New ‘Countdown’ begins on Current TV

The liberal firebrand news host known as Keith Olbermann returns to television tonight after departing from MSNBC a little under six months ago.

As I reported HERE, Olbermann takes his “Countdown” show to the fledgling TV station and Web community known as Current TV and Current.com. (Current was founded in 2005 and pulls in under 60,000 viewers during peak hours according to the New York Times)

The real motivation for Olbermann here is a majority stake in the company. He joins former Vice President Al Gore and businessman Joel Hyatt as an executive of the company.

Full disclosure: I interned for Current’s Vanguard back in summer ’09. Blogged about my experience here and also contributed to Current’s news blog here and here.

Current is not exactly a house name just yet, but getting a heavy hitter such as Olbermann on board may start to change that — at lest that’s what the station is banking on.

Besides Vanguard and now Olbermann, the network received mass media spotlight for its two reporters, Laura Ling and Euna Lee, that were held captive in North Korea.

Keep an eye on this five-year-old channel, because despite setbacks and low ratings, (around 25,000 viewers during prime time) shows like Vanguard, infoMania and now Olbermann’s are worthy of your attention.

Current has always been forward-facing: it initially gathered much of it’s programming through incorporating submissions from online contributors and was the first station to incorporate tweets into it’s coverage of the 2008 presidential debate.

But with new efforts focused on getting the station into more homes and a recent redesign (or more like design overhaul), I have heard few outcries but my own over what I find to be one very big problem:

Current, which was known for bridging the online and televised worlds, stopped allowing full episodes online. So much for anywhere, any time. What year is it?

The channel says the only way to continue carriage on networks like Verizon, TimeWarner and Comcast was to offer exclusive deals and Olbermann tweeted that the TV companies have them “over a barrel.”

Instead, Current is pushing clips big time, all over Hulu, iTunes and YouTube.

But for those of us who already cancelled our exorbitant cable subscriptions, we’re shit out of luck.

I can’t even legally purchase the shows in their entirety…anywhere. Now that’s just not right.

That’s why I scheduled a viewing party of sorts at a friends house for tonight’s premieres of Countdown with Keith Olbermann and a new season of Vanguard.

WATCH TONIGHT: Countdown premieres at 8/9c and Vanguard’s new season follows at 9/8c.

Check out behind the scenes with “Countdown” HERE.

A place where dead TV series can live on

I’m a little late in the game on this one, but I finally got around to watching the season finale of NBC’s “The Event.

While far from one of my favorite shows (LOST, 24, Fringe), “The Event” blends all the genres I love: action, adventure, sci-fi and drama.

But, as good-but-expensive television series go, it was recently announced that “The Event” was cancelled. Damn!

Every time I get engrossed in a good new series, the money-hungry network execs cancel the crap out of them.

Last year it was “Flash Forward” and this year it was the “The Event.”

I was REALLY, REALLY upset when I found out about “Flash Forward” last season. Loved this show and I was totally hooked. Great character development, intriguing government conspiracies, double-crossing intelligence agents, the works — everything a man needs for a good TV show.

Both shows ended after a single season, and both ended with a bang — basically the same concept that started the show’s plot happened again. Sounds cheesy, but it worked for me. Same sort of thing worked for Keifer Sutherland’s Jack Bauer in eight seasons of “24.” (Where’s that “24” movie we’ve been hearing about anyway?)

The real news here is the rumor that “The Event” may resurface on SyFy.

According to media blog The Deadline, the producers of the show have received interest from multiple cable and digital entities, including Netflix and SyFy.

If there’s one trend I like in the TV world these days, is the continuing rise of services like Netflix and Hulu and a creative desire to try out new kinds of programming. Or in this case, find a home for a quality show that didn’t have enough viewers to remain on primetime.

Sure, it’s easier to get lost in the sea of Web videos, between YouTube’s memes and Vimeo’s fledgling filmmakers, but we must do something to keep the quality.

