Message to all of you military types, to the fishermen, and the farmers, and all those kids who deliver Sunday morning papers…. To the early-service-7-am-church-going types, and all of you insane chipper folks who jog before work! To all of you, we say — “For too long have we let you ruin our lives! We demand sleep! We demand an end to your wake-up-early bias! DOWN WITH THE DAYTIME OPPRESSIVE SOCIETY!!!! AIIIIYYEEEEEEE!!!”
Just kidding, soccer fans. Those of us who aren’t used to watching soccer (sorry … ‘football’…) — or hockey, for that matter — are having a hard time getting excited about such a low-scoring sport, this World Cup season…. I know, I know — the ‘beauty’ is that goals are so rare that they are to be savored, like some fine wine or some bullshit.
But really, how does this compare to watching a basketball game?! Which one has more action, along with more graceful dexterity akin to professional dancers, combined with just as much running and endurance and skill — but also with the added need for pure strength? NBA players are strong, and can still run and shoot — and shoot with higher precision through a much smaller goal. Soccer players? They’re all gaunt-looking marathon runners, and half the time they finally have an open shot, they blast the ball over the damn post! WTF?!
And we gotta sit through this whole damn game for just 1 or 2 goals scored … total? And what’s with this coy ‘stoppage time’ crap — adding minutes at the end of a game, that refs just pull out of their ass?! At their ‘discretion‘?! Mannnnn, soccer, get your shit together — I call bullshit.
Here’s the field goal percentages (sorry, the ‘conversion rates’) for the players in the World Cup with the most shots on goal, and their field goal percentages. (I’ll be honest — it’s actually a lot higher than I thought. I thought I would crunch these numbers and it would come out to, like, 1% on average. Which I guessed might be considered ‘good’. But 16 to 27%? Wow. Almost 3-point-shot percentages. It seems not so bad — until you forget that there are so few shots in a game to begin with, with all the damn dribble-dribble-pass-pass-pass at midfield, ball stolen! –> dribble-dribble-pass-pass-pass at midfield, ball stolen! –> dribble-dribble-pass-pass-pass at midfield, ball stolen! — JESUS FUCKING CHRIST SOMEBODY SHOOT A FUCKING BALL ALREADY!!!
Seattle Symphony Performs the World Premiere of Enrico Chapela’s Concerto for Electric Violin and Orchestra, Upstaging “Ravel/Debussy”
By S.E. Barcus
November 3, 2022
Mexico City composer Enrico Chapela had a world premiere tonight in Seattle of his new electric violin concerto, Antiphaser. What is that, you ask? Some sort of guitar pedal, (or anti-pedal)? Or was CCM Chapela going to explore the phasing techniques of Steve Reich? No! It was a tone poem about being a “Lunarian,” a person on the moon, seeing a lunar eclipse from that perspective. Where the Earthlings see their planet’s shadow on the moon, the Lunarians would see a solar eclipse, a black Earth with a rim of fire of sunsets and sunrises surrounding it…. Antiphaser tries to imagine, in sound, what that spectacular experience might be like. … (Really? Is Chapela a super-duper sci-fi fan? … Or is he messing with us?! Maybe there was some Reich in there that I missed!)
Don’t know who Enrico Chapela is? Check this out. He seems like the bomb, yo! (Just don’t spray paint ‘the bomb’ on a truck in downtown Seattle….) Check out this interview and performance of his Li Po. Really wonderful. As was his soloist, the super talented violinst, Pekka Kuusisto. Really captured the freakiness of the electric violin with his highly gestured playing. Check out this brief promo of the piece on Chapeka’s FB page for a fun sample. Check. Check. Check.
Anyhoo — the piece begins – (like Ravel’s La valse just before it, tonight) – low and creepy, with tremulous orchestral strings, then immediately — enter soloist, who soon turns his odd hollow metal violin into a trill, but overall starts the night with the sonority of a ‘normal’ violin. Then bouncy, quick rhythms, like we’re running from something…. And by the 2nd minute, a percussion beat seems to signal for a foot pedal to be pressed – and our violin is now briefly showing you its possibilities, flirting with a metallic, hardcore rock sound, before quickly being taken over immediately by a cinematic-feeling orchestra, very much sounding like John Adams.
