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Sunday, March 08, 2020

OT - Catch-All Pop Culture Extravaganza ([most of] March 2020)

After weighing the pros and cons of keeping a scheduled April 10 bow for its main action tentpole amid the coronavirus outbreak, MGM opted for a cautious route by pushing the upcoming James Bond outing No Time to Die to November. But how much will the move, prompted by growing disruptions due to the epidemic, cost the studio that fully financed the film?

Lance Reddick! Lance him! Posted: March 08, 2020 at 08:37 AM | 27 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
  Tags: movies, music, off-topic, television, whatever else belongs under the rubric of 'popular culture'

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   1. Lance Reddick! Lance him! Posted: March 06, 2020 at 05:20 PM (#5928609)
I blame February's weird length for my forgetting to do this.
   2. gef, talking mongoose & suburban housewife Posted: March 06, 2020 at 05:30 PM (#5928614)
Not that I'd ever go except at gunpoint (or unless I had access to a nice flamethrower), but I see that coronavirus concerns have prompted the cancellation of SXSW.
   3. What did Billy Ripken have against ElRoy Face? Posted: March 06, 2020 at 08:02 PM (#5928630)
But how much will the move, prompted by growing disruptions due to the epidemic, cost the studio that fully financed the film?
Won't somebody think of the massive movie studios???
   4. jmurph Posted: March 12, 2020 at 04:17 PM (#5930086)
So uhhh, lots of us will apparently be spending a lot of time at home in the coming months (I personally have young kids, so I don't ever actually go out anyway, but you know, some of you might usually). Zero Zero Zero on Amazon seems okay so far, I did a couple episodes. Worldwide, multi-thread drug cartel story. The new High Fidelity series on Hulu is great so far (I've watched 3 episodes, I think). Briarpatch is fun (USA Network).

Anybody else?
   5. Hysterical & Useless Posted: March 12, 2020 at 04:45 PM (#5930103)
A few weeks ago, season 4 of Better Call Saul became available on Netflix, so we started watching. Well, it'd been like a year and a half since we'd finished season 3, and neither of us could remember enough of what had come before to really appreciate it (aging totally ##### your memory). So we went back to the beginning, and in another week or so we should be back to season 4.
   6. Ben Broussard Ramjet Posted: March 12, 2020 at 04:48 PM (#5930105)
Avenue 5 is somewhat awkward, but had a big payoff in the most recent episode. Worthwhile if you like seeing Hugh Laurie goggle at stuff. Two episodes into Devs, and it's definitely an Alex Garland gig. Slow, beautiful, mysterious, maybe not quite as clever as it's hoping to be - but I'm willing to give it the benefit of the doubt. I'll re-recommend Infinity Train for those with young-is kids, with a definite element of peril, robots and corgis everywhere, and every 10-minute episode having something surprising. The animated Harley Quinn is definitely not for kids, what with the beheadings and swearing and all. Perhaps for those who loved Deadpool? And Chernobyl might be turning out to be worryingly relevant.
   7. MY PAIN IS NOT A HOLIDAY (CoB). Posted: March 13, 2020 at 01:59 AM (#5930253)
So they made a second Das Boot miniseries in 2018?

Based on a sequel LGB wrote that I'd never heard of??

And it's got Jaqen H'gar in it???

O.o?

3 episodes in and it's a little disappointing with the paucity of the "boot" part of it, but I bought the whole thing on Amazon ... hopefully I get some hot sub on convoy action at some point
   8. My name is Votto, and I love to get blotto Posted: March 13, 2020 at 02:42 PM (#5930404)
Better Call Saul is really good. I've been re-watching Breaking Bad episodes and enjoying the Easter Eggs. With likely more time at home, I'm planning to watch "Mindhunter", which I never got around to.

"Fast & Furious 9" was also pushed back a year.

   9. Hysterical & Useless Posted: March 13, 2020 at 06:17 PM (#5930458)
We watched Mindhunter a couple of months ago; I'd put it on my list because Anna Torv was in it. [I find her fascinating and sexy without being "beautiful" in the conventional sense.] It was interesting, not great. The main character was a somewhat difficult personality, very sure of himself (even though he was essentially making sh-t up as he went along) and often causing severe problems for his co-workers and bosses.
   10. bigglou115 is not an Illuminati agent Posted: March 13, 2020 at 06:24 PM (#5930460)
@9, you're crazy, Anna Torv is definitely beautiful. I watched all of fringe just for her, and believe me, watching all of Fringe was work.
   11. Hysterical & Useless Posted: March 13, 2020 at 06:34 PM (#5930462)
Let me try it this way: she's not "pretty" in the conventional sense. But you're right, she is beautiful.
   12. snapper (history's 42nd greatest monster) Posted: March 14, 2020 at 12:16 PM (#5930562)
Don't know if Dr. Vaux checks in here, but I thought this was a good follow up to our discussion on art/music last week. Sorry for the paywall.

