Well, this week was certainly something, wasn't it, dear readers? It certainly posed a challenge at several instances to the whole thesis of this enterprise. What's the point of dwelling on fun stuff I enjoyed when there's so much calamity and genuine awfulness being broadcast from pretty much every available speaker? I struggled with this until I read Fran Hoepfner's fantastic look back at a movie I happened to have watched just last week: Sing Street. The whole thing is very much relevant in the context of this week and the next, say, 209; but this passage in particular highlights the value, for me at least, of considering and appreciating art in our current freakish and terrifying landscape:
Conor’s music is not for his parents or his brother or even for the girl, it’s for him to know how to make himself feel joy in a world determined to suck it all out like a vacuum. It’s giving him a chance to rewrite his own narrative, one in which tyranny can’t prevail. Love wins. Love and art and music and laughter and control, really, over how the world looks.
That's it, right?
I watched all of Netflix's impressive adaptation of A Series of Unfortunate Events this weekend. Lemony Snicket's original books are masterpieces; funny, smart, and totally heartbreaking. I was thus pretty happy to see how faithful the show is to them, with a level of detail that the movie (which I admittedly only saw a bit of) seemed uninterested in. It delves deep into the mythology of the books and is unflinching in depicting the books' darkest aspects. It's also, in part, directed by Barry Sonnenfeld, cinematographer of Miller's Crossing (he may have some other credits, I dunno?) and written in large part by Daniel Handler, the original series author. So it's as authentic of an adaptation as you're likely to get. In many ways, in fact, it's an attempt by Handler/Snicket to revise the entire story to bring in elements that only developed towards the middle (all the secret organization stuff, for example) right at the beginning.
So for a fan, there's a lot to dig into. Unfortunately, one thing that doesn't carry over as well, is the character development. This isn't to say that the key characters don't develop nicely over the course of the eight episodes, but somewhere between the archly stylized prose of the books and the performances captured for the screen, most of the subtlety has been lost. Suitably morose Baudelaire kids aside, nearly everyone else has their Ham Meters set to, like, 43 (out of 10), and stuff that's meant to be funny rarely is. I'd imagine kids might find it highly enjoyable, but a) the books didn't have a problem appealing to all ages and b) this is a book series that starts with a gross old man plotting to marry a child right out of the gate. So, not ever really just kid's stuff.
It's certainly worth watching though, gorgeous and detailed and I found that all the connective tissue of secret agents and agencies embedded in the books was much easier to follow here. I should not that it's noticeably less "fun" these days to playfully dwell on truly awful things, as the books and now the series so frequently draw attention to. I am, however, still thoroughly looking forward to future seasons covering the books' remarkable meditations on compromise, responsibility, and just how much the ends can ever justify the means.
the game needed me
I somehow forgot to mention last week that The Bureau Chiefs and I have returned to raise our sweet darling child, The Fake AP Stylebook, "Now," as the bumper sticker says, "more than ever."
I've also returned to reviewing comics on the regular, a task that has proven much harder than I remembered. I figured, hey, I'm writing this stuff, I can focus a couple hundred words on comics I really liked this week, right? Well, you be the judge. Here's my extended thoughts on Jason Aaron and Jason Latour's Southern Bastards #16 and a brief look at Aaron and Russell Dauterman's The Mighty Thor #15. (I guess you could say I was...Aaron...on the side of reviewing comics again. I wouldn't, but you could.) Multiversity Comics is a great outfit and I'm pretty psyched to be working with them.
I actually didn't watch any movies this week (!!!) and Saturday Night Live's first episode back was pretty dreadful (and I've actually really enjoyed most of the new season), so there's no much else to report on as far as watching goes.
I didn't read Matt Kindt and David Rubín's Ether #2 early enough to get a review in so I'll talk briefly about how fantastic it was here. The first issue didn't really grab as much as I'd have liked (What. I like grabbing.), but the second issue is a much different story. (Literally? Ugh.) It still artfully carries on the conceit of a science-based crime solver who travels to a magic-based world, but it starts unravelling the inevitably tragic backstory of its protagonist, and that's where the book becomes something much more compelling. I highly recommend getting in on the ground floor on this one.
And, as our country takes a dark and decidedly un-well-read turn in leadership, you could do a lot worse than reading these fascinating takes on Obama and literature; Vulture's "Considering the Novel in the Age of Obama" and the New York Times' discussion with the president on the books he read over the past eight years (and the short stories he wrote in college!!!???). Dude was really something else.
wow that's what I call music!
I'll admit that last week I kind of haphazardly threw a few my favorite songs of the week together into a playlist, but this week I made a bit more of a concerted attempt to build a nice, cohesive mix out of my favorites of the week. So enjoy. I know I'll probably be bumping it for a few days myself.
- "(Letter From Home)" by DJ Shadow. One of my favorite intro tracks on any album. I happened to play The Private Press this week and really wanted to kick things off this week this perfectly gorgeous and brief piece.
- "Times To Die" by Car Seat Headrest. I know, there are going to be more Car Seat Headrest shows, but when I saw them last year, this was the song I was most gutted to not hear.
- "Too Far Apart" by Wilco. My iTunes does this annoying-ass thing where sometimes when I enter a search, it will erase it immediately and bring me back to the top of my music library, which I happen to sort by Album, alphabetically. This means I'm often randomly playing a song from one of those albums instead of what I actually wanted to hear. (I'm a fast clicker.) That happened this week, with this song from A.M. and I didn't really mind.
- "Miss American Bookworm" by PAWS. This song rocks almost a little too hard. Apologies in advance.
- "So" by Built To Spill. There was a time where, in my head, I'd put up a little wall between the first few Built To Spill albums and their later work, probably between Ancient Melodies of the Future and You In Reverse. Then, though, I started really listening to those newer records and, man, they're just as good, aren't they?
- "Jamie" by Weezer. Like everyone else, that "10 Albums From Your Teens" thing had me fondly revisiting a bunch of old stuff I used to love. I didn't put DGC Rarities vol. 1 in my list, but god what an essential compilation.
- "Desire Lines" by Deerhunter. I come back to this song a lot. I think I first heard it in some year end Pitchfork list, but there's just something about it. It's gorgeous and hypnotic and I can't think of anything else that it sounds like.
- "My Sister" by The Juliana Hatfield Three. I forgot this one last week, but I met some friends at Brooklyn's fantastic Commonwealth Bar and heard this immediately on entering, proving once again that they really do have the best jukebox in America.
- "Greetings From The Sugar Lick" by The Spinanes. Just another song I really love that I happened to listen to a ton this week.
- "Nelly" by Isaiah Rashad. I was so excited to hear this song again on the Fluxblog 2015 Survey Mix. I really fell for it back when I first heard it that year. It's so dope and weird.
- "Aphasia" by Pinegrove. One of the biggest finds for me while going through the Fluxblog surveys was this band, and I finally sprung for their whole album this week. I listened to it for days, basically. It's fantastic from end to end, but this song in particular is near perfect. (Not even near, I'll just go ahead and say it is.) And, lucky you, the band is offering it on their Bandcamp page for whatever you'd like to pay, and donating all the proceeds to Planned Parenthood.
- "We Rule The School" by Belle & Sebastian. A very reliable closer for any great mix.