Category Archives: Uncategorized

Technology and Long-Distance Dating

The title of this class is “Media Technology and Cultural Change”; well, this spring break I’ve bared witness to how new technology and things like the internet have enabled long-distance relationships (which will coincidentally be my topic for a project in another class that I am currently taking). Just 20 years ago, letters and phone-calls were the primary modes of communication.  Letters would typically take 3-5 days to arrive depending on the person’s location and phone calls were usually limited to house phones–cell phones had yet to be owned on such a large scale.

The internet, which has platforms like iChat, AIM, MSN messenger, Skype, e-mail, etc., has allowed for people to communicate in a much easier, much more direct fashion, which in turn, gives long-distance relationships a higher chance of success. I was talking to my aunt the other day and she told me how the “love of her life” and she lived very far away from each other, communication was harder, and they would not be moving near each other any time soon. In time, they had both found other people and moved on, even though they still loved each other. It wasn’t until they got divorces and met up many years later that they were finally able to be together (15 years later).

However, I wondered, well…if they had had Skype, would distance have been as much of an issue if there was almost face-to-face contact everyday? It’s proven that the internet is a viable place to meet someone (, LavaLive, etc.), therefore it is not that far of a stretch to say that it is a great way to keep current long-distance relationships alive (for longer, at least). This is a perfect example of “cultural change.” With the internet, it is now easier to have a significant other in Denmark…England…Australia…wherever you want.

Techno-bio update

I’ve gotten a bit behind in my posts for this blog, even though I’ve had a lot of ideas!  There are two reasons for this.  The first is the insanity of the last week before break, with midterms and suchlike.  The second reason is more interesting: a lot of my internet time has been devoted to my other blog, which I just started using (”writing for”? “posting on”? not sure of the proper verbiage here) again.  This music-centric blog, which can be found HERE, is one that I created over the summer because I thought, hey, it’s the summer, why not give this blogging thing a try.  After spending quite a while picking the right platform/theme/personal design, I stuck with it for about two weeks (when I used to play The Sims, I enjoyed designing the house WAY more than trying to maintain my whiny little avatars’ shitty lives).  There were some weird issues with my embeddable audio player, and more importantly, I thought to myself, “wait, why do I have a blog?  What’s the point, exactly?”

The posting just felt a bit obligatory.  But now I’ve had a bit of a change of mindset, and I think it has a lot to do with this class.  About a week ago, I started posting on the Ashtray Says blog again (a date which roughly coincides with my silence on this blog), and I’ve been really enjoying it.  Perhaps this class has turned me on a bit to the “value” of blogging (something I’m not quite sure of myself, yet), but I think it has more to do with some sort of vague value I’ve picked up in our class about using the internet with…intention, I suppose.  In a way that feels beneficial and not frivolous?  Perhaps this will make more sense as I continue.

Several factors converged in my decision to start blogging on The Ashtray Says again.  First of all, I had been meaning to write a review for Titus Andronicus’ new album The Monitor for a while, just to try my hand at writing a longish album review, something I haven’t done much of.  If not post it on my blog, what the hell was I going to do with it?  Post it as a Facebook note, I suppose, which has sort of been my lame excuse for blogging in the past few months when I’ve wanted to post music-related lists.  Also, a few of the internships I was applying for want to see writing samples, and they wanted at least one to be on a blog.

Then, just as I was finishing the Titus Andronicus review, a serendipitous thing happened: my Arts editors at the Campus asked if I had a record review they could use, because the column “For the Record”, usually covered by two guys, needed a review for this week.  Then I thought, I write blog-appropriate articles for the Campus pretty often, why not have those in a consolidated place like my blog?  (I have no idea the legality of this with a free newspaper like the Campus…)  Then I thought, well hey, by that token, I do mini reviews of new albums for WRMC all the time, why not have some record of those as well?  Then there’s this idea of just having some sort of canonical (ish?) record of the music/culture/internet stuff that interests me, all in one place.  When I actually think about it, it’s pretty silly, because it’s not really a record of all the things I consume at all, but….well, you get the idea.

