I have been trying to avoid the early election shenanigans. The mutant right is constantly making headlines with total insanity. I don’t mean to infer that to condemn anyone that is a Republican. I am simply referring to the freak pack that seems in control of the national party at this point. (Scott Walker being one of the many in this realm.) I am someone that believes in voting. I don’t think voting is enough if you really care about what is going on. However, I don’t think disengaging from the political realm due to dissatisfaction is an option. I am not a big fan of the Clintons and would rather see someone like Bernie Sanders capture the nomination. Bill, in his term, was actually a rather right leaning corporatist Democrat that did many things that I believe harmed this country. (NAFTA, Telecommunications Act of 1996, and so on.) However, if you can’t see that there is a difference between Hillary Clinton and Ted Cruz, or Hillary Clinton and Scott Walker, than I don’t know what to tell you. (Those that believe that all politicians are the same only need to look at recent headlines having to do with Iran and then imagine what those headlines would look like if “Bomb,bomb,bomb, bomb, bomb Iran” John McCain had won in 2008.) But what I think is important is that it is okay to disengage until it matters. I don’t need to be paying attention to the right wing horse race, as I will certainly not be voting for anyone that wins that. I can’t help, in trying to keep up with the news, catching a headline or two. I mean I try to pay attention enough that if I am having a conversation with someone, I can refute whatever insane argument someone might be making on whatever policy issue, but having a deep emotional investment in who is ahead is only going to destroy my health, make me angry, and burn me out on this whole circus before there is really anything I can do about it. The news is really good at destroying one’s soul, only to have you speaking gibberish by the time it comes down to canvas for an issue or candidate you believe in. Also, please keep in mind that I am talking about ignoring the election and not what is going on in general. It is important, extremely important, that a citizen of a democracy stays informed. But at this point in the election cycle it is much more important to pay attention to what is going on, rather than who is saying what, if you get my drift. So try to keep abreast of current issues, but whenever a circus animal like Donald Trump gets paraded out on TV, instead of turning your mind into rat soup, exercise one of the very few freedoms you have and turn the damned thing off.
The ESPN series 30 For 30, available on Netflix, is really great. I think today I saw one of the best, if not the best. It was called Ghosts of Ole Miss and it covered the undefeated Ole Miss football team of 1962. More importantly, it also covered the bravery of James Meredith and the riots that ensued because of him being the first black student admitted to the University of Mississippi.
However, if this was just a documentary about history, I don’t think I would be writing about it. (Even though it is a completely enthralling piece of filmmaking that covers a time period that many Americans would like to forget.) For anyone that doesn’t understand the controversy surrounding the Confederate flag, or thinks that controversy is much to do over nothing, I think this is something you must watch. The film is also great at providing the missing link between the Civil War and modern day problems dealing with race. I also don’t think race is the only modern political situation this film is relevant to. At a time when we are seeing local and state politicians try to stand up to the federal government on the issue of gay marriage, one can’t help but see their historical counterparts in this film.
There is also a positive element to this film. Even though the film does not make the claim that all race issues are gone are settled in Mississippi, as they clearly aren’t there or anywhere else, the film does acknowledge that great strides have been made. As dark as the history showcased in this film is, there is hope that, over time, people can change.
The other day I mentioned that I was watching the David Milch created Luck. While reading more interviews with Milch I came upon this fascinating article. There is a mini-documntary here that you can watch about Milch’s Deadwood, one of the greatest shows of all time. You can also read the script for the documentary below if you don’t feel like watching it. It’s truly fascinating not only for the information about the show, but the ideas inherent in the show and therefore the documentary as well dealing with our country. The title above has to do with the idea that history is a, “lie agreed upon.” I found the following passage really interesting and a good sample of the kind of ideas inherent in the show and article:
He said, “An agreement that creates a community is an agreement upon an illusion, an agreement upon an intoxicant. Our founding document jumps off from, ‘We hold these truths to be self-evident,’ which to me means a frank agreement upon illusion – not that these are self-evident truths, but that we agree upon an illusion that these are fucking truths.”
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.
