Marshall McLuhan explaining how the “one-liner” is symptomatic of the shortened attention-span of children. It’s all to do with television, which McLuhan claims, has a negative effect on the nervous system.
Marshall McLuhan explaining how the “one-liner” is symptomatic of the shortened attention-span of children. It’s all to do with television, which McLuhan claims, has a negative effect on the nervous system.
To get a handle on who Dan Harmon is, the following facts are relevant. He grew up in Wisconsin, which gave him access to, simultaneously, a healthy dose of anti-elitism, a taste for brusque humor, and an enduring respect for hard work. As a child growing up, he had the early verbal gifts and a doting mother and a psychologically absent father; the household was an untidy one. In his teen years (to place him generationally, Harmon turned 40 recently) he feasted on the dork’s trinity of comics, sci-fi, and D&D. He’s probably on “the Spectrum” but had the wit and/or the guts to try improv at his early adulthood (before it was trendy, too); the improv seems to have taught him to be fearless—for what is there to fear in experimentation and self-revelation?—and gave his writerly, Spectrum-y brain an extrovert’s outlet. He may have had that performative spark all along, but the improv instilled habits that would prove very, very useful and make him, almost incidentally, rather wealthy. In any case he’s a writer’s writer with just enough sketch chops to pass as a real performer, and this sets him apart. He’s imbibed the performative instinct; onstage, he inhabits “bits.” The improv probably saved him from becoming an inveterate crafter of dreary and well-written novels, and thank god for that.
Even though he has a formal education he qualifies as an autodidact, the telltale sign of which is his wholesale adoption of Joseph Campbell as his hero. He has the necessary verbal gifts and fearlessness to be a writer (which he is)—one wonders if he ever really reads books; books never enter into his stories, and this is a guy who shares everything. But then again, his job is TV, and what he “reads” is pop culture most of all—for pop culture tropes are what an improv artist most requires, and the same is true for the creator and showrunner of Community.
Everyone who writes about him mentions his intelligence, and I’m no exception. He’s given to frenzied, flustered, and eloquent rants, he sometimes bullies his interlocutors in argument (he admits as much), and the scalpel of his highly intuitive intellect occasionally runs ashore on the shoals of insufficient command of fact and, very occasionally, of common sense. But that’s fine, I like messy and bold thinkers, and Harmon is nothing if not that.
Harmon’s the only guy I can think of who can feature as an authoritarian and a Trotskyite in the same breath. In a recent episode of Harmontown, he argued with his co-presenters for many minutes about the agrarian worker’s paradise of perhaps a hundred people he would set up on the moon, given the opportunity. In effect he was bellowing, “No no no, I’m decreeing that there won’t be any hierarchy here!!”—and he was scarcely aware of the contradiction. What was truly transmitted in the whole debate was his honest and devout desire for such a world.
His penchant for abject self-revelation functions like an onion onstage, there are always more layers. His very sharp and ostentatiously “needy” (note the quotation marks) girlfriend Erin McGathy, who has a podcast about relationships of her own called This Feels Terrible is also a weekly presence on Harmontown, and on several occasions the two of them have engaged in ostensibly gut-wrenching arguments onstage that left audience members gaping (the Pittsburgh episode of their tour last winter was a standout in this regard). But when the metaphorical curtain drops, they all take their metaphorical bows, and it emerges that in some sense these battles function as still more “bits.” But underneath those “bits” are, it seems, real pain at times, and so on indefinitely. The improv performer’s ethic allows them to pass off their actual emotional tumult as entertainment, but one is left wondering just how protected they really are. Apparently they’re all “strong” enough in the right ways to deal with it, or else simply crave that which an audience alone can supply them. It wouldn’t be unfair in this context to observe that Harmon, with his messianic fervor, does hanker after the Christlike. In some indefinable way he crucifies himself every week (some weeks) in order to confer beneficent lessons onto his Asberger’s-y flock.