So far, these are all self-centered reasons: having my thoughts and writings on culture consolidated in one place so that I can look at them all.  Plus, there’s that Sims-house-designing pleasure of making them look nice.  But there’s publishing/distribution reasons as well.  A lot of the time lately, I’ll hear a great new song or see a video I like, and I spend a lot of time doing some combination of: sending them to individuals via facebook or email, posting them as facebook statuses or tweets, and telling people verbally/showing them in person.  This brings me to my favorite discovery about wordpress: automatic publishing to facebook and twitter!  Now, whenever I post on The Ashtray Says, a facebook link and a tweet are automatically generated.  I apologize in advance for this…

This saves me some time, I think?  And it creates a better chance of someone reading the posts I make, even if these people are only directly connected to me via twitter or facebook.  This has also led me to discover the awesome “blog stats” section that our ridiculously, hilariously limited MIDDBLOGZ don’t have.  I can see patterns of how my posting and publishing correspond with the number of views on my blog, down to how many views each specific post has received and how people linked to it.  I won’t get into it too much, but one cool thing happened when I made my new posts just an hour or so ago.  Within minutes of me posting, 14 people had visited my new posts (not a bad number for such a short time on my measly little blog).  I figured these stemmed from the facebook/twitter auto updates, but they had all originated from a site called “”, which is some weird site that cycles through recent wordpress posts in an almost chatroulette-like level of rapidity.  Since that initial flurry (again, about an hour ago), my blog has received no more visits.  Thought that was kind of interesting.

Suppose I should tie this back to our class.  My reasons for explaining all this crap: 1) there was a direct, seemingly significant connection between this new habit and my lack of blogs for “Cap’n Toren’s blah blah”.  2) Because I think my decision to start blogging again has very much to do with the internet-stuff we’ve done for this class, and my decision to link The Ashtray Says, facebook, and twitter together has to do with something I’ve learned in this class as well.  Something like…thinking of the internet as a tool, and trying to use that tool intelligently.  I feel I’ve created something that is very enjoyable for me and has a tangible, if not immediately practical, output.

I think I could delve deeper here, but I’d better go to bed now, because I’m getting up and going to Boston and Providence for most of the week tomorrow morning.  In the spirit of “Disconnected” (that’s what it was called, right?), I’ll be refraining from texting this week….more on that in a later post.  I leave you with a ballin remix video that my brother just showed me.  It mashes up clips of John Locke to fit the lyrics of “Like a Boss”, the Lonely Island song originally paired with an Andy Samberg digital short on SNL.  The last minute kinda sucks, but a lot of the middle section is real clever.  I’ll probably post it on my other blog later….or something.  I’m still figuring out just what to do with all my favorite bits of culture….so many options.  GO INTERNET.

technology beautified

It’s amazing how quickly technology changes these days…. even if its just the design of the product. I’m always blown away by how rapidly Apple products are changing…I got my MacBookPro less than two years ago, and I feel like it already looks old because of the new laptops Apple has come out with within the last year. I’m constantly wishing I could update my technology so that I would have the newest, most sleek looking devices.

I was thinking of these rapid technology changes because last night I by accident clicked on my old AIM icon on my dock…. instead of iChat. My old screen name logged on, and I heard the sounds of AIM which have now become almost foreign to my ears. At the same time, they brought back a kind of sentimental feeling, remembering early high school and middle school when that was the program I used at home when I got my first laptop, or on the desktop in the family room before my laptop.

Oh the good old days.

new, sleek, iChat

new, sleek, iChat


old, box, AIM

interviewing face to face… kinda

Today I had an interview with admissions officers from the Tisch program at NYU. Thank god for technology and the ability to interview over Skype, or I wouldn’t have been able to interview at all, which means I wouldn’t have been able to apply for the program in the first place.

When I was asked to interview, I got an e-mail that said: “please let me know your availability for an interview this Friday, or early next week. Are you able to interview in New York? I assume not, in that case we would prefer a skype interview if possible.” I was so pleased to see this, because I was certainly not going to be able to make it to New York… not without missing many classes and lacrosse practices, and falling behind in work.

I was nervous for the Skype interview, just as much as I would have been to interview in person. I mean, in many ways it was the same. I was still speaking to the interviewers and able to see them at the same time…. It is certainly not the same though as actually being in the same room and interacting face to face. For one thing, I could have been wearing pajama bottoms, because my laptop camera only captured me from the chest up.

I guess also, even though I was nervous to talk to the admissions officers whom I’d never met before, there was a certain amount of comfort knowing I was just sitting in the Middlebury library study rooms – a familiar place that I only needed to walk to 20 minutes before my interview started.

Aside from being nervous about what they would ask me to talk about, I was being obsessive compulsive about making sure I was hard wired into the internet connection, logged onto Skype properly, and had enough battery power to last through the interview. After all my preparations, the last thing I would want to happen would be to have technical difficulty and be cut off in the middle of our screen to screen interview!!

Mike Tyson and Pigeons!

