Saturday

Working girl ironic?

Is the ending of working girl meant to be ironic? Because it seems like it's up there with Brazil, as an ending dripping with dramatic irony.

I learned that term in a cover lesson I was teaching once; it means the audience are in on something that the characters aren't. 

Both end with the characters very happy with their lot, but as an audience we're aware that they maybe shouldn't be. I think.

I mean, I can't tell if working girl is a knowing ending. The protag is totally happy with her new situation; and maybe it was, at the time and place of release, a catch. But the final camera shot, zooming out of her small (but private) office, seemingly only a floor up from her old open plan office, just underlines how worthless it is, how unremarkable the achievement, how dystopian the world of skyscraper business deals with money and rights changing hands for completely impenetrable reasons and effects. The fact that she simply appears to be in the same building as before (maybe not, but then the ambiguity is telling isn't it?) just adds to the apparent lack of progression.

For its realism, WG should be applauded; the protag doesn't get given an office of surreal proportions on the top floor of a tower. But the realism is pathetically contrasted with the cinematic nature of the ending, and the gulf between her glee and the utterly pedestrian reward creates that ironic sense. 

I can't tell if it's a deliberately mismatched  ending intended to give this sense, if it's just time that's given a sad view of what was considered aspirational in the 80s, or if it's just me that has seen something that's not there. But it really reminded me of Brazil, from the typing pool, through the pointless obsessions of the distracted classes, to the utterly depressing realisation at the end. They'd make a good double bill.

Monday

Mark Ronson at TED



I actually hated this talk.

Mark Ronson's argument seems to be 'people have been ripping off earlier art forms forever, and sampling's no different', which doesn't take into account the wide spectrum of derivity; from inspiring new works to blatant theiving.

He mentions the Rolling Stones as a band who copied the blues, and yes, I would agree; and argue they were terrible thieves, greatly in debt to their inspirators, who largely copied without adding anything (I will concede they had some good lyrics).

Just because everybody does it, doesn't make it ok. But it kind of is ok to see 'sampling' as an art form, as long as people get credit where its due.
Just because some people do it well, doesn't legitimise passed-off crap such as Miley Cyrus as equal to Venetian Snares' Drum & Bartok records.

The problem is, that we now live in a world where if you want to rip off a song, you don't even have to play it yourself. What none of the sample-hogs tell you is that by listening to something, working it out, and playing it back, there's a good chance it's changed in the process somehow. Not always, but somehow. Nirvana spent a lot of time ripping off the Pixies; if they'd had samplers, maybe they'd have been even better at ripping them off, and consequently a less good band. That's not to say that all musicians ever have taken the opportunity to modify their 2nd hand content (see above), or that all people with samplers ever have just recycled without changing the source material. I'm just saying you have the potential to where you didn't have as much potential to before.

It just doesn't mean that Jason Nevins should be put on the same pedastal as RUN DMC themselves. That every Nathan Barley with an immac should be considered 'up there' with Stevie Wonder. That Mark Ronson, with his sampler and libary of ted talks, who turned in a slab of turd at the end of that talk that's massively inferior to any of the pieces he sampled, should be held up as spokesperson for a generation; rather than people like Igorrr, Bong-Ra, Drumcorps, and Sickboy, who really are making the genius post-modern music that Ronson clearly thinks he is making.

UPDATE:
I think I have to add something here, as someone who has both done a lot of remixes and propped up my songs with samples.

In terms of remixing, I know how good it feels to fiddle with someone else's brilliant song and feel like I'm responsible for more than just adding a crappy drumloop over the whole thing. I also like to think that my remixes are a little bit more work than that. My simplest one is probably the Bobby Mcgee's track 'king of england', which was just stripped down and built up again with no editing or cutting up of wave-forms. It's not too different from the original, but then it's just a remix and credited to them as such.

In terms of production, I think it's just irresponsible to not cite your references these days. We don't live in the old days of trad folk songs, where you wouldn't know who wrote the song you're singing, making up new words for, and improvising over. We have the data now, which is why when I completed In Case of Emergence, I listed all the samples used - showing my hand, I guess, I suppose, so if you really feel like it you can go and check up and see what they sounded like before I started fiddling; also serving as a 'further listening' section, with my influences on show; and yet still acting as a show-off 'ooh look, I'm combining the Amen break with a bit of Moonlight on Vermont' self-flattery. The main point is, if you're putting samples on a record and not saying where they're from, you're not able to show what is your own work and what is other people's. I think there's a huge area for fair use of samples, as long as they're properly referenced and don't actually contribute to the song, which is where I think royalties and co-writing credits might need to come in.

