Grab Bag, Volume 4: God Emperor of Grab Bag
No more movie references for these; instead it's all Dune, all day.
Greetings, Negative Progressors! I hope you’re having a Bitchin’ Summer.
I went to the beach last weekend and got sunburned doing nothing more complicated than eating a sandwich. Sometimes, I guess, you just have to accept you’ll never learn how to avoid basic injuries?
I’ve got some interesting stuff in the works for some forthcoming issues but this time around, I’ve got a selection of smaller pieces. As much as I love going long on one topic, not every topic has the legs, so it’s time for the latest edition in the Grab Bag series.
As hinted at in the title, in addition to it being a bitchin’ summer, it’s also full on Dune season over here at Negative Progression HQ, with both of us at various stages of rereading of the book series and all the filmed versions assembled and ready to be watched in advance of the theatrical release later this year. I’m likely just expectation setting myself into oblivion, but my hope never dies when it comes to Dune.
If you are a “Rude Duner” and wanna go deep, the LPN Deep Dive: Dune series is likely up your alley1. (And given so many of you have read my deep dives, I assume you might like a deep dive?)
Note: This spotify widget kept breaking for me when I was writing, if you don’t see it, try an incognito window. Have I mentioned that I HATE the concept of Spotify exclusive podcasts?
Beyond that Dune sidebar there, what follows covers some of my favorite things: Expertise, Music Documentaries, and (as appears to now be traditional for a Grab Bag) Professional Wrestling!
See ya in two weeks!
John Teti: Game Show Expert
A few years ago, for work reasons, I did a strengths assessment tool-thingy called StandOut. It asks you a bunch of questions about how you deal with problems, how you make decisions, how you perceive the world around you, etc. and then assigns you to two of nine “roles” which you can then use to better understand how to be effective in your work. Nothing super unique, really, and I’m sure it sounds familiar to those of you that have either a) had no idea what types of job you were supposed to apply for at various stages of your life or b) ever had any kind of corporate type of job.
The difference for me with this one was that the report actually resonated with me for once and was actually useful. It reinforced some things I already knew about myself and it helped me realize some new things. Overall, a surprisingly good deal.
One of the things about the ‘Advisor’ role is that expertise matters to me. I want to be seen as possessing expertise2 but also have a love of expertise3 in others. (Fun Fact: I also hold a professional certificate that bestows an Expert status upon me. You can’t make this stuff up.)
Anyway, in thinking over this love of expertise, I realized how many of the people whose works I read, watch or listen to are experts. One of those experts is John Teti.
I once described another4 Writer/Podcast Host/YouTuber/etc. as a “multi-instrumentalist” and I think it also applies to John. The guy can really do it all, and does it all while maintaining an earnestness and politeness that I’m pretty sure can only be found in the American Midwest and which is deeply lacking in many hosts.
I learned almost everything I know about how to go beyond the surface-level depth of film-making from the Basement Breakdown series on his YouTube channel, in addition to its AV Club predecessor Polite Fight.
So, when John put out5 a 25 minute video that details the visual storytelling aspects of the 60 second host entrance on The Price Is Right, a subject I knew nothing about, I knew I was ready to put on my scuba gear and dive into it. Because an expert is here with me to share his knowledge (and also to entertain me.)
I really can’t think of anyone better suited to go deep on gameshows that John. He a) invented his own gameshow called Pick a Choice and b) made an entire episode of his old tv show specifically about The Price is Right (and bonus item (c) once wrote about my favorite game show, the BBC’s Pointless.)
So please enjoy a 25minutes deep-dive on why the hosts entrance on The Price Is Right is so important and why game shows are a gift to a pop culture critic.
More than that, it’s also proof that someone loving and understanding something at an expert level, then sharing that love and understanding with others is the perhaps the best of what the internet and social media has to offer us.
The Bee Gees: How Can You Mend A Broken Heart
Months late on this one, but better late than never. This is a superb documentary/retrospective.
It’s fascinating, it’s fun, it’s sad, they have great talking heads6 and they have so many hits there’s somehow always at least five you’ve forgotten about. Also there’s a a lot of infighting, craziness, failed marriages, broken relationships, hard feelings, etc. Which I didn’t expect from three men, who I just always assumed were both dull and square.
The Bee Gees are maybe the ultimate example of the talent-over-everything, true meritocracy that “show business” could be7 if everything wasn’t instead about “looks”, corporate packaging, gatekeeping and everything else that, if they’d started out even one generation after they did, would have definitely kept these weird looking dudes from being the biggest pop act going. If this one doesn’t make you want to listen to their Greatest Hits compilation, then you are truly immune to pop music.
The Return of Wrestling Fans
In Issue One of the Negative Progression ‘zine8, in relation to he pandemic-enforced lack of fans at wrestling shows (which has since come to be known as the Era of The Empty Arena) I wrote this:
…when the entire purpose of this performance art/sport hybrid is to generate an emotional response from the live fans - and when those fans have become self-aware of their role in this - you run into a problem when those fans are silent or absent.
I’m really not sure any form of entertainment or any sport suffered from not having spectators as much as wrestling:
We proved that sports now happen for their own reasons (television) and live spectators just happen to be there as a bonus.
Music also always been either live or recorded in a studio. Those things just got merged for a while there, with the hopefully short-lived “live” streamed experience.9
Professional wrestling, like the cockroach it is, survived the pandemic, but it certainly didn’t thrive during that time.
The last month has - finally10! - seen the return of fans11 and it’s been like going from Black & White TV to a full Technicolor IMAX screen. The crowd is the television viewer’s in-person proxy and through them we can once again find out again who is popular and unpopular! It’s beyond silly how important that is. As much as I can invest in someone’s success or failure from afar, without the kinetic energy of those cheers, the whole enterprise feels flat and empty.
It’s been interesting to see who has become more (or less) popular during the last 16 months. One man who has continued to grow his popularity (from an already high baseline pre-pandemic) is “Hangman” Adam Page, the self-described Anxious Millennial Cowboy.
He’s had a rough couple of years: he doesn’t really believe in himself, he drinks a little too much and he had a bad falling out with his friends. But then he made some new friends who had also just been through some heartbreak. Maybe, just maybe, his new friends have made him realize he should believe in himself, he is a good friend and that he can be the world champion.
I’ve talked before that wrestling always shoots itself in the foot at the worst time, but if they can stick the landing with this two year long(!) story, it will truly end up as a classic of the genre. And they’ll have a crowd full of people ready to absolutely bring the house down.
I know many of you don’t follow wrestling, so if you made it this far, here’s my proof that you would want to root for this character:
I’d recommend if you are an intermediate or advanced Duner, rather than a beginner.
Quote: You like being seen as the expert. You like being needed in this way. When people say to you, "You have such great insight. You give me such a useful perspective on my situation," this is the highest of praise. (This is so true, y’all.)
Quote: You are very respectful of other experts. Experts are able to see fine distinctions, and you respect distinctions.
That would be Jarrod Kimber, cricket journalism’s truest innovator, character and expert.
On my 40th birthday, no less. This was a thoughtful gift for me.
The dude from Coldplay is also there. As a wannabe expert/lover of experts, his very existence offends me to my core.
I used to think that used to be the case, i.e. talent used to win out, but then I grew up and realized that was just a whites-only meritocracy.
Got about 5 left if ya want one.
I’m in favor of livestreaming shows while they happen still, but I can take a pass on the “cinematic” live show with no crowd.
And maybe briefly? I’m not confident we won’t all be in quarantine again in a few months?
Outside of Florida, at least. They’ve had a small amount of fans in Florida for like 6 months