As a huge fan of David Lynch and a growing fan of Nic Pizzolatto, writer of True Detective, I found the above article over at Slate an interesting read. A sample:
Some have already remarked on the fact that a street sign with the words “Mulholland Dr.” on it is prominently featured early on—indeed, there’s a big, fat close-up of it—in the first episode. Not only that, but the car passing by the sign in question is carrying the dead body of Ben Caspere, the city controller whose death sets off this season’s featured investigation, and the episode repeatedly cuts to its journey. In Mulholland Drive, the crash of the car in question set off the plot of thatmovie, and the film repeatedly cuts back to its journey. Also, we don’t know that the figure of Caspere is dead at first—he’s got sunglasses on and is sitting straight in the backseat, next to a not-entirely-un-Lynchian black crow mask, which of course will return in episode two.
My brother showed this to me today. It is a series of scenes from HBO’s Season 2 of True Detective. We laughed liked hyenas for the entire five minutes. Jet fucking black. I loved the fist season and this clip makes me want to see the second season like yesterday. It is an understatement to say there some really great lines. I’ve always liked Colin Farrell’s work, but he is entering a new land of sweetness here.
Vanity Fair recently put out a long form article on True Detective writer and creator Nic Pizzolatto. If you are interested in the show the article deals with his writing process and the background of how the show to be. I found it interesting that unlike a lot of TV series there is no writers room, that he doesn’t seem to like writing by consensus, and that he wrote the entire first season by himself. I was also happy to see that he is influenced by David Milch, whose series Deadwood, in my opinion, is the greatest TV series ever.
Last night I cut a baseline in a studio that I felt was really great. I almost thought about bragging about it, in fact I totally did to a couple close friends! However, I started thinking about how that bass line was the result of listening to lots of other bass players and that, whether it is good or not, I only had a little hand in its creation. Also, on top of that, I have had friends, teachers, mentors, and parents, that have in some way shaped how I played, whether directly or in allowing me to learn my craft. Not only that, but every musician on any record has a similar story of people that helped them to learn what they do. You get four, five, six, ten people on an album, plus those doing the technical work, and all of sudden you have links to hundreds if not thousands of other people. How many records did they listen to? Who taught them? Who paid for their first lesson? If they were writing lyrics did they read a lot of different writers, who in turn have their own groups of people?
In America we like to tell ourselves that we pull ourselves up by our own bootstraps. But doing something completely by yourself isn’t really possible. We love the individual, and certainly some people are more unique than others, but the individual never accomplishes anything completely on their own. The most you can hope to do is to combine things in a way that others have not done, and that is original enough for me, but to do something that has no ties to any other person is something that only exists in myth.
I also was thinking how we devalue music in our current cultural atmosphere. Some people scoff at paying for songs. But think about it, really think about it, and you will realize that it takes a staggering amount of hours and people to give birth to even the simplest of songs. The same can be true of any art form.
I also reflected again on the ending of Mad Men. (Spoiler alert) A friend talked to me about the end of Mad Men, where Don Draper’s whole journey led him to create a Coke commercial. His view was that one way to interpret it was that nothing created comes out of a vacuum. In another way, and I would be one that can see it this way, this is a sad ending as a man’s life long struggle ended up as nothing more than a piece of advertising. However, at the same time it is a great way to view anything that has been created. Nothing comes from out of nowhere.
People have been talking about Dylan playing on Letterman’s second to last show. This is an interesting article about Dylan’s first Letterman gig, when he was struggling in the 80’s, around the release of Infidels.
I’ve always loved Infidels. Dylan’s lyrics are amazing on that record. I also like the oddball combination of him with Sly and Robbie, the great reggae rhythm section. Another Dylan 80’s album I really like is Empire Burlesque. There are many that will bemoan the 80’s production, and I understand that urge, but the songs themselves are largely fantastic. Most Dylan fans will mention Dark Eyes, but Emotionally Yours, later made great by the O’Jays, is a fantastic ballad. Tight Connection to My Heart is also an excellent pop song with great lyrics. In some ways I feel like the 80’s production at times, if you can do away with your prejudice, makes lyrics like, “They’re beating the devil out of a guy who’s wearing a powder-blue whig”, even more insane and absurd, heightening the comedy.