You know, just when you think people can’t get any more ridiculous…they do.  It was recently announced that Mike Tyson (yes, heavyweight boxing champion Mike Tyson) will be hosting a new show on Animal Planet about pigeon racing. I’m going to give you a few seconds to let that sink in…yes, pigeon racing (you know, birds…trying to out-fly each other, I guess?) Apparently, Tyson has raised pigeons all of his life and has created a team with them and now Animal Planet will be doing a show on it. The worst part? I’m kind of curious. Ya’ll should go ahead and check out the full story here. I guess this is geared more toward the “Media” part of “Media Technology” :-)

Back to the Future.

While going through my daily news online, I stumbled upon this article about Twitter at the South by Southwest conference this year. Having been announced to the digital world only around 3 years ago, it has definitely made its splash since then in many ways.

This year at the SXSW conference, being a big name that people are watching, they surprised some by using business cards made out of actual paper. As though paper went out of style and they were “bringing it back”, twitter employees used their “earthy brown” paper business cards to make their contacts. At a conference in which the point is to be able to “Bump” data from one iPhone to another or to send vCards with a persons information through a text message, it was seen that they were coming up again with a new (but oh so old) idea.

Company spokesman Sean Garrett said “This antiquated thing called ‘business cards’ is a helpful way for some of us to bridge our online and offline worlds with potential employees, partners and the thousands of developers who make Twitter applications”.
Twitter Business Card

Derivative is worse?

So I stumbled across this story on slash film a couple of months ago, but our in class discussion made me think about it so I thought I’d share it with everyone.  The article talks about movies of the last decade (specifically the ones nominated for best picture) and how the vast majority of them were not original. Check out the article and click “more” to read my thoughts.This article jumped out at me because as a big fan of films, I tend to think that the films nominated for best picture should be good representations of what good art and creation in our society should be.  But after our discussion in class it seemed to me that most people defined the word derivative as “worse.”  I was hesitant to agree with this idea, and maybe this has something to do with it.  I feel like it is almost impossible to do something completely original, and I think that even if you are borrowing ideas, concepts, elements etc. from another source, it is an artists ability to take it and make it their own.  To me the significance and creativity of a work comes from the final product and not from the inspiration.  Whether it be a music mash-up, a film remake/sequel, or any kind of “unoriginal” “derivative” work, I like to think of it more as a large collaboration then something that is stolen or less-than.

slow motion is cool

I don’t really have anything academic or brilliant to say about this one.

I just love dogs, and think its cool that using slow-motion and particular music can make the most every-day experience just that much cooler and more emotional.

thanks to my friend sarah for showing me this. check it.

always connected

Although we are all aware to some extent of our connectedness, through cell phones, e-mail, Facebook, etc. I think we are all reminded of it even more so when we spend time with people of other generations. My parents use many modes of media technologies for their work and everyday communication and they recognize how important these advances are in their own lives, but they still laugh at how connected my peers and I are. My parents were up visiting for the weekend, and my dad could not hold back from commenting on how often I checked my text messages. Nothing new. He comments all the time, and has been since I got an “unlimited” texting plan three years ago. I do text an absurd amount … but is it still considered ABSURD if most people my age text that often? Then shouldn’t it become the NORMAL amount? Then my dad should be considered the weirdo who barely knows how to use the T9 function. I don’t hold that against him… what I DO wish he’d realize is just how often he checks his BlackBerry. He says, “it’s work” or claims to have not been checking it at all, when I watch him take it out of his pocket during dinner. He used to not be able to do any business while we were on family vacations, unless he brought a huge briefcase of papers to read. Even then, he would only be able to do work early in the morning at the kitchen table. Now he just brings his BlackBerry down to the lake with his book, and stays caught up on e-mails. Although I wouldn’t give up my phone because I like to be in touch with my friends, I think Daddy’s connectedness should be cut off so he can fully enjoy his vacations like he used to, completely getting away from work for a week or two. Like the good old days when he used to have to leave a house number with his secretary…

Priceline Ad

So, I got food poisoning last night and had to be in bed, so I had nothing to do but watch Hulu. I watched Years in Tibet and Mo’ Money (just because it sounded so ridiculous). The film follows 2 black men (starring brothers Damen and Marlon Wayans) in some sort of business scam, or what have you. You know the formula–bad neighborhood, drugs, big-bootied women, and the like. What struck me though, was the Priceline ad that was shown just seconds before the movie started.

