Monday, August 31, 2015

Kanye Not Advanced Yet and His Appearance on the VMAs Proves it

Kanye West comes up a lot in discussions in the Advanced Genius Facebook group and I'm asked by people on Twitter whether Kanye is Advanced. I lean that way, but this morning I realized what holds me back: If Kanye were Advanced, he would be not be involved in the VMAs. At least, not right now. The Advanced don't need your love or approval, but it seems like he still does. He is so much more than the VMAs, so why would he stoop to being a part of it? Sure, it could be Advanced to be there, but I don't think that applies for him. Prince, yes. Leonard Cohen, maybe. But Kanye, no. I feel this to be true but I can't prove it.

Friday, August 28, 2015

Stephen King Can Write a Book in a Week, and That's Fine

Interesting piece by Stephen King in the NY Times. He asks, "Can a novelist be too productive?" Here's a good part:
No one in his or her right mind would argue that quantity guarantees quality, but to suggest that quantity never produces quality strikes me as snobbish, inane and demonstrably untrue.
 Of course he would say that, you might think, he writes a ton of stuff. But:
This is not a roundabout way of justifying my own prolificacy. Yes, I’ve published more than 55 novels. Yes, I have employed a pseudonym (Richard Bachman). Yes, I once published four books in one year (shades of James Patterson … except mine were longer, and written without the aid of a collaborator). And yes, I once wrote a novel (“The Running Man”) in a single week. But I can say, with complete honesty, that I never had any choice.
People just write differently. When I wrote my book, I would sit down with a cup of coffee and knock out 1000 words on Saturday afternoon while my son was napping and then do it again on Sunday exactly the same way. Most of the words stayed in the final version of the book, for better or worse. Some people struggle over every word, and the output is amazing, but sometimes it feels like it was labored over so there is no life to it. I don't know why we feel the need to think there is a better or correct way to make art, but maybe it's just that we think if only the writer or director or whatever would have put a bit more time into something, that would have fixed all the things I don't like about it. Maybe there is a sweet spot between "The Running Man" and "Chinese Democracy," but I suspect it is different for everyone.

John McEnroe Covers Nirvana

I really wanted to add "You CAN be serious," but I just couldn't do it.

Happy Friday

Thursday, August 27, 2015

Salon Thinks It's Possible to Pick the Best Songs of the 1980s

The Overt Salon asks, "Are these really the best songs of the ’80s?" in response to the Pitchfork list that came out the other day.

Here's a bit:
The list excels at documenting of the years when hip hop evolved from Grandmaster Flash’s “The Message” to pop pastiche like De La Soul and word-drunk one-offs like the Beastie Boys’ “Paul’s Boutique.” The descriptions of how various kinds of ‘80s production shaped what we hear from music today – or the way the music and vocals of Yoko Ono’s “Walking on Thin Ice” echoes through contemporary bands — shows some very good ears among the site’s staff. The nods to music outside the Anglo-American axis (a bit of Brazilian and West African) are well chosen. The shaping up of Prince as the artist of the decade makes sense, whether you look at today’s musical landscape or just look at the ‘80s in isolation.
But if you reject the list’s contrarian/ Poptimist subtext – if you think that music played mostly on guitars, that comes out of country and folk and acoustic blues still matters and had a pretty good run in the ‘80s – the list is less satisfying and full of holes.
For a few seconds I was surprised by the lack of more songs by the music I like, but then I remembered: these lists mean nothing, are more or less arbitrary, but people like to read about them. When I was working at Spin, I saw firsthand how these things are assembled, so I can tell  you that a lot of choices, and their rank especially, were basically "sure, why not?"

It's fine to have this reaction of course, and a reaction is what Pitchfork wants. But here's the part that bothered me:
Okay, I know — there’s only so much room, even on a list of 200 songs. But was it really so urgent to put George Benson’s “Give Me the Night” (just about all of his jazz guitar songs are better and less overplayed), Michael McDonald’s “I Keep Forgettin (Every Time You’re Near),” Tears for Fears’ “Head Over Heels,” Hall and Oates “I Can’t Go For That,” or Phil Collins’ drum machine nightmare “In the Air Tonight”? Okay, part of this list is really great. But I just can’t forgive them the Phil Collins.
First of all, rejecting the premise of your own article is never a great idea. Of course there is only so much room, so why are you nitpicking? And no, it was not urgent, they just though they were making good choices, or good enough choices to provoke some discussion. Finally, after starting out rejecting the premise, he finishes by saying it's one song he really has a problem with. Well, my problem is that he has a problem with Phil Collins! So I will see his pointless article and raise him a pointless blog post.

Gogo Wifi Sucks, and Such Small Portions!

Not much going on in the Advanced world today, so I'll talk a bit about a technology I would love to embrace, but haven't been able to.

One of the hallmarks of the Advanced State of Mind is humility (ironically, I guess, since it sounds so grandiose). By that I mean, you have to accept that some things seem terrible only because you don't fully understand them. This article about Gogo in-flight wifi made me think of that because I absolutely hate Gogo more than just about anything in the world.

