Saturday, May 22, 2010

As Lost Turns

So, they're hyping the heck out of the Lost Finale. I'm interested, but I think it went from being a really good TV show, to a mildly entertaining show, to a chore in relatively short order. I think a three season show minus a whole bunch of the claptrap would've been better, but hey, they're rich, so they must be right- right?
I bring it up because of this interview . Specifically, there's bit where Carlton Cuse says
We want people to have a chance to digest, discuss, debate and interpret the events of the finale. And we think there’s going to be plenty of things for people to discuss and debate, just like every year. We don’t want to be out there saying, no no no, you must think this or you must think that. We don’t want to sort of spoil the process, which is to let people process the finale and arrive at their own conclusions about it.
Then, Damon Lindelof says
The interpretive element of "Lost," the fact that you immediately need as soon as the episode is over to seek out a community of people to express your own thoughts about it, understand what they thought about it and form an opinion, that’s the bread and butter of the show. The more we talk about what our intention was, the more we take it away from the audience. And we have no interest in doing that ever.
Now, in theory, I can get behind that- the notion of Art being a process of communication between the Artist and the audience is a dear one to me. But, it seems to me they're using a kind of misinterpretation of that process of communication to justify and rationalize their artlessness. The interpretive element works if you're talking about non-narrative art. If it was some kind of visual tone poem, they might have something there. But, they're engaged in a pulpy form of genre-writing that's dependant upon narrative form. They're combining Science Fiction and mystery writing. That's it. It's the same combination that both "Twin Peaks" and "The X Files" employed. So, what kind of postmodern nonsense is it to say "Oh, we're leaving interpretation up to the audience"? Quite frankly, that's simply not so- they're just lacking the courage to answer the mysteries they tried to invoke, and now, they're dodging continuity and logic, and structural bullets by caveat, hoping that the audience will rationalize it for them. They didn't write Haiku's, here- they produced a genre show! Narrative Art depends upon the narrative-which is to say, upon the Artist knowing (Gno- look it up) what they're saying. In other words, they can say "oh, we've explained the numbers" by citing a scene or two where they are discussed, but that doesn't mean they've explained the narrative function of them-and therefore by not completing the function, they're copping out. This is why the (original) Prisoner is still a work of Art, and Lost is still just a TV show. Watch any of the first 16 episodes of the Prisoner, and it both serves as a poetic metaphor for a societal force, and a fully formed narrative story. The last, 17th episode is precisely a visual Tone Poem that abandons narrative function in order to achieve a truly meta- narrative about the show itself, and the process in creating it. That's high Art, and it left no questions hanging- Number 6 was a prisoner both of himself, and of his culture. The Village was a system of control, just as all cultures are system of control. Along the way, it was determined that neither absolute control, nor absolute autonomy was truly desirable, but that a bargain must be struck between the individual and society. Yes, all of this was demonstrated clearly. Faith and Reason both played into this equation, as did love and war. Meanwhile, Lost cannot even resolve whether Faith or Reason is even valid, it cannot decide whether the individual or society is important- it cannot answer any of the narrative questions it has posed, it simply exists as commercial entity. Which means, again, it's just a genre show, like a soap opera, or a situation Comedy. That means talk of the function of Lost being some kind of facilitator of interpretive creative communication between the audience, the Art and itself is just a pretentious cop out.
Now, I've got friends and family who think that Lost is the best TV show, ever. I'm not here to say they're wrong, exactly. I'm just here to say that it's not high art, and it's pretty deeply flawed on its own terms. Now, the argument can be made that all Art is flawed, and that the distinction between high and low art is a false one, and that since all art is therefore destined for failure, it's not a question of if the show succeeds, only if it entertains- and that's a valid point of view. I just don't buy it, myself. I think that the show jumped the proverbial shark somewhere in the 4th season, and went from a good show to a poor one. By now, I think the fans really could write a better show ( which is another possible subtext of what the shows own producers are saying, and, if so, what better evidence that they have failed at the narrative imperative is there?) and I hope somebody does. By far, the best elements of the show have not been of the show in a long time- between the Blogs, the ARG's and the fan-generated speculation some truly innovative storytelling has been constructed- but doesn't that derive more from people's dissatisfaction with the paltriness of the show's construction than from its design?

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Dio's Dead

I wasn't a real fan, but some of my friends were. Too bad. Stomach cancer, that's a rough way to go. I know it wasn't painless, but I hope it was peaceful.


