Maybe just don’t watch the Grammys?

You are messing up my twitter

2014 Grammys are evilFor the reasons outlined below, I’ve already decided not to watch the Grammys. That doesn’t mean that I’m not going to check in on my social media at some point. People are always using the internet to post things I’m not interested in, but I was taken aback about how many people care about the Grammys in this day and age. I don’t need to hear about how Macklemore is overrated or underrated.  I don’t need to hear pretty much anything about Taylor Swift ever again. I have nothing against these people, but I hear more than enough than any person needs to about both of them by virtue of the fact that I’m an American with an internet connection. The night of the Grammys, I’m somehow getting extra Macklemore & T Swift in my life.  All I wanted was to check the news and I was just flooded. I come into work the next day (the in person version of twitter and facebook) and everyone is still talking about it. I can’t escape.

Sherlock was on!

Sherlock The Sign of ThreeThe night of The Grammys was the American broadcast premiere of the one where John gets married. I don’t care if you were one of those people who used Dirty Internet Tricks to watch the episode beforehand or one of those people who doesn’t care about Sherlock. IT WAS THE ONE WITH JOHN’S WEDDING. The shortest stag party ever. The best best man’s speech ever. Sherlock thinking his morning tea just appeared. That hug! Mrs. Hudson’s hat! Molly’s bow! And yes, there was also a clever mystery of some sort. Something so much better was on TV for the whole land to see, even if you were seeing it for the second time. I also watched Downton Abby and it was maybe the best episode of this lackluster season, but I wouldn’t fault you for not watching that.

Why were you surprised there wasn’t a real Lou Reed Tribute?Metallica at The 2014 Grammys

One of the things that people complained about was the lack of a true  tribute to Lou Reed beyond whatever weird thing Metallica did. Lou Reed was a true rock iconoclast. His work was dedicated to deconstructing all that came before and building something new from the wreckage. His influence was greatly responsible for the garage, punk, post-punk, alternative, and indie movements (among others). He was basically the godfather of all the recording industry was against in the 70’s and 80’s before they figured out how to profit off of it. There’s nothing the Grammy’s could have done to properly honor his legacy, especially paying him tribute. I’m not interested in the Grammys because they are structurally unable to appreciate Lou Reed.

If you have an opinion about this, it is meaningless

Just look at this list.  Eighty-Two Categories! How can you get mad that “Royals” lost Record of The Year when it won Song of The Year? Do you even know what the difference is? Scroll farther down and see how ridiculous some of those categories are. Don’t forget that there’s also a Latin Grammys on top of this. If you created an award show you cared about, is this how you would structure it? In some ways, all awards shows are meaningless. The Grammys seems to elevate this meaninglessness to new heights. I want to be upset about how much crap gets honored over what I like, but it’s nothing to get worked up about. 

It’s not even fun

This structural issue also means that you can’t easily do a Grammy pool. Think about it. Do you know anyone who has a Grammy party like people have Oscar parties? In my cantankerous old age, I have soured on awards shows in general (obvious, I know). That being said, I can understand the fun of an Oscar party.  I think a Grammy party is my version of hell.

Feeding The Beast

The Grammys are like Tinkerbell: they only exist because you believe in them and clap real hard. Maybe we should demand something better. Instead, this wave of social media I was inundated with perpetuates them. In a day and age when DVRs should help us from staying up late on a Sunday, people instead watch awards shows live for the express purpose of live tweeting and interacting with other live tweeters. This creates trending topics in social media and breathes new life into events that should be passing by the wayside. The internet was supposed to give us the tools to create and explore what we wanted on our own without corporate interests gatekeeping. Right now, we’re stuck in a feedback loop and it’s painful.

This is the 21st Century

I don’t think that technology killed music, but it did deal a mighty blow the music business. The Grammys are just a leftover of a bygone era. They have tried to adapt by downplaying the actual awards and promoting the types of performances other ceremonies have been doing for years. Some of them are even enjoyable. But why sit through hours of acceptance speeches and stuff you don’t care about to maybe catch something inspired when I promise you it will be online the next day, even the dope commercials.