https://www.wsj.com/articles/a-girl-makes-music-without-irony-or-ugliness

Something terrible happened to classical music during the 20th century, and especially after 1945. You may be called a reactionary or a nostalgist if you acknowledge this fact aloud, but every concertgoer knows it. Many individual composers continued writing works of enduring value, but the great preponderance of classical music written over the past 75 years is deliberately opaque and aggressively ugly.

The causes are many and complex: the abiding influence of atonal music from earlier in the century, the obsession with originality and shock value, the gradual transformation of classical music into a faux-scientific academic discipline. But the overall incoherence is undeniable. Every fan of classical music knows the feeling of seeing a contemporary composer on the program and inwardly despairing.

Some recent composers have resisted the tendency to equate serious with dissonant or difficult—Arvo Pärt in Estonia, the late Dominick Argento in America. But none have done so in quite the guileless manner of English composer Alma Deutscher. She writes music that people want to hear: orchestral and chamber works that ordinary listeners—those who aren’t invested in the “serious” music industry—actually like.


Here's Alma at Carnegie Hall for those curious.

Siren Sounds Waltz - Alma Deutscher
   13. Baldrick Posted: March 14, 2020 at 01:26 PM (#5930575)
She writes music that people want to hear: orchestral and chamber works that ordinary listeners—those who aren’t invested in the “serious” music industry—actually like.

It's very weird that we are faced with two declinist narratives. One argues that classical music has gone to hell because it is not longer designed to appeal to popular audiences. The other that mainstream music has gone to hell because it is designed to appeal to popular audiences.
   14. snapper (history's 42nd greatest monster) Posted: March 14, 2020 at 01:36 PM (#5930576)
It's very weird that we are faced with two declinist narratives. One argues that classical music has gone to hell because it is not longer designed to appeal to popular audiences. The other that mainstream music has gone to hell because it is designed to appeal to popular audiences.

I don't think this author is making the second argument at all. When hasn't mainstream music been designed to appeal to popular audiences? Mozart and Beethoven were writing to appeal to the popular audiences of the day.

This article's argument, as I read it, is classical music jumped the shark when it became an academic/critical exercise rather than trying to appeal to audiences with beautiful music.

FWIW, this Alma Deutscher is really good, and she's 16. The Classical music establishment should rally round her and make her the face of their art form.
   15. Baldrick Posted: March 14, 2020 at 05:14 PM (#5930594)
Yeah, I wasn't talking about that article in particular. Just general conversations (especially here) about the soulless nature of modern pop music.

To be clear, I think difficult music can be good, and so can easy music. I've been listening to the Alma Deutscher stuff all afternoon and it's great. So thanks for the rec.
   16. Dr. Vaux Posted: March 14, 2020 at 06:48 PM (#5930608)
I wanted to type up some thoughts, but I don't know how soon I could get to it, what with all of the moving instruction online (and this weekend also includes grading a ton of midterm exams). But here are some paragraphs I wrote several months ago as notes for a discussion on related topics with some of my students. As a prelude, I'll say that I disagree with the quoted critic's opinion that "the great preponderance of classical music written over the past 75 years is deliberately opaque and aggressively ugly." And I disagree for two reasons. One reason is that I know what general type of music the critic is referring to, and that general type of music never constituted a great preponderance of what was written, or even what was played by the ensembles that the critic considers important. The second reason is that I find certain examples of that general type of music to be quite beautiful, and it's probably fairly clear that, for such music to have become well-known and widely performed, there must have been a large number of people who have, at the very least, enjoyed engaging with it. It can be, simultaneously, that multiple groups of people with different points of view can achieve sufficient influence to be noticeable. And while this was always the case in music, the number of groups, and the divergence of points of view, increased rapidly around the turn of the 20th century. The reasons for that divergence can be found in different and changing incentive structures, responses to the canonization process, and approaches to historiography. None of the 20th century styles of classical music are the sole heir to the 18th and 19th century tradition, and none are entirely divorced from it.

