PM Pick

Photographs as heirlooms

With the digital cameras relatively cheap and ubiquitous, it may be that the printed photograph will start to assume some of the qualities vinyl LPs have taken on in recent years. The new ones being made seem hokey and anachronistic, while the authentic old ones have acquired an aura, have become rare, on the cusp of vanishing completely. Of course, there will always be fine-art photography, and people who school themselves in the arcane arts of the darkroom, but it seems that we should be beginning to mourn the death of the clumsy amateur snapshot, now that any images haphazardly captured digitally can be cleaned up after the fact by anyone who has downloaded Picasa. Already, the idea that we once had strips of negatives to go with our pictures seems as peculiar as the idea of having recorded answering machine messages on little tapes; yet the analog qualities of the film medium seem more recognizable than ever, more legible -- odd to think that photography was once regarded as a near-transparent medium, now that digital photography has supplanted it, providing even more convenience and immediacy. Since we have arrived at the end of the photographic-film era, we know that the amount of legitimate snapshots -- ones taken in full knowledge that snapping the shutter had real consequences in the the physical universe, that an image would be burned onto a surface, and film and money would be wasted if the frame was poorly composed -- is now officially finite; this makes that corpus of browning pictures in family albums seem exceedingly rare, much more like heirlooms, irreplaceable antiques. Our children will have absolutely nothing like them to pass on to their children. Sure, they'll have digital archives of many, many more images of themselves and their loved ones, but somehow, I can't help but feeling (with the bias of one whose way of life is rapidly becoming moiribund) they will have captured less. Already it seems like real pictures, from film, have more soul -- just as the scratches on a jazz record make the music seem more intimate and true.

Now that there is no cost to capturing a digital image -- if the image bores or doesn't turn out, it can be deleted without a second thought. This has the effect of making old prints of accidents, mistakes, and faulty exposures seem suddenly precious, as they have become an endangered species. I have always been attracted to these discards -- pictures of just streaks of color, or of an accidental landscape, or of someone's finger over the lens -- but now I feel like there's even a greater urgency to gathering them up. (I used to find such shots on the street routinely, in drug-store parking lots or inside library books; now I never come across them.) When no one uses film, no one will make these serendipitous images of nothing in particular and nothing intended that somehow, because of that, capture something integral about the ephemeral nature of our existence in our media-saturated moment in time. I can't be the only person who feels this way. Maybe I should do a search for the sites of people who have scanned in their botched, blurred and poorly developed snapshots and made photosets out of them.

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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