Death to the record industry!

Home Taping is Killing MusicI’m sorry. I know how this last part makes me sound, but it’s a pretty inescapable truth. The Grammys never are and never were a celebration of music. They are a celebration of the recording industry as it existed in the previous century. At some point, their business model shifted from exploiting artists to protecting the intellectual property those exploited artists generated. For decades major record labels leveraged their recording, distribution, and promotion resources to create a system where they profited much more than the actual music makers. In an era when all of those activities can be done to some extent in a bedroom with a personal computer, we should question what value the corporate music industry provides and why we would want to celebrate that.

Major Cultural Event: I, Frankenstein (2014)

At one point in I, Frankenstein, someone in the movie reassures someone else: “This is real — all of it,” which I think really means “this is real — even the bullshit about gargoyles, swear to god.”

Let me back up. There are only four Underworld movies. You may have thought there were either one or infinity Underworld movies, but that number stands at a measly four. What’s more, the Underworld movies only involve vampires and werewolves in their dense mythology dedicated to explaining why vampires would deign to shoot guns at werewolves and, to a much lesser extent, defy the gun-shooting dictum to fuck werewolves. The Underworld movies try their best to be inclusive (vampires, werewolves, guns), but leave out monsters such as: mummies; zombies; demons; Twilights; gill-people; fifty-foot women; ghosts; Bigfoots; and Frankensteins.

So what if there was a movie about an army of Frankensteins? That is the plot of I, Frankenstein. It may not seem like this at first because “I” is a singular and also because it’s not really mentioned in the movie until around the halfway point, and not really acted upon until maybe the three-quarters mark. But that is because the first three-quarters of the movie are exposition and then only the last one-quarter is plot. I, Frankenstein has a lot of what we who pretend we are in the business call “world-building.” When you world-build, you use computers to construct vast fantastical places that look somewhat like soundstages.

This is the world Frankenstein, who as many people in the movie point out is actually Frankenstein’s Monster, and who is also called Adam after that lackluster Buffy villain, enters into after the events of the Mary Shelley novel Frankenstein. These events are recounted in the space of forty-five languorous seconds at the beginning of this movie before getting down to the real business: adapting a sham graphic novel written for the purpose of being adapted into a screenplay that rips off Underworld. After that boring Shelley stuff is over, Adam is confronted by demons, who covet his secrets to corpse resurrection, and living, shapeshifting gargoyles, who covet stopping demons from killing shit. Both sides want him to join their war, but Adam Frankenstein needs to go his own way, which Fleetwood Mac never mentioned means living several hundred years as a Jack Reacher-like hobo, slinking around in the shadows, traveling via public-ish transportation, and washing a single set of clothes in whatever sinks he can find.

The conclusion this movie has reached is that because the monster was resurrected by unnatural means, he is basically invincible (like Jack Reacher), cannot be killed by normal means (like Jack Reacher), and not particularly psyched about that (like the non-Cruise vampire from Interview with the Vampire). I’m not sure why the half-rotted flesh used to construct this pitiful creature looks so smooth; I guess it’s due to Victor Frankenstein’s previously unsung stitchwork, which also results in scars that don’t disappear, but do rise and fall, and possibly shift around on his face, although he never says “I have scars?!” a la an earlier film in this series, Young Frankenstein.

Have I mentioned that Frankenstein’s monster is handsome in this version? (Or at least Aaron Eckhart handsome.) And why shouldn’t he be, motherfucker? Sexy vampires have had their day. The era of sexy Frankensteins begins now, or whenever Aaron Eckhart puts his back into it a little more, if you know what I mean (I don’t know what I mean). Also, I really like the idea of Frankenstein’s monster roaming the Earth following the events of the Mary Shelley novel and/or Kenneth Branagh movie. I especially like the idea that maybe at some point he becomes the mysterious new sheriff of a small town.