Soon, though, Kuusisto is letting loose with a torrent of various sounds — now hitting the strings with his bow, Jimmy Page style, and starting in with the loops, playing with himself from moments beforehand. (Laurie Anderson would love this piece.) By about the 4th minute, a wah wah pedal sound becomes unmistakable, before segueing into a freaky scratchy metallic sound, once again. This is a virtuoso piece that seems to catalogue and highlight all of the possibilities of the electric violin, while still staying fun and cool, staying musical, moving with, into, and out of the full orchestra. (And with equal dynamics, of the whole ensemble, too. It must be a bear trying to make sure an amplified instrument is playing together well within a larger acoustic ensemble – getting the mix just right. The sound engineering was perfect….)
About a third of the way into the piece, we’re back to the looping, the best of the piece of that technique. By himself, Kuusisto is playing three different voices. The audience might have thought violins back in the orchestra were also playing. Nope. Nice. (One the best “rock” versions of looping I can think of is “Give Up the Ghost” by Radiohead, with both Jonny Greenwood and Thom York looping their 2 voices over and over, becoming by themselves almost a full band. Chapela and Kuusisto captured that type of wonderment — and similar beauty — several times tonight with this technological feature.) There was at least one moment (probably more), a quieter moment, where it seemed Chapela (as “sound engineer”) got to “play” some of the music, as well, turning knobs rhythmically to get the vibrato/echo out of the violin….
Then, almost halfway through the piece, was the most memorable part – where the soloist and orchestra slid up and down their strings, into and out of each other. An interplay that was itself some form of phasing, and slightly eerie, and emotionally luscious. After this, more explorations of the various electric timbres this new instrument could make. To be honest, at times – rarely – it could be slightly cheesy, like something Yes-sy-prog-rock or Dr. Who-ish, but for the most part, creepy or beautiful or just plain interesting. Getting nearer the end, things evolve into a macabre-like freaky doll-sounding dance, like something out of a Guillermo del Toro movie.
Pekka Kuusisto is no relation to Esa-Pekka Salonen — so I’m guessing Pekka’s a common Finnish name. While he’s kind of red-headed-Weasleyish in the SS promo, he was groovy-all-black-suit-stylin’ tonight (similar to the kind of suit his own countryman, Esa-Pekka, often wears…). I liked his expressions throughout – big facial gestures — and the tenacity he shows when picking at the strings, when creating Chapela’s loops, playing against himself, off beat. He is intense and dead serious, yet somehow such a fun violinist to watch!
It is strange having a soloist get to be able to essentially change instruments with the push of a button, while the orchestra is trapped with their ~17th century toys…. Sometimes it was just weird – beautiful and fitting together really seamlessly, to Chapela’s credit — but still sometimes kinda weird, nonetheless. Like being on some yesteryear Victorian fox hunt, where everyone’s on horses, with dogs yapping — but then, there’s this one dude who has a drone with a machine gun. Just … weird. Then again: weird is good. It made the night groovy and different.
One wonders what will happen when – and it’s only a matter of time – someone writes a piece, and it is performed – where ALL of the players of an orchestra are using electric instruments, and can change their sonority/timbre variables electrically/digitally at any time. The amount of possibilities in a traditional orchestra is already essentially infinite. This would … take infinity to eleven? Oh, if only to live another 100 years to experience this! (“You! Red-haired flutist – hit the wah wah on the 3rd beat! … Now you – Steven-Pinker-looking cellist – more phaser pedal!”)
Guest conductor Andrew Litton did a great job blending our soloist into the orchestra and back again, on what seemed little notice, due to some visa-issue with the original conductor. Hey – I’ll take Litton anyday – he’s worked in Bournemouth, one of my favorite cities (can you say Jane Goodall and Wallace and Gromit?). And kudos yet again to Seattle Symphony for commissioning a world premiere by a contemporary classical composer. Antiphaser‘s often-heart-poundingly fast rhythms and near-metalcore sounds made me feel more like I was ‘running and running to catch up with the sun’ rather than sitting down watching some celestial Lunarian/solar fireworks display, but whatever this freaky goodness was tonight, if you’re in Seattle this weekend, you’d be a damn fool to miss experiencing it live at Benaroya Hall. …
Oh, yeah, and there’s really good music by some old guys named “Ravel” and “Debussy,” too. 😊
George R.R. Martin’s Warning against Wars of Succession
(and an Argument for Democracy?)
