poking each other *cough* ever earlier.

These kids will be nostalgic for the old Facebook messaging interface, like, next week.

(Just kidding, they'll be nostalgic for Google+).

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Errol Morris's Favorite Commercial

I've written about Errol Morris's directorial work on the High Life campaign here and (I think it should show up this afternoon) on Splitsider. But props to NPR for spotting and boosting Morris's tweet from year calling out this commercial as his own personal favorite.

Take that, High Life Man.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Critical Engagement with "Tree of Life"

There is no such thing as a person whose real self you like every particle of. This is why a world of liking is ultimately a lie. But there is such a thing as a person whose real self you love every particle of. And this is why love is such an existential threat to the techno-consumerist order: it exposes the lie. (Jonathan Franzen, Liking is for Cowards. Go for What Hurts," NYTimes 5/28)

In a sharp and often moving criticism of social networks, Jonathan Franzen sets "liking" against "loving." Whereas to like something sets us apart from the liked (or disliked) object, love demands the opening of one's life to another. Love is about cohabitation, and not just in the sense of splitting the rent. It's about a metaphoric (and sometimes not metaphoric) sharing of the same bodily, mental, and emotional space. To put it in the words of the only *actually* moving wedding homily I've ever heard, it helps us salve the loneliness inherent in the human condition. And it does this by attempting to come as close as possible to shared consciousness with another person--regardless of whether one believes this idea is nutty (at best) or impossible (at worst).

But the kind of criticism that has emerged in the wake of Terrence Malick's Tree of Life has exposed a complication of Franzen's argument. Simply to like or dislike a film embodies the laziest sort of critical response available to a writer. I was taught this in high school. An English teacher instructed me never to write "I like this book" in an essay. He told me that merely liking something is uninteresting, and that asking what I think something means would always constitute a more worthwhile form of engagement. But critiques about Tree of Life often ignore the lesson of this observation about good writing, and instead go to the extreme to defend or attack the movie, along with Malick, contemporary filmmaking, and, in some cases God.

That is, we don't need to like or dislike the film. But neither do we need to address what it means.

We need to love it or hate it.