Unmentioned so far is a key part of the dynamic—Dan Harmon is the mayor of Harmontown, but the always nattily dressed Jeff Davis, an authentic improv actor often seen on Whose Line Is It Anyway?, serves as its comptroller. Harmon and Davis, who are dear friends in real life (it would have to be so in order to work), are something like the Ernie and Bert of grown-up verbal horseplay, but that metaphor misses the dapperness and bon esprit and general air of specialness Davis involuntarily imparts, and the analogy of Cameron and Ferris misses it on the other side; Harmon’s too self-actualized for Cameron (even if he has the angst).
I “discovered” Harmon as an object of interest of his own (as distinct from Community) last year, and I’ve been calling him “the thinking person’s Bill Murray” ever since. The trouble is, I’m not sure what that gets him. There’s a real chance he could emerge as something like this generation’s—what? Andy Kaufman? No. George Plimpton? Also no. (John Hodgman is that.) Hunter S. Thompson may be the closest we can get, the intellectual’s daredevil icon. The fact is that we haven’t seen a gregarious intellect-but-not-intellectual like this in the public sphere in living memory. It just isn’t usual for people as smart and greedily cerebral as Harmon to have enough common touch to become even remotely famous. All the good comps are literary writers (David Foster Wallace? Truman Capote?), and Harmon isn’t that.
While showrunning Harmontown, Harmon first took serious notice of the Spectrum, and he has become something like the Spectrum-inhabitant’s especial hero par excellence. The tribe that has coalesced around Harmontown meets in the back of a comic book store in Hollywood, and Harmon frequently references the likelihood of a Harmontown fan to be, variously, male, bearded, shy, obsessively honest, able to cite Star Wars: A New Hope chapter and verse, and so on. We all know the type (hell, I’m one too, albeit not so strong on the Lucas interest). I attended his triumphant return from “HarmonCountry” at the Egyptian Theater last February, and the line awaiting the passes at the entry table certainly confirmed any stereotypes one might have harbored about his audience.
All of this is to say that Harmontown is the best comedy podcast currently being distributed, period. Harmon has a talent for spawning projects, and Harmontown appears to be #2 on his docket at the moment (he is running Community again, after all). The number of tweets and photos and videos and paintings he and his audience have generated is positively daunting; Harmontown is a cult of sorts. Harmon is reflexively technophilic, and both he and his audience are entirely comfortable in what used to be called cyberspace.
What else do you have to know about the show? True to its democratic intentions, audience participation is a usual thing; Harmon and Davis are as likely to haul up an audience member onstage as anything else, and a fair number of the audience members are known as semi-regulars. I attended three episodes when I was visiting LA last February, and what do you know, Harmon ended one of the episodes by pulling me into the action; he actually sang me a little song in which he professed to love me as a symbol of his love for all humanity (go to the 98:00 mark).
Harmontown started out as an hour-long show but rapidly ratcheted up to roughly two hours a week. A D&D game has been in effect since the early weeks; Harmon recruited a marvelous fellow named Spencer Crittenden from the audience one night to serve as dungeonmaster, a decision that has reaped rewards wildly beyond anyone’s expectations (Crittenden now works as Harmon’s assistant on the set of Community). The D&D game takes up about a third of every episode, and the in-game characters are by now as familiar to the audience as Harmon, Davis, et al. themselves. Harmon’s character is Sharpie Buttsalot for amusing reasons revealed in episode 6; Davis is for arbitrary reasons known as Quark Pffffffffft; and so on.
After a few months of the podcast, Harmon took the whole clan on the road for several weeks in order to meet his audience outside of LA; these segments are collectively known as “HarmonCountry.” The road episodes are wildly entertaining (each one is also obscurely sui generis), and they also served to cement his relationship (hitherto a presumptive one) to his audience in interesting ways. Harmon being Harmon, there was no lack of grandiosity in it all, but his essential good nature and good intentions keep shining through. A documentary about the tour is currently in the process of being edited.
