Monday, 9 November 2009

Sesame Street: Subverting Capitalism Since 1969

Sesame Street was a post-modern experiment, conceived at inception as a parody of adult television, offering a knowing commentary on the conventions of the medium, then appropriating those conventions as educational tools.

By patterning the animated educational segments on TV commercials - the use of jingles, visual motifs, hip language, the repetition of snappy slogans, quick edits, entertaining characters - the Children's Television Workshop engaged in a subversion of the hard-sell techniques of consumer, capitalist culture. Sesame Street holds up a distorted circus-mirror to television, reflecting back a psychedelicised, rainbow-hued re-vision of the medium. The aim is to educate; the joke is at the expense of commercial television.

It is gentle satire, but satire nonetheless - very much a product of a late 60s. John & Yoko exploited the methods of Madison Avenue to 'sell' peace - Sesame Street exploited them to sell education. Monty Python & The Firesign Theatre ingested television whole and regurgitated a crazed version of it back into the mainstream with anarchic countercultural zeal -Sesame Street ingested television whole and regurgitated a day-glo, fuzzy-felt version of it back into the mainstream with the right-on zeal of progressive hippy educators.

Way back when, the Childrens Television Workshop could not have possibly envisioned Sesame Street becoming the global multi-billion dollar mega-industry it is today. I don't know if it has become 'part of the problem' or not, I'm not a socialist or an anti-capitalist myself, but I guess it has certainly become something different to the thing it once was. Episodes from early 70s have a loose, spontaneous vibe to them which is inevitably far less evident now. But while it continues to educate children in an entertaining and smart way, it would be churlish to regard Sesame Street as anything less than one of television's unqualified triumphs, a programme which is funny, fun, creative, and ultimately A Good Thing.

Here's my all-time favourite clip, a skit starring Cookie Monster (Who made the top 5 in my All-Time Fave TV Characters list on a post years ago) and the world's most beloved frog, Kermit. This clip is genuinely laugh-out loud funny, and appears to have absolutely no educational content whatsoever. An overused word, but what the hell: genius.

(I like to quote "Life not all guessing games, frog" every chance I get!)

Tuesday, 3 November 2009

Forthcoming BlakRoc / Edan LPs

So this is really like a hastily scribbled Post-It note stuck to the fridge door reminding me to buy milk more than a post of any interest / use to my limited, but beloved, readership, so if you wanna skip this and wait for the next post about The Addams Family or The Harlem Globetotters, go right ahead, no hard feelings. A couple of cool looking LPs are being released before the end of the year and if I don't make a note of them somewhere permanent like I'll just forgeddabout 'em, so you'll just have to indulge / ignore me.

The first LP is by BlakRoc, a totally rad sounding collaborative project headed up by the marvellously incongruous pairing of Ohio scuzz-blues duo The Black Keys, & heavy duty hip-hop impresario Damon Dash, co-founder of Jay-Z's Roc-A-Fella empire. Basically the Black Keys are laying down the dirty fuzz RnB breaks, and a mind-bogglingly dope cast of rappers have lined up to spit knowledge all over them; Pharoahe Monch, Q-Tip, Mos Def, Ludacris, and most excitingly for a Wu nut like me, Rza, Raekwon, and - back from the grave! - ODB. I've always thought The Black Keys' sound had the necessary fat-bottomed funkiness, wide-open drum breaks & real deal geetar rawness to make perfect source material for great hip-hop (infact their very first LP had an almost hip-hop instrumental, '240 Years Before Your Time'), and I'm really looking forward to this LP (drops on 'Black Friday' 27/11). The link to the BlakRoc site is here, or you can just check out the video of RZA and the Black Keys in the studio to get a flavour of what it's all about. Can't wait.

The second LP is 'Echo Party', marking the return of DJ/MC/Producer/All Round Cool Kid Edan, aka Edan The Magnificant, the man responsible for what is possibly my very favourite LP of the past decade, 2005's 'Beauty & The Beat', an album that basically sounds like the Ultramagnetic MCs rapping over a badly warped copy of Nuggets, ie: very much my sort of thing. He hasn't put out an LP since, and I've sorta given up waiting, but in the meantime we now have this release, which is being described as a sorta psychedelicised old-skool rap mix tape, back-to-back late 70s hip-hop tracks with loadsa new stuff played by Edan himself thrown in for good measure... apparently including xylophones, moogs and kazoos...and early reports are all positive. Again, can't wait.