By S.E. Barcus
October 27, 2022
Streaming Fantasy Smackdown
I’ll be honest. When House of the Dragon and the LotR prequel, Rings of Power, went head-to-head, I was WAY more excited about Rings of Power. I loved the three LotR films, loved the books, had never been such a nerd as to have read The Silmarillion, but had enough nerd friends that I couldn’t wait to watch a big-budget version of all the old myths, from Morgoth on down. And GoT, while it was amazing when it ran with Martin’s novels, dropped off fairly precipitously at the end, leaving a bad taste in the mouth.
Well – turns out Rings of Power hath screwed the pooch, and Dragon won the Battle of the Streamers. Amazon’s creators just never learned the ‘George Lucas rule’ – no matter what else you do, have some action about every 10-15 minutes. Amazon let their showrunners circlejerk along with all the old Silmarillion nerds, who all just wanted to bathe in the glory of Tolkien myths and characters without demanding enough background or dramatic action. Dragon can be experienced and enjoyed by anyone, those who saw GoT and also those who did not. It is riveting from the opening episode and throughout the entire season. Rings is for 50-and-up hardcore J.R.R. Tolkien nerds, a pretty small fan base comprised of maybe just Stephen Colbert. Thus, Dragon is easily the victor of the Fantasy Smackdown (as much as Martin doesn’t like such storylines, as described by Variety).
Human, All Too Fallibly Human
But more than delivering a fun ride, House of the Dragon surprised me with having a great message for our time, intended or not.
Where the original Game of Thrones(GoT) took from bits all over European history, from the War of the Roses to the Italian Renaissance to the Mongol raiders and so on, Dragon steals from the historical events within one monarchy – and manages to spin an amazingly complex and riveting story while doing so.
George Martin has said the plot stems from the real medieval events of “The Anarchy”, as wonderfully analyzed by critic Gillian Brockell for the Washington Post. But I’ll bet you Martin was not as emotionally attached to this particular moment in history as he was excited that it gave him fodder for his main thesis. I’m betting this particular moment in history inspired him, and fellow Producers Ryan Condal and Miguel Sapochnik, because it serves as empirical evidence that concisely captures the fallibility of inheritance as a method of transferring power, or succession.
(I do wonder how much Martin really contributed besides the story idea. He has no writing credits for any of the shows. Man, that guy is living the life! But do you know who DOES have writing, and directing, credits? Several friggin’ WOMEN! — Including Clare Kilner, Geeta Vasant Patel, Charmaine DeGraté, Sara Hess, and Eileen Shim. This, along with the better publicized inclusion of people of color in prominent roles, shows a production team obviously dedicated to diversity and inclusion, which is very, very cool. And any bro-boy racist criticism of this philosophy is now officially refuted by how awesome the season was.)
Art Imitates Life, Still Today
Similar to GoT, Dragon has part of its critical focus on Autocracy. It shows time and again that Autocrats more often than not make poor decisions, with poor outcomes for the masses of ‘their’ people (it’s just one, fallible human being’s decisions and whims that people are forced to suffer through during that Autocrat’s entire lifetime, right or wrong), and they are also easily manipulated (see the King’s Hand, Otto’s, positioning of his daughter, Alicent, in front of the widower-King) and invariably corruptible (‘absolute power corrupts,” etc…). And this still happens despite this season having arguably the most well-meaning King that Westeros could probably ever have, with Viserys. Therefore, hence, ergo, etc, — people should not put up with such forms of government in today’s Enlightened world. (From the Declaration of Independence, “Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed….”) (And Viva Ukraine/Slava Ukraini.)
But with Dragon, there is the added focus and critique of how power is transferred – here, namely by inheritance. All of the ways in which inheritance as a mode of transferring power is fallible and stupid are dramatically captured, with all of the inevitable messiness due to human nature, in terms of the variability of who we love and when we love and with how many we love and who we reproduce or don’t reproduce with and on and on. Inheritance is shown to have a proclivity to produce confusing and thus often-contested successions, which often throughout history has led to our species’ greatest evils, murder and war. The point is made so well in this series that it makes a powerful case that it is not only a fallible system, but also very dangerous, and therefore, again, very stupid as a system of transference of power — if people put up with it. (Sorry, Charlie, I love your environmental activism, but the Monarchy still has to go.)
