Tag Archives: Blog

Four More Years: Another Cultural Anniversary

For the first few years of a blog’s life, every milestone is…well, a milestone.

When you get through your first year, it’s a reflection of your own resolve: how many blogs appear and then disappear, start out as an exciting exercise and end up a relic of an earlier commitment to productivity?

Your second year, meanwhile, is a statement against the haters. Haters is probably an overly strong term, but there are always those who doubt that the commitment to a lightly read blog is worth the time and effort, so getting through a second year is a signal that you have no intention of giving into such skepticism.

By the time you reach your third year, however, it’s a reflection of your readers. Stubbornness can keep you writing for a couple of years, but by the time you reach three it means that there are people who are reading, people who make writing that much more satisfying.

I think, though, that the fourth year may be the point at which milestones stop feeling like milestones. It isn’t that I am unsatisfied with the fact that this blog has come a very long way since January 17th, 2007, and I have no doubt that the third-year university student sitting in a Politics of Mass Media lecture would laugh in my face were I to go back in time and inform him that his blog would be far closer to the mass media than he could ever imagine in four years’ time; it’s just that the first-year PhD student has become sort of comfortable with what the blog has become, its existence having become so much a part of my daily life that time just doesn’t seem as important.

This is Post #1994 in the blog’s existence, a number which would be higher if I had not purged some of the early posts which had no relationship to television. In an ideal world, there would be another 1994 by 2015, but I sincerely doubt this will be the case: the days of such intense productivity may be behind me for the foreseeable future, left to the summer months and to brief spurts where I simply can’t keep myself away from tackling the bounty of television at hand.

For now, though, a bit of a trip through Cultural Learnings history: I’ve gone back into the archives and pulled out a post from on (or around) January 17th from each of the past four years. They’re probably not the ideal way to chart the blog’s evolution (although keeping the typos intact demonstrates my early lack of commitment to even the most basic copy editing), but I think it’s a reflection of what a four-year anniversary means in the blogosphere: at a certain point, milestones stop being about the blogger and start being about the blog itself.

So, Happy Birthday, Cultural Learnings – you’ve been good to me.

A Lesson in Post-Super Bowl Programming

Date: January 18th, 2007

This might be the only time this season that Criminal Minds has a chance to engage younger viewers and hope to pull them away from Idol. They need to change their fundamental style, not just throw in every cliche in the book. They need to mix things up a little, create an event out of this episode. Really, both Grey’s Anatomy and Alias had it right. Episodes that opened with some T&A, and then went into plotlines that went above and beyond what the show had done previously. Alias completely changed in “Phase One.” I guess I’ve given up hope that Criminal Minds can do the same.

I’ve written about this subject a few times, and will be returning to it again with Glee this year, but this first post has some silly rhetoric that would be quickly abandoned in subsequent posts. However, it was the first bit of “blogging” I did after my initial introductory post, so it’s a nice archive of the early stabs at writing about TV.

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The Recent Proliferation of Off-Site Learnings

So, you may have noticed that posting has slowed around these parts. This actually isn’t particularly bizarre, as the academic term is really kicking into gear, but the fact that I’ve been writing in some new outlets has sort of exaggerated this delay.

I sometimes forget that not everyone who reads the blog doesn’t use Twitter, and so I have been remiss in not making note of these off-site learnings (as I call them) more available to this audience. So, I’ve added buttons to the right hand side of the page, and will contextualize my contributions below (click the buttons to find all of the content discussed).

Antenna

First, I’ve been doing a considerable amount of work at Antenna, which is run out of Media and Cultural Studies here at University of Wisconsin-Madison. It’s a good outlet for topics of more academic consideration, often shorter pieces which identify and explain a concept before opening it up for discussion. It’s been a good exercise in more concise writing, and has led to some great conversations, so I’d definitely be bookmarking the site if you like this sort of discussion (which happens almost daily with the site’s myriad of highly intelligent contributors).

My posts have included two pieces on television showrunners on Twitter, a piece on Halloween episodes, another take on the Mad Men finale, and today’s piece on watching Twin Peaks for the first time as the initial entry in our new “Late to the Party” series.

The A.V. Club

You may know that I’m reviewing The Office for The A.V. Club this year, but this week saw a bit of expansion: I filled in for Zack Handlen on Sons of Anarchy last night, and I also offered my thoughts on Weeds’ sixth season on Monday. I don’t expect a huge expansion of my work for the site in the near future, but I certainly enjoy contributing and taking part in the subsequent discussions, so this is yet another space where you can find my work.

I will continue tweeting when these pieces go up, and may do a weekly roundup should it seem warranted, but the buttons on the sidebar (under “Off-Site Learnings”) will be your best way of finding this content in the future.

