We’re back.

How long were we out?  A couple of years?  No matter.  We’ve flipped the switch back on, the hum fades in, the tubes are warming up, there’s an old familiar crackle in the amp, and we’re about to rock this motherfucker out.  In the coming weeks we will tackle such subjects as: How Harold and Maude influenced Toy Story, the literary roots of Star Wars, how Scrooge McDuck inspired Raiders of the Lost Ark, how contemporary litigation trends are suppressing the natural flow of culture, and which movie is the purest cinematic expression of Darkness on The Edge of Town.  All this and more.  Cover your ears.

And for those joining us for the first time, welcome.  Here’s what this is about.

We’re Going to Miss You, Dave

We’ve been dark for a while here at Influenced.It, but David Letterman’s final show has jolted us back to the light. We couldn’t let this moment pass without a nod to the brilliance and trail-blazing that Dave Letterman brought to the past 19,932 guests and more than 6,000 episodes. Thank you so much for helping to shape who we are today, Dave. Enjoy building birdhouses…but don’t be a stranger.

Turns out, I owe Bobby Wilson a debt of gratitude…

This is a post about the influence of a father, but not my own. This father belongs to Andrew, Owen, and Luke Wilson of Dallas, Texas. While I am a fan of his offspring and their collaborators (more about that in a future post), today’s focus is his career as the first CEO of KERA and his role as importer of Monty Python’s Flying Circus. You see, my home state of Texas is a pretty conservative place (Willie Nelson, notwithstanding) and having access to comedy that was so avant garde, so mischievous, so absurd, and so revolutionary, continues to influence my perspective on the world today. Having the stones to put Monty Python on his TV station in mid-1970’s Dallas and thus introduce America to the troupe, makes Bobby Wilson someone we should all take a moment to thank.

Mind you, I am not strutting around NYC “Ministry of Silly Walks-style,” but those nights while Monty Python was pulsing on the screen left an indelible mark on my impressionable young mind. It developed my delight in the absurd, honed my suspicion of sentimentality…oh, and continually helps me remember that I’m responsible for finding the humor in life.

In direct contrast to American sitcoms at the time (set up, joke, explanation of joke, laugh track to ensure you knew when to laugh), the players in Monty Python’s Flying Circus put tremendous responsibility on the viewer to extract the laugh — wit, I believe it’s called. Wit had an illustrious past in American entertainment with practitioners like William Powell, Carole Lombard, Cary Grant and Rosalind Russell, but it had lost its way. Bob Wilson helped define it for me and for that I — and now my kids — will always be grateful.

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Everything is a Remix

“I invented nothing new. I simply assembled the discoveries of other men behind whom were centuries of work. Had I worked fifty or ten or even five years before, I would have failed. So it is with every new thing. Progress happens when all the factors that make for it are ready and then it is inevitable. To teach that a comparatively few men are responsible for the greatest forward steps of mankind is the worst sort of nonsense.”

-Henry Ford

Rage drummer Brad Wilk on influence

“I think it’s really important, and it’s a lesson I didn’t learn until my late teens: Whatever bands that you love, go find out what bands they love, and what bands turned them on, and then you really start getting into the human aspect of it because the further back you go in time the less technology you had, and consequently the better records you had. There’s this incredible library of music thank god.”

– Brad Wilk, Drummer – Rage Against The Machine from the film Sound City via Media Redefined

Amen.

A Thin Line Between Love and Hate

The recent kerfuffle between Robin Thicke and Marvin Gaye’s estate raises an interesting issue for this project. It reminds us that the role of influence, and particularly the degree of influence that one work has on another, can be serious business. The licensing of a Song of The Summer like Blurred Lines can net the artist and the publisher additional millions of dollars in revenue, and extend the cultural impact of the song well after the kids have turned off their radios1 and gone back to school. Many a lawyer has made many a dime pursuing accusations of plagiarism between artists. And so it goes that Thicke pre-emptively sues Gaye and Funkadelic’s rights owner to protect those dimes, and inevitably they will get sued right back.

When I listen to Got To Get it On side by side with Blurred Lines, the threads of influence reverberate loudly, butContinue reading “A Thin Line Between Love and Hate”

What influenced The Simpsons – Marge vs. The Monorail?

We’re happy to welcome our first guest post from culture afficianado and all-around great guy Garrett Brooks.  Today Garrett will cover The Simpsons – Marge vs. The Monorail.

The Simpsons has been on the air in one form or another for longer than I have been a person. Since premiering as its own show on December 17, 1989 (before that it was a short on “The Tracey Ullman Show”), the show has run for twenty four seasons producing 530 episodes, the most of any primetime, scripted television series (Sorry, Gunsmoke). Besides being known for it’s longevity, catchphrases and four-fingered yellow people, The Simpsons is a wealth references to popular culture, obscure films and to it’s own history.

So let’s start this journey through Springfield with one of the most beloved episodes the show has ever produced, “Marge vs The Monorail” written by Conan O’Brien. As a Inluenced.it rule, we are only going over references to other works that you can experience. So goodbye jokes about crooked Alabama politics and The 1964 World’s Fair.Continue reading “What influenced The Simpsons – Marge vs. The Monorail?”