#200: Sports, Music, Television and Media Consumption

This is the 200th post I have written under the Gas Lantern Media moniker. This whole project started as an outlet for random thoughts about music and has, since the end of 2008, become a much more formal place for me to write reviews and short essays about albums, movies, books and other pop ephemera. I won't go on with the self-back patting, this kind of writerly masturbation, beyond saying the following: Anytime you do something 200 times, that is an achievement. I have been lucky to have a handful of steady readers and several hangers-on as I keep honing my critical ears, eyes and voice. So, to everyone who has been around for all 200, or even bits and pieces, I say thank you, resoundingly. And as a "reward" I'm not going to review the new Duran Duran album in this post. I may in the future, but today I want to talk about a wide range of topics. This time we're making a stew. Of words. Do not eat your computer monitor, laptop screen, or keyboard. You will not like it. And there's a chance that you may get a shock.

As a longtime and loyal Nuggets fan, I've been following, but never commenting on the Carmelo Anthony situation that has now resulted in a reinvigorated team that seems to love playing basketball. Whatever superstar status Carmelo had acquired in his time here in Denver, the sports commentary consensus has turned more and more toward his failure to join and lead the Knicks to some kind of success. It's early, of course, in his tenure, but even the New York Daily News had an article comparing him to the failed star-savior, Stephon Marbury. The point of bringing this up is that we, as consumers of information, media, sport and all that, exist in a world that leans strongly toward "What Have You Done For Me Lately?" (WHYDFML). Since Melo has yet to save the Knicks, and because that team is floundering down the stretch, he is labeled as a failure-to-be. The jury should still be out, but it isn't. We are quick to decide that anyone, any entity, who hasn't wowed us in the couple of months has changed irreversibly. Melo isn't "good" anymore. Just like, a statement I have made and referenced in prior posts, how Weezer is no longer a good band.

And sports and music, television and all of media have this in common. Of course, politics too fall strongly into the WHYDFML camp. With the internet, a 24-hour news cycle and our continuous access to entertainment whenever, however and wherever we want it, the plight of athletes, musicians, etc., has become greater. It's not enough to create a magnum opus. One must now create a pantheon of magnum opera (and that is the proper plurality) to maintain any sort of public affection. Sure, I think Melo was a dick to the Nuggets and all of us in Denver. Especially because he said, immediately upon arriving in NYC, that he had ALWAYS wanted to play for the Knicks. That was his dream. And while I'd never begrudge anyone his dreams, I do think that he could have just as easily said that from the start, instead of PR-moving his way from lie to lie about not knowing or caring how the season turned out. With Weezer, or M.I.A., or any other band who has "fallen from critical greatness" I can see a similar type of creative pandering. Giving people what they want to hear, whether it's a group of bland, similar music, or a well-intentioned lie, is what we as consumers expect. Yet we reject it every single time.

But no band, athlete or actor can necessarily deliver consistent greatness. Just as none of us can be on and perfect every day of the year in whatever job or profession we choose. And the WHYDFML concept prevents us from accepting these human faults. Part of that comes from our knowledge that the people we revere make incredible amounts of money predicated on their consistent and continued success. When we decide a normal person or group is now a deity, we bolt far quicker to disappointment when they show their mortality. Weezer now "sucks" because they haven't done anything as epic as Weezer (Blue) or Pinkerton. Melo sucks because he hasn't brought a winning record to his new team. And surely even a band like Arcade Fire, who just brought home a Grammy, will fall into that realm when their next album isn't as immediately spectacular as Suburbs. WHYDFML prevents forgiveness of the Sophomore slump, and Senioritis. And all of it is based on the idea that we should, we consumers of media should be entertained to ball-stroking, intense pleasure each and every time anyone does anything. Our tendency is to say, critically, these failures are not good because they don't give us the same novel feeling of awe as their predecessors. Often we are wrong.

And being wrong is okay for us. We just want to be entertained. Silence is not an option. Failure is not an option. Instead, we want immediate results because we can be immediately entertained. That's something that makes a mess of our critical dialogue, but it also makes it difficult for us, this generation and those slowly aging from child to tween to teen, to enjoy life in a natural quiet state. So, my point, I guess, is that we should learn to maintain forgiveness when our heroes fail. And to remember that sometimes life isn't about entertainment. If we choose to seek a human connection and we are willing to excuse each person for their faults, then we will find ourselves more consistently entertained and less expecting of constant stimulation. Instead of asking "What Have You Done For Me Lately?" consider asking only the first part, "What Have You Done?" and try to break down the parts to see what you might be missing out on. If you think of each album, game, show and film as a present that you get to unwrap and analyze, then you can more deeply appreciate the effort that went into creating it. From there, if you don't like it, you don't. We won't like everything, but we can learn to appreciate everything.

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