“ No one deals like we do.” Normally, I wouldn’t think anything of that ad, but juxtaposed to the film that was being shown (in reference to content as well as target audience) the word “deals” suddenly took on a different meaning. Now, I rarely pull out the “race-card” but it just seemed interesting that an ad (one which I have never seen before) should use that particular wording before that particular film. Had the movie been, let’s say, Lord of the Rings, would the ad have read “ We’re the one.” What about if it had been Harry Potter, would the ad have read, “ Expect-o great things” (I can continue the nerdy references, but I’ll cap it here). Maybe it was all coincidence…but then again, maybe not. Ah, the subversiveness of advertising…let’s breathe it all in, shall we?


my review of “Nobody”

Last Sunday, a film written & directed by Rob Perez ‘95 (screenwriter – 40 Days and 40 Nights) called nobody (no caps intentional) screened in Dana to a small audience consisting mostly of Screenwriting II students required to go for class.  I attended in order to write up a review for the Campus, and here’s the link to that review.  Thought I’m not a fan of the headline my editors made up or the artificial paragraph breaks they introduced when they transferred it to the web, I am pretty proud of the article.  I don’t think I’ve ever written anything so negative, but it sure was a blast to channel my negative feelings while watching the film into some sort of definitive product.  Perhaps there’s a pathetic small-time newspaper power trip aspect to it as well…I’ll let you decide.

But I wanted to write a brief post about something in my review that I was reminded of in class.   Here’s a brief excerpt:

Maybe ‘Nobody’ is in on its own joke, I pondered, when one of the über-critical art school students prophetically utters that a piece is ’so derivative it’s not even derivative.’ If such a feat is possible, ‘Nobody’ accomplishes it, for it is unique in the totality of its unoriginality.

I was reminded of this during our discussion of “originality” vs. “derivativeness” or whatever you’d like to call it.  I think what Lethem’s article does is remind us that our negative connotations around the word “derivative” are perhaps a bit unfair. nobody, on the other hand, offers a vision of derivation at it’s worst.  Even though Lethem’s article is derived entirely from the words of others, it is still synthesized into a remarkably coherent piece of work and driven by a spirit of artistic invention.  nobody wears it’s precedents right on its sleeve, but the preexisting elements feel blandly slapped together with little sense of inventiveness, bravery, or artistic spirit.  The stock art-school types that serve as characters are probably the best example of this: they are not invested with anything except the broadest stereotypes, leading them to seem like caricatures.  There are myriad other problems with the movie (it’s a seriously unfunny comedy, for one), but this issue pertaining to our class discussion certainly was one of the problems.

a whole buncha stuff

Figured I’d post links to/embed a bunch of videos that I thought of during our discussion in class yesterday.  It’s a pretty random bundle, but they’re all quite funny or interesting or weird.  So check them out, w/ a little blurb about each, after the jump. For some reason I’m having troubles with embedding video, and it should be super simple so I can’t fathom the reasons for that. So I’m just gonna do the links, and maybe go back and embed later when I figure out what the ()#@*% is wrong.

Here’s what I referred to as my favorite mashup of all time: Radiohead’s “High & Dry” w/ Marvin Gaye’s “Sexual Healing”.  The video is just some goofy collection of footage, it just happened to be the first hit when I searched the song.

Here’s the recut trailer for “Scary Poppins”, which makes Julie Andrews practically look like friggin Voldemort.

Here’s a funny political remix vid that watching the state of the union remix reminded me of. I first saw this quite a while ago, but it stays funny every time I watch it.

I think I actually posted this to Twitter a few days ago, but here it is again. Sort of high on the wtf spectrum of remix videos (whoever made it dubbed the silly song over the original, though what the original video was taken from I cannot fathom).

This last on is a mini-documentary (about 30 min long) in which 4 DJ’s are challenged to buy 5 records for 5 dollars and then quickly construct a beat using samples from those records. They don’t really discuss the art or the implications of sampling culture, because it’s been around for so long and discussed so much that the ideas behind it are sort of a given. But it’s a really entertaining piece of work that brings out the hilarious nerdiness of cratedigging culture (some of the records they find are really priceless–in a comic sense, not a monetary one) and the joy that these guys can find in cultural detritus.

*It’s now been removed from pitchfork, I guess it was a one week only sort of deal, but definitely check out their website

Little Boys “Won’t” Watching Movies with “Princess” in the Title…?

After Disney’s less-than-successful release of the “The Princess and the Frog,” they decided to change their approach for their next release–Rapunzel, which they have decided to re-name “Tangled” in order not to dissuade male children from wanting to watch it.

Honestly, it’s not the best argument…check out the article here.