Blog from October 1998

There are 3 blog entries from October 1998

The Zoso Pumpkin
October 31st, 1998 | View Post
While living at the Duval Street apartment, my roommates and I had quite an elaborate display of crap in front of our apartment door. Most of this was designed / put in place by none other than me. We had a park bench, an assortment of fruits and vegetables, plants, a 400 pound wooden Shiner Beer bottle, and for Halloween of 1998, a cool pumpkin.

Seeing on how our apartment was a common ground of music lovers and such (we had the full band setup in the apartment), I guess classic rock was always something that everyone could agree upon, regardless of their specific music tastes. And of course somewhere atop everyone's classic rock stack is a collection of Led Zeppelin. I wanted to make a cool looking pumpkin that everyone would find some interest in and so I looked to Led Zeppelin. Perhaps one of the most known symbols (at least to the LedHeads) is Jimmy Page's "Zoso".

Making the Pumpkin

The process of making a "Zoso" pumpkin is actually pretty simple.
1. Go to your local pumpkin patch
2. Pick out a nice looking 8 pounder
3. Pull out all of those tasty pumpkin guts
4. Surf the web for a picture of the Zoso logo
5. Print the picture and tape it to the pumpkin
6. Use a tack to outline the picture
7. Remove the picture and cut away on the tack holes

That's about it. For anyone who is mildly curious as to what in the hell Zofo means, I couldn't tell you. I've read far too many accounts to really speculate where it came from but the simplest one is that Jimmy Page and Robert Plant were looking at calligraphy-like symbols. Jimmy Page found one that he liked and apparently the symbol 'sounded' like "Zofo" (apparently pronounced Zo-So). From that point on, it was sort of a trademark of his. For any of those now curious as to who the hell Jimmy Page is, he is/was the guitarist of Led Zeppelin and is credited with being one of the more (if not most) famous classic rock guitarists.

The pumpkin glowing on my front porch

Another picture of the same thing

A closeup of the 'Zoso' logo

RTF 316 - The Lucky Seven
October 12th, 1998 | View Post
Kevin Ludlow
Paper I – “The Lucky Seven”
RTF 316 – History of Radio and Television
Amanda Lotz
October 13, 1998

After viewing the NBC television history movie I reminded myself of the media’s “What’s Hot, What’s Not” routine. NBC, being a large news source, is able to manipulate the idea of agenda setting even when they are only reminiscing. They have also shown the world a variety of changes in media technology by displaying the show in a variety of television formats (black and white vs. color) and program formats as well (entertainment vs. news).

Having been the first real network in mass media, NBC shows a great deal of character by showing off a small portion of more popular shows that have been aired since the birth of television. They did not only show NBC run shows, but also those of cable stations and the other major networks, ABC, CBS, and even FOX. As they began their clip, NBC chose a “U2 sounding” drum and bass beat without words to introduce the viewer to the beginning of television, similar to “Where the Streets Have No Names”. Perhaps because at this point in time the television shows had no names, simply meaning that the viewers could not associate with them in the same fashion that we can today. Similarly, as the years progressed so did the vocal content, crying out that television shows finally had concrete names in people’s lives. The idea that we have advanced so quickly in mass media is an excellent parallel to the rapid speed of the program changes. Not only were the shows mixed quickly, they were also intermingled with news clips of the relevant time period as well. NBC did a very good job of displaying the decade to the viewer and allowing us to see what the programming quality of that time period was like. It was also very clear to see a push from black and white programming to color between the 1950’s and 1960’s decades.

It is simply impossible for NBC to have displayed every precious moment in television history in seven minutes. The simple fact is that it would take about four hundred and twenty hours times the number of television stations, basically every running hour of television, to show off every great moment which again put delicately is impossible to recap. Since the birth of the printing presses hundreds of years ago, creators of media have done the same thing over and over again – agenda setting. Although very exciting and entertaining, the entire seven minutes of this film exaggerate that idea to an extreme. If we accept the idea that it is impossible to cram hours and hours of programming into a mere few minutes, then who is to say what gets shown and what does not? As always of course, the media. I imagine that many people alive in the 70’s got entirely sick of seeing Nixon’s mishaps broadcast on television just as we today get sick of O.J.’s affairs or even Clinton’s. The media has become so good at pounding information like that into the public’s heads that we get sick of it. However, NBC pushes it upon us a bit more by showing all three examples in a history of television. On the same note, NBC showed us a clip of Kennedy’s assassination followed by the Beatles. Five incredibly popular men that most of the world would like to have seen more of in the same program with three men that most of the world love to see no more of. The idea that the media can not give us certain beliefs is factual, but it is quite obvious that they try their hardest to by choosing what we can and can not view. I think it is safe to say that the world has listened to more sob stories from Monica Lewinsky on television then John Lennon ever had the time to even write.

The way in which NBC presented their clip was not only entertaining but clearly planned out carefully as well. Their color and sound changes were shown in a very timely fashion according to the time period at hand. The amount of symbolism used specifically with the sound and a selective few joint clips made the viewer think about exactly what television has meant to him or her over the years. However, although NBC did a relatively good job putting together an appropriate reel of clips for entertaining an audience, they were unable to show an unbiased selection. Perhaps someday NBC will be able to create a television history not of what they view it as, but rather for what it is in its exactness. I only hope that the “unwanted” show’s producers can forgive history for not including them in the lucky seven minutes.