Anyway, it's seductive playing with other people's music and thinking that you're the brilliant one. That's the danger.

Wednesday

My favourite game

My favourite Eurovision game is spotting the backing singers.

The current Eurovision rules stipulate that an act must comprise not more than 6 performers onstage; they must perform all vocals live to an instrumental backing (so all instruments, I'm afraid to say, are mimed). This means that all lead and backing vocals must be performed from somewhere on stage.

So, often you're left wondering, where are the backing vocals coming from? If they're not made part of the show, with an unmic'd guitar put in their hand, they're sometimes dressed in black and carefully positioned at the side of the stage to try to appear as invisible as possible. 

In tomorrow's semi final, try to play along and spot the missing boppers. I think it's getting harder, with the year-on-year increasing spectacle of Eurovision, which is a trend I don't like. I find it quite dishonest, especially in some songs where they do most of the singing. 

Could we start a campaign, "keep euro backing singers in the spotlight"? I think they're inspirational role models who are an integral part of the performance, and it's time to come out of the shadows (aw, I'll just save it for the press release)

Tuesday

That Feeling

That feeling when you go onto Amazon.co.uk and they've got the list of suggestions for you and you think 'ooh, they know me so well' and then you look and you haven't signed in yet and you're just a GENERIC CONSUMER

Monday

Pink Girly fairy princesses

Ez has hit an age where she knows she's a girl. This means, at the moment, that everything is about her favourite colour (pink), her favourite animal (butterflies), fairies, and princesses. A lot of this comes down to Disney ("is Alice rescued by a prince?" Was one conversation. Unfortunately, I had to lie to her and say she rescues herself, whereas in wonderland stuff just happens with no real reason), but more than that, it's everywhere.
I spent my youth hating Disney for doing dishonest, bowdlerised versions of fairy tales. To be honest, I now think pretty much any of their versions are superior to the originals - maybe not feminist, but at least not mindlessly cruel.

I don't mind that ez is identifying as a girl; although the current phase is irksome, I know, that as she grows up, her definition of what 'girly' is will become more kickarse. 

What irks me is the lack of provision for her, that I never had to deal with as a child. Some years ago, living with girls, I began to appreciate how all the female-fronted music I had written off - madonna,kylie, even lady-heavy indie bands - had been essential to them as kids. I never had to find my idols with a fine tooth comb, because I had over 90% of everything to choose from, even though I didn't particularly identify as a bloke (hence following such weaklings as Thöm and Jarvis).
I can already see this happening with Ez. Her favourite treefu Tom character is Ariella, the only girl in a line up of 5 heroes, and also American (hence being foreign as well as merely female). In Peter Rabbit, she likes Lilly; the only girl in the main three, and a banal, annoying, pointless character who fails the lampshade test. Her catchphrase is 'I know that for a fact.' Good for you, Lilly.

In octonauts, currently her favourite, there are three male main characters and 2/4 backup characters. Dashi, the computer expert (basically sigourney weaver in galaxy quest) is her favourite, because she's slightly more girly (she has a hair clip) than the engineer Tweak (whose main job is pressing the button to open the sub bay doors. Sigh). In order to compensate for the imbalance, Ez had decided that the medic Peso, a main character, is a girl, just to have someone else on her team.
 Similarly, with andy's dinosaur adventures, she has decided that somewhere on iplayer is 'Hattie's dinosaur adventures' where secondary character - and girl - hattie gets her own show.

Unsurpsingly in toy story, Jessie is her favourite, and she loves pretending to be 'girl slinky'.

I never had to do any of this. I had no idea gender association was strong, i had  no idea role models were so important, because I was catered for. I hate that she is continuously rail-roaded into choosing 'the girl' out of any group of characters, rather than the one who suits her best.

So if you sit around and develop your ensemble cast, and you think 'we'll have a smart one, and a funny one, and a brave one, and a girl', then i hate you.
Seriously, JJ.

Sunday

Edutainment

I had a trilogy of disappointments recently, and some joys, and they told me about myself.

