Morning Ed: Arts & Entertainment {2018.07.03.T}

[AE1] I had previously heard that it was thirty-three, but twenty-seven corresponds more with my own experience.

[AE2] I’m stoked! The closest thing we’ve really had to it is Animaniacs and some (kind of fun) knock-off on Amazon Prime.

[AE3] I don’t know whether to be excited or horrified. Hard to imagine, given how totally 90’s Daria was.

[AE4] The Expanse has been saved! Very unexpected.

[AE5] Jessica Ritchey wishes that certain kinds of feminists would stop erasing her from existence.

[AE6] Dagnabbit, I was just starting to get optimistic about this sort of thing.

[AE7] What the heck I like media corporate consolidation now! I’m actually not sure if this is better than Philo TV, but we may be eligible to get it for free so it has that going for it.

[AE8] This seems like it’s mostly a conflict between Amazon and the authors. It also seems like there are some tech solutions to assist in solving that problem.

[AE9] The problem with Game of Thrones, says Craig Bernthal, is that it is a history without redemption.


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Will Truman is the pseudonym of a former para-IT professional who is presently a stay-at-home father in the Mountain East. He has moved around frequently, having lived in six places since 2003, ranging from rural outposts to major metropolitan areas. He is also on Twitter. ...more →

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45 thoughts on “Morning Ed: Arts & Entertainment {2018.07.03.T}

  1. AE1: About midway through our first pregnancy (so, 29 for me). Because of a particular project I was working on, I check these days to see what music various stores are playing when I’m out running errands. Fast food and chain groceries here are all 70s, with a dash of late 60s and early 80s (ie, it sounds like they’re playing the vinyl collection down in my basement). Odd to be picking out produce and notice that I’m humming along with the album version of Jethro Tull’s “Locomotive Breath”.

    AE8: At least for me, produces a 404 page not found error.

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    • I can’t really speak to my own “paralysis” because I was the Weird Kid who listened to classical music (I had Weird Parents who did). I still do, though I’ve expanded my tastes in recent years.

      But I will say a couple weekends ago, I was in the local outlet of the small regional grocery chain and that Iz Kamakawiwo?ole version of “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” came on. So that was like, what, 1993?

      (I remember it because for some strange reason, the mood I was in at the time, I almost started crying. I think it was I was remembering the video version of it, where they show them scattering his ashes in the sea…)

      Then again, it was an early Saturday morning and there was other hipster-ish music that came on, so I was wondering if they let the people clerking that day (mostly 20-somethings) choose the music.

      I know stores play music for a reason but most of the time I just prefer no music, because stores are noisy enough already.

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  2. Ae8: Broken link. I think the link you want is https://www.geekwire.com/2018/amazons-kindle-unlimited-book-stuffing-darker-side-digital-content-consumer/

    As for the story, I have been following the state of publishing, including self-publishing, for a while now. My take on Kindle Unlimited is that the subscription model for books is inherently subject to abuse. The model, from Amazon’s point of view, is more like YouTube than it is Netflix. The books on KU are in no sense curated. Authors throw up whatever they want. Amazon might remove it later, but there is no approval or selection ahead of time. Then there is a payout algorithm. Authors of course will try to maximize their payout, and so will follow whatever incentives are built into the algorithm. The line between responding to incentives and abusing the system is not always clear. It amounts to whether or not you do what Amazon wished it had encouraged, not what it actually encouraged.

    From the author’s perspective, the model seems to be pretty grim. The early adopters of the modern self-publishing model, about eight or so years ago, could do very well. There are credible stories of authors pulling down six figure incomes. Then the word got out and the stampede began. Those early adopters can still be doing OK, since they built a following. More recently, building that following is tougher, with a larger herd to try stand out from. KU often is used in an attempt to gain that visibility. This may work. It has to be a more plausible use of KU than depending on Amazon’s algorithm of the day, while hoping tomorrow’s version doesn’t screw you over.

    As a reader, the idea of paying for the privilege of reading the slush pile seems questionable. This isn’t to say that there isn’t anything worthwhile out there, but life is too short for this.

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  3. AE1: This is not my personal experience. I find that the internet is great for discovering new-to-me classical music. YouTube is surprisingly good. I currently have on a Scriabin symphony. I had only been vaguely aware of Scriabin. I knew that a composer by that name existed, but had no sense of his music. Then the other day my local classical station played a piece by him that I liked enough to take notice of. With YouTube I have a collection of Scriabin to choose from. It being YouTube, the collection is incomplete, and likely pretty random, but it is ample to tell me whether I want to invest actual money on this.

    Also, New Music, which in classical music roughly means the composer is still alive. There is lots out there. I am quite taken, for example, by Caroline Shaw.

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    • Grunge exploded when I was 27, so that definitely kept me interested in new music. I stopped following popular music around about the time that auto-tuning became big, but I’m still expanding my understanding of classical music. I think the classical growth arc is just a different phenomenon.