In a landscape in which even very sharp podcasts have a thudding air of dude-ness about them, Harmontown is an oasis for that rarest of things—wit, even Wildean wit in the purest sense. Harmontown is an arena in which what is prized above all is verbal play, and that isn’t something that is actually true of any other comedy podcast I can think of; in other podcasts, all of the comedians ultimately hew very closely to a comparatively restricted set of tropes that (let’s face it) substitutes for wit. Paul F. Tompkins might be the guy one would use to counter the above statement about Harmontown‘s wit, but Tompkins and Harmon are completely different types. Tompkins is a trained professional who is as fussy about his wardrobe as Davis himself; Harmon is a wild man by comparison, perfectly willing to play a gorilla in the wild for an hour a week, wading into inchoate territory that would leave Tompkins feeling more than a little exposed. What makes Harmontown special is that they nail the wit thing again and again even under such unpromising, i.e. primal conditions.
The truly revolutionary aspect of the show is that it is truly, truly unscripted. Many episodes start with a (completely sincere) avowal from Harmon that he hasn’t any idea if there’s anything to talk about this week, and damned if every week they don’t come up with a fruitful tangent to follow. The shared history of Harmon and Davis (and satellite characters like his sometime writing and business partner, Rob Schrab) enables this, because there’s no shortage of crazy anecdotes to dredge up, for Harmon and his friends live to be casually, playfully brutal to one another as only good friends can, a stance one finds oneself envying—we return to Harmontown’s missionary aspect. The show derives its energy from the sheer confidence Harmon has in himself to be interesting, and you can feel the other participants’ confidence in the exact same thing. As long as Harmon has a burr up his butt about something, the show will be dazzlingly entertaining, period.
It’s smart and fun and evinces a real sense of community. You never know what to expect from an episode of Harmontown, and there’s a subreddit dedicated to sifting through the ashes every week. Harmon and his buddies really know pop culture, and they have a perspective (more than one perspective), and a lot of shared in-references, and, I don’t know, if you’re a verbal type, it generates an oxytocin hit in the brain that no other podcast can touch.
Here’s some video! Harmontown is a podcast, hence there isn’t video of it. Instead, here’s Harmon in an extended interview with Kevin Pollak from the summer of 2012 and a weird training video Harmon performed in for Cousins Subs chain in 1995.
Although you’d think that Sean Hannity gets emails, tweets and even people getting right up into his smug fratboy face telling him to “fuck off, asshole” every single day of his goddamned life, an “outrageous” insulting tweet from “liberal” rocker Ryan Adams—who the apparently distraught Hannity pretends like he’s never heard of—has caused the Fox News troll king to get the major sadz.
What’s a wounded, well-paid, well-fed middle-aged millionaire supposed to do when a rockstar tells him he sucks in less than 140 characters? How’s about asking Miss Oklahoma to come onto his show to defend his honor? What else would you expect from a weeny like Sean Hannity?
Sean Hannity tonight responded to singer Ryan Adams over Adams’ Twitter snipes at Hannity and his refusal to come on Hannity’s show and explain himself. Hannity noted that Adams’ initial tweet was taken down, asking “Why the urge to quickly recall the tweet, sir?” He called Adams a “gutless little coward” and challenged him again to make the same charges face-to-face.
Tamara Holder pushed back a little, telling Hannity he was “changing the subject” from his initial point on Twitter about role models and entertainers “who have a right to speak their minds.” Miss Oklahoma Anna-Marie Costello said Twitter allows anyone to say anything without any accountability, claiming Adams “has no sense of integrity.” Holder shot back, “Why? Because he called Sean Hannity out on Twitter?”
Exactly what I was thinking when I watched the segment. That and the fact that Miss Oklahoma sounds like a drunk who memorized her lines…
What’s the big deal?
Ryan Adams did not delete the tweet in question—Hannity’s either lying or he’s mistaken, but I’d wager he’s lying—because it’s still there, right in his Twitter feed. How is Adams “gutless” then, according to he who will not submit to water-boarding for charity‘s criteria?
To tell you the truth, I think Ryan Adams SHOULD go on Hannity’s show and say it to his fucking face. He’d destroy the little bitch and he’d be doing it for you and me!
What’s Hannity going to do, take a swing at him? He certainly can’t outsmart Adams, as quite obviously Sean Hannity’s just not that bright. (Hannity tweeted at Adams: “Confident on Twitter, but too scared to come on and explain yourself?” to which Adams snapped back “I don’t negotiate with terrorists.” That had to piss Hannity off, bigtime!)
