Valentine's, Podcast, 33 1/3

Is there a more universally divisive (non-religious) holiday than Valentine's Day? There is a small sect who regards the day with ambivalence or flat disinterest, but the gross majority really either loves V-Day or hates it... Given that hating something requires a fierce emotional investment much like loving, I can see a bit of tasty irony churning in the stew. ANYWAY. Valentine's Day was a fun occasion this year primarily because we gathered to watch horror films and subvert the "fancy-romancey" nature of the day. Love, after all, doesn't always come packaged with a diamond tennis bracelet (and WHO WEARS A DIAMOND BRACELET TO PLAY TENNIS ANYHOW?) or a heart-shaped box of chocolates. Love is usually pretty plain, lacking in unnecessarily repetitive crescendo. A symphony would be boring, and entirely abrasive where it nothing but explosive high points... and in a solid musical piece the build up is a process leading to culmination. Yet, Valentine's Day, for all the good it can mean for love, is contrived. It says that there's a day to love harder than usual and it can cause complications for new relationships (e.g. "Are we ready for Valentine's Day yet?").

In last week's episode of 30 Rock, that very example comes up. Tina Fey's Liz Lemon, asks out Mad Men star-and-special guest Jon Hamm for a date on Saturday... VALENTINE'S DAY. She, having lost track of the calendar, didn't know of the significance, but it plays into the perfectly real, minor-but-not-pointless nature of problems in dating and love. Valentine's Day does that to most situations... it's not just for people in love, or Love as an abstraction, it's for people who are stably in love. New customers need not apply, lest there are great questions to be answered.

Another topic: Bill Simmons' podcast on ESPN, The B.S. Report is exceptional. It's heavily sports-centric, so if you hate sports or prefer not to hear people discuss the trade value of various NBA players or what should be done with A-Rod and the steroids, this isn't the 'cast for you. In any case, the aforementioned Jon Hamm was on the cast last week, with SNL's Seth Meyers. And the great pop culture/music writer Chuck Klosterman was on a couple of weeks ago. This is one of the most intriguing podcasts I've ever listened to. Simmons tends to talk to everyone like they're old college buddies. It's free-flowing and loose and never feels like it's trying too hard for a direction. And it's incredibly funny, as one would expect from Simmons' writing on ESPN. Check it out. Really!

Finally, I've been reading a new 33 1/3 (it's a book series wherein the author of each one writes about one specific album--taking a variety of approaches from fictional account to philosophical inquiry). The current 33 1/3 is about Celine Dion's Let's Talk About Love, which includes "My Heart Will Go On" from Titanic. The author, Carl Wilson, breaks down taste, popular music, and Dion's own story from poor Quebecois to "superstar". The premise is nothing short of perfectly compelling: Why, when so many people say they dislike a certain artist, does that artist still sell BILLIONS of records? Wilson writes evenhandedly, never completely discarding his dislike for Dion's music, but also acknowledging the phenomenon that she is part of/she created. It's fucking hilarious too, while maintaining a necessary amount of academic value. Most intriguing is how Wilson discusses Dion's influence around the world, and that from Iraq to Ghana to Afghanistan she is incredibly popular. Consider her the great American Music. Capitalized. You can find 33 1/3's own blog online here: 33 1/3

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