Anyway, though he doesn’t become sheriff onscreen in this movie, Adam Frankenstein eventually turns up in an unnamed city that must be somewhere in the same country as Underworld; at very least, I’m certain they take place on the same continent, a Europe-like landmass known as Eurotrash. This city also happens to be the world headquarters of the company headed by the demon prince played by Bill Nighy. If you’re making a movie like this, you have to include Bill Nighy (who I hope his friends have nicknamed Billy Nigh at some point). He will totally treat it like it’s a real job and make the movie feel substantially wittier than it actually is. He has been training for this his whole life by appearing in Richard Curtis movies that are not actually funny. Nighy employs a couple of legit scientists who never ask why they’re supposed to be studying suspiciously Frankensteinian reanimation science, I assume because they are trying to avoid spoilers.

Nighy sends out demons to kill humans and/or gargoyles, who also have some kind of headquarters in this town. As someone who is very interested in mythology built around shapeshifting gargoyles, I found the treatment of gargoyles in I, Frankenstein pretty confusing. The gargoyles sometimes take human form and discuss things while walking through doorways, a technique the Underworld people must have explained makes them look busy, and they do all of this in buildings lined with gargoyles. Gargoyles living in buildings lined with gargoyles: does this mean that when they go to sleep, the buildings are actually empty? Are the prime spots in this building on the outside, or the inside? I, Frankenstein is good at showing gargoyles swooping around and grabbing demons and killing them, but disappointingly mum about matters such as gargoyle real estate or gargoyle job descriptions. Like for another example, at one point, a leader gargoyle instructs another gargoyle to make sure there are plenty of gargoyles posted on all nearby buildings to keep watch over the plot of the movie. This for me raised many questions about what the gargoyles are otherwise doing. It seems like saying, hey, make sure there are plenty of humans sitting on their couches tonight.

Another weird thing about the gargoyles in this movie is that while the gargoyles and demons fight and kill each other, they can all see each other ascending to heaven (gargoyles are basically semi-angels) or descending into hell (that’s the demons), which hardly seems fair, in fact seems kind of like a major morale-suck if you’re on the side that descends into hell. When you kill a gargoyle and it just ascends majestically to heaven, possibly to be awarded seventy virgin gargoyles because I don’t know how this gargoyle-inclusive religion works,  I can imagine that might set off an existential crisis about the meaning of gargoyle-demon warfare.

I, Scientist

Then again, presumably you know the score with gargoyle-killing when you become a demon (however you become a demon). This does not explain what goes through the heads of the two normal human scientists (one hot lady, one “other”) when every day they report to work in a gigantic complex where they appear to be the only two non-security employees, and basically looks like it should have a giant DEMONCO sign out front. The DEMONCO science room is one of my favorite parts of the movie, even though it leaves me hanging about the fate of the successfully reanimated giant rat they use as a test subject. When the scientists try to reanimate something (which they aren’t able to really do correctly until they read the MacGuffin Frankenstein Book o’ Resurrection), their screens totally have a reanimation status bar readout that says stuff like “Reanimation 2%” (it takes a super long time to reanimate something). This raises questions — this movie raises many questions; it should include them after the credits, like those discussion sections they sometimes append to paperback editions of popular novels — about what, say, a 40% reanimated corpse is like. Is that like, the limbs do stuff but the rest of the body isn’t into it?

I just realized I may be recapping I, Frankenstein more than assessing its quality. Its quality should probably be discussed in Screen Gems terms. Though it comes from an Underworld writer and is obviously patterned after that series, I, Frankenstein more closely resembles other Screen Gems specials like Legion or Priest in the way it’s always swarming with sometimes-winged CG creatures. In fact, it’s extremely confusing that Paul Bettany does not appear a single time in I, Frankenstein. Bettany is a little more convincing at being intense during a storm of nonsense than Aaron Eckhart, who does look pissed off, but in that way where you can’t tell if Adam Frankenstein is pissed off about getting jerked around by gargoyles and demons and only having one hoodie, or if Aaron Eckhart is pissed off that he was Harvey Dent in the biggest Batman movie ever but now winds up with Paul Bettany’s non-Jennifer Connelly leftovers.

