TV Shows

Syncing Season Five of The Simpsons with Kanye West’s ‘My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy’

(If you just want to read the interesting ways that these two things synced up, skip to where it says ‘Long story short‘.)

Most of you have probably heard about Dark Side of the Rainbow, the idea that The Wizard of Oz overlaps with The Dark Side of the Moon by Pink Floyd.  As cool as it is, it seems pretty unbelievable that the connections are in any way deliberate.  They’re more likely the result of two things: our need to find relationships in the world around us, and our tendency to remember when our expectations are supported while forgetting the times they aren’t.  (Blah and blah.)  That being said, of course there are going to be some pairings that produce more overlaps than others just based on random chance.  So not every movie/album pair is going to sync up as well as The Wizard of Oz and The Dark Side of the Moon, making that pairing special even if it wasn’t planned.  The same can be said about other popular pairings like: Alice in Wonderland with The Wall, or 2001: A Space Odyssey with the song Echoes.

To me the fact that these pairings aren’t the product of intent doesn’t make them any less interesting, just like you don’t need to believe in a divine will to find bizarre coincidences amazing.  This also means that you can pair up any random visual and audio to look for connections, without worrying about the plausbility of it being contrived.  It’s a lot fun to just present a random piece of music, and a random video to your mind and let it go to work finding connections between the two.

I think that the connections are of two sorts: content and mood.  Content is what I’ve been talking about up until now: lyrics/sounds from the audio coinciding with something going on visually.  It’s almost a challenge to actively look for these connections, thinking about ways of interpreting words so that they reflect what you’re seeing.  Sometimes it’s obvious, sometimes it takes creativity.  Although I wouldn’t agree with them, some people might use the fact that you can find these connections in a random pairing to take away from the interpretation of art in general.  I would say that just because we can find them at random doesn’t mean that artists don’t put them there intentionally when they control all parts of the final product.

By mood I mean the way that the audio affects the feel of the visuals, and vice versa.  Just like watching a music video might change how a song feels, or a soundtrack might change how a given moment in a movie feels.  The only difference here is that the pairing is random and it’s entirely up to the viewer to fit the two together (both actively and passively), creating a new third experience, different than the audio or visuals by themselves.  I find it very interesting to feel your mind making two things that were certainly not meant to go together fit with one another, creating one unified product out of two disparate things. (1)

Long story short I paired season five of The Simpsons with Kanye West’s fifth album ‘My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy’ (2).  I hit ‘play all’ on the first DVD of season five as I hit play on the album.  I only went through the album once but in theory it would have been cool to go through the entire season with the album repeating.  However despite what some people may think after reading this I don’t have that much free time on my hands.  These are some of the cool content connections that I noticed between the audio of the album and the visuals of the episodes (which were on mute):

-The line “Don’t make me pull the toys out…” coincided with a shot of Lisa looking at a box of toys.

“Penitentiary chances, the devil dances…” coincided with a shot of Springfield Penitentiary.

“I thought I chose a field where they couldn’t sack me…” coincided with Wiggum getting fired from the Be Sharps.

“But God said I need a different approach…” coincided with a shot of Wiggum wearing a costume and trying to trick them into taking him back.

-“You blowing up, that’s good, fantastic…” coincided with them discovering that Barney could sing (and later getting him to join the group).  I’m hoping my friends won’t need this, but just in case

-“No more chances if you blow this…” coincided with their (the Be Sharp’s) agent talking to them outside of Moe’s.

-“Well, that’s a pretty bad way to start the conversation…” coincided with the Sea Captain stopping his fight with the giant squid and starting to talk to it.

-“I got the power to make your life so exciting…” coincided with Homer giving his Dad a new car.

-“Want you to see all of the lights…” coincided with a shot of Hollywood, with two searchlights moving around.

“Can’t see my daughter…” coincided with a scene of Homer being on tour, and Marge trying to fill his absence with this

-A scream in ‘Monster’ coincided with this shot.

-“Do the rap and track, triple double no assist…” coincided with Matt Groening’s name in the credits.  If you have to ask how that relates…

“She came up to me and said this the number 2…” coincided with the second episode starting.

“I smell a massacre…” coincided with this.

“Praises due to the most high, Allah…” coincided with a shot of an angel that Ned had trimmed out of a hedge.

“Fucking insane…” coincided with Sideshow Bob laughing manically, when you first learn that he’s the one sending Bart the bloody messages.

“So if you had her too, it don’t affect me in the slightest…” coincided with a shot of Selma testifying and everyone behind her in the courtroom raising their hands.

“The way you look should be a sin…” coincided with this.

-“We’ll have a big ass crib and a long yard…” coincided with a shot of a big ass crib and a long yard.

