My internet connection has been on and off sporadically today. It’s day #2 with a new cable modem on a new ISP. I hope there is just some kind of bug in the ISP’s provisioning process that will sort itself out. It has been frustrating to have to reboot the modem so many times.
I’m cancelling FIOS over the phone now. Where I live, I have two ISPs to choose from, and (have) had to switch providers every two years or so because each one hikes the bill quite a bit after a certain period. I’m glad I have the option, but it is an annoying to have to do it.
📺 Cool! “Star Trek: Picard” is getting some good reviews, like this one.
This morning amounted to a last-minute doctor appointment and a trip to the pharmacy. Winter colds are not fun.
Now, the final Rotten Tomatoes tally has come in, and it looks like The Rise of Skywalker is the worst-reviewed Star Wars movie ever, sitting at 52%, one percent lower than Star Wars: The Phantom Menace.
I actually enjoyed Rise of Skywalker. The Last Jedi was the film that ruined the Star Wars franchise for me—it wasn’t really bad, like The Phantom Menace, but it both added and threw out so much of the Star Wars cannon that it made the phone thing seem silly and unimportant.
Now that I have seen all all three “sequel trilogy” movies, the whole “Star Wars” franchise seems silly and unimportant. Creatively, the sequel trilogy was completely bankrupt, amounting mostly to remakes of the prior (good) films, and repeats and amplifications of prior plot points. I don’t hate it now, though. I think of it as enjoyable cinematic fluff: entertaining diversions, like really high-budget B-movies. It just isn’t important and it clearly doesn’t make any sense. Accepting that, I can enjoy them when I want to escape to “a time long ago, in a galaxy far away,” and otherwise not think about them at all.
🎵 Today’s listen: “Kiwanuka” by Michael Kiwanuka. With its mix of soul, Afrobeat, and psychedelia, it sounds timeless, or, maybe, somehow plucked out of time and brought forward about forty years to now.
In 2019, “Gotta Get Up” was prominently featured as the “reset” song in the Netflix series Russian Doll. The song plays each time the series’ protagonist Nadia (co-creator Natasha Lyonne) dies and returns to the same location – a bathroom at her 36th birthday party. Its use is similar to that of Sonny & Cher’s “I Got You Babe” from the 1993 film Groundhog Day. Lyonne explained that in choosing the song she was struck by the “buoyant doomsday quality” of Nilsson’s life. The cost of using the song so many times took up a significant portion of the music budget. His estate also limited how many times the song could be used.
Reading this got me thinking about what nonsense music rights are for TV and movies. Why are song rights so expensive? Moreover, why should Nillson’s estate be able to limit “how many times the songs could be used? (Harry Nilsson died in 1994.) That sounds so frustrating to deal with. I don’t understand why more TV producers don’t just hire musicians to record cover versions and cut out, at the very least, the performance royalties. (I know this sometimes happens. I’m surprised it doesn’t happen more.)
I was sick all weekend and, consequently, watched way more TV than usual. I watched most of the Apple TV+ series “The Morning Show”. From what I had heard about it online and in various podcasts, I had anticipated a disappointing, underwhelming drama that grasped for, but never reached, Aaron Sorkin-esque heights.
I was pleasantly surprised, however. I liked it quite a bit. If this is mediocre TV, then much of what I have been watching the past couple years must be truly bad.
I am giving up on Marvin 3 (an iOS ePub reader) once again. The app cannot remember my place in the book I’m reading, and that is infuriating. I am back to using Hyphen.
I’m all for dropping “Fox” from 20th Century Fox and Fox Searchlight studios, now that Disney owns them. Good riddance.
🎵 Today’s listen: “69 Love Songs” by The Magnetic Fields. This is an amazing triple album full of diverse, smart, and interesting songs-not just love songs, but songs about love, and even about love songs. There really are 69 songs, 23 per album, which make it almost a box set in and of itself.
🎵 Today’s listen: “Immunity” by Clairo. It’s studio-produced lounge pop from a lo-fi bedroom pop YouTube sensation. “Sofia” is my favorite song on it. It reminds me a lot of my old “Blonde Redhead” albums.
I wish that Corbin Smith’s article “Red Sox manager Alex Cora’s firing and Houston Astros’ punishment for stealing signs is absurd” supported the argument in the headline even more forcefully. It was fun to read a contrarian take on the MLB cheating scandal du jour.
🎵 Today’s album: “Heard it in a Past Life” by Maggie Rogers. It’s a decent pop album and I really like her voice, but overall it wasn’t a terribly interesting listen for me.
🎵 Today’s listen: “1989” by Ryan Adams. It’s a melancholy, largely acoustic cover of Taylor Swift’s massively more famous album of the same name. I think reinterpreting these songs was a great idea, but I prefer the big, studio sound of the original album.
Cory Booker dropped his presidential bid. I really like Booker, though I was never convinced that his presidential run would succeed. I (selfishly) hope that he remains one of my state’s senators for a long, long time.
Dan Kois, on Slate, rips into “Joker”, which today was nominated for a surprising 11 Oscars:
Today—as Joker receives 11 Oscar nominations, the most of any movie, including Best Picture and Best Director—is the day that someone must stand astride the tracks and say: Enough. Stop the madness. Joker is not the best picture of the year. Joker is dumb as hell.
The entire article is a fun-to-read tirade against the movie—it’s the sort of contrarian opinion piece that Slate used to be renowned for.
Kois’s flip-out reminds me of how I felt when the 2015 movie, “Mad Max: Fury Road” was nominated for Best Picture. That movie, and the world it depicts, doesn’t make a lick of sense, but people still gush over it.
At this point in my life, I think the Oscars themselves are “dumb as hell” and are best ignored.
This album is probably known as one of R.E.M.’s lesser efforts. When it came out in 2001, I didn’t like it. Compared to R.E.M.’s earlier work, it felt pat and drowsy. The mid-tempo arrangements lacked insistence and energy, and all the studio sound effects felt unnatural and unmusical to me at the time. I played it once and didn’t listen to it any more.
A few years later, one of my friends said, offhandedly, after “All the Way to Reno (Our’s Gonna be a Star)” came on the radio, that he absolutely loved the album. I got to hear it through new ears, and came to love how good it sounds, and to think of the songs as dark, late night, chill-out rock, whose arrangements and instrumentation move between spareness to lushness in interesting ways.
📺 “Russian Doll” is a really trippy take on the Groundhog Day-type plot. It has managed to get really, really weird now that I’m close to the end. (No spoilers, please!)
My iPhone 7 Plus has—for a second time, due to a battery swap over a year ago—gotten to the point in its life where I have to recharge it a couple times to make it through the day. It’s not at the point where a new battery is warranted, but it is starting to feel old.
🎵 Today’s album: “The King is Dead” by The Decemberists. It’s acoustic, Americana-inspired, and is one of the best produced, best sounding albums in my collection. The sound is so warm and the melodies so gentle that it’s easy to forget the album’s themes of death and rebirth.
🎵 Today’s album, “Cut & Stitch” by Petrol Girls. It’s fun, furious, feminist punk rock, peppered with rage, teeming with energy, tinged with emotion, and full of interesting and varied soundscapes.