Saturday, January 14, 2017

will eventually blog about some stuff .... but stuff happens. Nevertheless, preview of possible coming attractions (?)

A friend showed me Westworld season 1 and I mean to get to that. 

It's wildly belated but I've meant to write about why I have problems with Captain America Civil War having managed to see it a second time.  It completely falls apart and the weakness of the film is paradoxically organically tied to what Marvel Studios fans may regard as one of its great strengths, the overall cohesiveness of the Marvel film universe.  There's a problem, and the problem is, whether you'll want to believe this or not, Jessica Jones.  It just boggles my mind that Bucky seemed to have no real remorse for having killed a bunch of people as the Winter Soldier while Jessica Jones was haunted by killing just one person.  Bucky was brainwashed?  So what, Jessica Jones was under the thrall of Killgrave, a skeezy monster who can tell people to do things and they have to do it whether they want to or not.  The more fully integrated the Marvel entertainment brand gets the more pressing the problem of this double standard in which Bucky Barnes is off the hook for killing countless people while Jessica's superhuman liver lets her not die from the alcohol she drinks in guilt over having killed someone.  But we'll get to that later, I hope.

The "Legend of Entitlement" essay about the moral trainwreck that was Legend of Korra has yet to be written.  And there's a little piece about the genius of the Batman: The Brave and the Bold retelling of Batman's origin I want to get to. 

The selective Christian/pagan syncretism explicit in The Secret of Kells take on the Book of Kells might be another topic for another time.  All that is to say I've felt overdue to write about animation for years.  There's still a pile of stuff about Justice League/Justice League Unlimited I've wanted to get to.  The DC films this far have generally convinced me that if you want to see versions of these characters done convincingly it's best to stick to the Dini/Timm continuity or catch The Brave & the Bold (which got me to love Aquaman and had an actually good story for Crazy Quilt!).

I haven't written much about Archer or The Venture Bros.  Could but probably won't.  Might instead mull over a general ethos that comes across in the Adult Swim brand in more general terms.  But that, too, probably needs to wait. 

Things come up and things go down. 

This isn't the venue to get into that stuff.

I have, I will say, been working a lot more (again) on some musical projects.  There was this gigantic cyclical project, a musical thing that I spent years working on.  That's done.  For the long time long time readers (and/or the people who know who blogs here) you might have already heard.  It's not like there's never been lengthy discussions about contrapuntal music and the guitar here before.  I'm hoping to get around to discussing contrapuntal cycles by Igor Rekhin, Castlenuovo-Tedesco, Rodion Shchedrin, Shostakovich (yes, that one), Henry Martin and ... eh ... I might even go back to Hindemith's Ludus Tonalis for old time's sake because I love that cycle. 

I wish that when Slate did Wonder Week I'd gone back and recycled my "Counterpoint According to Stevie Wonder" blog post.  But I didn't.  Instead I wrote thousands of words about why that compound chorus in "Living for the City" is so amazing, which it still is! 

But a lot of stuff happens in the off-line world.  There's nothing wrong with feeling no huge obligation to meet deadlines that simply don't exist.  A friend or two in the real world asked whether or not the blog was retired on account of a certain Richard Nixon of megachurch pastors up and quitting.  Nope, still around.  If anything the blog can finally belatedly get back to all the stuff it was intended to be about a decade ago.  It doesn't mean people will want to read it but if they do I can be grateful. 

Still, it was hard not to notice that when that evangelical advisory committee for Trump's campaign was announced there were some guys on that list who got mentioned in coverage of the Driscoll meltdown.  Sealy Yates?  Was that the person who, as reported by Warren Throckmorton, suggested Result Source could be used?  Was that James MacDonald mentioned at The Elephant's Debt who showed up with Mark Driscoll at the Strange Fire conference?  Never mind the matter of whether you think Trump should have gotten the RNC nomination or have won the Electoral College vote.  The prodigious rate at which I've referenced Ellul in the last year might telegraph a skepticism about populist agitators and their fans whether it's red or blue.  No, this is another point, that even "if" Trump were as pristine as undriven snow that some of the evangelical advisors (who may not want to be linked to the guy by now but, again, separate matter) were peole who ended up being documented as having played no compelling accountability role for Mark Driscoll in the last six years and in one case may have positively advised the use of Result Source to rig the New York Times Bestseller list.  With an advisory committee tha tincludes people like that (or Paula White) nobody in the Oval Office, whether a Clinton or a Trump, would seem to be in "good hands". 