America has already been sucked deep into reality shows like “The Real Housewives”, “The Bachelor”, “Survivor” and “American Idol.” Personally, I don’t need to turn on the TV to see what other people’s “real” lives are scripted to look like. It’s all just a bunch of cat fights and teary-eyed nonsense anyway.

But here’s to forward-thinking operations. It’s 2011, come on guys. If a show musters up a hardcore niche fanbase, no matter how relative sized it may be, that’s got to be something worth banking on. What about iTunes launching its own series? Season pass only.

Or how about Comcast, who now owns NBC and controls plentiful TV pipes, going iPad-only on a show like the Event? We can AirPlay it or Slingbox it onto our widescreens and get the full experience for a fraction of the investment.

I know the writers over at Pop Culture Junkie would agree.

It’s time to find new ways of keeping the good content alive when a major network station can’t afford to take a risk or think outside the damn box.

Give this band some press: Let’s Drive to Alaska

From left to right, Let's Drive to Alaska is Marisa Kirtland, Chris Garcia, Cris Holguin and Patrick Haag.

Orange County indie up and comers Let’s Drive to Alaska are an experiment.

An experiment that explores the art of sound creation and manipulation.

Moody synths meld with glitchy beats and melodic strings to create an introspective and atmospheric arrangement. Throw in a dash of post-rock sensibilities and you’ve got Let’s Drive to Alaska.

Think From Monument to Masses meets The Notwist and the softer side of Explosions In The Sky. Music you can think to, write to, sleep to and even wake up to.

The Whittier-based instrumental outfit Let’s Drive to Alaska has become an OC mainstay throughout the last six months, making an impact on the local scene with well-honed live shows that draw a good crowd even on a Monday night.

The band’s May 23rd performance at Fullerton’s Commonwealth Lounge, where I caught them live, was no exception. This is a tight group — band member Cris Holguin says they practice three times a week, upwards of five hours at a time.

Yet no one is talking about them. You can find LTDA on Myspace, Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr and Soundcloud, but a quick Google news or blog search leads to links mostly related to, of course, Sarah Palin.

LDTA is a distinct breed of band, where the music stems from one person’s creation.

It’s like Nine Inch Nails, Trent Reznor’s industrial rock collective. Reznor writes and records most of the music but brings a full band on tour. Conor Oberst, frontman of Bright Eyes, and Zach Condon of Beirut have similar strategies.

In this case, it’s 23-year-old Chris Garcia…at least for now.

LTDA has seen a few different lineups, and the current four-piece is just Garcia’s latest efforts to realize his musical visions.

Garcia, who started making music on his laptop in 2005, has held many monikers for his eclectic musical projects. He has The Coherent Mammals, an ambient group not too dissimilar from LTDA and the more guitar-driven The Golden Tongues, to name a few.

With the latest incarnation, Garcia has brought on solid talent for a more permanent arrangement: drummer Pat Haag (ex-Mississippi Man), sampling and effects artist Cris Holguin and violinist/celloist Marisa Kirtland.

But the still-fresh group has yet to face it’s biggest challenge — winning over the toughest crowd to date: LA hipsters.

The band knows that pull in Orange County means nothing in Los Angeles and that it’s not unusual to play to an empty audience the first few shows.

They’ll find out soon enough as their first LA show is at The Airliner Monday night.

Right now, the group is putting finishing touches on a new EP, “Floating Mammoths.” This will be the first recording to feature the current lineup.

And while the album is almost in the bag, Holguin says he is working on a groundbreaking visual set to sync up to the music during live performances.

And if you’re curious about seeing Holguin on stage hooking up his effects board to a 20″ white iMac instead of a laptop, you’ll have to ask him about the first Let’s Drive to Alaska show for that story.

Check out a track from Let’s Drive to Alaska:

Pictures from the Commonwealth Lounge show HERE.

You can watch an interview with LTDA frontman Chris Garcia here:

Genre: Electronic/Experimental/Postrock/Electronic

INCEPTION STYLE

The viral video phenomenon known as YouTube has struck again.