I'm a fan of Louis C.K. so I know that I'm supposed to just appreciate the miracle of being able to log in from the skies, but that doesn't help. Basically, it feels like Gogo breaks the promise of wifi (you can get on the Internet and do stuff), and I don't care about the technical issues that prevents them from keeping that promise, especially now that it is more expensive. After reading this article in Bloomberg Business, I understand why maybe I should. Perhaps unsurprisingly, getting wifi on airplanes is complicated! There aren't that many airplanes so testing is limited. The hardware is hard to update/replace. And the more people use it, the worse it is.

The ideal solution is to just make it better--and satellite service is coming--but until that happens, the best option is to charge even more for the lousy service until so many people stop using it that it becomes good again (it's called price optimization).  If you're sitting in your middle seat with no legroom and want to write a blog post, this may be infuriating, but deciding not to pay for something that doesn't work that well is a good thing. Still, for some reason I want the price to be affordable even though I know the service will suck.

Part of that is that I don't like that rich people (or corporate-card holders) benefit from the high price, but again, paying just enough for something terrible is worse than paying nothing while someone gets something wonderful. There is certainly some value in sticking it to other people, but not enough to offset the anger you feel when you lose service or have to sign in again.

Anyway, nothing earth shattering, but I did find the article interesting and I almost felt sympathy for Gogo, which I never thought would happen. Kind of like I never thought I'd like anything by Stone Temple Pilots.

And now, Woody Allen in Annie Hall telling a joke about elderly women complaining about wifi, I mean food.

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Are Magazine Covers "Worse" Now? It's JFK vs. Amy Schumer

boingboing has a link to a piece in Medium called The Evolution of Magazine Covers ("A look at how we've changed in the past 100 years"). In the original piece you'll find this sort of thing:
Cosmopolitan covers started out with women dressed conservatively. Then they started showing some skin. Then more skin. Finally, they started posing in sexy positions. As women have earned more rights throughout the years, they’ve also earned the right to wear whatever they damn well please. Or maybe that just sells more magazines?
The Seventeen logo has stayed the same, but almost everything else about the design has changed. There was a time when the cover was delightfully simple. Then things just got more and more cluttered. The magazine cover’s job is to sell the magazine — it has to stand out in a rack full of other magazines. So the design starts to get louder and louder.
And about the GQ covers comparing JFK in 1962 to Amy Schumer's Star Wars cover from earlier this year (see below), the comment is:
“Hey, we can sell more magazines with women in bikinis instead!”
The writer at boingboing, David Pescovitz, says, "I don't like the old ones because they're old, I like them because they're better." That statement is hardly believable. How does he know that's why he prefers one to the other? The JFK cover seems bland to me (the Great Man at his desk), and the text that accompanies it is "new fashion frontier in the American manner." So a boring picture of a president and an article about fashion using a cliche ("new frontier") is better than a memorable image of one of the funniest comedians working today subverting not only the world's most popular movie but also the idea of women appearing in bikinis on the cover of men's magazines. (I don't know how successful she is at getting her message across, but it's certainly more interesting than a man standing at a desk.) But that has nothing to do with nostalgia? I don't buy it.

But speaking of buying, the writer at Medium was exactly right about what covers are supposed to do: attract attention on the newsstand and sell magazines. Occasionally you hit on a great cover (like Caitlyn Jenner for Vanity Fair) that not only sells magazines but is art as well. That has always been the case, though, as you can find plenty of terrible magazine covers in any Golden Era.

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Today in Overtness: AV Club's "HateSong"

I really enjoy much of what A.V Club (and of course the Onion) does, but there is one regular feature that bothers me. It's "HateSong," in which someone talks about a song they hate. Among the hated:
  • One Direction
  • "Broken Wings" (Mr. Mister)
  • "Happy"
  • "Wonderful Christmastime"
  • How Three Men and a Baby "ruined 'Groove Is in the Heart"
It would be one thing if the object of the feature was to challenge the way people think about a song, but instead it's just a bunch of people not liking something for some reason. What bothers me about it most is that unlike the Onion, which is so successful because it satirizes without judging the people it is satirizing, this is just another place for people to say they hate something other people love. There is no wit or originality, just common negativity, which is pretty much taken care without A.V. Club helping it along.

In their defense, they have a feature, "Hear This," which is a celebration of songs people love. Of course the reason people love these songs is as arbitrary as why others hate other songs, but I ask you: is your life better reading about how Three Men and a Baby "ruined" one of the all-time great songs for someone (and maybe, as a consequence of reading the article, it will ruin it for you), or to revel in the beauty of Ween's "Buenas Tardes Amigo"?

Not Advanced: Daft Punk to release new action figures costing £100 each

From NME:
Daft Punk has released a new line of action figures, featuring the all-white outfits they wore during their 2015 Grammy Awards performance. The figurines will be released by Medicom Toy and Daft Punk's official merchandise company Daft Lite in March 2016 and will cost 21,600 Japanese Yen (roughly £100) for each figure of Guy-Manuel de Homem-Christo and Thomas Bangalter.
They are just the Banksy of the French robot space disco scene.