-Lastly, I’m not exaggerating when I say the credits of the third episode ended exactly when the album did.  It’s also cool that the last song ends with applause.

1- If this is true it brings up the interesting question of whether or not two things can really “go together well” in terms of mood.  We’ve all thought about a scene in a movie that was complemented perfectly by its score, but if any visual and audio can combine to create a third thing, how can any pairing be “more appropriate”?  Is it just a pairing that better fits what the creator intended?  Or fits in better with the rest of the project?  Do they view one (audio or visual) as being the primary component and the other one being secondary, slightly colouring the primary one instead of creating a third and altogether new thing?  Or maybe two things “go well together” when they create a third thing that isn’t fundamentally different than the two other things by themselves?

2 – They both have red covers!  The third season and his third album both have purple covers!  But sadly that’s where it ends.

The Chess Scene in The Wire

I find that in really well made movies or TV shows some of my favourite moments are the nadirs (GRE word count: 1), where nothing is happening and the characters are just talking. Sometimes it’s just because the clever and mellifluous (GRE word count: 2) dialogue is pleasing to listen to. It can be hilarious and enlightening, sometimes at the same time. Some of the greatest moments in Tarentino movies are the conversations about everyday topics. It also lets you get a feel for the characters by seeing how they act in regular situations and how they interact with others.  There is something so enjoyable about watching real characters act in a way that makes complete sense.  They might also reveal their feelings about something that happened earlier, or the entire conversation might metaphorically comment on some other aspect of the TV show or movie. One of my favourite scenes from The Wire was when D’Angelo taught Bodie and Wallace how to play chess.  Here it is.

“Y’all can’t be playing no checkers on no chess board yo.”

On a very basic level, the idea that they would use chess pieces to play checkers is brilliantly realistic. It makes perfect sense that no one would have taken the time to teach these kids how to play chess and that they would simply use chess pieces to play the simpler checkers.

On another level it also reflects the way that the drug dealers bring their own system to the chaos they are surrounded with. They create rules, hierarchies and order out of the turbulent disarray of the projects that they grow up in. They work out their own ‘game’, whether that be using chess pieces to play checkers because no one taught them how to play chess; or creating and living in the world of drugs because they weren’t provided with the means to operate in the ‘regular world’. Throughout the series drug dealing is constantly referred to as a game with rules, a system bigger than any of the people that play it.  The metaphor of a game can also be extended to the way the police go after the drug dealers.  They’re required to follow certain rules in order to legally ‘win’.  Actually the creators even thought about calling the show “The Game”.

The fact that it is D’Angelo that teaches them to properly play chess also serves as an augury (GRE word count: 3) to his teaching them how to properly play the drug game. Instead of playing the simple game of checkers which just involves killing the other person’s pieces, they learn new ways to think about what it is they do.

“The king stay the king.”

In comparing the king to Avon and the queen to Stringer, you really get an idea of what role either character plays. Avon is in charge, but he also “really ain’t gotta do shit”. He is the figurehead, and maintains order through his street rep. Other crews are afraid of who he is and what he can do. Stringer Bell is the one that really runs the organization, both in terms of strategy and economics.

You also can’t become the king. One overt theme in The Wire is that the rich stay rich and the poor stay poor. There are systems in place that involve so many people and are so multifaceted that they can’t ever really be changed. The king stay the king.

“These are the pawns, they like the soldiers.”

The way D’Angelo explains how the pawns are used is a perfect example of realistic dialogue revealing something about a character. He says that they can move one step forward, “except when they fight”. That felicitous (GRE word count: 4) choice of words reveals the kind of environment he grew up in and his mindset. He doesn’t say they move diagonally to attack or capture, he says “to fight”.

The pawns are described as the soldiers: the low level, unimportant drug dealers. They’re there to protect the king, in the same way that the low level drug dealers handle the drugs and do the selling to insulate the higher ups from trouble with the law. They’re also the ones that are actually in harms way when it comes to rival dealers.

But D’Angelo explains that if the pawns make it to the end, they get to be the queen. If the low level players stick to it, they get moved up. But like D’Angelo says, the pawns “get capped quick”. The low level players might stay in the game with a chimera (GRE word count: 5) of power and money but in reality, they’re nothing more than canon fodder for the more powerful players.

Bodie says “if I make it to the other end, I win”. This reveals a lot about his mindset, and probably the mindset of others on his level. Victory or success for them is just about becoming “top dog”; the good of the rest of their organization doesn’t matter. If he gets to be queen he wins, who cares if you capture the other player’s king. This also reflects the mindset of many of the police officers on the show. All they care about is making rank and retiring with a better pension. Police officers that actually care about making a case are few and far between.

