Spending time in front of my laptop today knocking out some work, and these are some of the songs that are helping carry me through the day.
Let’s take a trip back to the final scene of Mad Men’s fifth season.
As Don walks away from Megan as she is about to begin the acting career that he finally enabled, take a look at his face (picture above). You can’t see it. It’s shrouded in darkness. As Don moves closer and closer to what seems like an interminable abyss, Nancy Sinatra’s rendition of “You Only Live Twice” broodily revs up as Megan’s image continues to shrink into the background. Finally, the scene shifts to a familiar setting: a bustling bar. Don leans into the bar, orders a “neat old-fashioned” and lights a cigarette like he’s done hundreds of times over 5+ seasons. Home at last. No longer faking it like the actor Megan pretends to be. And of course no Don bar scene would be complete without a female prowler, who left us pondering the question, “Are you alone?”
Our minds are becoming bookended by glass.
—Google co-founder Sergey Brin, speaking at TED earlier today
This statement is notable because it’s safe to assume that as an original Googler, Sergey Brin has profited handsomely from people’s addictions to that very same ‘glass’ he speaks of. Google’s Android is the most popular mobile operating system in the world with as many as 700 million active Android devices. Sure, part of his motivation for describing the use of smartphones as ‘emasculating’ may have been the fact that he was hocking Google Glass, the company’s newest gadget that places many of the smartphone’s functions right into your field of vision (which is aimed to bring information ‘closer to our senses’) using a connected pair of futuristic glasses that remind me of something future soldiers or cyborgs would wear. (The Verge’s Joshua Topolsky has spent time with the glasses and you can read his fascinating take here.)
With all their speed forward, connected devices have actually taken us a step back in civilization
I ‘discovered’ the Beatles relatively late in life. My teens were spent moving between love affairs with the likes of U2, The Cure, The Smiths, Depeche Mode, Pearl Jam, and Red Hot Chili Peppers — bands of the moment that were peaking or just past their apexes.
Let’s face facts, the console wars aren’t what they used to be. Back in 2005 when Microsoft raced to
rush out release the Xbox 360 a year ahead of its competitors at Nintendo and Sony, the buzz for the next generation of consoles was truly palpable and the competition would prove to be fierce. A quick Wikipedia search of lifetime console sales puts Wii at just under 100 million, Xbox 360 at 76 million, and PS3 at 70 million (or as high as 77 million according to IDC estimates), ranking 3rd, 4th, and 5th all time, respectively.
Before I go into detail, let’s take a quick look at the original definition of jailbreak.
1. an escape from prison, especially by forcible means.
The “prison” here is Apple’s restrictive “walled garden” operating system (iOS) that allows little to no customization by its users. “Forcible means” is the software that allows users to hack into Apple’s delicately crafted OS. And the “escape” is users having fun in this new freer playground. You get the picture.
My earliest memory of music is probably my mom’s Thriller album. I remember the vinyl jacket – Michael Jackson clad in black & white just glowing and laying back casually, looking like coolest guy I’d ever seen. At 34, my memory isn’t what it used to be, so there may be earlier memories buried deep down in my subconscious and forgotten dreams, but when you think about it, in 1983, what album mattered more than Thriller? So it’s no surprise that it may be my first memorable music memory, if you will.
This nostalgia got me to thinking about how my music listening has evolved over the years. Here’s a visual tour through the evolution. I’ll limit words to just the captions and headings. Let’s call it a “Music Map.” (Credit to coworker Sheila L for the name)
1983 – 1987: A Thrilling Start
In 2008 I wrote a college paper titled, “The Backlash Against Violence in Video Games.” At the time, the latest Grand Theft Auto title has just been released and some of the best-selling video games came from “shooter” franchises like Call of Duty, Gears of War, and Metal Gear Solid. In fact, according to NPD (via BitgGamer), four of the top five games sold on the Xbox 360 were heavy on gun violence. So, just as with movies and other media, it was an era when violent content moved the needle on unit sales.
As a child of the 80s and 90s, I bore witness to the tail end of the so-called Golden Age of broadcast TV, when sitcoms, cop dramas, and (later) reality TV ruled the free airwaves. These shows routinely garnered sky-high ratings at a time when original cable shows were still far inferior in quality and certainly viewership.
But a strange thing happened once the new millennium turned. Some of the most creative minds in television—future pioneers such as David Simon (The Wire), David Chase (The Sopranos), Vince Gilligan (Breaking Bad) and Matthew Weiner (Mad Men)—started looking beyond the traditional formulaic TV formats and looked to films for inspiration. Instead of creating 24 essentially standalone episodes of a show spread out over 6 months, these and other early pioneers began creating what essentially amounted to 13-hour movies that rewarded careful viewing and attention to detail. And here’s the thing, even the most viewed shows’ ratings paled in comparison to some of the astronomical numbers of broadcast TV’s salad days. And I think TV is all the better for it. Once cable gained traction and writers were able to flee the FCC’s broadcast strictures, I believe a new Golden Age emerged, an age where quality trumps viewership numbers. So without further ado, here is my list of my top 10 TV series since 2000. Ranked. No copping out behind, “No, I can’t rank them,” blah blah blah.
1. The Wire (HBO, 2002 – 2007) – This show turned the cop show formula on its head. An unfiltered look at villainous heroes and heroic villains. Possibly the greatest anti-hero in TV history (Omar Little). Small characters routinely had big moments—a true ensemble cast. Rewarded careful watching. Underrated humor that helped soften some of the harder moments. For my money, I put season 4, which looked at a broken education system and the kids struggling within it, against any season of any show in the history of TV.