The sheer Shear of it all

by Michael S. Kaplan, published on 2008/08/26 03:01 -04:00, original URI:

Nothing much technical, or interesting, or useful -- just the blather, the whole blather, and nothing but the blather...

It was a Twitter tweet, a Facebook status and also a Windows Live Messenger quote:

I cannot be the only one in the world who was disappointed to find out that Shear Genius has nothing to do with Jules Shear.

It seemed kind of innocuous to me, just a random thought that occurred to me.

A memory from a while back when I first had the realization.

When I tried to watch a TV program.

Yet in the time after the "quote" went up, a surprising number of people contacted me -- people who had never heard of either reference!

For the record....

Shear Genius:

Shear Genius is an American reality television series on the Bravo network that focuses on hair styling. Contestants engage in weekly elimination competitions until a winner is determined. The show is hosted by Jaclyn Smith.

Shear Genius uses a combination of rules from Project Runway and Top Chef, two other Bravo network shows.

There are two challenges in each episode. The first challenge, the Shortcut Challenge, is usually not for elimination, but in Season 1 Episode 3 one competitor was cut after the Shortcut Challenge. The Shortcut Challenge ranks the contestants based on a judging factor, usually technical skills. The winning contestant(s) may receive some benefit in the second challenge.

The second challenge is the Elimination Challenge, which has each contestant style the hair on a real model or client given certain requirements or goals. After completing the hair, the model is dressed appropriately and a runway show, similar to Project Runway, is held for the four judges. After the show, the judges may ask questions of the contestants about their styling choices. The judges then confer among themselves and decide on the top and bottom styles. The top stylists are credited and a single winning stylist is selected, with the phrase "Your work is Shear Genius"; a picture of their style is displayed on the Allure Wall of Fame for the remainder of the competition. The bottom stylists are then identified, and the worst stylist is sent home with the show's tagline "This is your final cut."

Both challenges were timed, and if additional materials were necessary, the contestants are given a limited budget for those supplies.

Jules Shear:

Jules Shear is an American singer and songwriter born in Pittsburgh in 1952. Although he has had only one minor hit as a performer ("Steady", which reached number 57 on the US charts in 1985), he has recorded almost twenty albums to date. He made his first appearance on vinyl with The Funky Kings; he also led the critically-acclaimed but commercially-unsuccessful pop group, Jules and the Polar Bears, along with later groups The Reckless Sleepers and Raisins in the Sun. He also conceived (and hosted the first 13 episodes of) the MTV series Unplugged.

His songs have been more commercially successful in the hands of other artists, notably Cyndi Lauper, whose recording of "All Through the Night" reached number 5 on the Billboard Hot 100 in 1984, and The Bangles, whose recording of "If She Knew What She Wants" reached number 29 in 1986. Singer/songwriter Iain Matthews (still using the spelling "Ian" for his first name at the time) recorded an album of Shear's material, Walking A Changing Line: The Songs of Jules Shear, with synthesizer-dominated arrangements (and containing some previously unreleased songs by Shear), in 1988; Matthews had earlier recorded songs by Shear on other albums.

Shear was the subject of a song by 'Til Tuesday, "J For Jules", after the end of his relationship with that band's singer, Aimee Mann. He also co-wrote the title track of that album, Everything's Different Now, with Matthew Sweet.

Now I had never heard of the show, but I knew of Jules Shear from way back, and I always liked his songs -- the ones he sang, the ones he wrote, the ones he produced.

So the first time I happened to notice a show titled Shear Genius my first thought was that if Lindsay Lohan and Gene Simmons and Denise Richards and Paris Hilton and Hulk Hogan and Kim Kardashian and all of these other folks could have a reality show then why not someone really talented who happened to be married to someone else really talented like Pal Shazar? :-)

So I remember when I tuned in, and quickly -- very quickly given the format I discuss above -- found out what the show was really about.

Note that I moved into the situation know the identity of the singer/songwriter but not knowing the TV show....

Now the fact that so many people sent me messages asking what the hell the quote meant (with further questions making it clear that neither was known) means that both of these references were too obscure, and without the pragmatic knowledge of the identity of the man behind J For Jules the point of the line does kind of fall flat. The quote was a short line (short enough to fit in Twitter, which means it can't be that important since the best things in life happen after the 140th character) and thus there is no room to describe the backstory for the quote.

That describing is something I honestly don't mind doing.

All of this suggests that I much more naturally a blogger than a facebooker or a twitterer or an IMer, principally because I blather a lot! :-)

The other suggestion was that I find myself in many arguably obscure references -- and by arguably I mean obscure to most though not obscure to some of the people that I know.

And I wonder how much of that is just a self-conscious fascination with finding the valuables that are slightly harder to find rather than the ones so obvious that everyone finds them. And then discuss them, like a subconscious desire to bury myself in the allusions of the things that interest me and that I admire. Even though I lack the talent of a Pound or an Eliot, wanting to try to echo what they do in a small way, and express many of the things I love in ways that allow those who appreciate those things to enjoy the depth even as other bask in the shallower waters.

And that makes me wonder, as I self-consciously describe the backstory because enough people failed to get the joke to make me doubt that it was identifiable enough. Like a reference from last October:

Michael Kaplan: He is trying to prove one of those three lessons that Roger Fenwick learned while he was at Oxford, the one about verbiage....

Ken Whistler: Ok, MichKa -- now you've descended into terminally obascure allusions. ;-)

I'll talk about what I think all of that means some other day....

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John Cowan on 26 Aug 2008 4:43 PM:

The pen may be mightier than the spam, but the spam speaks louder and stronger and any given moment.

Michael S. Kaplan on 26 Aug 2008 4:50 PM:

Nice modern update! :- )

I was thinking more of the other one (That "Yea" might be turned into "Nay" and viceversa if a sufficient quantity of wordage was applied to the matter)...

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