Now, here's the pre-existing text:

"What happened to music at the turn of the 20th century that led to the multifurcation (that is, the split of classical music into so many different styles)?
I. The nature of large ensemble music:
1. In the 18th and 19th centuries, orchestral music centered around court orchestras (as well as major church orchestras) and, increasingly, independent professional groups—concert-giving organizations and opera house orchestras—that had originally drawn their membership largely from those, and shared it with them (which, in turn, tended to share many of their members).
a. These groups were professional, but that had a different meaning in terms of skill level from what it does today, at least in many cases. Earlier in the period, some members also had other court duties or studied several instruments, which made it difficult to be as specialized and virtuosic as today’s professionals.
b. Certain composers, like Beethoven, had seemed starting even in the early 19th century to want to write music that was more difficult than could practically be played well, or in some cases even adequately. It is clear that by this time, musical thinking had entered a stage at which artistic conception was not necessarily tied to other considerations. Interestingly, from the start, this especially difficult music was more likely to be played if it was chamber music than if it was orchestral music, even though we know that chamber music playing included the “skilled amateur.” And, for reasons discussed below, it has continued to be in the area of chamber music where receptivity to more challenging music has mainly resided.

The effect of recording technology:
b.2. The idea of the listener, or “the needs of the listener,” which so often arises in discussions of “what happened to music,” usually with the question being asked from a negative position, is a red herring in this development. As far back as there is written evidence, there has been a contingent of commentators who have responded poorly to new music. There has also been a contingent who have responded rapturously. Some people only like what they’re used to, and there are also people who equally irrationally get excited by anything sufficiently unfamiliar. It is striking how closely the development of atonality, which admittedly is an epochal one, followed another, equally epochal: sound recording. Before sound recording, there was no way to be surrounded by old music unless it was what musicians played. If musicians played new music, the audience had to accept it, and ultimately did. The development was gradual and incremental because, as any domain of thought, music can only be re-imagined so much by any single person. The generation of concert audiences that was confronted with the developments of Schoenberg, Berg, and Webern—whose members, its should be recalled, were nearly equally appalled by Stravinsky, Hindemith, and anyone who forayed outside functional tonality—had an option that those confronted with Beethoven, Schumann, Brahms, and Strauss did not; they were not forced to become used to the new music, and they knew they wouldn’t be. Instead, they could listen to the comforting and familiar on their phonographs. Over the previous few decades, older works had come to be played more often than before, in the well documented process of canonization, making the retreat to the old in the realm of recording seem natural. Chamber music was equally affected by recording, though differently: the 19th century’s skilled amateur became 20th century’s record connoisseur. These changes did not happen overnight, and orchestras never ceased to perform new music; certain brave conductors served as heroic outliers. But orchestras did play new music less in the 20th century, as they competed with the phonograph and responded to the browbeating of critics. The latter had always been present, but the former was new, and retarded the development of the public’s taste. Meanwhile, it has also had undeniably positive effects on all sorts of music, not least of which has been to allow the great complexity and intensity of some of the best avant garde and atonal music to be fully appreciated by enabling a work to be heard many times despite being played only once. The dissemination of such music has been miraculously amplified by such technology, without which—though this is a separate, related argument—it could probably not even exist.
The effect of canonization on music itself:
b.3. Canonization, erecting and magnifying a concept in the public mind of historical tradition and lineage, perhaps paradoxically helped emphasize the idea of originality as a virtue onto itself. For a work, and a body of work, to have a chance of being part of the next generation’s canon, it needed to have furthered the development of music. It needed to have gone, so to speak, where no music had gone before. This went beyond the desire to create rather than merely copy, which has motivated every generation of artists. Rather, originality and development with relation to a canon meant pursuing exploration of the possible musical universe with artistic impunity. This is not, it must be emphasized, a bad thing by any means, but it is the product of a new and different attitude that arose among musicians raised in the shadow of a canon. In addition, as described above, recording sharply diminished the market for self-playable chamber works, making the performance of “serious” music more fully the realm of the professional. 19th-century composers were kept, in a certain sense, artificially conservative by their need to cater to the chamber music market. In the 20th century, the role of chamber music nearly reversed, and was now played by even more skilled and receptive performers—the best of the professionals.

