Scratch Pad: Granular, Bad Batch, Oscars

From the past week

I do this manually each Saturday, usually in the morning over coffee: collating most of the little comments I’ve made on social media (as well as related notes), which I think of as my public scratch pad, during the preceding week. These days that mostly means Sometimes the material pops up earlier or in expanded form.

▰ There’s lots of types of granular ambient music. There’s cloudy granular, all hazy softness. There’s industrial granular, all textural tension. There’s classical granular, all string-section sustain. There’s sodden granular, all murky goodness. This has been a sodden granular morning.

▰ I’m working on four different articles for The Wire at the moment.

▰ Dee Bradley Baker rightfully gets a lot of praise for voicing multiple clones in Star Wars animation, especially The Bad Batch, and composer Kevin Kiner (who has worked a lot with Clint Mansell) deserves similar credit for his chameleonic abilities. This current season has had him making music in so many different modes, especially the three most recent episodes (second season, episodes three, four, and five), which ranged from Blade Runner to Tron to Indiana Jones in their styles.

▰ I could complain about no Oscar nominations for Tár or for Women Talking, or for Bones and All or for Empire of Light, or for Kimi – but the Oscar list is still pretty solid.

▰ Just installed Duet Display (to use an Android tablet as a second screen for my Mac) for the first time in forever. What year is it? (It’s working great, by the way. It used to be quite finicky back in the day. How long has it been around anyhow?)

▰ A note that I’m now mostly using Ivory, the app from the folks who made Tweetbot, for Mastodon on my phone. Online I use the default Mastodon browser webapp.

▰ I finished reading my fourth novel of the year, Amor Towles’ A Gentleman in Moscow, which I took my time with. It’s about a former Russian royal, the Count, who is, following the Revolution, offered a cushy exile: relegation to a luxury hotel. The book follows him over numerous decades. I found the opening section to be as tightly wound as a Wes Anderson movie, so choreographed that when I closed my eyes I pictured it as, more than anything, a Pixar movie (certain elements, notably an observant cat and a cartoony man identified by his ethnicity, support this). If you are allergic to alliteration you might want to avoid Amor. At the end of the second section, the Count makes an important decision that informs the rest of the book. At the end of the fourth, there is a reveal (not a huge surprise, but important once stated) that I feel the final section doesn’t really do much if anything with. The Count is, in effect, a wise fool. Does he grow, despite his breeding and predilections? That is for the reader to decide. It’s a beautifully written book, if sometimes overly rich (I had to take breaks). If books lacking proper endings bug you, then this one is the perfect corrective. (A TV series is being filmed, with Ewan McGregor as the Count, and they sure better hire that Russian kid from Mysterious Benedict Society!)

▰ Ben Monder. Ava Mendoza. Eivind Aarset. Jamie Stillway. Bill Orcutt. Mary Halvorson. Sharif Sehnaoui. And of course Bill Frisell. It’s a pretty good time to be into guitar, lemme tell ya.

▰ If I ever get to the point where all I’m writing about is the past, please lock my website and take away my keys.

▰ That thing where you’re practicing “Autumn Leaves” for guitar class, and if you play the melody just wrong enough, it ends up being “Moon Over Bourbon Street,” and if you emphasize the major seventh chords too much, it sounds like the Style Council, which is to say, no matter how you mess it up, it sounds pretty good. (And once I’m done I go back to churning chords through my granular effects.)

▰ Fifth novel I finished reading this year: Elmore Leonard’s City Primeval. I knew he wrote a bunch of westerns, too, but to say this isn’t a western is pretty silly. It’s a western with electricity, running water, disco, and more than its share of self-consciousnesses. As the subtitle makes clear, it’s “High Noon in Detroit.” The bad guy actually steals a black hat, and the good guy gets compared to Gregory Peck (who wasn’t in High Noon, but apparently was offered the role before Gary Cooper). The story features more legal bureaucracy and car talk than did High Noon, and the final chapter sets the inevitable shootout about as far from the old west as one might get, but it’s a duel nonetheless. This is not a horror novel, but as someone who has never gotten into much of the horror he’s read, I’d say the depiction of the antagonist’s sociopathic willpower and his girlfriend’s addled supplication are some of the scarier things I’ve spent time with. And as in much horror, the hero doesn’t walk away psychically unscathed. The book is taut and unwieldy, formally structured and fiercely anarchic, in equal measure. (I mentioned this book previously, and updated that post after finishing.)

▰ Report from the breakfast table: Fernanda Melchor’s Hurricane Season is not a novel you sit down with to relax.

▰ This icon is an alternate available within Ivory, the Mastodon app (with an unfortunate name) made by the folks who used to make the Twitter app Tweetbot. It also is the answer to the question: What is the opposite of a subtweet?

▰ It seems meaningful that while reading a book about a witch over lunch, my Kindle suddenly displayed nothing but a bright white screen, and there was nothing I could seem to do to reset it. Please recommend any spells or other offerings.

▰ On an episode of Leverage: Redemption I watched this week, a character was playing the New York Times Spelling Bee (well, a fake version of it) on her phone. She got to “Genius” level and said to her phone, “I’m Queen Bee, bitch!” I felt seen, even if the character turned out to be the episode’s villain.

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