Ending with a quote seemed like a nice, trite (GRE word count: 6) and hackneyed (GRE word count: 7) approach.  “Life is a kind of Chess, with struggle, competition, good and ill events” – Benjamin Franklin.

Five Epic Moments From My Childhood

Sorry to post another collection of youtube videos, but I’m not that inspired at the moment; like some guy who did something at some point, or something else that is similar to what I’m talking about.

But I’ll put some things on here – that don’t relate at all – but give the article some more content.  Like special effects that don’t add to the plot of a movie, or expensive jewelry that doesn’t match what someone is wearing.

  • Why do people go out of their way to pick up the phone on the ring?  Seems very odd, maybe it’s some kind game they play with themselves?
  • If you buy a TTC uniform you should be able to ride buses for free right?  They always pick up other TTC drivers (that don’t pay) and chat with them, I guess you’d just have to know a lot of street names and bus routes.
  • If you look like both of your parents doesn’t that mean your parents look like one another?
  • The fact that vinyls could hold only 60 minutes, while today’s CDs can hold 80 minutes; does that have anything to do with albums of the past being arguably better?  Maybe something to do with the fact that they had less space to fill, and so could focus on fewer quality songs?  In fact they tended to be around 40 minutes, so a double album, something that was seen as daring and indulgent, would be about as long as a standard CD today.
  • It would be cool if Hans Moleman turned out to be something really cool, like the last surviving member of an underground race of Molemen who the Springfieldians descended from and that’s why they’re yellow; or that everyone outside of Springfield was infected by some kind of virus that never reached Springfield, and Moleman is how all other humans look?
  • What if Basketball and all sports are actually prescripted?  Maybe they actually have the ability to miss or make shots whenever they want, and do so to follow a script.  Think about it, do you really think that someone who practices only one thing every day wouldn’t be able to make/miss every shot he took?  Sometimes games play out a little too perfectly if you ask me.
  • A sort of Renaissance-era thinking seems to be present in everything.  A notion that the past was necessarily better and modern incarnations of things pale in comparison to what once was, that they have to live up to and be judged by what came before; that everything is on the decline.  It seems that everyone thinks that the olden days were the ‘golden years’ and what exists today is just the aftermath.  You can see this when it comes to movies, sports, TV shows, music etc.  Or maybe that’s just the impression I get from people.
  • What are these ‘stories’ that all old people seem to watch?
  • I hate people who ask you if you know what they’re saying even after you’ve already nodded or agreed with them.

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These are the five most epic moments on TV from my childhood (and probably yours too if you’re my age), in no particular order:

Reboot“Game Over”: Enzo, Andrea and Frisket lose the Game.  /  5:55 – end

Power Rangers“The Green Candle Part 2”: The Green Ranger loses his powers. / 1:55 – 5:00

Beasties “Code of Hero”: Dinobot dies.  /  4:00 – end

Spider-Man“The Turning Point”: Mary Jane gets sent to another dimension, or something. / 5:20 – end

Star Trek TNG“Best of Both Worlds Part 1”: Picard gets assimilated. / 5:55 – end

Michael Scott, a Character Worthy of The Sopranos

The Office (US) is a brilliant show.  The creators somehow managed to develop an entire office full of characters with truly unique styles of humour.  From the completely uninvolved, possibly homeless Creed to the sarcastic, always moody Stanley.  Their unique personalities become highlighted when they each respond to the same question from the documentator (to write about a character you have to think like that character) in unique and hilarious ways.  Yet despite the hilarity there is always a feeling that there is more going besides the laughs.  The fact that the show is filmed in the style of a mocumentary, and the absence of a laugh track are probably partly to blame for this.  But I think the main reason for this is that characters do things and it isn’t always apparent why.  Like the best of dramas, The Office challenges its viewers to discover why a certain character did a certain thing.  The fact that we are viewing the world through the eyes of a character in that world only serves to enhance this; the characters will try and hide things from the documentator and we aren’t privy to all of the information we would be privy to if our view was not that of a character in the show.  This is especially apparent in the characters’ interviews, where we have to remember that they are not talking to themselves but to a character in their world, as such they are not always completely truthful.  A very long preamble, not entirely necessary, to say that I think the creators did a very good job in the genesis of Michael Scott.  Through learning about his past, we come to understand why he acts the way he does in the show.

