David Letterman Retires, Followed in Footsteps of Ernie Kovacs

(Sorry for the recent lack of updates.  It’s been busy…)

The news broke yesterday on Twitter with a post from REM’s bass player Mike Mills that David Letterman had just announced he would be retiring when his current contract expired, most likely sometime in 2015.

Mills was a guest musician on the show, along with REM’s Peter Buck, helping out with Joseph Arthur’s performance of Lou Reed’s “Walk on the Wild Side.”

Letterman has been on the air continuously for nearly 34 years and close to 6,000 episodes. Folks are speculating that since Letterman has now outlasted the Tonight Show’s Jay Leno, he feels free to retire.  Also, he’s likely feeling the heat from the new, younger talk show hosts like Jimmy Fallon, Jimmy Kimmel, or Craig Ferguson.

With the news of Letterman’s retirement, I have to bring up an earlier TV great – Ernie Kovacs.  Letterman’s style of absurdist humor draws heavily on the style of TV comedy created by Kovacs in the 1950s, and for many years Letterman’s announcer was Bill Wendell, who had worked with Kovacs.

David Letterman interviews Bill Wendell

Here are several examples of the crazy comedy Kovacs pioneered on TV in the 1950s:

The Nairobi Trio

Kitchen Symphony

Percy Dovetonsils

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Pre-class Video – Mr. Rogers Remix

Because I can….

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Questions Worth Asking (Maybe)

  • 297546_262410503790679_588670439_nIs it ok for high school students to “<3 Boobies”?
    Yes. The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday declined to hear an appeal from a Pennsylvania school district that wanted to stop two young women from wearing “I <3 Boobies” bracelets to promote breast cancer awareness.  According to Philly.com, several teachers had expressed concern about the message the bracelets were transmitting to students at the school, so the district banned the use of the word “boobies” on bracelets.  The courts at each level supported the students’ right to free expression in school.
  •  Can you censor a censor’s speech on censorship?
    You can if you are China.  Law professor Jonathan Turley discusses how a Chinese party official spoke candidly about vulnerabilities in the country’s Internet censorship system and how censors then tried to censor the comments.
  • Who gets money from Comcast?
    Everyone gets money from Comcast! You get money, and you get money and… At least as long as you are a member of the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee.  According to a story form Politico, 15 of the 18 members of the Senate Judiciary Committee have received contributions from Comcast, which is currently trying to get permission to acquire Time Warner Cable.  This would be a merger of the nation’s largest cable provider with the nation’s second-largest cable provider.
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Everyone’s Gone To The Movies….

Here are a some of the videos we either will be or have been watching as part of our discussion of the development of the movie industry.

  • Here are links to the silent movies examples we watched earlier this week, including Edwin Porter’s The Great Train Robbery.
  • Here’s a great scene from Singing in the Rain that illustrates the difficulties in moving from silent to talking films.
  • Scene from 1932 pre-code movie Skyscraper Souls.  Early example of bad language in films.
  • During the Code period, you could make movies about controversial topics like abortion as long as you were coy about it.  Here’s Steve McQueen and Natalie Wood in Love with the Perfect Stranger.
  • Trailer for Midnight Cowboy, the only Best Picture winner with an X-rating.
  • Trailer for the movie Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow, the first major movie to have all digital backgrounds and sets.
  • Not all movies come from Hollywood.   Here’s a great scene, this one from the Bollywood film Mohabbatein.
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A Brief Musical History in Video

Here’s a collection of videos to take you through the early days of rock ‘n’ roll along with a few other choice bits of music.

Young Elvis Presley doing a live version of “Lawdy, Miss Clawdy” possibly from 1956.

Chuck Berry doing “Maybelline,” his adaptation of the fiddle tune “Ida Red.”

Smokey Robinson and the Miracles singing “What’s So Good About Goodbye.”

The single was from Hitsville U.S.A., which later became Motown.

The Beatles on the Ed Sullivan Show, 1964.

An early video of The Who performing “The Kids Are Alright.”

Was there ever a better rock drummer than Keith Moon?

The Beatles, “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band.

The Sugar Hill Gang doing “Rapper’s Delight.

Some old school bboying.

The opening of the Style Wars hip hop documentary

George Straight singling “What’s Going On In Your World” from 1989

and finally….