Historiography’s role:
b.4. Despite the foregoing, of course, all (or nearly all) composers’ music in the 20th century retained significant connection to tradition; their individual styles, and the clusters of such styles that have been exhaustively taxonimized, simply represent or exemplify different paths from and through that tradition. By degrees of difference from common-practice convention, they ventured, in each various parameter of music, more and less far. A work of art need not be radical to be original. A large portion, and perhaps most, of the “serious” music composed in the 20th century—at every point in the century, whether beginning, middle, or end—was neither atonal nor particularly far-removed from the tendencies of the first non-functional generation at their more conservative. In the first half of the century, such music often received its fair due in the press and in historiography. An observer in 1950 would have considered the works, to that point, of Hindemith, Stravinsky, Britten, Barber, and the like, as much a part of contemporary music as anyone’s. Significant enough portions of the concert-going public were pleased enough by the music of such composers that we can well imagine the far greater extent of its acceptance and dissemination if recording had not existed. Canonization, however, with its emphasis on linear development, from older to newer, favoring the most original—i.e., the most different—products of each generation, seems to work on those who write about music quite as effectively, or moreso, as it does on those responsible for the music itself. Paradoxically, and self-defeatingly from their perspective, even critics who detested the less conservative kinds of new music tended to privilege it in their discourse. Repeatedly, one reads from mid- and late-century critics who could find no kind word for Schoenberg or Webern the opinion that the music of this or that conservative composer was “academic,” “pedantic,” “artificial,” “cold,” “warmed over,” “pandering,” “unoriginal,” or “merely pleasant.” Taking the cue, historians in the second half of the 20th century chose almost uniformally in their texts to ignore the tonal music written between the fifties and the twin emergence of minimalism and neo-Romanticism in the mid-to-late sixties. Seen especially on the page, and with the hindsight only available to those who have more youth than experience, this gulf seems barely noticeable. Fifteen to twenty years, depending on the source, is less a time than first grade to college graduation, and less than to complete some doctoral degrees. But historiography has treated this period as an era, a dark time when human warmth and light receded from the scene. And it has treated the albeit quite important developments that mark its conclusion as a “return to tonality” even though tonality went nowhere—indeed, it cannot have gone anywhere in so brief a time—except away from the pages of the textbooks that all too often form the first and only impressions that a young musician, let alone a non-musician gets of music after WWII. The music of the post-war modernists is wonderful, fascinating, and beautiful to this writer, and is rightly taught about and rightly played, on those all-too-rare occasions when it is. But it is a tragedy that so many people, including so many musicians, live under the impression that tonality, also, did not endure—that it did not, rather than reappear in a few rare and precious instances, continue in robust ubiquity as the basis for most of the contemporary music that was played, and therefore heard."
   17. snapper (history's 42nd greatest monster) Posted: March 14, 2020 at 07:47 PM (#5930614)
As a prelude, I'll say that I disagree with the quoted critic's opinion that "the great preponderance of classical music written over the past 75 years is deliberately opaque and aggressively ugly." And I disagree for two reasons. One reason is that I know what general type of music the critic is referring to, and that general type of music never constituted a great preponderance of what was written, or even what was played by the ensembles that the critic considers important. The second reason is that I find certain examples of that general type of music to be quite beautiful, and it's probably fairly clear that, for such music to have become well-known and widely performed, there must have been a large number of people who have, at the very least, enjoyed engaging with it.

Well, someone's told Miss Deutscher that her music is not a valid expression in this day and age. Quoting from the articles, which quotes the performance linked.


“Now, I’ve always wanted to write beautiful music,” she told the audience, “music that comes out of the heart and speaks directly to the heart. But some people have told me that nowadays, melodies and beautiful harmonies are no longer acceptable in serious classical music, because, in the 21st century, music must reflect the ugliness of the modern world.”You could hear people in the audience laughing with her. The rubes! “Well,” she went on, “in this waltz, instead of trying to make my music artificially ugly in order to reflect the modern world, I went in exactly the opposite direction.”


I'd also like to have some cites of good post-1945 classical music. The limited amount I've been exposed to (admittedly more opera than symphony) has been dreadful.
   18. Lassus Posted: March 14, 2020 at 08:08 PM (#5930621)
I'm on it. Stay tuned. It will be a good distraction.
   19. Dr. Vaux Posted: March 14, 2020 at 08:42 PM (#5930627)
Undoubtedly people have told her that. People have certainly told me that. There are many people who express that opinion, although what I mean by that is "cluster of related opinions," because the majority who inhabit that cluster wouldn't couch it in terms of "ugliness." The idea tends not to be what music has to be like, but what it has to not be like, which is to say, that it has to not be tonal and triadic, because that musical idiom has been "used up." My posts from last week were maninly an elaboration on why people come to feel that way. But numerous examples from the past several decades--uncountably numerous--show that not everyone has felt that way, and that opinion has not controlled what has happened.

I'm on it. Stay tuned. It will be a good distraction.