But I like the designs of the demons and gargoyles, and of some of the buildings, and I like the general level of Frankenstein-related glass-smashing though I feel that more of the CGI stained glass should have CGI-smashed; that feels like a missed opportunity. Also, there should have been a part where a gargoyle turns against the other gargoyles and the gargoyles have to fight each other. This admittedly does not have much to do with Frankenstein’s monster but remember, in my ideal post-Frankenstein story he’s off being the sheriff of a small town. There could still be gargoyles in that version, and some glass-smashing.

Also, this movie doesn’t have a secret ending; I checked. Come to think of it, it barely has a public ending. They must be saving that for the sequel.

What Is SportsAlcohol.com?

It is not something akin to gin + Gatorade. That would be disgusting.

Is it even about sporting events? Is it even about spirits? Who’s to say?

It is not an excuse for its creators to write hit pieces about each other, though that might factor into it. Perhaps quite a bit.

It, like many of its peers, has a blank space on the sides and a narrow column in the middle. That’s where the good stuff goes, in case you didn’t know where to look.

It is not a long con. If someone gets set up and goes to jail when it’s all over, that’s just a side benefit.

It is not a get-rich-quick scheme, though its name is reminiscent of three things that often make people rich: sports, alcohol, and tech. (Yes, you always pronounce the “.com” in SportsAlcohol.com.) If you have a get-rich-quick scheme, send it to us for Shark Tank-style evaluation. Then again, if it’s legal and looks like it’ll work, we’ll probably steal it and do it without you.

It is not an idea that was submitted to us and stolen. Most of the time—with one notable exception—when people get the idea for SportsAlcohol.com, they keep it to themselves.

Million Dollar Arm Is Everything Wrong With Sports Movies

A new movie theater opened in my home town and I love it! I’m getting out and seeing more films I want to on a regular basis because it’s so convenient. The only drawback is that every time I go see a movie there, no matter what it is, they show the trailer for Million Dollar Arm.

I haven’t seen the movie, but the trailer spoils the whole thing. Sight unseen this looks like a pile of cliches that Hollywood keeps pumping out because we keep watching. This makes me mad for a bunch of reasons

Continue reading Million Dollar Arm Is Everything Wrong With Sports Movies

They Might Be The Dismemberment Plan

They Might Be Giants & The Dismemberment Plan

Before I even heard “Waiting,” the first new recording by The Dismemberment Plan in over a decade, I was reminded of They Might Be Giants. That was because of The Plan’s initial distribution method for the song; in order to hear it, you needed call a phone number and listen to it as a voicemail greeting. For over twenty years, TMBG ran their own Dial-A-Song service, which did the same exact thing. Once I heard “Waiting” in higher fidelity, the comparisons continued.

The keyboards beep and boop like a cartoon robot. The beat is bouncy, with a mix of live and synthesized instrumentation. The beginning and end contain unothodox samples. The lyrics are clever rhymes taking a different look at the ordinary. All of these things in “Waiting” reminded me of They Might Be Giants, and I’m not the only one. In this interview with Dismemberment Plan frontman Travis Morrison, Dan Weiss describes Uncanney Valley, their forthcoming reunion album as “a dozen They Might Be Giants-esque pop songs.” This excites me for a few reasons.

As they get older, The Dismemberment Plan are getting away from Pixies-like dynamic explosions, shouting, and clever but bitter lyrics that initially drew me to them in college. That doesn’t mean that they’ve slowed down, but focused on other strengths. Foremost among these is a sense of exploration and experimentation. I don’t think there’s a better model for longevity in music through trying different things than They Might Be Giants.

The older I get, the more I find my musical tastes solidifying in a way I swore they never would. I’m more interested in listening to bands I already like as opposed to discovering new sounds. Favorite bands that are always trying to change and push their boundaries is an effective, comforting way to push back against the atrophy.

About The Name Singing About Economics

Singing About Economics is a horrible name, one of the reasons I think it fits for this blog. In the short time I’ve been doing this, I’ve found my blogging to be both needless and self-indulgent. I needed a name to acknowledge that so it was out in the open up front and I could move on.