Disappointment is a strong word, as I enjoyed all three. I read Kate Atkinson's 'human croquet'; I watched half man half biscuit live; and I started watching Buffy from the start.

Human croquet had the same world weary wit and cynicism as other KA books, but perhaps with even more abuse and incest than other works. Half man half biscuit played well, but I can't help thinking they didn't play their best material (especially of the more recent stuff), and the songs weren't developed for live performance at all. Buffy was Buffy.

The thing is about each of these spectacles was that as good as they were, I didn't get anything new out of them. I felt deflated by the mounting lack of... Novelty. Defined as how information-rich something is.

So I was delighted to uncover a new seam of prog metal to explore, to find genuinely decent horror films for streaming to tthe telly, to come across documentaries that both entertain and educate. 

Hmhb's set had another disappointment, that a large section was still the early 80s material referencing Dean Freidman, nerys Hughes, Len ganley, Fred titmus, dickie Daviies... Slebs whose shelf life has been surpassed by the references to them.
I suppose that's a greater satire on them, that their supposed fame is mocked from a far for being so transient. But it seems futile to still be going on about them.

The flood gates were opened by 'Stuart; a life backwards' which I've been meaning to read for years and picked up from a market a year or two ago. Just like Kate Atkinson, it seemed like anybody who can be abused, will be abused. But being a true story, and one that takes me through many worlds I had no idea about the insides of - prison, homeless shelters, care homes, &c. - I felt completely riveted by it.
Now I'm not one of those people who thinks that being 'based on a true story' will make a horror film better. Actually, I hate those, because i can only watch it wondering what actually happened. The fucking awful film The Posessesion is a case in point, but I'm not going to talk about it because it's not worth it. But I love a documentary. They can contain all the emotional truths of a good work of fiction, but you're learning at the same time.
On the other hand, a good work of fiction can do exactly the same thing, and take you through new worlds. But being fictional sets your mind at unease, as you can never be sure how much has been adapted for the sake of the story. Actually te same is true of docs too, but i digress.
Good example here is the film of philomena - a slightly fictionalised adaptation of the true story book, that lifted the lid on something horrible in a more punchy way then a straight doc would. But anyway:

Then I watched Brain Dead, peter jackson's early film that had an almost identical opening to his adaptation of King Kong, except that racist stereotypes of native islanders work better in aloe budget Shlock horror film than a mainstream event movie. 
Brain dead is information rich like the fermenting, festering matter that takes up so much of the screen time. It felt like a practical joke on the viewer, that I was in on, how disgusting it was. And yet interestingly, it shied away from the worst of the potential violence to the zombie baby that turns up half way through. As if to say 'we do have some standards.' I spent a lot going 'oh, god,' and actually turning away from the screen.

It's so different to Audition that the two shouldn't be packed into the same genre, but I'm developing a theory: that anything with horror in it gets labelled horror, just as anything with metal in it is a type of metal. It's never 'metal folk', is it? Or 'metal jazz'. Audition is not really a horror film, it's a drama that descends Into horror. I was amazed, actually, based on what I've heard about it, that I was able to sit through it. The actual violence wasn't that graphic, although what happens is awful. It would have been so much better of I'd had a chance to experience it like I did with Dusk til Dawn - with absolutely no idea of the tonal shifts that were coming. In fact I wish I could experience all films like that (like when I read Rebecca, with no idea of what kid of story it was going to be).

But what struck me about any of these things is that they got me thinking, and try for me talking. They don't provide easy answers and leave gaps for you to fill in. They they make you ask, what would you do? Did they do the right thing? It's the real tradition of tragedy.

Splice is a great example, because the author should be commenting on society but actually it's just about how wierd his own views are. But I've written about that before.

I watched the flat. What starts out as a simple expose peters out towards the end as the paper trail runs out, and as if to underline it petering out, the documenter gets lost in grave yard, unable to find the memorial stone of a lost relative. It implies the past is untouchable, unknowable, and all you can do is move on - a complete but subtley done avant-face from what he seemed to set out to do. 

What I learned, is that I don't feel satisfied by the same old; that I need to be actively challenged by the media I consume, that I need to be educated and affected by it. I mean actually affected, as in changed, and forced to grow. I don't know about all that nietzcschien stuff about self improvement, but I'm not happy unless I'm either being shown up as ignorant. Maybe I'm an info sadist? Is that a thing?