So, I finally got an Ipod. Not an Mp3 player, no, the apple product. I'm still a PC type of guy, but, apple really does have the superior product with the Nano. In some ways, it's an amazing product- 600 songs easily stored, right? Oh, and a few pod casts, and maybe a few photos, and did I mention it's also a video recorder? But, on the other hand Itunes is clunky, and difficult, not to mention invasive. Also, the product is a bit of a magic box- you cannot customize how it works, and you cannot so much as replace the battery, yourself.
All in all, though, it's good.
This is how it relates to this blog, though- it's encouraged me to listen to a bunch of music I had in the collection, not explore new stuff. In other words, a lot of review. As with any review, it's only interesting for the new connections. So, I leave it on shuffle a lot. I discover things like The Mescaleros' "All in a Day" blends nicely with The Tubeway Army's "Are 'Friends' Electric?", and I discover just how narrow my tastes really are- it turns out there really isn't that much space between Billie Holiday and Spearhead, nor is there all that much difference between Willie Nelson and Mark Lanegan. So, I'm still processing this new information. I am re-evaluating much of my tastes- not changing those tastes- but re-evaluating- I'm realizing that I'm much more of a rockist than I thought, that I enjoy keyboards more than guitar solos, but I love guitars more than voices (Except Mark Lanegan's voice, which is still a perfect instrument. No, I don't have a man-crush on him, I just love his voice. The man, himself, seems a bit of an Ass.) I'm realizing that the only real use I have for lyrics is aphoristic, and that a sweeping melody means more to me than a well-turned phrase. All the same, Joe Strummer's words are some of the best poetry I will ever hear.
There is a value to reviewing beyond analysis, however- the connection between the present and the past becomes more transparent, and, if you're at peace with who you are, that can be a comfort, and in those areas where you are not at peace with yourself, that connection can serve as inspiration to achieve that peace. (Incidentally, this is one of the three reasons I cannot be a Buddhist. I believe that the past is real, as well as the future is knowable- I don't believe we're in an eternal present. The other two reasons? I believe in an external god, and I believe that the full, absolute truth is both real and unknowable.)

But, it's not entirely been about the Ipod- I've been watching a couple of movies, listening to a couple of Cd's, and reading a few things-
The movies? What we do is Secret, Raising Arizona, and Feast.
The less I say about What we do is Secret, probably the better. I have people who know me who knew Darby/Bobby/Jan better than I ever will, and I don't want to offend them with my impressions. What I will say, however, is that I only saw him as Darby, and only saw him at shows, and even so- the biography drawn up in What we do is Secret is far too kind to him, far too harsh at people who deserve better, and far too neat to be anything like the truth. At best, it's the impression that his friends might want to give their kids. However, if you take away the non-fiction aspect, and view it as a myth, or a story, it's well done. It's a slightly more true story than your average biopic, in that while it does show that drugs were bad, it shows more clearly both the ambition, and mental anguish that were the reasons for the drug use did the real damage.
As for Raising Arizona- What can I say? I like about half of the Coens' movies- this one, and Miller's Crossing are my favorites-and it's a modern classic. The distillation of cartoon slapstick, Guys and Dolls-esque patter, and redneck mysticism has a legion of imitators, but none offer up such a sincere, genuine heart. Well worth your time.
Finally, Feast. Yes, the project greenlight horror franchise. Again, what can I say- it's not really a "horror" movie- it's an extreme slapstick comedy with low budget special effects. That's how I see a lot of these things, and that's what I'm a fan of watching. I do like a real "horror" movie, and I don't like torture porn, but slasher-style gorefests? They are their own kind of comedy. I don't wish harm on (nearly) anyone- and it's only because I know it's special effects that I can view it that way- and I think Feast is more fully aware that it's not real than most, hence I can enjoy it more.
The Cd's? The Bronx (III) and Isobel Campbell/Mark Lanegan's The ballad of the Broken Seas.
The Bronx have mellowed out from from their start as a hardcore band, without genuinely changing their style. Basically, what they do is a somewhat metallic version of the garage punk that a band like Rocket From the Crypt did, or that The Riverboat Gamblers still do. That "garageiness" is the appeal for me. They sound like smart guys rocking out after a few beers, aware of both how stupid they are, and how little they want to give it up, nonetheless. In that respect, they are the Cynics for the Jackass crowd.
As for the Belle and Sebastian girl, singing with the former Screaming Tree- yes, it's gentle, ramshackle ballads, but informed by a Gaelic ( not "irish" sensibility) From Richard Thompson to Glasvegas, I'm a sucker for the Gaelic lilt and reel. My belief is that Rock and Roll is based on two things, equally- the "rock" of African rhythm and the "roll" of Gaelic harmony. I think the "blue note" of the Blues traces ancestry directly to Scotland, and the high, lonesome of Country swing traces directly from Wales. So, this is still a rock and roll record. That's what lends it swing, and heft. What makes it pretty are the two voices, but what makes it cool is the Gaelic ghost underneath it all.
Anyway, this is long enough, I'll continue later...