And this time…it’s serious.

While the astounding summer movie “Inception” may no longer be in theaters, its finding a new life of its own through YouTube.

Or at least the trailer and its epic soundtrack by Hans Zimmer are living on…in more ways than one.

A stream of Internet spoofs have arrived once again, this time using the audio from the moody, loud and overdramatic audio from the “Inception” trailer to create a new preview for an old movie.

Not even Christopher Nolan’s other films are off limits. There are even spoofs of The Dark Night, Batman Begins, Memento and Superman Returns.

It started with UPCEPTION, a remixed “Up” trailer synced to the “Inception” preview:

Then I heard about TOYCEPTION, a mashup of the Toy Story 3 and Inception trailers:

Hilarious! Ingenious!

Simple formula: take family Pixar movie A, mix with not-so-family friendly “Inception” trailer and voila! You have yourself a comedic viral video masterpiece.

And this is how YouTube works, again and again. Someone has a good idea, makes it, uploads it, shares it and then everyone else spoofs it. It can be obnoxious as hell, but these new trailers are all pretty funny. And nothing goes untouched – the best ones are classic comedies like Dumb & Dumber and Superbad (see videos below), but anything is fair game – even LOST, which isn’t a movie, Titanic, Space Jam, Step Up 3D, Star Wars, Austin Powers, Christmas Vacation, Dogma, The Hangover, The Lion King, Big Lebowski, Star Trek and many, many MORE.

Here are some of my favorite Inception mashups – or as the YouTubers call them, Inception Style:

SUPERBAD, INCEPTION STYLE:

DUMB & DUMBER, INCEPTION STYLE:

LION KING, INCEPTION STYLE:

You really can sample anything…

The art of “sampling” in modern music has quickly become a theme of the ’00s.

I’m a little late in the game to report that, but the craze is nowhere near dying out.

For those of you who don’t know, sampling is a technique many hip-hop artists and DJs use where they “borrow” a cut of one song and reuse the portion, often looping or repeating it, then throwing a new beat behind it or making a brand new song out of many samples.

Artists (if you can call them that…though I would!) like Girl Talk and The Hood Internet have made names for themselves strictly by cutting and pasting bits and pieces of other people’s songs and creating a new one. It’s modern music recycling and it’s nothing new. Remixes have been around for generations.

But for rappers and hip-hop artists, many rely on samples to create the background to their lyrics. Which is cool, I guess, but not so cool for the enforcing of copyright laws.

Nonetheless, I’m always amazed by the choice of songs artists end up sampling.

One of my least favorite recent examples is the poor, poor use of Imogen Heap’s song “Hide and Seek” by Jason Derulo, who made his own rap hit out of it and called it “Whatcha Say.” [Shudders]

Something not so bad, and shockingly good?

An artist known as DraMatik sampling “Sleeping?” by The Swell Season. Rapping over mushy, moody singer songwriter ballads? Interesting. Awesome. Check it out below if you didn’t already up top!

Pomplamoose get’s loose

In a land of constant pop culture re-hash, POMPLAMOOSE stands apart from the usual viral video stars splattered all over the Internet.

The couple, Nataly Dawn and Jack Conte, have been making “videosongs” together on YouTube since 2008.

I just discovered them on Current.com and I can’t get enough of their sweet, pop-funk-jazz medlies, most of which are covers of famous songs.

We’ve got “Telephone”, “Put A Ring On It”, “Beat It”, and even some Earth, Wind & Fire and Nat King Cole.

After reeling from last week’s Lady GaGa/Beyoncé epic, 9-minute “Telephone” video slash commercial, I was excited to hear a rendition of the unfortunate song that I actually enjoyed listening to.

The Top 40 single’s substance is no better, but seeing Dawn’s soft green eyes stare plainly into the camera while boyfriend Conte bounces on the drums during stylistic edits is an absolute joy.

