Scratch Pad: Tape, Rain, Transitions

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 @[email protected]¹ (on Mastodon). Sometimes the material pops up earlier or in expanded form.

▰ “In tape I trust.”

“I’ve been back and forth over that tape like Gene Hackman.”

Yeah, I dug the final episode of the first season of Poker Face.

▰ I’d like to say I hear the rain but what I really hear is Cake’s “It’s Coming Down” playing on a loop in my head

▰ I’ve enjoyed using Mastodon via tut (“A TUI for Mastodon with vim inspired keys”: on terminal but I think I’m gonna probably stick with the browser for my laptop, and Ivory for my phone. We’ll see.

▰ I was stoked for a full Crosshair episode of The Bad Batch this week, but much as he’s become such a fascinating character (some of the best acting I’ve ever seeen by an animated character — his stoic obstinance, of course, feeds into this), the real hero of this season has been composer Kevin Kiner.

▰ Another thing I really loved about Benjamín Labatut’s novel When We Cease to Understand the World: how the transitions happen only in retrospect. You never quite know when a secondary character (a side reference, a compatriot) will be pushed to the foreground, and you aren’t really sure until the most recent focus of attention has retreated.

¹That’s the first time I’ve used the full URL with identifier in this weekly summary. I still don’t think it’s been formalized if people write @[email protected] or

Hania Rani’s On Giacometti

Hania Rani’s On Giacometti contains material from her score to a new film about the artist Alberto Giacometti and Giacometti’s broader family. It’s a gorgeous collection of quiet, contemplative music — the sort of music that fills the space in a film and yet is, through the strange received logic of film-making, intended to signify the presence of silence, the absence of sound. Start with “Knots,” in which a stoic piano part — the score is essentially all piano all the time — gets lightly embroidered with bits of synthesized filigree. Then try “Storm,” which is only stormy at a distance; to listen to its echoing patterning is to witness, purposefully, something through thick glass and grim darkness that is transpiring quite far away. One highlight is the occasional appearance of Dobrawa Czocher’s cello, notably on the opening track. Some of this material will draw comparisons to Nils Frahm (the muffled pads of “Mountains,” for example) and Philip Glass, but this is Rani’s music through and through: the gracious pacing, the lithe development, the ambiguous mood. The movie, The Giacomettis, was directed by Susanna Fanzun.

Scratch Pad: Soderbergh, Pushead, Painlevé

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 (especially because the Algorithm keeps kicking me off Facebook even though I’ve down nothing even remotely inappropriate). Sometimes the material pops up earlier or in expanded form.

▰ The phrase “unforeseen consequences” is generally employed by someone who has never read a science fiction novel in their life

▰ After guitar class I sometimes shoot a quick video of myself playing what my instructor had just gone over, especially chord voicings that are entirely new to (and currently befuddling) me, and my face in them always look like someone shared some sort of really shocking state secret — eyes wide, brow furrowed, mouth shut

▰ Donald Fagen needs to get Pushead to draw his next album cover just to see if the haters can resist the lure of purchasing it

▰ The best thing about a new Soderbergh movie is new Soderbergh interviews

▰ Sometimes elegant solutions are more elegant than they are solutions

▰ That explosion at 9:20am (San Francisco) on Thursday, February 9, 2023, was something else. Whew. Incredibly loud. Set the hair on my arms up and frazzled my nerves. I saw reports of sirens across the park, so I got the sense it was in the Sunset, not the Richmond District (where I live), because I wasn’t hearing the sirens here. Looks like it was on 22nd Avenue, maybe near Moraga?

▰ That thing where after playing a video game for a while you stand up and are all too aware that moving and looking around are entirely separate actions

▰ PCB designs are my visual cotton candy. (This is the 4Swing module from Gieskes.)

▰ Ooh, Jean Painlevé’s The Sounds of Science, with the Yo La Tengo score, has been added to the Criterion streaming service this month

▰ 1993: “I didn’t know if I should laugh or cry.”

2023: “I didn’t know if I should use the laugh emoji or the cry emoji.”

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.

On Repeat: Schulz, Zorn, Seidel, Quayle

Recent favorites

The new year is still new, and I’m getting back in the habit of posting brief mentions each Sunday of my favorite listening from the week prior:

▰ The prolific Jeannine Schulz closed out last year with three tracks of lightly abrasive ambient mist. Interestingly, the accompanying image shows a cassette, though the release is digital-only, so presumably some of this texture has to do with cassettes being employed as part of the recording process.

▰ John Zorn and Bill Laswell improvise in the richly reverberant space of the Gagosian gallery in Manhattan, responding to the array of paintings by artist Sterling Ruby. And it’s worth mentioning how well the filming and editing, by Lea Khayata’s Pushpin Films, function.

▰ Not only has Dave Seidel released a beautiful experiment in slow chord progressions, but he’s posted the performance — in this case using the free VCV Rack software synthesizer — with step-by-step annotation:

▰ I’ve never seen the 2022 TV series Gaslit, but I’ve listened repeatedly to its music, which was composed by Mac Quayle. Quayle worked on some of my favorite Cliff Martinez scores, including Arbitrage and The Company You Keep, as well as Drive, Contagion, Spring Breakers, The Lincoln Lawyer, and Only God Forgives. The track “Trash Can S’mores,” with its noir-ish use of horns, acoustic bass, percussion, and other jazz elements, is a standout.