Monday, March 14, 2011

Day 8

I'm rereading As I Lay Dying right now, in order to help a student write an essay.  Faulkner has never done much for me, despite recurring attempts to figure out what it is about his work that gets so many people excited.  [I've read Absalom Absalom, As I Lay Dying, Light in August, and Intruder in the Dust (plus assorted stories); I've given him a fair chance, right?]  But maybe I've been wrong?  Maybe I've failed him, and not the reverse.  We'll see.  Though I have to say, I'm 90 pages in so far and I'm yet to feel much enthusiasm for the book.  In 100 years will Faulkner still be canonical?  I have my doubts.

* * *

I gave up on Big Love after getting halfway through the second season.  The wife still watches it, however, and a few nights ago she pulled me into the living room to have me listen to the song that replaces "Good Vibrations" in the opening credits after the third season.  Intrigued, I did a little research on Wikipedia, and learned that the song is called "Home" and was written by a British band called Engineers.   I'm old and out of touch I had never heard of Engineers (or The Beach Boys), but thanks to the miracle of the world wide internet web, I now have the CD on which "Home" appears.  It's pretty engaging.  Wikipedia describes them as a "dream pop" band, as if it that were a genre I'm supposed to be familiar with.  ("Ah yes, Dream Pop.  As differentiated from Fantasy Pop, Half Awake But Not Fully Asleep Pop, and, of course, the dreaded Nightmare Pop.")

The sort-of point of this sort-of story is to do with the way I ended up driving around yesterday with an Engineers CD in my car.  1) I heard a song on a tv show.  2) I looked up the song on the Web.  3) I read about the band on itunes and then 4) I paid to download the CD.  It all took ten minutes.  Five years ago, none of that would have happened.  I might have been curious about the song, but without any efficient mechanism to find out who wrote it, and not caring enough to sit through the end of an episode of Big Love and read the small print credits, I would have let the whole matter drop.  But now, thanks to the web, slight curiosity, slight interest, can be immediately acted on.  The point is not just to make everything easier, but to significantly lower the barrier of caring that it takes to get something done.  Twenty-five years ago, you might have to had write a letter to a record label to enable yourself to listen to an album by a semi-obscure English band.  Fifteen years ago, you would have had to care enough to drive to a CD store.  Ten years ago, you could have gotten it from Amazon, but not immediately.  Now you can satisfy what is at best a passing interest with only the slightest effort.  Ease of access is probably an overall good thing; if you're a band it's probably to your benefit that people who don't care all that much about your music can acquire it very easily.  The downside though is that fandom becomes a less commitment-requiring, and thus in some ways, fulfilling experience.  Nothing anymore is hard to find, nothing is obscure; it's all equally available.  That means it's impossible to be the only one in your class who's got the rare B-side of whatever band, or, on a larger scale, to be the whole one in middle school who's heard of, say, The Smiths.  It's all right there.  In an article I read recently, Brian Eno talks about how it's no longer possible, in some profound sense, to be 'cool.'  I think this is part of what he means.  In some way, being cool has to do with being in on stuff that others aren't.  It used to require effort and knowing the right people; how else were you going to get the 'cool' music or know about the 'cool' writer, artist, whatever?  But nothing's really hard to access anymore and that means coolness no longer means what it once did.

By the way, the CD on which "Home" appears is the Engineers' eponymous debut (which I recommend); the image above is of a different album.  It's all I could find on Google images.


Dezmond said...

Too bad you gave up on 'Big Love.' Last season was disappointing, but this final season has been great. I like that song too, but I prefer the old opening. But it was not "Good Vibrations," it was "God Only Knows."

ANCIANT said...

Thank you, Dez. This is what happens when I write every day: fact checking goes out the window.

You're right, of course. I got Beach Boys in my head and that was that.

I did not at all like the "God Only Knows" introduction. I like that song, but I thought it didn't work in the context of the show. I much prefer the new song.

I'm not sure what it was about Big Love that turned me off. Part of it (a large part) was Chole Sevigny. I really really cannot stand her character. I realize that we're not supposed to be able to stand her character, but still. It made it hard. I also dislike her, the actress, quite a bit. For some reason whenever she was on I felt like I was watching HER, Chloe Sevigny, and not the character.

Not that it didn't have its moments. But there were too many plot twists I found implausible.

Engineers, though, Dez: you might like them....

JMW said...

I couldn't agree more about the ease of access issue. I love that I can get obscure things much more easily now. But those small, constant thrills -- are they worth the one giant thrill that might have result if I still had to search second-hand bookstores for something every time I was in a new town, and then finally found it years later? I don't know.

I've had more than one person recommend Big Love lately. I feel like I'd have the same problem with Sevigny. Something about her sullen face drains my life force. In fact, I find Bill Paxton incredibly boring, too. And Tripplehorn has never done it for me either -- the whole casting issue is a huge hurdle between me and that show.

ANCIANT said...

I actually find Tripplehorn to be one of the show's high points. THE high point, really.

Another character to dislike, however, is Bill Paxton's dad. Horrible. Again, he's supposed we're not supposed to like, but, I don't know. There's a way to make unattractive characters work on a screen, to make villains an audience can actually connect to. (The Sopranos did it for ten years). Big Love doesn't seem to to do it all that well.

Dezmond said...

Bill's Dad has developed into a more nuanced character this season. I thought Roman Grant was one of the best villains in a long time.

ANCIANT said...

Roman was great, for sure. He was a villain, not a cruel and callous old jerk.

By the way I'm aware of the weird grammatical/syntactical error in my earlier response. Speed is not my friend.

Johannes said...

I don't watch Big Love, I make it. So back to music...

I've gotten into this band El Ten Eleven.

I'm not saying they're brilliant, which I believe they are, but I'm not going to say that. I'll let you guys come to that realization on your own. Their self-titled first album has been the recent sound track to my daily life.

Moving on to my second point. Anyone interested in going to see them at the Joshua tree Festival in May? We could wear do-rags (sp?) on our heads. I'll supply the do-rags. That can't be the right spelling. Tim? A snow leopard would go. There'll be lots there. Big roots music lovers, the snow leopards. They also eat hippies, so that should be a good time too.

Seriously, think about it. JW. Dez. ANCIANT

ANCIANT said...

I will investigate El Ten, because it's something a Snow Leopard would do. Also, they seem to be intergalactic in some way, according to that link. And I am all about the intergalactic.

I am totally on board to go to see them in Joshua Tree. Dez? John Williams? It could be combined with Vegas in some way. Or you all could just come to LA and we could drive out there together, to Joshua Tree.

A good idea. I support it.