General Secretary Xi, of the PRC, for example, has no ‘heir’ or plans for a successor. What happens if he dies suddenly of a heart attack? Goodness help us, what a dangerous mess that could be. Putin, also, has no named successor, and the oligarchs who would fight like dogs to take the job are, mostly, equally scary.
I was initially missing the cool older intro of GoT, that flew us all over the world to the various kingdoms. The new intro initially seemed much less interesting, with blood running through Viserys’ model of old Valyria. But as I have come to realize that this series is a treatise criticizing blood inheritance — and the blood that can run through the violent streets when one accepts such a stupid form of succession — the intro becomes so poetically appropriate in this light, with blood streaming out of and into the various family sigils, that now I quite enjoy it.
Have you been watching the show, and been confused by all of the nuances as to who has a claim on succession, and why? Have you said to yourself, “wait – why do they have the claim, again? How are they related to King Viserys again?” Good – that’s the WHOLE point. You should be confused, and each claim should be valid, because that’s exactly how and why such a system is fallible and leads to wars. Need a “simple” chart? In a ‘picture is worth 1000 words’ kind of way, this Vox media file nicely captures how ridiculous and complex an inheritance can be, as demonstrated in this series.
So…. Yeah. …. Great series so far. And subversive for the People! This season — with its underlying message of how pathetic and dangerous short-sighted, ego-driven modes of succession are — has already infiltrated tens of millions of minds, and likely emotionally/subconsciously persuaded them toward the benefits and intelligence of Constitutional democracies, if they were not ‘woke’ to that fact, already. It therefore does far more good moving us all toward an Enlightened humanity than any essay out of Foreign Affairs could ever dream to do. And it does it all while being cool and beautiful and intense. House of the Dragon is a nice example of the subversive “soft power” of Art and Culture at its finest. … Your move, Wolf Warrior 3. Try to have a plot and characters that are not laughably unrealistic, this time.
House of the Dragon dramatizes the foolishness and dangers of caveman Autocracy and poorly thought out means of power-succession, taken straight from real events in human history. As Santayana reminds us, “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.”
Yes, they likely all broke the law. And it was the worst attempted coup in our nation’s history. But we’re not supposed to hold anyone accountable if they’re in government, at least not if they’re in the GOP. They spent 7 million on the Benghazi committee, brazenly witchhunting Hillary for the 2016 election. And came up with nothing, of course.
“James Comey, the director of the FBI, announced on July 5, 2016, that the agency found that “no charges [were] appropriate in this case.” He said in a statement, “Although there is evidence of potential violations of the statutes regarding the handling of classified information, our judgment is that no reasonable prosecutor would bring such a case. … In looking back at our investigations into mishandling or removal of classified information, we cannot find a case that would support bringing criminal charges on these facts. All the cases prosecuted involved some combination of: clearly intentional and willful mishandling of classified information; or vast quantities of materials exposed in such a way as to support an inference of intentional misconduct; or indications of disloyalty to the United States; or efforts to obstruct justice. We do not see those things here.”
“Hillary Clinton participated in a voluntary interview with the FBI on July 2, 2016. “I’ve been eager to do it, and I was pleased to have the opportunity to assist the department in bringing its review to a conclusion,” Clinton said in an interview after the meeting.”
Meanwhile. Was the GOP using this for polticial purposes?!?!
“The Republican National Committee released a statement remarking that Clinton had “just taken the unprecedented step of becoming the first major party presidential candidate to be interviewed by the F.B.I. as part of a criminal investigation surrounding her reckless conduct.”
You will hear OUTRAGE from neocons about how the Mueller investigation cost $32 million. But 1) it wasn’t a partisan-fabricated issue designed to hurt a polticial candidate. It was actually about something very concerning — was a foreign power influencing our elections? What did it produce? A BUTT-LOAD of indictments and crimes. And it was TRUMP’S own Justice Department investigating!
So, now we have January 6. What has this committee already uncovered? Over 800 people have already been charged with crimes. And there is ample evidence that several GOP members of Congress might have knowledge that could help the committee — or might even be involved in the crimes themselves. They have refused to speak to the committee, FOR SOME STRANGE REASON. (Are they not “Patriots”?!) And thus … subpoena. The Committee is effectively demonstrating collusion for a VIOLENT COUP, with these GOP Congressional leaders and Trump deeply involved. Oh, but what a horrible partisan committee! We need “investigative revenge”.