The first title for this blog that I thought of was Dancing About Architecture, from the famous quote: “writing about music is like dancing about architecture.” I need to be honest and say that I first heard a variation on it in a movie I’m embarrassed to have seen, Playing By Heart.

I did not like that movie, but I did like that line. It perfectly captures what I dislike about most music journalism: it shouldn’t exist. I’ve always felt that music writing is the ultimate job for Those Who Can’t Do, perhaps because it’s something I’ve always been interested in doing. Since the whole point of this blog is to get me writing again and I will probably write a lot about music, it made sense. dancingaboutarchitecture.com is owned by a domain reseller that wants over two grand for the name, so I decided to research an alternative with a similar meaning.

I’ve most often heard the original quote attributed to Elvis Costello, but I was always suspicious of its provenance. Then I came across this excellent blog post from Quote Investigator. It’s always a good feeling when you google something and the top result is a well researched article that precisely answers your question instead of an unanswered forum post or a Yahoo! Answers page.

According to the Quote Investigator, the earliest version of something resembling the quote is found in an issue of the New Republic in 1918: “writing about music is as illogical as singing about economics.”  The domain was available and a star was born.

One problem with this name is that you can sing about economics. For proof of concept, I humbly submit the song “Gold Standard” by Albany Legends The Orange. I once saw them perform this song at a show at Valentine’s, prefacing it by saying, “This song is about monetary policy! And girls!” They’re specifically using it as a metaphor to talk about relationships, but it’s an impressive feat nonetheless.

Starting To Write Again

I’ve started and restarted this first post almost a dozen times. What you are reading is the last attempt. The whole point of this blog was just to give myself a place to write again. Just write and not worry what comes out in the hope that the quantity will eventually lead to the quality. I used to enjoy writing and I used to be good at it, or at least I think so. I know for sure that I’m not anymore. There are a lot of reasons for this. When I started working in marketing and doing lots of copywriting, I had to force myself to focus on the parts of writing that I didn’t like. Being persuasive and concise can be important, but it’s no fun when they are of absolute importance in everything. The bigger problem is that I stopped almost all the other writing I was doing. Now I work in a different field and I don’t write at all anymore.

So it’s time to write. It’s not important that it be good or important at first, I just need to get it out there. I have totally been that person who sits on the couch and thinks they have a great novel or a screenplay in them if they when it’s been months since they’ve written anything. I need to actually do the damn thing before I worry if it’s any good. In the 1970’s, Jack Benny bemoaned the death of vaudeville, saying it was a place where talent could be lousy and gradually learn how to be good. In that respect, this blog will be my turn of the century variety show.

In the interest of hitting the ground running with material, I’m creating The Hundred Song Exercise. A group of my friends put together a list of our hundred favorite songs for the first decade of this millennium. I had a good time putting together my list, but not a lot of time reflecting on it. The goal will be to take all 100 of songs from my personal list and write about each one in a different post. I’d like to finish that up in about three to four months, but I’m not going to beat myself up if it takes longer. I plan to write about things besides music, but this will probably occupy most of my blogging time, at least at first.

I know that I could do this anywhere, like a free blogspot or tumblr blog. The other thing I wanted to work on in addition to my writing is my coding ability. Almost all of my coding skill have come from necessity, learning the bare minimum to get by in non-programming/non-development jobs where I have to edit some html and css and maybe little php or javascript as well. Greater practical tech skills could only enrich my life, I think. I think I have the potential to be more successful in life than I have been to this point. At this point, it’s up to me. This blog is most likely not a stepping stone to fame and fortune, but I hope it can give me focus and practice help me with whatever’s next.

The Mets are the worst

[Note: I’ve been working on starting this blog for a little while now. I don’t plan on doing many posts that are about sports or politics or are even topical. I have a few drafts for a number of posts I’m still working on for this blog’s ‘official launch,’ but I just needed to get this out of my system. Consider this my soft launch. This post is dated, overlong, self-righteous, and needlessly autobiographical. It’s about two of the most unpleasant topics to read or write about: racism and The Mets. As I wrote it, I came to realize that I can barely write anymore. I’m trying to get better and I promise they won’t all be like this.]

