One of my favorite writers in recent years has been David Mitchell, who can seemingly do anything or go anywhere. In some of his novels, epics like Cloud Atlas and The Bone Clocks, he can use many voices, cover different time periods, and make each seem authentic. Not only is he able to do this, but he is able to connect all of those voices to form a compelling overreaching narrative. Meanwhile, in something like Black Swan Green, he is able to use a much smaller canvas, in this case a British school kid in the 80’s, and make it just as compelling. One of the true originals of our time. The link is a short piece accompanied by a longer video interview.
Lately I’ve been diving back into the world of Michael Mann, culminating in his masterpiece Heat. I want to comment on that film at some point, but I’m still collecting ideas, putting my thoughts together. I have also been watching the show Luck, which was on HBO a couple years back. It’s a show that centers around a racetrack and the personalities that surround are a part of that world. Mann was a producer and director of the pilot. The show was created by David Milch who is one of the most interesting minds and greatest writers in television. Deadwood, a show he created, is one of the high-water marks of television for me. It is as close to Shakespeare as we are likely to see in our time. I think anyone that wants to understand our country should visit that show. Anyway, while looking up information on Luck, I found this interview with both Milch and Mann. It is short but fascinating.
Above is a Rolling Stone interview with music critic Richard Goldstein, who has been working since 1966. I was interested by some of the social commentary in the interview. A sample (Especially read the second part of the answer, where I feel he is dead right.):
There seemed to be some disappointment in the book, a feeling and desire for change that maybe didn’t quite come through.
I think the Sixties produced a lot of changes. Multiculturalism comes from the Sixties. So does feminism, gay liberation, environmentalism, sexual freedom in general — even veggie burgers. A lot of things people take for granted today come from that decade. Most people had better lives as a result of the Sixties. But what didn’t change is the social justice agenda: equality. We’re less equal than we were as a society, and certainly racial justice has never been achieved. This was a huge priority. Almost everything of importance in the Sixties had something to do with race, including the music. Black music became front and center in a major way — black music by black people. And that’s never changed.
All of the things that did change were economically profitable. Multiculturalism created a new market. Feminism has, unfortunately, meant a cheap labor force. Gay liberation, gay marriage, means a new wedding industry. The things that didn’t change are things that demand that you give people money. Like racial justice. It means there has to be a program that redresses poverty — so it costs money. Same with economic equality: You have to tax people and distribute the wealth. These things failed. So to the extent that we thought we were changing the world…we were only making new markets. And we ended up as an advance force for the free-market economy. Maybe this is the way things work in history; I’m not saying we failed. But I certainly think our major goals in terms of justice were defeated.
Here is an interesting interview with Michael McKean about his latest project, Better Call Saul. As a huge Breaking Bad fan I admit that I am still on the fence about Better Call Saul. I am still waiting to find a way to connect with it. There are definitely moments of brilliance as it examines the American legal system and asks bigger questions about the American dream. However, I find the show to be a bit slow to find its rhythm. I am a few episodes behind at this point. I don’t really want to judge it until I have seen all of the first season. I think creator Vince Gilligan, who also created Breaking Bad, has earned that from TV viewers after creating one of the best TV shows of all time. Here is a snippet from the interview:
Everything that happens to you in your life can sometimes find the way to make all the difference down the line. But when you’ve got a confluence of stuff here, Jimmy getting involved in these bigger cases, these bigger money cases, getting a whiff of the money anyway — if you’re going to be cheated of the attention and prestige you feel you should have, if you feel cheated of that, you’ll find a way to settle for the money. That’s the American way. If everything else goes off in your face, if your family can’t stand the sight of you, if you can’t hold a job, if you can’t stay away from drugs and booze, well, at least you can make a lot of money and have all this f-you money stacked up. It really is the American escape hatch instead of the American dream.
The above article is an interview with director Nicholas Winding Refn and his wife Liv Corfixen, who just made a documentary about her husband. He has long been one of my favorite working directors. All of his movies have a emotionally intense poetic quality to them. He is someone that can deal in abstraction and have it resonate. You get a sense that he understands how to communicate on a personal level through imagery. If you think of how many things have to be put in place for a film image to be just right, that is quite a chore. One of the best.
Lou Reed interviews have been animated for part of the PBS series Blank on Blank. It is equal parts interesting, inspiring, hilarious, and bitchy, much like Reed’s career itself. I am one that will be eternally thankful for Reed’s contribution to rock and pop music. I might not agree with everything Lou Reed says in the above clip, but there is no doubt in my mind that he did elevate pop music, that he did infuse it with a literary quality that few have ever matched. From the first Velvet Underground album to his last album with Metallica, he never quit pushing the limits of what was possible in rock music. In between those two book ends he did everything from straight ahead pop music to avant-garde noise. A true one of a kind.
There is a new James McMurtry interview in the Austin Chronicle about his upcoming album Complicated Game. McMurtry has long been one of my favorite artists to check out in Austin, and is really one of our country’s best songwriters right now. The new album drops on February 24th. I’ve posted the above video before, but for those of you that missed it, or have never heard McMurtry before, this is the single off the new record.
I’ve been watching Mad Men again in advance of the final run of episodes. Other than the mighty Deadwood, which I believe is the Shakespeare of our time, I think Mad Men is as good as any TV show ever. I think no show captures the existentialism and anxiety of modern times better. For every scene that seems like a setup to explain what was happening in the 60’s, there are 20 that take us into the inner lives of the characters, that ring true to everyday life. I’ve always found Don Draper to be an incredibly written character. He is a character that sees through the facade of everyday society and tries to operate within it at the same time. Although many of his faults come from his childhood, Matthew Weiner is too smart of a writer to make a character’s emotional life just a matter of cause and effect. Draper sees the world as it really is and as it wants to be, he sees behind the mask, and that unbridgeable gap creates a great deal of the tension on the show.
Interviews with the creator of the show, Matthew Weiner, are always interesting reads. Here is one that I just read today from Time Magazine:
Read two interesting articles this morning over at Rolling Stone Magazine
Above is an article over at Rolling Stone that is about why it makes environmental and economic sense to divest in companies that contributing to climate change.
Here below is an article that is an interview with E Street band keyboardist Roy Bittan. For all of the years that I have listened to the E Street Band, I don’t think I have read more than thee or four Roy Bittan interviews. I’ve always loved the way he played piano. Interview:
I’ve loved Van Halen ever since I was a kid. As a musician I also really love reading about how certain albums were made. The above Guitar World article with Eddie Van Halen is a great look into the making of their 1984 album.
One a side note: Through my brother I know of an old metalhead that spent thousands of dollars to fly and see Van Halen when they reformed with David Lee Roth in the band. He started drinking early in the day in celebration as his excitement could not be contained at seeing his dream band reunited. Apparently, he got so drunk that he remembers walking into the concert and out of it. Not a flash of memory remained of the actual event that he had waited decades to see…