Monday, August 24, 2015

BuzzFeed Wants to Know How Overt You Are (Paraphrasing)

BuzzFeed asks you, "How Much of a Music Snob Are You?" but it could have easily been "How Overt Are You?" Some sample questions are have you ever...

Shamed a younger person for not knowing a musical reference that was before their time?

Been dismissive of someone for buying a greatest hits album?

Made a point of telling people that you preferred an artist's earlier work?

Stopped liking an artist because you're embarrassed to be associated with their fans?

Shamed someone for buying music at a chain store?

And so on. My guess is that you are supposed to want to get a high score on this (you answer "yes" to these questions), but so many of these questions point to making someone feel ashamed about what they like or not allowing yourself to like something that you would like to like. Maybe I'm a snob about snobs, but that sounds pretty sad to me.

Now if you'll excuse me, I'm off to the Barnes & Noble music section to buy Bob Seger's Greatest Hits 2.

Yes, Jon Stewart Qualifies for Advancement (And Hosting the SummerSlam Event Is a Great Start)

Jon Stewart's decision to be a part of SummerSlam reminds me of a joke from an old SNL skit. Norm Macdonald played Burt Reynolds, who was coming off the success of "Boogie Nights." He was on the Barbara Walters (Cheri Oteri) show, and she says, "One thing's for sure, after your critically acclaimed performance in 'Boogie Nights,' directors from Gus Van Sant to Quentin Tarantino will be banging down your door. Burt, what's your next project?" His response is: "I'm doing a, ah, car picture with Dom DeLuise. Funny guy."

Stewart is one of the most powerful men in America (sure, why not), and he follows up the "Daily Show" with SummerSlam. Not only is this awesome, but it is perfectly in keeping with the Advanced tradition. The Advanced love wrestling. A lot.

Really looking forward to seeing what's next.

Sunday, August 23, 2015

Are We Are Selfies? What Selfies Say About Our Culture (Nothing)

Selfies strike some weird chord with right wing lunatics and journalists. They are absolutely sure that they are evidence of, well, whatever they think is wrong with whoever they think is the sign that Rome is about to fall. Narcissism is the thread that ties it together, but what could be more narcissistic than writing op-ed columns telling people what to make of their world?

The latest comes from Molly Haskell in the Washington Post. The op-ed, called "No more selfies, I promise (if you’ll do the same)," is about how selfies make her feel:
I just received an e-mail, photographs attached, from a friend in Maine, who with another friend of mine is undoubtedly having a great time. I don’t know for sure because I didn’t open the attachment. I didn’t need to. Because it is a selfie, it goes without saying that it does not picture my friends frowning or frustrated by bad weather or not getting along. Instead, there will be bright smiles on their side and resentment on mine. I have just realized why I dislike selfies. There is a huge gap between what the sender intends (to include you in the fun) and the receiver receives (excluded from the fun).
The next and last sentence should be, "I realized that it is silly for me to resent that my friend is having fun, so I decided to be happy for them and move on to more productive things." Instead, we get this: 
You are sitting at the computer or on the bus with your iPhone, editing out promotional e-mail from and Library of America and TCM and West Elm and eBay, or opinion nuggets from Bloomberg, when along comes this intrusively vivid reminder of what you are missing and can’t even buy. You may not be on the bus; you may even be in a fabulous place such as Rome or Wimbledon, having a great time . But the moment you open the picture you are immediately assailed by an acute sense of something missing in your life. This is ignoble and feels terrible. Do other people experience this, and if so, how can I have done this to them? The picture I sent from outside a revival theater on Paris’s Left Bank! Or the view from my terrace of the ocean at sunset!
She goes on to say:
this form of electronic epistle is doomed by its very nature to erode communication and therefore friendship. The rarely resisted impulse to send our latest thrill-filled moment reveals the narcissist in all of us, the failure of empathy, the inability to remember our own feelings of resentment when the time comes for us to unleash an update on the world.
A tad overblown, I'd say. Selfies are not eroding communications and definitely not friendship. With real friends, we spend time together in the physical world and we communicate just fine. Sometimes we take pictures of ourselves and send them to other friends or post them on facebook. Some of those people say, "how nice" or "I'd like to see them again sometime soon" or "that looks like fun, maybe I'll go there someday." I guess some, like this writer, say, "I hate that they are having fun, and I hate them for rubbing it in." She is worried about a failure of empathy purely on the part of the sender,  not her own inability to feel others' happiness. I should note, too, that I would love to write op-eds in the Post, so why is she rubbing it in that she gets to write this when she knows how much others would like to? What a selfish thing to do!

She concludes by saying that it is okay if friends send pictures of their grandchildren reaching milestones or having a good time because "I don’t feel I’m missing anything." This is the person who thinks her selfie-snapping friends lack empathy.

I've tried not to write that articles about selfies reveal more about the writers than the people snapping selfies, but it's just too true to leave out. I imagine some terrible people are weaponizing their selfies to make others feel bad, but they were terrible before selfies came along and will be terrible when something new comes along. But for almost everyone, selfies are just pictures we take because we all have cameras with us wherever we go, and nothing more.

Now, the Fixx: