good morning ~
(click the link / guys I saw at a museum in Montreal to listen)
today's track is an extra long one - - an adaptation of some cassette tape drones I prepared for the last set I played, heavenly
Ged and I are finally getting the band back together - - the first Friends Meeting gig in quite a long time will happen at the Avalon on Friday the 16th with a show featuring reliably tender post jazz shredders the Early and modular wizard Matthew Ryals, here's da poster:
A TV game show without a theme song that takes place in a specially constructed supermarket. Chefs of all stripes from around the United States compete in a hybrid shopping / cooking competition in what was clearly pitched as a mashup of Supermarket Sweep and Chopped. Typically, in each round, contestants have thirty minutes to "shop" for their groceries and fully prepare a meal for a panel of judges. Guy Fieri, for whom Guy's Grocery Games is named, acts as the show's host and impish trickster. His games include assigning whammy ingredients (such as canned rattlesnake meat or spray cheese), severely limiting the budget of the shoppers ("can you make a bangin' brunch on twelve bucks?"), or capriciously closing the produce aisle ("it's a frozen food fight!"). And though he torments the competitors (and the judges!) with his puns, tricks, and twists, he still maintains the energy of a relaxed Californian dad, occasionally calmly doling out helpful cooking hints, reminding the stressed out chefs to not burn their lamb chops or to properly salt their purees. The winner of the competition is given a chance to play one final game, a whirlwind trivia round where they are to find the corresponding item within Flavortown Market. For each item they throw in the cart, they get $4,000. A good third of the time, however, Guy skips the final round entirely and simply just gives them 20k, a gesture that reads as both kind and a little lazy and effectively highlights one of the reasons I've become so enamored with the show: it's all made up and it doesn't really matter that much.
Right now it is the best companion I've found for time spent on my cheap exercise bike. It's a tedious form of cardio that I tire of easily (unlike the deep endorphin thrill of the treadmill) and I find that audio-only stimulation is not quite enough to keep me on there for a meaningfully long period of time. Audiobooks and podcasts fail to grab me and listening to music while pedaling makes me want to move around, get up off the exquisitely uncomfortable bike seat. I need something visual to get me through it and Guy's Grocery Games is the perfect not-that-interesting, emotional-harm-free, forty-two-minute-long goldilocks. Plus I might pick up a thing or two on how to cook dinner.
That it unfolds along predictable lines is obvious. Every episode is basically interchangeable with every other episode and the whole series exists in a vacuum of plot. It's formulaic, repetitive, and seemingly produced rapidly - it occasionally has the weary vibe of shooting five or six episodes a day. The bulk of the show's emotional hook involves the contestants explaining directly to camera what they would do with the prize money but more often than not the hard working chefs simply want to take their family on vacation. Of course it would be nice for them to do so, but you don't feel too bad about it when they get sent home after losing. Though the editors shrewdly deploy the reality tv juicing techniques of tension, corny music cues, and post mortem play-by-play commentary from the competitors, it never feels particularly manipulative. Even the product placement is gentle - though many consumer goods are obviously shown on screen (including those that are Guy Fieri branded), they seem to be legally unable to actually utter the brands' names. Velveeta - used often on the show - is called "boxed cheese," an obvious bag of Cheetos is "cheddar cheese doodles." It's hard to feel like this show actually wants anything from me at all. And because of the time constraints and Guy's other devilish twists the food never actually looks all that appetizing. I can appreciate the humor inherent in a fat man like me watching a show about food while I work out, but it's a depiction of food almost in the abstract. Plus the early 2010s pace of the show seems blissfully unaware of the contemporary need for 15 second vertical video clips - I can't imagine anything from this show ever gaining traction on TikTok. I don't feel particularly acted upon by this media, one of the forms of safety it currently provides me.
The aisles of Flavortown Market are wide enough to run through screaming. They're well-lit, bountiful, and safe, full of specialty proteins and hard-to-find produce. Nothing is ever out of stock, no produce is ever about to spoil. And on the show the groceries never even leave the building - they are deployed immediately, directly from shelf to kitchen battle station. They never cross the threshold of a home, never do they enter the complicated web of a domestic space, where people can be mad or disappointed or stressed out about the week's budget. Food and cooking are so profoundly at the center of our complicated lived experiences - what we eat is reflective of our culture, our ecology, our class, and our health, but this show isn't super interested in any of that. The most you'll hear about it is how someone's proud to serve the judges their grandma's recipe, that's nice and that's the extent of it.
It was only after I had settled into a routine of watching this inane game show that I realized it held particular resonances for me. It's proudly filmed in Santa Rosa, California, and the relaxed pace, the total lack of weather, and the overall nonchalance of the show has a distinctly west coast energy that I recognize from growing up there. Unhurried, unbothered, plenty of vitamin D to go around, all familiar. There's a certain wholesome evangelical je nais se quois to the proceedings, as well, and I was totally unsurprised to learn that a couple of the judges self-describe as "Jesus nerds" (although interestingly I just googled "Guy Fieri christian?" and did not get the answer I expected).
One day soon I will tire of this. The exercise bike will go back in the closet when it finally becomes more possible to be outside. Until then, though, I will continue to utilize the blankness of this media. Astral projecting into flavortown.
But what about you? What are you watching the pass the time while you sweat? Do you also feel constantly acted upon? Do you have what it takes to battle it out on triple G?