Music

Why does Sir Elton want to kill the Net?

Oh that cheeky, out-spoken Brit... after bashing fellow pop stars, Sir Elton John is now turning his wrath on the Internet, claiming that it's destroying the music business, which pretty much tows the line of the RIAA and the major labels. You could easily write off his Luddite musings as bluster but maybe there IS something to it...

Let's pick apart some of his statements.

"I mean, get out there -- communicate."

Obviously he's referring to face-to-face communication as Web 2.0 is full of communication, from social sites like MySpace to video sites like YouTube and so on. Still, there is the element of selfishness where these are mainly ways to call attention to yourself rather than build communities. Then there again, there's political sites that do just that like Daily Kos.

"Let’s get out in the streets and march and protest instead of sitting at home and blogging."

See above. Also, I don't remember Ol' Elton penning too many protest songs (not that he a lyricist anyway). When did he get bitten by the political bug anyway?

"In the early '70s there were at least ten albums released every week that were fantastic. Now you’re lucky to find ten albums a year of that quality."

One big difference is that technology has leveled the playing field so that just about any band with a computer and bandwidth can get their name out there to some extent. I don't agree with him about there only being a handful of good albums out each year. I think that's a symbol of age and being a fogey where you endlessly repeat "I remember how good things were back in my day...!"

Also remember that this is the same guy who was involved in a multi-millionaire dollar lawsuit with his management and even afterwards claimed that he still didn't read any of the contracts he signed. I only bring that up to point out that as much as I love his old music and his recent prickly streak, sometimes he doesn't know what he's talking about.

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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To be a migrant worker in America is to relearn the basic skills of living. Imagine doing that in your 60s and 70s, when you thought you'd be retired.


Nomadland: Surviving America in the Twenty-First Century

Publisher: W. W. Norton
Author: Jessica Bruder
Publication date: 2017-09
Amazon

There's been much hand-wringing over the state of the American economy in recent years. After the 2008 financial crisis upended middle-class families, we now live with regular media reports of recovery and growth -- as well as rising inequality and decreased social mobility. We ponder what kind of future we're creating for our children, while generally failing to consider who has already fallen between the gaps.

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Gallagher's work often suffers unfairly beside famous husband's Raymond Carver. The Man from Kinvara should permanently remedy this.

Many years ago—it had to be 1989—my sister and I attended a poetry reading given by Tess Gallagher at California State University, Northridge's Little Playhouse. We were students, new to California and poetry. My sister had a paperback copy of Raymond Carver's Cathedral, which we'd both read with youthful admiration. We knew vaguely that he'd died, but didn't really understand the full force of his fame or talent until we unwittingly went to see his widow read.

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