We discovered some things about his childhood in “The Birthday Party”, that his parents were divorced and that his mother remarried.  There is a reason that the creators went out of their way to tell us that about him, it explains almost all of his very odd and awkward behaviour.  Beneath the bad song parodies and female suits, Michael Scott is simply a very insecure person, and the creators attribute this to his parents’ divorce, when the most secure foundation in anyone’s life is shattered.  We really see how much his parents’ divorce haunts him in “The Deposition”, when Toby tries to comfort Michael by talking about his parents’ divorce.  Michael responds by looking at the camera very uncomfortably and pushing Toby’s tray on the floor.  Like anyone driven by insecurity Michael seeks security; security represented by relationships with others.  We learned in “Take Your Daughter to Work Day” that what Michael wanted when he grew up was to “be married and have 100 kids so I can have 100 friends, and no one can say no to being my friend”, this pretty much sums up what drives him throughout the show.  A brief important point to mention from “The Birthday Party” is that Michael says that when his mother remarried it was up to him to fix it.  Unfortunately his idea of fixing it was yelling at them as he came down the aisle at their wedding.  This shows how he may have blamed himself for his parents’ divorce and sees himself as solely responsible for creating secure environments for himself, a fact which becomes apparent soon.

Fastforward to the present, Michael is the regional manager for Dunder Mifflin Scranton, unmarried and without very many close friends.  However he is head of an office, and seems to view this as his family (as he says in “The Deposition”), deriving some security from this.  Look at how upset he gets when members of that “family” are taken away, in “Branch Wars” or “Weight Loss” for example.  Yet being the boss puts him in a very uncomfortably salient position, and requires him to do some things that might offend people and create tension.  This is of course very painful for someone who wants a harmonious environment where everyone likes him.  Think back to when he almost fired Creed (I doubt Devon would have been as funny) or when he had to get rid of their health care plan.  And so he is forced to make stupid jokes which he thinks will break the tension, and ensure that everyone likes him, this is alluded to in “Survivor Man”.  As a side note, this sheds some light on why he hates Toby so much, since he stops Michael from doing many of the inappropriate things he feels compelled to do to ease his anxiety.

To highlight the fact that his oddities are a result of his position in the office we hear several times about him being a good salesman, who was promoted to a position his personality doesn’t compliment (Jan says something close to this in “The Deposition”).  As a salesman, outside of the spotlight of being the one in charge we can assume that his insecurities didn’t take over and he was able to be more of himself, instead a version of himself multiplied by fifty to alleviate his anxieties.  In “Money” we get to see how well Michael Scott got along with his fellow workers when he was just a regular employee.  When he talks about the Die Hard series, mentioning that in the first three Bruce Willis was just a regular guy, but in Die Hard 4 he is “jumping a motorcycle into a helicopter”, he is actually talking about himself.  We also get a glimpse of Michael as a normal guy in “The Client”, where he does an excellent job of pitching Dunder Mifflin to a client, reprising his salesman role.

Part of wanting to have a lot of friends and be popular seems to entail, in Michael’s mind, seen as one of the cool kids, who the other people in the office will then necessarily like.  Presumably part of the reason he makes his jokes is that he thinks people in the office are going to say “wow look at that guy in a fat suit, he’s so cool!”.  There are many times he does things that are very strange and even at times mean, just because he thinks that is the way cool people act.  For example his choice of ring tones, such classics as “My Humps”, he thinks that it’s a cool song.  We also see how he would like to be viewed through his interviews with the camera, constantly spinning things and reinterpreting them to maintain an image as a cool, hip guy.  Whether he actually sees himself in this way is doubtful, but we get a glimpse into his mind, his was of rationalizing things to himself.

This effort to be one of the cool guys also explains the way he interacts with Jim, Ryan and Pam, who he sees as the cool kids of the office.  He is desperate to be friends with them, from his efforts with Ryan in “The Fire”, to writing a goodbye poem to Pam in “Weight Loss”, to even calling Jim his best friend in “The Convention”.  He of course wants to be close to everyone in the office, but being close to these “cool” people reinforces the view of himself that he tries to hold.  What is even more interesting is his relationship with Dwight, who he puts down in front of others to maintain his image of himself, but is very close to when they are alone.

So the flow of ideas goes like this, Michael Scott wants security, he gets this by having a secure environment, this comes about by having the people around him like him, this means being funny, making sure no one hates him (reducing tension) and doing anything to make himself looks cool.  Unfortunately, ironically, interestingly (there are many possible words to use here) it is his efforts to have friends that often precludes that from happening.  All of these tendencies are amplified to the extreme because of his position in the office, resulting in the lovable goof we see every Thursday night.   It is a real shining achievement of the show that things like giving a bird a funeral, filming oneself in the Pennsylvania wilderness or buying an iPod to impress Ryan (when there was a $20 limit) make perfect sense within his character as a whole.

Also, I didn’t really know where to fit this in, but his desire for a secure family environment also affects his relationships with women.  We see numerous times that he jumps into relationships head first, becoming too heavily committed too quickly, doing things like photo shopping himself into a family picture of Carol’s in place of her husband (“Diwali”).  It also explains why he considered ignoring what Jan did to him, and being a father to her baby.