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A New Outlet: Contributing to UW-Madison’s Antenna

A New Outlet: Contributing to UW-Madison’s Antenna

September 17th, 2010

As you may know, I recently joined the PhD program at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, which in some ways will limit the amount of online writing I am able to do (it’s why things have been a bit quieter here at Cultural Learnings as of late, especially with the Cultural Catchup Project). However, the irony is that although the volume of my writing will be decreasing, the outlets for that writing are actually increasing: I’m extremely excited to be joining Antenna, the department’s media analysis blog, as a contributor.

I’m particularly excited because of how it allows for the merger of my two worlds: while the community consists largely of academics, the analysis is meant to cut through the traditional academic delay (where journals and books take years to get through the review/publishing process) to address current events similar to how online criticism operates. I very much look forward to exploring some of my more academic ideas within this framework, and encourage my Cultural Learnings readers to join that community and take part in a wide range of intriguing media-related discussions.

Right now, my first post is on something that many of you may relate to. In “Tweets of Anarchy: Showrunners on Twitter,” I look at how Twitter and other forms of social media have changed the relationship between showrunners, their texts, and their viewers, focusing on Kurt Sutter (Sons of Anarchy) and his somewhat controversial Twitter presence. The piece, like all Antenna pieces, is short and focuses on providing some information and prompting discussion, so I’d love to hear how showrunners’ online presence have changed your impressions of your favourite series (or perhaps series that you were otherwise unattached to).

Tweets of Anarchy: Showrunners on Twitter [Antenna]

…showrunners are now becoming active participants in conversations surrounding their shows, both formally (Damon Lindelof and Carlton Cuse’s Lost podcasts) and informally (Louis C.K.’s decision to wade into comment threads of Louie reviews); combined with their more prominent role in DVD bonus features and the proliferation of television journalism online, showrunners are becoming veritable celebrities among viewers of television. This is perhaps no more apparent than on Twitter, where showrunners (including Lindelof, Cuse, ,C.K., and numerous others) gain tens of thousands of followers who desire to know more about who is behind their favourite series.

Next week, meanwhile, Antenna will be offering multiple perspectives on each of the Fall debuts (a project I’ll be participating in);  I’ll likely share some of that as well, so stay tuned!

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Worked Over: Jaclyn Santos’ Online Reclamation of her Work of Art Narrative

Worked Over: Jaclyn Santos’ Online Reclamation of her Work of Art Narrative

August 7th, 2010

In profiling Work of Art contestant Miles Mendenhall, I highlighted how his behavioural multiplicity both serviced and undermined traditional reality show narratives and editing practices; however, at the end of the day, the fact is that even those who find fault in Miles’ behaviour have few issues with his art. The series may have portrayed him as a jerk, but the series never went so far to blur the lines between his actions and his artistic expression.

However, I think artist Jaclyn Santos has a fair case for the fact that the editors were not quite so kind, although it is fairly clear how and why this happened. For better or for worse, Santos’ use of her own image created a direct connection between her behaviour and her artwork, and while this led to some of her most successful pieces it was also a key element in the producers’ efforts to paint her into a box throughout the editing process. If Miles carefully controlled his behaviour to appeal to the basic structure of reality television, Jaclyn purposefully positioned her work as both intensely personal and as a direct subversion of the male gaze, which gave the editors plenty of opportunities to paint her into a corner.

However, Jaclyn’s true subversion has taken place after the competition came to a close: frustrated with how she was being portrayed, her personal blog has evolved from an opportunity to celebrate her appearance on the series to an effort to reclaim her personal reputation and her artistic point of view from what she sees as Bravo’s manipulative editing. Investigating that blog offers a glimpse of something we rarely see: a reality contestant confronting their depiction head on, in the process heightening the series’ clear – and likely unintended – willingness to unearth the contradictions and conflicts inherent in reality television as a whole.

While I’m sympathetic to her frustrations, I think that her post-show efforts to set the record straight has transformed her experience from lemons to lemonade, and furthered the series’ reputation as the most frustrating yet fascinating reality series in recent memory.

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Cultural Anniversary: Thanks for 3 Great Years

On January 18th, 2007, I started this blog.

On this, its three-year anniversary, I want to thank all of you for reading, and give special thanks to those who have linked to one of my 1467 posts, retweeted one of my far too many tweets, invited me to be on your podcast, commented on one of my reviews, conversed with me via email or Twitter, or inspired me to continue writing about television with your own work.

I sometimes wonder why you’re still reading, but the fact that you are means a lot to me – while I have trouble imagining a world where I don’t write about television, I have more trouble imagining a world where I’m not part of this wonderful online community of critics, scholars, bloggers and fans alike, so I greatly appreciate your continued patronage.

