Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Pirate Radio

Last night I had the opportunity to attend a special preview screen of Director Richard Curtis' Pirate Radio which is due out on November 13th with my girlfriend. The screening was organized by the District of Columbia Film Society and was held at the Regal Cinemas at Gallery Place. A few weeks prior I has preview for the movie and was pretty excited for it to come out. Essentially the movie tells the tale of the pirate radio stations in the United Kingdom that took the to ocean in the 1960's after the British Broadcasting Network refused to play pop music. In order to keep this music alive and well these renegades played non-stop rock music for modified fishing vessels 24 hours a day. The films story follows the Karl, the Godson of the Radio Rock Boat's owner as he joins the DJ's as a full time inhabitant on the boat as well as the British government's desperate attempt to shut down pop music in the United Kingdom.

One of the first things you realize watching this film is how incredibly well cast it truly is. In addition to the always great Phillip Seymour Hoffman are Curtis' standby's from his other films Love Actually as well as one of the main players in my second favorite zombie comedy Shaun of the Dead. Everyone is believable and more importantly likely as a renegade rock DJ who loves the music above all else.

The use of music in this film to both introduce characters, lighten a mood, and show why the these men (and one lesbian) did what they did was incredible and I can't wait to buy the soundtrack. The greatest irony in the British Government's attempt to shut down pop music in the UK was the fact that the UK at this time was producing some of the world's best music. The Beatles, the Rolling Stones, as well as numerous others all were barred from being played on their native airways and may not have been as influential on the development of music. Pirate radio such as the Radio Rock displayed in the film had a listenership of nearly 25 million people, almost half of the United Kingdom.

Today pop music is played around the world on thousands of radio stations each day. The availability of these stations can lead us to take for granted the incredible access we have to music. Oftentimes it takes a period of scarcity in order to remind us of the importance of music to our daily lives.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Hypnosis: Fact or Fiction?

Tonight the Program Board from Catholic hosted a hypnotist for a program entitled "Hypnotic Intoxication." Aside from the irony within the title because Hypnotiq is in fact a variety of alcohol, the performance was incredible. People were completely under the sway of this hypnotists, they were convinced that the person next to them smelled, that they were certain teenage pop sensations, and one girl was extremely close to removing far more clothing than The Catholic University of America would appreciate.

Normally I am extremely skeptical about hypnosis and the programs colleges across the country bring every year. How is it possible. While I admit that I surely don't know everything about the dark recesses of the human mind but I am not inclined to believe that people can be so easily manipulated. I find it far more likely that the "randomly" chosen audience members are playing along, as is human nature.

The event tonight however has me questioning my position though. People who I know extremely well were doing ridiculous things onstage in front of a large audience. During one driving exercise the people looked as if they were about to be sick every time they hit a simulated bump in the road. Furthermore, people were throwing sweatshirts, Moulin Rouging on the audience members, and breaking out N'Sync style dance moves. More convincing however was there behavior when not the focus of the program. These individuals were truly dazed, and seemed to be wholly consumed with the presenter's voice.

Although this event has far from settled my opinion on this issue but it does deserve further inquiry.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Zombies, Zombies Everywhere

So the worlds obsession with the undead has long been a cult phenomenon attracting hordes (living hordes that is) of dedicated fans who mirror the ghouls they pine after in their in consistent pursuit of more zombie materials. Recently I went to see Zombieland and was blown away with how much the people I dragged along with me enjoyed it. Solid acting, a lively script, of course masses of the undead coupled with arguably the greatest cameo in film history made the movie a fun experience even for those outside of the zombie subculture. For the purposes of this piece that subculture will refer to anyone who has attended or contemplated attending a zombie march like the one held in Chinatown over the summer. Seriously though Zombieland was a reminder to a zombie fan like myself that this genre and the concept of the reanimated undead had gone mainstream and likely was not leaving anytime soon. In a sense Zombieland went where Shaun of the Dead never could, it made an American variation on Shaun of the Dead that could not be chalked up to British quirk on its own.

While the concept of the zombie goes back to Caribbean voodoo the modern understanding was developed by George Romero in Night of the Living Dead and his subsequent films. Romero's zombies were the classic ideal of zombiness: slow moving, sluggish, partially decomposed creatures with a taste for human flesh and human flesh alone. Cult filmmakers as well as B movie directors adopted the zombie as a both a means for cheap thrills and a play upon one of humanities most basic fears. Essentially that human beings, especially those that we know could be reduced to little more than ravenous stomachs. These implications were over time expanded to question what the world would look like in the event of a mutation within the human species that caused the reanimation of corpses. The question of such a genetic mutation is interesting as mankind expands the role of nuclear technologies in society and open ourselfs to the possibility of dramatic mutation. The mental state of those survivors became a major focus, their battle with the isolation and constant threat of being killed or worse turned by the zombies outside of their hideouts.