Everyone should send encouraging tweets to Ryan Adams about this. It would be mega-genius heavy-meta television. Performance art!
America NEEDS this to happen. Think of the poor Internets starving for viral videos…
But Ryan Adams needs to insist on one condition to Sean Hannity before he agrees: It has to be LIVE.
Think of the possibilities.
Via satirical magazine Private Eye (obviously.)
The news that Rupert Murdoch had been indiscreet on a secret tape recording made me imagine what dreadful thing it could be?
Had the media mogul revealed himself to be the Great Beast? Had he dished-up salty tales of hideous orgies at Bohemian Grove?
Alas, neither of these imaginary things—more the pity.
It turned out Murdoch had been caught letting slip his real views on the ‘phoning hacking scandal that eventually led to the demise of his (in)famous organ the News of the World.
Why Channel 4 News, who broadcast the story as an “exclusive,” and investigative news site Exaro, who did likewise and have it hidden behind a pay-wall, should think they had some kind of major scoop, when the always reliable Private Eye published the very same story three weeks ago?
What I can tell you is that the 82-year-old Murdoch was secretly recorded (obviously by more than one person) at a meeting he attended with arrested Sun journalists, at the paper’s HQ in the East End of London, on March 6th, this year.
For most of the meeting Murdoch railed against the treatment of his journalists by police during the Hackgate scandal. This was to be expected, as any boss would have found dawn raids on their staff by the boys-in-blue as more than just a wee bit over the top.
“I mean, it’s a disgrace. Here we are, two years later, and the cops are totally incompetent…
“The idea that the cops then started coming in, kick you out of bed, and your families at six in the morning, is unbelievable. But why are the police behaving in this way? It’s the biggest inquiry ever, over next to nothing…
“And now they’re arresting their own, who never even took money.”
Murdoch went to rave about what had been done to his flame-thrower-haired editor, Rebekah Wade. (One can almost hear the lump in his throat…)
“..what they’re doing, what they did to you, and how they treated people at [******], saying ‘a couple of you come in for a cup of tea at four in the afternoon.’ You guys got thrown out of bed by gangs of cops at six in the morning, and I’m just as annoyed as you are…
“The people who came in and turned over…Rebekah on Monday morning…there were about fifteen or sixteen. Most of them, a dozen, were from Manchester, a murder squad of something. And there were three local cops. It’s ridiculous.”
Murdoch went on to offer “total support” (Up to a point, Lord Copper) for his journalists, ensuring health care..and er…well, that they should “trust” him. Surprisingly no-one laughed.
There was also the usual raving about the Establishment, which Murdoch has been wittering-on about since he set up his business on British shores back in the Swinging Sixties.
“And we’re being picked on. I think that it was the old right-wing establishment, [Lord] Puttnam, or worse, the left-wing get-even crowd of Gordon Brown. There was a sort of—we got caught with dirty hands, I guess, with the News of the World, and everybody piled in. It was a get-even time for things that were done with The Sun over the last forty-years…
However, all of this is small potatoes compared to the meat-and-two-veg of the recording, when Murdoch admits to being aware of payments-for-information.
“We’re talking about payments for news tips from cops: that’s been going on a hundred years, absolutely. You didn’t instigate it.
“I would have thought 100% … at least 90% of payments were made at the instigation of cops saying, ‘I’ve got a good story here. It’s worth 500 quid’ or something. And you would say, ‘No, it’s not’ … And they’d say, ‘Well, we’ll ring the Mirror…’ It was the culture of Fleet Street.”
This runs contrary to Murdoch’s bumbling performance as a contrite Mr. Magoo at last year’s Levenson Inquiry, where he laid the blame on a couple of rogue journalists.
This tape probably gives a pretty good view of what Rupert Murdoch is really like. (Not that we hadn’t already imagined something quite similar!)
These tape(s) should now be passed onto the Police, who must investigate Murdoch’s comments fully.