RTF 314 - Taxi Driver
October 1st, 1998 | View Post
Kevin Ludlow
RTF 314
Charles Ramirez Berg / Allan Campbell
October 2, 1998

The movie, Taxi Driver, depicts many forms of violence, language, and strong sexual emotions especially those of a mere child. However according Andrew Sarris, the main problem with the movie is not the general controversial topics but rather the way in which the plot has no general structure to it when compared to the character, Travis Bickle (Robert DeNiro). Sarris contests the fact that there is not much information given about the character at all. Early in the movie we are told by DeNiro that he is a veteran looking for a job which happens to be for a taxi company in New York. We are told nothing else about his past until later in the movie when we find out that he in fact has parents who are alive. Again, after learning this we still know nothing about his family except that he writes them at least one letter filled with farfetched lies. Being a frequent cab rider, Sarris also argues the ways in which taxi passengers are represented. He makes only a few references, but in the movie there are frequent occurrences and discussions about sex and shootings in the cab. I think that after riding in cabs for long enough, even in New York, it is pretty unusual for one cab driver to repetitively have people having sex in his car much less getting shot or stabbed.

After seeing this movie a few times recently and a few more over the years, it is very easy for me to agree with Sarris’s opinion of a strange plot structure, especially when compared to classical Hollywood cinema style. I have heard the idea before that the entire middle of the movie is to be interpreted as a dream, but I personally find that hard to believe. I find it much easier to handle the idea that Martin Scorsese wanted to depict a taxi driver pulling a complete 360 on his life and essentially fulfill a fantasy of being a recognized city hero, only to put his life back together once again. It seems to me that the general turning point for DeNiro in the movie is when he sees the way that Iris, actress Jodie Foster, is treated as a teenage prostitute. He eventually confronts her and says that he simply wants to help her get her life back together. The way that DeNiro’s character changes at this point seems to leave a great deal of confusion in the viewer’s mind. After buying a small collection of guns to play with, completely changing his look, and even going as far as inventing an automatic gun dispenser, Travis seems to have lost it completely.

At this particular point in the movie, the classical Hollywood cinema style seems to be completely lost from the movie. There is no way of knowing exactly what is going on in the movie even after viewing it many times. However, this lack of understanding does not come from an overwhelming amount of suspense but instead pure confusion. At one point Travis seems intent upon assassinating the office candidate, but shortly afterwards he leaves the entire idea behind him. Perhaps it is because he almost gets caught but it simply destroys any idea the viewer might have for Travis’s intentions. It almost seems as if he is trying to fight for causes that he will not stick with. From the point that DeNiro changes in character, it is impossible to figure out what he is trying to accomplish in the rest of the movie, or if he is trying to accomplish anything at all. He does not have any specific goals that need to be achieved. The most obvious defiance of the classical Hollywood cinema style is the use of characters especially at this point in the movie. Everyone in the movie seems to be playing the role of an antagonist towards DeNiro except for Jodie Foster who comes across in her brief few scenes as a mere victim of society. Even early in the movie Cybill Shepherd’s character seems to turn completely against DeNiro simply as a result of a tasteless date.

When Andrew Sarris set out to write his review back in February of 1976, I do not think that he had the classical Hollywood cinema ideas in his mind. However everything that he discusses in his article is in opposition to the classical Hollywood cinema model. In his first paragraph about Taxi Driver, Sarris proposes several ideas to the reader about who Travis Bickle is supposed to represent. This clearly goes against the idea of the character having a general set of traits throughout the movie. Throughout his article Sarris explains how the movie has somewhat of an irregular flow to it which I agree with completely. This irregularity adds to the lack of conformity to the classical Hollywood cinema model. I do not feel that comparing the film to classical Hollywood helps or hurts the authors viewpoints within his article simply because he expresses very general statements about the movie. I think that it is safe to say that if a “classical Hollywood cinema” style never existed in critics eyes that the same would still be said of the movie, just because of its incredible lack of conformity to reality. I suppose that somewhere in America, perhaps even Manhattan there is a man who is similar to Travis Bickle. On the same note, it would be very hard to understand that person’s ideas in everyday life, much less cinematically.

Taxi Driver was released by Columbia Pictures so I am not sure if it is specifically considered a Hollywood release or not. Taking an in depth look at the pictures content, I would have to say that it was in fact targeted for a specific movie audience, but it is hard to say which one. It is obviously not a romantic story in any way nor do I think it could be considered an action movie. I try not to categorize a movie when I watch it because I think that every film writer or artist for that matter has some meaning that he wants to get across to his viewers. It just seems that in this movie it is very hard to tell exactly what meaning the author wants us to get. I would personally have to categorize Taxi Driver as a dramatic psychopathic film about a very dynamic character that wants to change the way in which people live. Anyone with an open mind would probably love this movie as do I, but more close minded people or even people that could not imagine such a lifestyle may not like Taxi Driver. Again, I do not feel that this film follows many if any at all of the ideas of the classical Hollywood cinema. It surprises me that this movie can be so obscure and yet relatively so popular. I for one am very pleased to know that this movie did so well for itself despite its obvious lack of general cinematic form.