If Romero were to view some of the films being produced today it is likely that he would recognize more in the themes and feelings evoked by the films than in their specific depictions of the zombies themselves. In general the zombies of today fall into two general classes the classic slow moving zombie and the fast zombies introduced into the zombie vernacular by the 2006 era Dawn of the Dead. These distinctions are not the sole dividers within zombie lore. Other works such as Robert Matheson's I Am Legend (the vampire film version with Will Smith aside) in which the zombies retain some of their faculties. However it seems that the emerging Horror-Comedy genre has contributed the most to the canon of zombie film.

It would be remiss of me to not mention the incredible impact that Zombie literature has had on popularizing and modernizing the zombie genre. Specifically the Zombie Survival Guide and World War Z provide the mockumentary look at the importance of preparing for the coming zombie incursion as well as a collection of 1st person accounts as to the reality of a Zombie War. The latter of these was more striking in that it exposed the weaknesses of mankind manifested in the zombies. It is not the zombies that pose the greatest threat to humanity but the divisions amongst men that prevent us from responding to such a major threat. By focusing oin timely human issues zombies provide an opportunity to evaluate what is truly important and what things we simply believe to be.

Ryan in the House

This semester I am working in the House of Representatives for Congresswoman Mary Fallin of the 5th district of Oklahoma. I know it seems like a random state because I am a proud New Englander but the Congresswoman is a solid conservative and a pretty great person to work for. Although I have only been working for a little over a month I have found it to be a really interesting experience, and it definitely provides a nice change of scenery on Tuesdays and Thursdays.

The first thing I noticed when I walked into the building was the amount of people glued to their Blackberries. Although I too am guilty of sometimes walking and bbming I have never seen a place where this was the norm and not the exception. Walking around Longworth is really an education in dodging staffers who are responding to e-mail.

Something else that surprised me was the average age of the people working in the Members Offices. I could not believe that the vast majority of Rep. Fallin's staff is under twenty-six and even the DC Chief of Staff couldn't be more than thirty-five. As, arguably, the seat of power for the free world the United States Capitol is not on first glance a workplace where young professionals straight out of college would go for a first job. However, the Hill is an attractive option for recent college graduates with an interest in public policy. Where better to gain first hand experience about how the law is made in the United States of America? In addition to the obvious educational and networking benefits the House of Representatives also has an aggressive loan repayment program. The 9-5 work hours also allow for further educational opportunities at night. As a result of the large proportion of young people the House Office Buildings (Longworth, Cannon, Rayburn) are really lively places with people enjoying their time on and off the clock.

So what exactly does an intern do? Well helping the office is the main tast and this often entails running errands, sorting the mail, responding to constituents, and picking up any additional jobs that the staff has. I know it doesn't sound glamourous but working on Capitol Hill seems to elevate even the most mundane tasks (well maybe not all of them), regardless it is undeniable that working in the shadow of the Capitol dome has a rejuvenating effect upon the day-to-day routine. I will admit when I am giving a tour I really step it up if a Congressional power player happens to be passing by(for the record I am working until Dec. let me know if you need a tour!).

One of the most pleasant surprises I have found in my five or so weeks in the Congresswoman's Office is the quality of the food in the cafeterias. Granted it is slightly expensive, but I have yet to have a bad meal in the Longworth Caf. This food court style dining is located in the basement of the Longworth House Office Building along with a bank, a FEDEX, and pretty much every other amenity you could possibly need. The basement of Longworth is connected to both the other House Office Buildings and the US Capitol Visitor Center. The underground network is massive in scope and I have seen most of it while wandering around lost.

I am really looking forward to continuing my work with Rep. Fallin and maybe even imparting some New Media knowledge on them.


So this is going to be my first attempt to regularly maintain a blog. In the past I have tried to keep this up and fallen tragically short. I think the major issue was that I was writing about a narrow set of topics and attempting to stretch them. Regardless of the topic you can only write so much whether your talking politics, religion, sports, etc. So I am hoping that this will be a far more organic exercise and one that provides a record of whatever is going on in my slice of the world. Thanks for checking out my blog and if you like what you see I hope you come back.