Lucian Freud, Francis Bacon, 1952
So long, farewell, auf Wiedersehen, goodbye!
All good things must come to an end, and after a highly successful year, the Gallery of Lost Art is about to (sadly) disappear forever!
The Gallery of Lost Art is on-line site which showcases artworks that have been lost, stolen, discarded, rejected and destroyed. It explains how great works of art can fall victim to heists, fire, war, bad luck–even an artist deciding to destroy their own works. The virtual exhibition tells the stories of what led to the disappearance of these major pieces, some (like Christo’s “Wrapped Reichstag”) which were never intended to be permanent in the first place (like this digital exhibit).
Some of artists included in the ephemeral exhibition are Francis Bacon, Joseph Beuys, Frida Kahlo, Tracey Emin, Egon Schiele, Kurt Schwitters, Lucien Freud, Marcel Duchamp, Willem de Kooning, Rachel Whiteread, and Keith Haring among many others.
There is now just over one day until the site will cease to exist and all its exhibited artworks, information, and archive materials will simply disappear into the ether. Now is your last chance to visit the Gallery of Lost Art before it’s too late. The project was a collaboration between Tate Modern, Channel 4, and ISO Design, and has picked multiple awards from SXSW, Design Week, and the Museums and Heritage Innovation Award, as well as becoming a Webbys Honoree. The gallery has received over 100,000 visitors from more than 150 different countries.
Visit the site here.
Robert Rauschenberg, Erased de Kooning Drawing, 1953
Previously on Dangerous Minds:
With thanks to Heidi Kuisma
Dignity, schmignity! Who am I kidding, the man is shameless! Watch in slack-jawed boredom as Glenn Beck interviews himself, in a kind of idiotic (or demented, if you prefer) Swedish Chef impression.
Glenn Beck lost his mind (and the vast majority of his audience and influence) a while ago, but has Beck the showman lost his mojo, too?
He’s not even trying here. Well, he’s trying to take up airtime, I guess, but not much else. I can’t imagine too many people, not even stupid ones, would subscribe to this, or continue their subscriptions if this was the quality of the programming they would receive for their hard-earned dough. There aren’t enough hours in the day and this doesn’t even rise to the occasion of lame.
Thankfully the torture is under two minutes:
Steve McQueen was one of several Hollywood celebrities placed on a “Death List” allegedly compiled by Charles Manson. The other names were Elizabeth Taylor, Richard Burton, Frank Sinatra and Tom Jones.
On August 9th, 1969, members of Manson’s “Family” carried out the brutal murder of Sharon Tate and 4 of her friends.
McQueen had briefly dated Tate, and had planned to visit the actress the night of her death.
In December 1969, Manson and the killers had been arrested.
When McQueen heard he might be targeted by Manson’s followers, he started carrying a gun. In October 1970, a still cautious McQueen wrote to his lawyer to find out if any “Family” members were still active, and to have his gun license renewed.
A SOLAR PRODUCTION
October 17, 1970
Mr. Edward Rubin
Mitchell, Silberberg & Knupp
6380 Wilshire Boulevard
Los Angeles, California 90048
As you know, I have been selected by the Manson Group to be marked for death, along with Elizabeth Taylor, Frank Sinatra and Tom Jones. In some ways I find it humorous, and in other ways frighteningly tragic. It may be nothing, but I must consider it may be true both for the protection of myself and my family.
At the first possible time, if you could pull some strings and find out unofficially from one of the higher-ups in Police whether, again unofficially, all of the Manson Group has been rounded up and/or do they feel that we may be in some danger.
Secondly, if you would call Palm Springs and have my gun permit renewed, it was only for a year, and I should like to have it renewed for longer as it is the only sense of self-protection for my family and myself, and I certainly think I have good reason.
Please don’t let too much water go under the bridge before this is done, and I’m waiting for an immediate reply.
cc: William Maher
Previously on Dangerous Minds
The Mail on Sunday is more than a little coy about a story on its front cover today, which claims:
No.10 rocked by secret love affair: ‘Stunned’ PM holds crisis talks over fears tryst will ‘blow political agenda out of the water’
The paper refuses to give details of this “sensational love affair” for “legal reasons” but says it does not involve anyone serving in Cabinet. But the scandal is “dynamite,” and “If the affair is revealed, it is likely to cause as much public surprise as the disclosure of the relationship between [former Prime Minister] John Major and [politician] Edwina Currie, which was kept secret for nearly two decades until 2002.”