Today is, otherwise, just like any other day here at the blog: I’ll have reviews of Chuck, How I Met Your Mother and The Big Bang Theory later tonight, and probably some thoughts on Big Love and Life Unexpected over the next few days. However, I’ll also be contributing over at MediaElites.com with my good friend Todd VanDerWerff and others in the months ahead — you can find my first piece, an investigation into the challenges and opportunities facing reality shows like Project Runway and Survivor in the short gap between seasons entitled “It Seems Like Just Yesterday: Clean Slates and Narrative Continuity in Reality Television Scheduling,” up at the site as you read this — so there’s some new adventures on the horizon.

Thanks for coming along with the ride,

Myles

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Winter is finally Coming: Anticipating HBO’s Game of Thrones

gamethrones

Winter is finally Coming:

Anticipating HBO’s Game of Thrones

When I was roughly 14, I read The Lord of the Rings. I enjoyed it, so my parents went to a bookstore ahead of Christmas and asked for something similar. The employee suggested A Game of Thrones, the first book in George R.R. Martin’s epic fantasy series A Song of Ice and Fire – when I unwrapped it on Christmas morning, I can remember being somewhat underwhelmed, having not (at that point) really delved into any literary series (I was a latecomer to Harry Potter, for instance) and not entirely keen on starting a new one. But, my reluctance aside, I started reading A Game of Thrones, and then A Clash of Kings, and then A Storm of Swords. Very quickly, I had read through the first three volumes.

And yet, today, I barely remember any of it. I don’t particularly know why, apart from a few key events (mainly deaths, which Martin seems to revel in), I found myself struggling to remember many specific details when I first heard of plans to bring to show to life as a new series for HBO. However, in spite of my lack of memory, there was one thing I was sure of: there was something compulsively readable about this particular brand of fantasy, and also something complex that seemed to confound my 14 year old memory but which may just be perfectly fine-tuned for my post-secondary critical mind.

Ever since the pilot was first announced as a potential HBO project, I’ve been pondering digging back into the series, but in the past few months I realized I had no excuse: HBO has been busy amassing the largest ensemble cast in their history, production is due to start in Ireland in just a few months, and a particularly resourceful blog has managed to turn casting speculation and analysis into a refined and comprehensive process worthy of this comprehensive story. Where some literary adaptations feel like a process being done independent of the material at hand, Game of Thrones has the series’ author onboard as a writer, devoted fans and active producers who have turned even casting into an internet event, and (as I discovered over the past week) some really amazing source material that feels like a perfect fit for both television as a medium and HBO as a network.

So, in short, I’m a little bit excited, and I think you should be too.

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BSG: The Long Goodbye – Introduction

bsggoodbye

Introduction

March 23rd, 2009

I have written a lot about Battlestar Galactica over the past two years of this blog. One of my very first posts, in fact, was about how Battlestar Galactica was more or less taking over my life, leading me to see parallels in literature, in every day life, and expecting in some way that it would slowly meld with my own life. And, on Friday night, it pretty well did: after watching the finale, I shut myself into my room and turned out an epic, sprawling and rather indulgent review that was part catharsis and part exorcism. It was not, however, a goodbye.

I don’t think I’ll ever say “goodbye” to the show, what with the DVDs I could watch, or the academic papers I might eventually write, but at the same time I felt after writing that review that I need some more time, and some more posts, to really come to terms with this ending. And so, throughout the week I’ll be posting a myriad of thoughts on the show, whether it’s some links to the views of other critics, or an extended analysis of Season Four’s narrative structure, or potentially even something I’ve been resisting for a while but may have found its ideal time frame in the wake of the finale. I’m also considering the rather insane task of confronting the issue of the finale’s religious elements, but perhaps I’ll come to my senses before wading into that particular conflict.

Regardless, it’s one last chance to get some of this off my chest before I know I’ll have to put it on the backburner in favour of academic pursuits.

Monday:

The Critical Response to “Daybreak” – A collection of various critical analyses of the finale, with some of my own insight sprinkled in for good measure.

Tuesday:

Finale Discussion – A two-hour discussion of the series finale done with Devindra Hardawar and Meredith Woerner, recorded as a special edition of the /Filmcast, is now available for download at the above link.

Wednesday:

The Trouble with Twenty – As ironic as it sounds, an analysis of how the problems of feeling like the season needed more time could have been solved by shortening its season to tighten the show’s narrative.

Thursday:

The Real Higher Power – With all this talk of God and religion, let’s realize who really holds the most control in the BSG universe: Bear McCreary, composer of the Gods, controls our emotions and reactions more than any writer, producer, or higher power ever could.

Friday:

Romancing the Cylon, Revisited – My obsession with BSG is perhaps best represented by my undergraduate thesis about the series’ connection with Medieval Romance, so what better way to finish this cathartic week than spreading it to the world?

[Come back daily for another dose of The Long Goodbye.]

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