And both musicians are multi-instrumental: Dawn takes vocals and bass, while Conte can be seen on drums, guitar, keys, effects, xylophone and even accordion.

You can download a whole bunch of Pomplamoose cover songs for free HERE. Do it now!

High school students inundated with video fame

High school Teacher Michael Steinman wants his students to wake up.

Michael Steinman, a teacher at Pomona’s Village Academy High School, inspired his students to create a video reflection on the economic crisis called “Is Anybody Listening?” From left to right, students Chris Schultz, Maritssa Barber, and Joohee Sohn were featured in the now-famous video that earned them a visit from President Barack Obama.

Michael Steinman, a teacher at Pomona’s Village Academy High School, inspired his students to create a video reflection on the economic crisis called “Is Anybody Listening?” From left to right, students Chris Schultz, Maritssa Barber, and Joohee Sohn were featured in the now-famous video that earned them a visit from President Barack Obama.

It’s not that they’re falling asleep in class – they’re wide-eyed and talkative.

Rather, the juniors and seniors in Steinman’s Advanced Placement Literature and Composition class at Village Academy High School in Pomona are struggling to finish the year strong.

This is after touching thousands with a heartbreaking video that brought President Barack Obama to the high school during his trip to Southern California in March.

Reflecting on the state of the economy and its effects on their lives, Steinman’s students opened up to the world under his direction, producing a DVD made up of little more than a montage of their reactions to the economic crisis and ongoing recession.

One by one, each student confessed something more tragic than the next in the video they called “Is Anybody Listening?”

The video now has almost 60,000 views on YouTube, and people are listening – the class has had many visitors, from Obama to Whoopi Goldberg, and even a little boy who was moved by their video.

“I don’t think they even know they did it,” Steinman said. “A door has been wide opened for you guys into the world. From the president of the United States on down, you’re known for having made a statement. Are you just going to let the door dangle in the wind?”

The video’s moving effects echoed throughout the country, as the students’ story soon gathered a frenzy of media attention that included a 20/20 special and coverage on CNN, BBC, CBS, PBS, KABC, KNBC and KCET.

“They were inspired by me, but they’ve become inundated with it,” Steinman said. “If they’re gonna get out there and be Ghandis, I at least want them to get a good grade in class.”

Steinman hoped all the attention would fire his students up, but the kids are more interested in graduating high school than worrying about how to change the world.

“I don’t think its hit us yet,” said Maritssa Barba, a 17-year-old junior who comes to tears in the video explaining how her father walked out on her family. “We did it, we saw it as a project, then it got really big. And now we’re just kind of like, ‘Whoah.’”

Barba, who wants to be an actress or an environmentalist, said her dad has come back and her family is doing better.

“My mom saw it before it became a big thing,” Barba said. “She was crying. To see teenagers and see how they’re struggling, she didn’t realize that it was affecting so many people.”

Rogelio Gutierrez, an 18-year-old senior, is still shocked by the attention the video has received.

“We didn’t expect it to go nationwide. It was just a video we were going to make before Obama took office,” he said.

Seventeen-year-old Jose Lopez knows what he and his friends did, realizing a visit from Barack Obama means they made an impact.

“I don’t think we’re important, but we are,” Lopez said. “I mean the president noticed us. If that doesn’t say we’re important, then what does?”

The idea for the video came from conversations regarding the American dream, a dominant theme in class’ reading at the time, “The Great Gatsby.”

With the promise from their teacher that either Obama or John McCain would see their statement, the high schoolers revealed sad, but candid anecdotes about their parents losing jobs, running months behind on rent payments, and having trouble keeping food in the fridge.

“I had 30 kids crying,” said Steinman. “I knew that was pretty powerful stuff.”

The future physicians, doctors and actors from Pomona are the voice of the youth in America right now, but they’re not sure what to do with their newfound influence.

“They haven’t really wrapped their heads around it,” Steinman said. “A kid just wants to be a kid and doesn’t really have burning desire to change the world.”

