Saturday, July 7, 2012

Sat. 07 July 2012 TV survey ... maybe Marshall McLuhan was (partially) wrong?

"The medium is the message" opined, famously, my fellow Canuck, Mr. (Herbert) Marshall McLuhan.  During academic career capped by appointment to Tim Horton Chair for Linguistics + Yeast-Raised Donuts @ Univ. of Toronto [just kidding re staple of Canadian diet], Prof. McLuhan unleashed concept that content was secondary in new electronic age to that which conveyed it, i.e. message was transmuted by medium.

Perhaps mainstream TV fare of inbred relatives bitch-slapping one another for new refrigerator w/ ice dispenser and/or infomericals hawkin' acne cure + excess celluite reduction w/ only two daily tablets, still hue to above.  My, admittedly, iconoclastic survey today would give evidence that content still can prevail on margins.

1.)  C-SPAN2 Book TV focus on David Pietrusza

For 3 delightful hours ( ... and available still via web replay) this witty non-academic was allowed to expound upon his considerable body of work ['Silent Cal', left, being amongst orbit of subjects tackled] in manner which would have made ole Billy Buckley's 'Firing Line' look truncated by comparison.  Besides inanity of cranks calling-in to expound uselessly on their cabal/plot du jour, the format is about as stricken of artifice as my old accomodations in 'The Big House' were plush.  :)  Understood programming such as such will never be Nielsen jump-starter, but point is it does exist for the politically Jacques Cousteau-motivated amongst us.

2.)  U.S. Women's Open on NBC

Between the advertisements visually littering most professional venues & lack of any aesthetic appeal save retro-themed ballparks or "the mighty tundra of Lambeau Field", most sporting events start-off (pardon pun) w/ 2 strikes.  Golf can escape such because of beauty in design of course played.  This weekend wonderful example exists w/ highlighting of Pete Dye's Blackwolf Run layout in Kohler, WI.  Though lacking aesthetic fireworks of next door's Whistling Straits, many a golf writer has commented that Blackwolf is actually superior track.  Also should be noted that despite Korean players dominating field & being festooned w/ more endorsement patches than average Formula One race car, companies ponying-up for 38th parallel swingers are mostly unknown to U.S. audiences ergo crass visual commercialism avoided by-and-large.

3.)  Errol Morris' 'The Fog Of War'

When your humble scribe was a testosterone-fueled pup, surefire strategy was inviting some comely lass of academic bent [ ... think black leggings, beret & complaints re battlin' "middle class sensibilities"] to art house 'fill-um'.  This move was 3x-winner: Showed your gal you were serious (sic egg-headed) chap, ensured you didn't waste 2 hrs.+ feigning interest in something which would make Eugene O'Neill wretch & fed $'s to worthy artists.  In larger metropoles, probably there still exist these type of places but old men such as I neither have leisure time nor inclination to patronize.  Fortunately endless permutations of cable channels necessitate that even documentary fare gets decent rotation on programming guide & I've had chance - this past week - to drink deeply (again) from above due to 3x shown in 5 day period.  In terms of cinematic technique, Mr. Morris' take on ex-Sec. of Defense makes 'My Dinner With Andre' look like DeMille production.  Quite literally 90% of movie is single shot of R.M. speaking directly into camera ( ... and E.M. allowing gent's own words to twist endlessly in the wind latter fella's historical memory, but I digress).
As the great 'Bard of Baltimore', H.L. Mencken once titled one of his best books, would not arge that above certainly is Minority Report.  That said, nonetheless pleased to find codicil to McLuhan's dictum in hinterlands of today's electronic media.

p.s. re M. McLuhan:  In fact-checking above, struck by note that Canadian prof had life-altering encounter reading work of G.K. Chesterton & cited such as impetus to return fully to Catholic Church.  Only know G.K.C. in passing, but once bumped into Robert Bork @ old D.C. National Airport as learned jurist perused bio of English writer.  Hmmn?

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