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      • There certainly are any number of self-identified classical music people whose tastes range from Beethoven to Tchaikovsky, with no interest in expanding on that. Indeed, this is the core audience for symphonies, which is why most symphonic programming is so uninteresting. It’s not that it is bad so much as I feel little urge to hear the warhorses yet again.

        On the other hand, “classical music” in its broad sense covers about nine centuries, with the 12th century being when we first find music that is plausibly performable, as contrasted with performance as an exercise in speculation. Open yourself up to it, and you have a lifetime’s worth of material to explore.

        What is classical music? How is it different from popular music? One approach to the question is that classical music is that which is, or is intended to be, performed after the generation who created it has died off. When I was a kid, oldies stations played swing. Now they play rock from the 60s and 70s. Swing essentially isn’t played at all, except as a very narrow niche. In twenty years, rock from the 60s and 70s will be a niche interest, oldies stations will be playing 80s and 90s rap, and the kids will be rolling their eyes at it. But symphonies will still be playing the Beethoven-to-Tchaikovsky repertoire, with more adventuresome soles working outward in either direction. Any of that 60s and 70s stuff that is still played will be reclassified as classical, in the way that you can hear Scott Joplin and John Philip Sousa on a classical station today.

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        • IIRC, Jazz in its myriad of forms is the “least listened to and/or bought” form of music in the United States. I would say that classical music generally goes for longer form and is associated with the symphony. There are classical songs with lyrics but those are often not as hum along as your current pop hit. Mahler’s Songs on the Death of Children is not exactly song of the summer material.

          There is light or comic classical music but it seems to be a minority. I suppose there is Gilbert and Sullivan but I always found them boring. Sousa always reminds me of the parts of E.L. Doctorow’s Ragtime that we are supposed to feel bad about. I.e. rampant racism and xenophobia.

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          • It seems to me that jazz had a self-destruct mechanism built into it. It has this strong emphasis on every performer being a quasi-composer with his own unique style. Saying that a young jazz trumpeter sounds like Miles Davis is a criticism: he is supposed to sound like himself, whatever that may be. The result is fast-paced change, with musicians constantly trying something different because being different was the imperative. The result is that it took about half a century to evolve from the hot new thing to overly intellectualized music that even most jazz listeners didn’t really want to listen to.

            The same thing happened with classical music, but it took a lot longer. Composers, not performers, drive the change there. A pianist playing Chopin is allowed to sound like Chopin. The unique aspects of his performance are subtle, and that is OK.

            The other difference is that performing Chopin in a way that Chopin might have done it himself is perceived as artistically legitimate. I have been known to have classic New Orleans jazz playing on my computer at work, and have co-workers stop by and comment on how much they like it. But ask a jazz person about this and they are likely to dismiss it as a museum piece. It’s different if I am listening to vintage recordings, but Preservation Hall Jazz Band and the like are looked down on. I suspect it would have been exhausting to be a jazz fan fifty years ago. Find a sound you really like, and then turn around and it is gone.

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            • Rap seems to have something vaguely similar. You’ve got to be “authentic”.

              Rock and Roll has all kinds of freedom to get out there, sit down, and start playing Tom Petty songs. Hey, here’s some Loggins and Messina. Heck, let’s do “Werewolves of London” and get the whole bar to sing along.

              But I can probably think of the number of rap covers that I’ve heard on one hand. You can do tributes. You can have one part of the song yell out “and they ain’t leavin’ until 6 in the mornin!” (or whatever). You can use a sample from another song (“I wanna rock right now” was the sample that came to mind… that was Black Eyed Peas? I think?).

              Biggie kind of covered Schooly-D’s “PSK – What does it mean?” with his B.I.G. Interlude… I suppose Coolio’s covers of “Fantastic Voyage” and “Pastime Paradise” were kind of covers, kind of tributes…

              But if some big artist wanted to get out there and do a cover of Satisfaction or Heroes (or Africa, I guess), they could get away with doing it. Doing a straight cover, doing their own version of it, whatever.

              But rap doesn’t have that.

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              • Years ago on an alt-history usenet group we had a thread on how come there were few successful white hip-hop groups compared to how white people were able to move into rock n’roll with relative ease. The eventually consensus opinion was that you had to be authentic to be a hip-hop artist. Most white people could never pull off the feeling of being genuinely from the streets the way that African-Americans could. The most successful white hip-hop artists were either weird people who did their own thing like the Beastie Boys or genuinely disadvantaged like Eminem.

                The group also came to the consensus opinion that the desire for authenticity ultimately came from the 1960s counter-culture. Before the rock era and for a good chunk of rock’s early years, there tended to be a relatively strict divide between singers and song writers. You had a bunch of professional song writers doing their thing, writing non-autobiographical songs, and performers. Then rock came and you had a bunch of people starting to write and perform their own material and also sing from their own experience. Pop music gained a quality it didn’t have before.

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            • looked down upon by critics / superfans maybe. but not by musicians (including jazz musicians that I know).

              PHJB and Rebirth Brass Band both get really good reactions when musicians I know wander into my space at work. Also the news that RBB played at the same college music fest as Toots and the Maytals a few years back is inevitably greeted by “I’M SO JEALOUS” not sneers.