The students have started helping others.

With Steinman’s help, they have started the Village Fund to make use of all the donations they have received.

There is $13,000 in a bank account right now that the school is finding a way to use for future Village Academy students in need.

“I think this is important not just because the president stopped by here to shake your hands. But he might not be the one that makes change,” Steinman said. “You might be the ones who make the change.”

YouTube puts the shameless in self-promotion

YouTube Live sucked. There is no better word for throwing so many wannabes into such a disgusting display of low-brow, low quality crap. Thank you for making the funny unfunny.

YouTube Live sucked. There is no better word for throwing so many wannabes into such a disgusting display of low-brow, low quality crap. Thank you for making the funny unfunny.

Saturday’s first annual “YouTube Live,” a two-hour livestream variety show, made me want to puke.

At times, I wanted to shoot myself.

Now I am not suicidal by any means, but this online, first time crapfest was worse than any MTV awards show.

At least MTV has real stars. I mean Katy Perry and will.i.am are still big names, but most of the acts were inbred via YouTube and seemed like they were thrown together to create one big flop.

While YouTube promoted this first of its kind event, which was filmed live in San Francisco, as a “part concert, part variety show and part party,” all I’ve got to say is it sucks.

Not part suck, but full-fledged suck.

Sitting there in the office, watching this “entertainment” crapisode and commenting on its horrifying nature at every corner, my opinions editor and I could not believe what we were watching.

While the largest video sharing Web site was attempting to showcase the “talent” behind some of its most viewed videos, YouTube single-handedly managed to remove all funniness from every video on the site I ever enjoyed.

Not even the abnormally low voice of Tay Zonday, the star of “Chocolate Rain” “Cherry Chocolate Rain” could save the show. While his YouTube video was one of my favorites, I now hate him.

It was sad seeing a guy play Guitar Hero on stage, but even more disheartening when genuine guitar legend Joe Satriani lent the spotlight to another YouTube “star,” JerryC of “Canon Rock.”

While YouTube is a very important site in today’s wide world of media and politics, I would call “Live” a few things.

One of them would be a joke. Another: sell-out. I don’t know how you can sell yourself out on your own network, but YouTube has done it.

Stick to CNN debates and letting YouTubers get big one their own. When you start banking on that is when things get shi… er, sticky.

Saturday’s broadcast was plain and simple proof that the stuff made on webcams is meant for the Internet, not real life.

From live, gay videobloggers to unfunny “comedians” and even altered animated shorts, every gimmick was taxed and every contributor lost what little credibility they had gained through YouTube.

To watch the viral effects of the “Soulja Boy” dance-rap video phenomenon be dissected on the big screen, and follow up with terrible parodies of Barack Obama and Sarah Palin weeks after the election was just plain pathetic.

When OK Go performed their treadmill music video live on at the MTV Video Music Awards in 2006, it was an impressive feat and culminated what had just been turning into a cultural phenomenon.

For YouTube to do its own awards show (yes, there was an award given out) with almost purely YouTube-bred stars, was practically sacrilegious.

Even the “Charlie bit my finger” video, where a cute little baby bites his brother’s finger and says an adorable line was ruined, when a trendy Asian hipster DJ mixed and remixed the sound bites with the video playing on screen.

The only two worthwhile acts, a performance by the fairly decent Spinto Band and a 30-second HappyTreeFriends animated short, seemed out of place.

MTV was established enough when it started hosting its own awards shows, and at least A-list stars and acts made it watchable in the beginning.

YouTube needs to stop sucking its own dick and get real.

Let the “stars” survive on their own!

Let the record labels and movie studios recruit from your site on their own. We don’t need a special little display of untalented “artists” to tell us we should stop tuning in.

We have been subdued by the Internet culture, and there is no depth to anything we see or hear anymore.

It’s all a big ratings ploy and advertisement deal. This stuff is so bad, it sells.

Watching “YouTube Live” was potentially more harmful to my soul than watching “The Hills.”