I'm on it, too, so we can compare lists. I'm going to assume for these purposes that by "good," snapper means tonal. I don't agree with equating those things, but my purpose here is to show him that there has been lots of post-1945 music that he would like, because (a) I want him to enjoy himself listening to music, and (b) I think that knowing tonal music is still written is the first step toward giving a fair, open-minded hearing to atonal music. It isn't a replacement for the old thing, it's a new, different thing.
   20. gef, talking mongoose & suburban housewife Posted: March 14, 2020 at 08:47 PM (#5930629)
Genesis P-Orridge, or whatever name s/he was going by the last several years, has died. A total nutjob, but often interesting. Throbbing Gristle's United/Zyklon B Zombie is one of the greatest 7"s ever.
   21. Dr. Vaux Posted: March 14, 2020 at 09:49 PM (#5930636)
I got called away and only had a few minutes. And I will for the time being leave out band music, to demonstrate that I can make a list without relying on it.

Here's three more things for the time being. I'll be back with more.

James Francis Brown (b. 1969), Trio Concertante

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=c6SjMB2poHM

Ronald Corp (b. 1951), Clarinet Quintet

https://www.youtube.com/results?search_query=ronald+corp+clarinet+quintet

Eric Ewazen, (b. 1954), Ballade for Clarinet, Harp, and String Orchestra

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=41TtGBe9XQA
   22. Nasty Nate Posted: March 15, 2020 at 01:09 PM (#5930688)
A few weeks ago, season 4 of Better Call Saul became available on Netflix, so we started watching. Well, it'd been like a year and a half since we'd finished season 3, and neither of us could remember enough of what had come before to really appreciate it (aging totally ##### your memory). So we went back to the beginning, and in another week or so we should be back to season 4.
I just started season 4 this weekend and also had some trouble remembering where it had left off. But I'm just going to plow forward.

I like the show, but wish it was more Saul and Gene. This is probably a minority opinion, but 1 or 1.5 seasons in the Jimmy McGill phase would have been enough.
   23. gef, talking mongoose & suburban housewife Posted: March 15, 2020 at 10:36 PM (#5930799)
Not at all surprisingly, Wire have cancelled all their U.S. dates. If only COVID-19, or rather the testing thereof, had moved 8 days faster, I'd still have my car (which was either stolen or mysteriously vanished into thin air while I was at the Atlanta show on the 7th). Goddammit.

   24. Lassus Posted: March 18, 2020 at 08:19 PM (#5931827)
I failed with all of my classical music stuff because I spent a half-hour trying to decide if snapper would like one piece by Francis Poulenc. For any trouble I've given Vaux in the past, his work in this thread is an inspiration. I would emulate his writing and arguments here.
   25. Lassus Posted: March 18, 2020 at 08:20 PM (#5931828)
On another note, on another topic, from an io9 thread today, this tracks:
No, when I say Rise of the Skywalker is worse in every way i mean it. It is absolutely the worst of all Star Wars films. And i LOATHED the prequels. And I LOVED The Last Jedi.

This movie was absolutely the worst Star Wars film, my disappointment or love of it has nothign to do with it objectively being the worst.

And when I say objectivly, I mean objectively. It is also the most poorly reviewed film since the Phantom Menance. Not everything in art is personal prefence, there are some actual objective markers of quality. World over, reviewers both amateur and professional came to the agreement that this film did not meet those objective markers. It is, literally, objectively bad.

The only movie that can compare in terms of how awful it is is the Holiday Special, and that one still isnt as bad because that movie didn’t have a millions of Disney dollars behind it. ROS did. And was still that awful.

Poorly acted, poorly written, decently shot, poorly directed, poorly paced, poorly edited.

It was, without a doubt, separate from anyone’s personal feelings about it, the worst Star Wars Film made.
   26. PreservedFish Posted: March 18, 2020 at 08:43 PM (#5931833)
I haven't seen it, and I don't intend to see it. I never would have predicted that I'd get to such a state of malaise about Star Wars that I would just not even bother to watch one of them.
   27. MY PAIN IS NOT A HOLIDAY (CoB). Posted: March 19, 2020 at 03:40 AM (#5931880)
HT to McCoy, this is my new WTF internet, why do you do this to me?
Marble Racing.
Yes, marble racing, you heard me.

This is just insane, to think of how much time and thought and effort and madness the people behind this put into this video:
Marble1 Racing

Here's another guy's take on it: Head to Head ... Europe vs the Americas

I'm in awe of the minds and the people behind these videos ... and also more than a little scared

I kept watching these videos and thinking of Butch & Sundance ... who *ARE* those guys?

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