But then these days my fatalism and pessimism abou the United States would be hard-pressed to find a gloomier outlook. 

But then you can only do what you can where you can.  What I feel like I can do is make some long-form cases for how and why the boundaries between pop music and art music need some conceptual dismantling.  It's begun to drive me up the wall how some guys, and it's generally been white guys who ponticiate about jazz as musicians or journalists, traffic in an essentialist narrative of some kind or another about the history of the tradition.  I've grown tired of reading white liberal journalists and musicians write about soulful black musicians in ways that don't convey that  there is some seriously cerebral stuff going on in the music. 

I'm getting tired of "reification" only being deployed in some Marxist sense and not a gestalt sense, because the gestalt sense of reification is in many respects founational to getting how jazz can work as a listener's art and a performer's art.  I don't want to demystify the craft of music composition to make people stop loving the music they love.  I want to demystify elements of music because I'm tired of the idiotic claims of writers that Stevie Wonder "broke all the rules" of music in a song chorus (you know the one) when he was using chromatic median pivot relationships and octatonic linear movement in ways that can correspond to things done by Stravinsky or Scriabin.  There isn't a "white" or "black" way to deploy chromatic median relationships over octatonic linear movement! 

It pisses me off that after generations of black musicians trying to articulate things about their music in a way that lets the music be appreciated as music there are still white liberal writers out there (and generally their guys) who sell the holy fool vibe.  We don't need that.  It seems condescending to say blues "broke the rules".  One of my friends in college hated blues because for her the harmonic formula was too simple, too predictable and too impossible to do anything interesting with to make it worth learning. Whereas I can zone out blissfully to the endless variations John Lee Hooker introduces into 12/8 time.  I love pre-World War II blues and it's one of the wells of inspiration I keep coming back to.  One of my dreams is to find a way to arrive at a fusion of 18th century polyphonic and developmental thought processes with old Delta or Texas blues.  If I could write a fugue for guitar inspired by the music of Blind Willie Johnson I would so totally do it! 

... and try to get back to writing about some Batman cartoons. 

But this hasn't been one of those phases in life where it's easy to just sit down and write 6k to 12k words in a day like I was doing back in 2012. 


Cal P said...

I put my vote in for the Batman & Justice League cartoons.

Per your comments on Civil War: I appreciate this approach, but it's why I think most of the Netflix lineup for the Defenders is trash, with the exception of Daredevil, though it is constantly on the verge of trashiness. The good thing about Marvel is that it is usually sufficiently blurred with the corny jokes, the cheesy lines, and the almost self-aware status of the goofy retro outfits. The depth, if there is any, is in larger plot arcs, the set-pieces one can think about. But I'm not going to find it in character development. These characters don't change, not really, though Civil War's plot got the closest. So, I don't care if Bucky feels remorse or not, it's about getting to the point where Cap and him face off with Ironman.

The old cartoons tapped in the same strategy as the Marvel movies, but the DC movies are obviously self-consciously trying to portray something gritty or dark, like a bad mix between Nolan and Marvel (Why can't the S on his chest just be an S?!). Jessica Jones and Luke Cage are in the same boat. They try to be serious with characters that are obnoxious and ridiculous. There's enough angst to OD a 13-year old. I wish Netflix had focused on a little Daredevil universe, with Elektra and Punisher, and keep it relatively realistic. I also wish they'd focus on the Catholic angle more, but it seems that the writers boil Catholicism down to dog-collars, stained-glass, and moral imperatives. How I'd wish to see a Matt Murdoch who is trying to remain chaste or is at least in the confessional about that, and not just about his superhero ego!

Anyway, I liked Civil War.