Lennon and Maisy doing their cover of Robyn’s “Call Your Girl Friend.”

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Talking and Watching Mash-ups

We’re going to be talking about musical mash-ups in class today, so here are several videos were going to be using in conjunction with this.

Here’s the opening sequence from the film Girl Walk // All Day, based on Girl Talk’s album All Day.

Lots of different songs and raps being mixed together there.  Let’s take a look at what’s happening.  Here’s a link to a visual breakdown of “Oh No,” the first track of All Day.

One of the big questions that get raised here is whether mash-ups are “stealing” the work of other artists.  I can’t answer that question directly, but let’s get started here with the first episode of of Kirby Ferguson’s brilliant series, Everything is a Remix.

Part 1: The Song Remains the Same




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Questions Worth Asking (Maybe)

And finally

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Pre-class video: Joe Jackson singing “Sunday Papers”

Here’s Joe Jackson making a visit from the 1980s with his song “Sunday Papers.”

Because we’re talking about newspapers today.

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Great Magazine Covers

New Yorker satirical Obama coverClass today was devoted to looking at great/controversial magazine covers from the 1960s to the present day.  In a number of cases we looked at modern covers and the older ones that inspired them.

But, as always, I ran out of time long before I ran out of slides.

So here are links to several collections of great/memorable/controversial magazine covers from the last few decades.  You will notice that theres a lot of overlap between these lists:

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75,000 people are viewing, playing a single game of Pokeman Red online

Guest Blog Post

Today we have a guest blog post from the UNK forensics coach Aaron Blackman (who is also my Nintendo video game mentor) about a big group of video gamers who are playing and watching a play-through of the old Nintendo game Pokeman Red.  Here’s his post:

Twitch Plays Pokemon screen capture

Something extraordinary is happening on Twitch.tv right now.

An anonymous gamer has modded the original Pokemon Red video game to be played exclusively by the viewers of the stream. By inputting the controller commands to the channel’s chat feature (a, b, left, right, up, down, start, select), the game is played by several people rather than just a single person. As of this writing, there are 75,000 viewers, and potential players of the stream “Twitch Plays Pokemon.”

(Editor’s Note: As of my posting this, there are 73,833 current viewers and a total of 9.49 million total views.)

75,000 people are attempting to control a single video game that was released 15 years ago. The stream has been running for the last 5 days, and despite having thousands of commands (the majority of which cannot even be processed), there is significant progress being made by those streaming the channel.

The commands entered into the chat have a lag of about 20-40 seconds, making the stream equally frustrating and entertaining to watch. Here is the link for the channel itself. The stream is interesting because it successfully combines the popular sport of watching someone play a video game on Twitch.tv, and actual participation in guiding the progress of the game.

Twitch Plays Pokemon

Watch live video from TwitchPlaysPokemon on www.twitch.tv

The stream has become so popular that individual button inputs have taken a backseat to what has essentially become a hive mind. There are players who want to see progress in the game, and many others “trolling” the game by intentionally blocking progress.

Another fascinating aspect is the community that this channel has created. Glance at the subreddit to see memes, status updates, fan art, and even guides on how the community should proceed. Those following the channel have even developed a fictional history and religion, thus assigning meaning to the progress the game makes.

For example, due to an abundance of random button presses, the in-game Pokemon Trainer continually attempted to use a key item in the game, the “Helix Fossil.” This item cannot be used until the end of the game and cannot be discarded. Those watching the channel have essentially made the fossil a deity in the fictional lore of the game. The players do more than simply pray to the “almighty Helix,” they actually assign nicknames to the Pokemon kept in the trainer’s team. The strongest Pokemon, a Pidgeot, is nicknamed “Bird Jesus.” Another Pokemon, Flareon, is nicknamed “False Prophet.” This fascinating piece of fan art showcases this deep religious theme the stream has adopted:

Religious art from the the Twitch.tv play-through of Pokemon Red.

Religious art from the the Twitch.tv play-through of Pokemon Red.

A self-described social experiment, “Twitch Plays Pokemon” is an interesting phenomenon that is certainly rising in popularity. The channel does give some support to the idea that video games can create and foster communities. Will the hive mind be able to finish the game? Only time will tell.

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