It is a stupid thing to be a fan of a professional sports team. This is not a hard and fast rule; there are plenty of opportunities for sports to have a positive impact on our lives. This is not true of the way most Americans consume the professional “Big Four” sports. Take me for example. I get outside to play games with friends on average once a week in the warmer months, but most of my interaction with sports involve sitting on a couch watching games we are all paying for no matter what. Sometimes I spend a little extra and see a game in person. Like many overweight Americans, watching sports for me often involves eating fattening foods and drinking soda or beer. Emotionally investing yourself in a uniform owned by fabulously wealthy men over the players that struggle to play at the highest levels is just moronic. That hasn’t stopped me or millions of Americans from doing it for years.

Going a step further, it is a stupid thing for me to be a fan of The New York Mets. My father and his father were Yankees fans. Learning about baseball in the mid 80’s, the Mets players were on TV and in print all the time. The Worst Team Money Could Buy era scared me off following the team during my teens, when a young person’s interest generally wander anyways. I eventually came back, but why I did is a question that I lack the introspection to answer

Whatever the reason, I am a Mets fan. I buy shirts and hats and go down to Citi Field when I can. I enjoy watching games when I have the time, but I catch most of them on the radio. When I was a boy, I used to put my robot-shapped AM/FM radio under my pillow during summer nights and fall asleep listening to the heroics of Daryl Strawberry, Keith Hernandez, and the rest of the bad guys. I was there in person when when R.A. Dickey won his twentieth game in 2012 and I made some weird noises when Zack Wheeler struck out Brian McCann in his major league debut. I do all this in spite of the people I who profit from my emotional and financial investment.

The Mets are not a well run team.  They embarrass themselves so often, Deadspin has a tag dedicated to their failures. When they started play in 1962, the Mets were known as loveable losers. While the team has enjoyed success from time to time (four trips to the World Series with two wins over fifth years), this is the mold they most often fit into. They do things poorly, but it’s just baseball. You can’t help but laugh. Their most recent PR nightmare goes beyond that.

The New York Times has a story about The Mets’ botched Native American Heritage Day. The team invited American Indian Community House to feature dancing, music, & other cultural events alongside a home game. There was, of course, a group sales component to this, where the AICH reserved a block of seats at a discounted rate that their supporters could purchase to view both the game and the cultural festivities. It’s called cause marketing; a business and a charity leverage each others’ resources for higher visibility and/or revenues. It’s a symbiotic relationship where everyone wins, except when one side screws it up in the most offensive way possible.

Native American Hertitage Day was scheduled for a game against the Atlanta Braves. Worrying that the Braves organization would view the singing and dancing program as a protest against their racist logos and crowd chant, the Mets cancelled almost every part of the programming, causing the AICH to drop out of the day.

By pulling out of the event and sharing their story with the Times, the AICH made the right move and highlighted not just the Mets’ stupidity, but once again brought a focus to the shameful treatment of Native Americans by our national pastime and its fans.

There is no question that the continued use of Native American stereotypes as American sports mascots is racist and painful. I know that there are a lot of Braves fans, Redskins fans, fake Indians, lazy pollsters, and other privileged people who disagree, but I consider the matter settled. As a Braves-hating Mets fan, I may be biased, so here are just two of the many articles explaining some of the problems involved. I picked these two because they were written actual Native Americans, of which there are no longer many left.

It’s so Metsian that not only do they tactily endorse the racism of The Braves every time they play them, but are worried about offending them.

Who should really be offended? I know I’m upset, but that doesn’t really stop me from cheering for Matt Harvey at The All Star Game or David Wright at the Home Run Derby. There is a deep, stupid, emotional investment I have in those guys just because they wear blue and orange. I have no answers about how to change things for the better, but I at least wanted to add my voice to the chorus of people who think that how Americans handle our relationship with the descendants of the natives of our homeland needs to change.