Kevin's blog

Grunge: The Seattle Sound

The CD cover for Nirvana's album "Nevermind."

The rise of grunge music from the Seattle scene to the rest of the country was sudden and unexpected. Nirvana led the way, but they were neither the first, nor the last grunge band that the city helped produce. The grunge era proved short-lived, but for a time it was very potent.

The Queens of Comedy: Lucy & Julia

The DVD cover for the TV series Veep, The Complete First Season

For decades, Lucille Ball has held the title "The Queen of Comedy." She certainly earned it. Originally a mid-level movie star, Ball immediately became a fixture in the new medium of television. She starred in several immensely popular sitcoms (including the top-rated I Love Lucy) in a nearly uninterrupted run of twenty-three years. In the present day, Julia Louis-Dreyfus has also accumulated stellar credentials. Like Ball, she has starred in several popular sitcoms (including the top-rated Seinfeld) and her television career now spans a period of over thirty years. Ball's impressive and long-standing Emmy award records have now been surpassed by Louis-Dreyfus. Hmm, maybe it's time to crown a new queen.

Bubblegum Pop: That Sweet, Sweet Music

The CD cover for the The Monkees' self-titled album.

Bubblegum pop is a term often applied to a certain style of music with simple melodies and lyrics, but with ultra-catchy hooks. These days, when you hear the term used, it's usually in a disparaging manner. The origins of bubblegum pop were in the offices of record companies, not some kid's garage. It was a calculated attempt to create music that would appeal to a broad audience demographic, while maximizing profits for the producers. The original bubblegum era was from 1967-74 and the surprising thing is how often the producers actually succeeded in their attempts to create ear candy.

Time Is of the Essence, Really

One of the most popular action series of recent years was 24, starring Kiefer Sutherland. What set the Fox show apart from other programs was that the action took place in real time, that is, the events shown onscreen represented the same amount of time that it took to watch them. Real time is an interesting narrative strategy. It hasn't been used a lot in TV or film, but several great TV episodes and movies have employed the device expertly.

Artificial Intelligence: Humankind's Future or Our End?

DVD cover of the John Badham film WarGames

The pace of technological change and the ongoing development of artificial intelligence could quickly create a world barely recognizable from the one we currently inhabit. Futurist Ray Kurzweil envisions untold benefits from what he predicts will be the next stages of humankind's evolutionary progress, the melding of man and machine, followed by wholly intelligent machines. Many scientists scoff at Kurzweil's predictions, while others fear that those predictions may actually come true. In the meantime, Hollywood has used those fears to produce a number of terrifying sci-fi thrillers featuring runaway robots and run-amok computers.

South Korean Cinema

DVD cover of the Korean crime thriller Oldboy.

In the past fifteen years, South Korea's domestic film industry has had a renaissance, emerging as a producer of quality cinema whose best films once again outperform megabudget foreign releases from Hollywood and elsewhere. In the process, South Korean movies have gained an international audience, as well.

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