Archive for February 7th, 2012

Regarding performance, shows, and spectacles

Watching that train wreck of a Madonna show at the Super-Bowl half-time made me feel even more about how gullible most humans are. Are we really that easily dazzled with shiny costumes, props, and ultra-canned choreography? I mean, that spectacle was just ridiculous when we try to look at it from far away. There we had Madonna, dressed like a bastardized Roman-Egyptian clown, 50 more dancers supporting this well-organized stupidity, all running around like idiots and try to fit every dance move ever within 12 minutes. The show didn’t feel coherent, it had no big idea behind it, other than to impose onto the masses.

To be honest, I was going to write this blog post in early December, after we came back from the Google Android party. I stopped short of writing my rant back then, because it would have been ungrateful of me (there I was, invited and all paid-for, and I was complaining on top of all this). But I think it’s more disingenuous of me not talking about it. I never hold back my raw thoughts (sorry, but that’s my best feature along my naturally big boobs), so why would I do so now?

Basically, at that party we had acrobatics, we had some Brazilian dance performers, and finally, an ’80s cover band. I found the whole thing cheesy as hell. The acrobatics reminded me of the Medieval clowns putting their limbs in danger for our amusement (it felt degrading to me), the Brazilian dance performers were over the top (I don’t mind their dance, but I don’t get the whole costume thing), and the cover band was just ridiculous trying to imitate Madonna and other ’80s pop stars. Why in the love of God would I want to listen to re-chewed hits from the ’80s?

In retrospect, that night was just an expensive, but shallow spectacle. Some fancy/shiny things thrown at a few hundred engineers and their wives. And that’s what really bothered me: here we have some of the smartest, educated professionals in the world, all in one building, and they get thrown some burlesque-type bullshit? Where was the art? Where was the pushed envelop to tease their intellect? Where was the next step of entertainment? Definitely not in that building that night.

To be clear, I don’t mind a spectacle that actually has a soul. I spoke of Madonna earlier, but Madonna has had in the past simpler and more amazing choreography. When I watch the linked video I feel something, I connect with the song and its atmosphere. The whole thing is impressionistic. The devil is in the details, I guess. Instead, on Super-Bowl we got a 53-year old Madonna play-acting a fucking cheerleader.

I’d say that there are three kinds of performances: the spectacle one, the live music show one, and an actual artistic performance. I believe that each has its place, and each can be good or bad. For example, I’ve seen quite a few indie bands so far, some were good live, some were less good, and some were disastrous. I’m not talking about how well they played their instruments or how well they sang, but rather how well were able to take away their audience. I found The Soft Moon to be among the best live bands today.

Regarding artistic performances, I think few can do better than John Maus. The guy is the anti-spectacle spectacle, the anti-Madonna. There he goes on the stage with his running shoes, and jeans that usually fall off mid-performance when he forgets to wear a belt. He sings karaoke to his own songs (he has no backing band), with the vocal track intact, and he often stops the songs abruptly and moves on to the next one. But of course, that’s not the real treat in his performance. Instead, you get this intimidatingly tall guy screaming like a maniac in and out of the microphone, hitting his face and chest with his own fists, often blacking out his own eyes, pulling his own hair, and head-banging so hard like he’s drilling for oil. While I rather have him not abuse himself this way for the audience’s entertainment, his personal need to “appear”, or for art’s sake (it’s not a comfortable sight watching him hurt himself), he’s definitely unique. And fucking real.

10 new useless cameras from Canon

Well, either Canon has lost its mind, or they now segmentize their products too much. They announced 10 new P&S cameras recently, and they all have very disturbing video-related features. Removed features, that is.

– Except the SX260 HS, none of the other new models now support exposure compensation and exposure lock in video mode. That was a feature that was standard in all older models. Without these features, videos look like amateur hour.
– All their low-end cameras now do 25p instead of 24p. This is very dubious, because this is not a case of Canon throwing a bone to the Europeans and their PAL system. This is a case of Canon cutting off the “cheap 24p camera” pathway.

Basically, we had 2-3 years of Canon P&S superiority when it comes to video, and now Canon very consciously is removing video features so they can sell more high end products (e.g. dSLRs), or trying to save their failing camcorder division.

As the market stands today, I can’t recommend anymore ANY new P&S for video (from any manufacturer). A dSLR is the way to go for anyone serious about video (with lenses, you’d need a good $1500). I’m personally eager to see the new T4i.

For those who are interested in old P&S stock, Amazon currently sells the Canon A1200 (720/24p @ 22 mbps with exposure comp/lock and color controls) for $79 (last year’s model). Here’s a documentary shot with this little camera, unfortunately not uploaded in HD though.