PM Pick

Grounded planes

There's all sorts of chaos at American airports right now mainly because American Airlines had to ground a bunch of planes over a particular flaw in a particular jet model. This juxtaposition in the NYT report seems telling:

American’s chief executive, Gerard J. Arpey, tried to address concerns, saying that the inspections were no cause for alarm.

“Irrespective of F.A.A. oversight, no one would put a plane in service that wasn’t safe,” he told The Fort Worth Star-Telegram. “I put my kids on these airplanes all the time.”

The White House also tried to assure passengers that planes were safe.

“Right now, we have a very safe airline transportation system,” a White House spokesman, Scott Stanzel, said. “That is not by accident. That is due to the work of the F.A.A. and the airlines to make sure that safety is first and foremost front of mind.”

What a curious coincidence that a Texas company and a Texas president should be spinning this instance of reckless endangerment on the part of business. This is pure irresponsible innuendo, but would anyone be shocked to discover that the FAA had been stocked with Bush cronies who believe regulatory agencies' primary function is to help business evade regulation and make more money? And that only increased congressional oversight ended the party?

Reading about this unfolding crisis, and thinking about the unpleasantness of taking any flight (it's almost worse than the bus, at this point, and rife with at least as many indignities) tempts one to become nostalgic about the old days when airlines were heavily regulated and air travel was a true luxury good. Every trip was made somewhat special by the high price of tickets, and the airline service was apparently geared toward making the trip feel like a stay in a high-end hotel. Protected against competition (and protected against having to drive downmarket, sacrificing everything to low price in order to maximize customer volume), the airlines may have been lazy about being efficient, but the arrangement imposed discipline on travelers, who had to choose much more carefully where to go and what to blow their travel budget on.

Air travel now become a good that's vaguely similar to homeownership, with air travel presented as almost an end in itself, a "right" that should be extended to everyone by making it affordable -- in other words, by cutting corners on safety, diminishing service quality, implementing confusing and highly discriminatory pricing schemes (i.e. you pay whatever you are tricked into paying as true prices disappear into a haze of promotional flim-flam and frequent flier discounts). Everyone shouldn't expected to travel by air, anymore than everyone shouldn't automatically expect to own real estate. There are other ways to travel, and other ways to secure shelter, that suit the variety of situations people find themselves in.

Cover down, pray through: Bob Dylan's underrated, misunderstood "gospel years" are meticulously examined in this welcome new installment of his Bootleg series.

"How long can I listen to the lies of prejudice?
How long can I stay drunk on fear out in the wilderness?"
-- Bob Dylan, "When He Returns," 1979

Bob Dylan's career has been full of unpredictable left turns that have left fans confused, enthralled, enraged – sometimes all at once. At the 1965 Newport Folk Festival – accompanied by a pickup band featuring Mike Bloomfield and Al Kooper – he performed his first electric set, upsetting his folk base. His 1970 album Self Portrait is full of jazzy crooning and head-scratching covers. In 1978, his self-directed, four-hour film Renaldo and Clara was released, combining concert footage with surreal, often tedious dramatic scenes. Dylan seemed to thrive on testing the patience of his fans.

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TV

Inane Political Discourse, or, Alan Partridge's Parody Politics

Publicity photo of Steve Coogan courtesy of Sky Consumer Comms

That the political class now finds itself relegated to accidental Alan Partridge territory along the with rest of the twits and twats that comprise English popular culture is meaningful, to say the least.

"I evolve, I don't…revolve."
-- Alan Partridge

Alan Partridge began as a gleeful media parody in the early '90s but thanks to Brexit he has evolved into a political one. In print and online, the hopelessly awkward radio DJ from Norwich, England, is used as an emblem for incompetent leadership and code word for inane political discourse.

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The show is called Crazy Ex-Girlfriend largely because it spends time dismantling the structure that finds it easier to write women off as "crazy" than to offer them help or understanding.

In the latest episode of Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, the CW networks' highly acclaimed musical drama, the shows protagonist, Rebecca Bunch (Rachel Bloom), is at an all time low. Within the course of five episodes she has been left at the altar, cruelly lashed out at her friends, abandoned a promising new relationship, walked out of her job, had her murky mental health history exposed, slept with her ex boyfriend's ill father, and been forced to retreat to her notoriously prickly mother's (Tovah Feldshuh) uncaring guardianship. It's to the show's credit that none of this feels remotely ridiculous or emotionally manipulative.

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If space is time—and space is literally time in the comics form—the world of the novel is a temporal cage. Manuele Fior pushes at the formal qualities of that cage to tell his story.

Manuele Fior's 5,000 Km Per Second was originally published in 2009 and, after winning the Angouléme and Lucca comics festivals awards in 2010 and 2011, was translated and published in English for the first time in 2016. As suggested by its title, the graphic novel explores the effects of distance across continents and decades. Its love triangle begins when the teenaged Piero and his best friend Nicola ogle Lucia as she moves into an apartment across the street and concludes 20 estranged years later on that same street. The intervening years include multiple heartbreaks and the one second phone delay Lucia in Norway and Piero in Egypt experience as they speak while 5,000 kilometers apart.

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Featuring a shining collaboration with Terry Riley, the Del Sol String Quartet have produced an excellent new music recording during their 25 years as an ensemble.

Dark Queen Mantra, both the composition and the album itself, represent a collaboration between the Del Sol String Quartet and legendary composer Terry Riley. Now in their 25th year, Del Sol have consistently championed modern music through their extensive recordings (11 to date), community and educational outreach efforts, and performances stretching from concert halls and the Library of Congress to San Francisco dance clubs. Riley, a defining figure of minimalist music, has continually infused his compositions with elements of jazz and traditional Indian elements such as raga melodies and rhythms. Featuring two contributions from Riley, as well as one from former Riley collaborator Stefano Scodanibbio, Dark Queen Mantra continues Del Sol's objective of exploring new avenues for the string quartet format.

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