PostConsumer Culture Club: A list of everything we at PostConsumer Reports have been digesting this week, with brief commentary. Hopefully, we can culture something good in you. Happy PostConsuming!
Here is what we watched the week of September 20 through September 26.
Film: Arcade Fire's The Reflektor Tapes
The cultural highlight of my week was certainly viewing director Khalil Joseph's and Arcade Fire's new film The Reflektor Tapes in a movie theater. I travelled down to Bloomington, Illinois with a friend of mine and joined 7 other nerdly white people to watch our favorite band release an artsy-fartsy music film. I really enjoyed myself! You can read my full review of the film here: The Reflektor Tapes—Arcade Fire's Inversion of U2's Rattle & Hum.
Podcast: You Talkin' U2 to Me? (or as I like to call it "You Two Talkin' U2 to me too?")
Comedian Scott Aukerman (Comedy Bang Bang) and actor/funny guy Adam Scott (of Parks and Recreation) have a podcast about U2. The only reason I know this is they recently were able to interview the band (after much demanding of free t-shirts). In lieu of listening to more serious podcasts while I get ready for bed every night, I have slowly been listening to all their back episodes.
Essentially, here is what each episode consists of:
45 minutes of almost absolute nonsense, much of it having very little to do with U2, and most of it consisting of absurdist wordplay, personal conjecture, and pop cultural references.
45 minutes of decently serious U2 talk about a specific U2 album—we get some album history and their opinions of each song.
Now, while some might find the first half of these episodes an egregious assault upon people's patience, I think Scott and Scott are hilarious. My advice would be to put expectations aside and plunge yourself into their loopy stream of consciousness flow—eventually you will get to plenty of good U2 material.
Podcast: David Gungor discussing corporate worship on the Phil Vischer Podcast
I got into the Phil Vischer Podcast (the mastermind behind Veggie Tales) because a Facebook friend mentioned it. Despite often being too distractingly silly for my tastes (Hypocrite alert! The above U2 podcast is WAY more silly than Visher's podcast) they often have some great discussions with some great thinkers. This episode features David Gungor of the band The Brilliance (he is the brother of the band Gungor's lead singer Michael Gungor [I just like saying "Gungor" a lot]). In it he discusses some of the woes of modern worship music and the contemporary Christian music industry (all of which I am very much interested in). He also discusses the strange phenomenon of some worship song writers becoming millionaires set for life.
Documentary: The Story of Film
I have slowly been working my way through this excellent documentary on the history of film. It is not easy viewing, especially as writer/director Mark Cousins' jaunty, stop/start, tonally descending narration is almost always hard to listen to. Nonetheless, the crash course in film history is essential for anyone who cares about the progression of the genre from its primitive stages all the way to the highest forms of modern visual storytelling.
The Story of Film is available to stream through Netflix.
I have been watching through season 5 of Fred Armisen's and Carrie Brownstein's Portlandia, which is now streaming on Netflix. I try to include only positive reviews on the PostConsumer Culture Club (that is, I include works I only think are worth partaking), but I have to say so far I am pretty disappointed with this season. They definitely tried more creative forms of storytelling with season 5, forms that broke the sketch-show mold (like self-contained single plot episodes), but a lot of the material falls flat to me.
Here's what I'm seeing: the show is a lot less interesting when it focuses more on its characters' development than when it sticks to being playful/biting satire. Whenever the show loses it its satirical edge it fails to be all that compelling.
TV: South Park Season 19 Episodes 1 & 2
Please realize that I fully realize South Park is not for the faint of heart. I fully admit it is a vulgar show and as each episode's pre-show disclaimer warns in actuality "it should not be viewed by anyone." All that said, as far as I am concerned South Park contains the most visceral, scathing, impacting satire of our times—you need to wade through all the vulgarity however, in order to see it. Actually, no. Let me say this: America is a vulgar place already and though I do not necessarily agree with their means, Trey Parker and Matt Stone (the show's writer/creators/actors) use vulgarity to show us how vulgar our time and place and people truly are.
South Park is never greater than when it places us somewhere within the insanity of the swirling funnel cloud of American politics and entertainment, someplace where all our competing ideologies and the tactics we use to espouse those ideologies renders reality itself an absurd farce. South Park lets no one out alive who is not willing to tirelessly sift through the mad storm cloud in order to seek out a reasoned, coolheaded cleft of a rock for safety.
On the first two episodes of their 19th season they take us deep into this insane country managing to skewer the current simultaneous uprisings of (1) a hostile "politically correct" culture where all speech is policed with militantly sensitive force and (2) a hostile far right culture that sees all difference and the invasion of that difference (in the form of immigrants, documented or not) as so much of a threat that that culture is willing to elect an unknowledgeable hate-spewing buffoon as president.
If you seek some solace from all the cultural craziness currently taking place, might I suggest South Park as a remedy? You can read my (more) full review of these episodes here.
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Postconsumer Culture Club #1
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Postconsumer Culture Club #3