              And these are mainly students, kids who are hypermodern in a lot of ways…. they play weird experimental stuff themselves, some of which I love and some of which is too challenging for my ears.

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  4. AE4: YEA!

    AE5: Nothing helps to damage credibility of opinion faster than ignorant generalized claims. Always happy to see pushback on that.

    AE6: How long before some heavyweight figures out how to use it to squish artists and/or consumers?

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  5. Part of the problem is that music turned to crap right around 9/11 and stayed there for about a dozen years.

    You had The Killers, sure. The Scissor Sisters. Maybe Mika, I’ll give you Mika.

    Everything else collapses into a haze of Linkin Park, Pink, and Lada Gaga.

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  6. Daria is very much a product of the late 1990s. I don’t know how it will hold up or keep up. It doesn’t seem cool anymore for kids these days to be as apathetic as Daria. The aesthetic is still around though in terms of what Daria wears.

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    • I’m slowly making my way through Angela Nagle’s Kill All Normies, and there’s a lot in there (with an occasional callback to the ’90s) about apathy and rejection of piety, suggesting that it underlies a lot of the alt-right’s appeal.

      So far the book is a bit of a mess, and she seems to miss a lot of things while also being impressively insightful and perceptive. About a quarter of the way through, I think I’d recommend it to most OTers.

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          • I have been reading online reviews for the last hour or so (one client needs to call me before print, so waiting, waiting…) and it is pretty interesting, on a meta level. Most of what I am seeing are reviews from the left (Ceasefire, Vox, Socialist Alternative, etc.) and at first glance, it isn’t very positive. And a lot of that is due to her treatment of the left. Again, this is first glance type stuff, but it does make a nod to what I am positive is going on, that a new counter-culture is arising.

            So, doubly interested.

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        • It depends on whether you look at 4chan’s /pol or the alt-right at object level or at meta level.

          If you just say “are these guys right or left wing”, sure, they are unqualifiedly right-wing.

          But do they identify with The Culture or do they see themselves as fighting against The Culture? (A “counter-culture”, if you will?)

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          • Yeah, the point of Nagle’s book so far is that transgression is, in and of itself, apolitical, and that historical association of transgression with the left is not all that meaningful.

            The book is a bit frustrating because it’s disjointed, and I think the idea of “transgression” she’s using is sufficiently underdetermined to let her draw some bullseyes after the bullets have landed, but it’s still well worth reading. Probably more so if you have some familiarity with the events she’s recounting (like GamerGate), really, due to that disjointedness,

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      • We talked about Nargle on LGM for a bit when Kill All Normies was first published. Nargle is of the anti-idpol left faction, so she is prone to be a lot more sympathetic towards the Alt-Right than somebody in the Social Justice/Intersectionality Faction of the Left. Not that she likes them that much but she is willing to accept where they are coming from more at face value than somebody from the Intersectionality faction.

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        • I think I want to finish the book before I read threads and the more reviews, but I wouldn’t describe Nagle as sympathetic to the alt-right at all. I think a lot of what might come across that way is actually an ambivalence about transgression and the breaking of taboos for their own sake.

          Gotta say I’m probably more familiar with chan culture than your average normie, and doing some research (read: desultory googling) into some of the incidents Nagle alluded to that I didn’t really know about kind of ruined my day. Not only the incidents themselves, though they were terrible (involving guys on the board going out and murdering people) but also that the way the chan types responded to the atrocities was almost unimaginably callous.

          I’m not posting links because I don’t want to ruin your day, too.

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  7. [AE5] I don’t know if it’s a certain type of feminist or just a certain type of lazy writer. Anyway, I first saw Vertigo when I was 19 with a girlfriend who was very feminist and probably taught me more about feminism than anyone. Anyway, we both adored the film and her reason was she believed it’s about how men try to remake women because they can’t see them for who they are. I was simply impressed by how visual it is- one whole section is essentially silent- and Grace Kelly’s entrance, which has to rank up there with Helen entering Troy.

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  8. I’ve been watching Netflix’s the Toy that Made Us documentary. Its a very loving and affectionate look at the history, creators, and fans of popular toys like Masters of the Universe, Lego, and Hello Kitty. My two observations are:]

    1. The toy industry seems to be composed of an interesting combination of ordinary business people in it for the money and adults who never managed to entirely grow up. Some of the creators and business people interviewed are really clearly into because they can make a lot of money, they express no wonder or love of what they make. Others are really into it and have the enthusiasm of an elementary school kid.

    2. Recalling Saul’s thread from several months ago, part of me really wants to see what a Frankfurt School Marxist would write about this series or the modern culture of toys in general. The most interesting internal reaction I’ve had was how I’m finding myself somewhat disgusted about the enthusiasm for toys expressed on the show when there are other more serious issues that need to be dealt with. It seems decadent in many ways.

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    • We’ve watched some of those shows–it’s an interesting series. I was a kid when many of those toys were made, so I enjoy seeing the stories behind them.

      Re: decadence–I don’t know; we can’t deal with all the problems all the time.

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