Wenatchee the Hatchet said...

I liked Civil War but it was shakier for me the second time I saw it. And it's a personal quibble in terms of cinematic preference, but ... Bucky turning himself in to Wakandan custody is the kind of resolution to the formal mechanics of a movie plot I would prefer happen in the official run time of the movie, not tossed into a mid-credits stinger. I'm actually intrigued by the next Thor film since Dr. Strange (which my brother had to talk me into seeing but that I enjoyed) is going to be in it, reportedly, and Loki's back and Blanchett's listed as the villain.

Still haven't caught up to Daredevil S2 but my impression so far is that the best TV run they had was the first season. What I've seen of season 2 suggests that once lip service was paid to Murdock's Catholicism it's been dropped. Murdock's track record in the comics has established chastity is basically never gonna happen. Batman on Brave & the Bold is doubtless more chaste by dint of being on a Y7 cartoon. I'm not sure how much further along in the Netflix Marvel scene I'll go at this point.

The JL/JLU stuff is an overdue project for Mbird, though only in the sense that I wanted to have tackled it years ago but felt obliged to tackle other writing projects for journalistic reasons. Fortunately the fact that there's a Justice League movie coming along means I can get back to this stuff without losing the proverbial news peg. Stuff about the Brave and the Bold take on Batman's origin ill most likely end up here.

But there's been stuff in the off-line world that's required attention. Still, here's hoping I can tackle some of this stuff in `17. There's a couple of guitar sonatas I'm working on that won't necessarily have much written about them in this venue that need some work. Last year's blogging about ways to manipulate the vocabulary and syntax of ragtime and sonata form had a practical compositional goal in mind. I've also been looking to see if there's a way to synthesize Haydn's approach to formal expansion with Stevie Wonder or John Lee Hooker's vocabulary. It's been one of a number of reasons activity at this blog has slowed a bit.

Cal P said...

Fair enough at the garbled tropes in Civil War. And yeah, I never really cared for the Thor movies, but I do look forward to the next one. I thought Strange was solid (though the jokes felt forced and stale).

I know Matt's a slut, but with creative license, I wanted it go somewhere. S2 isn't bad and the Catholicism isn't, exactly, dead, but it gets mixed into quasi-Buddhist folk-lore it becomes kind of silly. They botched the roof-top scene with the Punisher, but it was still good. S2 is worth the watch, and I will definitely tune in for the Punisher spin-off, but if I watch the Defenders, I'll be holding my nose. I definitely have little interest in Iron Fist. Daredevil barely gets off the hook, but Jessica and Luke both are basically obnoxious liberals with super-powers.

And I love the glamour of Jessica Jones! She's basically a PTSD rape-survivor who is a non-functioning alcoholic, and yet her make-up always looks good and she has no penalty for the blatantly self-destructive life she's living. They put her on a toilet (edgy!), of course it's still glam. The audience only cares because she is still attractive. What if she was fat, or ugly, or sitting in her own excrement because she was blackout from drinking an entire bottle of wild turkey? And then I watched one episode of Luke Cage and it was like Tyler Perry tried to do blaxploitation.

This isn't propaganda, but I don't know what this is.


Wenatchee the Hatchet said...

weirdly, FilmCritHulk gave up on Luke Cage because of the feeling that the message of Cage was too much social conservative. What I saw of Luke Cage didn't convince me of that but the arc of Hammer trying to make a super-suit that finally works seemed too easy to call too early so I kinda gave up on it.

The jokes in Strange were forced but when you have that level of cast they can get by.

In the era of slash fic about Kirk and Spock the idea that someone could choose to be chaste is probably off the table for official entertainment writers. One of the reasons I'm more than happy to watch a lot of cartoons is that when FCC rules don't let you use the shortcuts of sex and violence it forces people to write for characters who have to do things for reasons that have to be explained. Ideally. ;) I don't feel bad that I've watched more My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic than The Walking Dead or Game of Thrones. Our cartoons may be more telling of what Wagner called "the total work of art" than the stuff adults writing for Slate might choose to write about.