The MOS begins the story as follows:
David Cameron has held crisis talks at Downing Street after being told of allegations of a sensational love affair which has potentially significant political implications for him.
For legal reasons, The Mail on Sunday cannot disclose the identities of the people involved or any details of the relationship – even its duration – other than that they are middle-aged figures. The affair has now concluded.
But this newspaper can report that when aides told Mr Cameron the identities of the alleged lovers he was ‘stunned’, and, according to sources, ‘immediately realised the importance of the story’.
The Prime Minister and his aides also discussed the possible fallout should details of the affair become public – and how such disclosure could ‘blow out of the water’ any major political set pieces planned by No 10.
One senior source told this newspaper last night: ‘This revelation is dynamite. None of us could believe it when we first heard it. Then we just thought, “What a complete mess”.’
The source added that, apart from the political implications, the revelation had caused ‘great personal distress to innocent parties’.
It is understood that the Prime Minister was told of the relationship - which does not involve anyone serving in the Cabinet - within the past few weeks.
The whole story suggests more than it offers, and as many of the “Conservative faithful” want rid of David Cameron, it would appear the Mail on Sunday may have the whiff of something which may expedite this sooner rather than later.
At 16.00 BST, there has been no coverage of this story on any of the UK television news networks—BBC, ITV and Sky News.
“There have been no crisis talks or meetings.”
As a topical aside, the Telegraph ran a story, a few years back, about a survey on who would have an affair with a Downing Street politician.
Meanwhile, Roy Greenslade in his Guardian blog, is at a loss to explain the who, what, when, where, why, of the story, and can only conclude:
Of course, it could be nothing more than journalistic hype, but I somehow doubt that. It’s not in the nature of the MoS editor, Geordie Greig.
So what’s it all about? What “legal reasons” prevent us from knowing more? Is there an injunction in place, an anonymised injunction possibly?
I have asked and, as yet, no answers. I would guess that the MoS’s lawyers have advised those in the know to say no more.
Whatever the nature of this “sensational” story, it would appear that it is one, which will run and run—until the “truth” is out, and the political agenda behind the headlines has been done.
Read the whole MOS story here.
Another tale of interest, is this one regarding a past 10 Downing Street scandal involving 2 non cabinet members, which led to calls for resignation.
Papa’s got a brand new conspiracy theory: Glenn Beck, the teary-eyed, former alcoholic Mormon “patriot” and multi-millionaire conspiracy theory media mogul believes (or, rather, *ahem*, says he believes) himself to be the target of, what else, a conspiracy to call him a conspiracy theorist.
It sounds like I am making this up. I am not making this up. Via Raw Story:
Conspiracy talk radio host Glenn Beck [see what he did there?] said Tuesday that he isn’t sure why he’s been labeled a conspiracy theorist in the media, but he’s pretty sure it’s the result of a “concentrated effort” somehow coordinated by the White House.
Building on his theory that CNN secretly orchestrated an incredibly awkward moment between host Wolf Blitzer and an atheist survivor of the Oklahoma tornadoes, Beck told listeners on Tuesday that it’s just another example of the media’s conspiracy to push a hidden agenda, in this case atheism.
“The media has their own agenda,” he said of CNN. “And if the media has a storyline, it just writes it in. And currently the storyline is ‘conspiracy theorist.’” Then, without irony, he asked: “Why is it a concentrated effort now to label me a conspiracy theorist?”
Fantabulosa! The man surely knows how to enthrall his audience of cud-chewing cows, does he not? They subscribe to this shit, baby! Pay the man a monthly fee to put stupid ideas in their heads. It’s genius, the best gimmick for separating fools from their money since televangelism or Scientology!
Glenn Beck is so gangsta, motherfucker, countin’ those stacks o’ Benjamins!