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Fortnightly Culture Thread August 1, 2021

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Uncategorized.
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gregtimo proposed in comments recently the idea of a Culture Thread.

It’s a great idea. Currently culture is a bit strange, but people read, listen to music, watch television and film and so on – spread the net wide, sports, activities, interests, all relevant – and any pointers are always welcome. And it’s not just those areas but many more. Suggestions as to new or old things, events that might have been missed, literally anything. gregtimo for example asks… 

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1. WorldbyStorm - August 1, 2021

Just a few bits and pieces – ZZ Tops Dusty Hill passed away during the week. Always very fond of ZZ Top so sorry to hear that. Certainly an interesting band who in their first two iterations were by turns remarkable and then curious (particularly when they hoovered up new wave tropes and fed them through boogie, blues and southern rock). Not sure I liked that second iteration as much but they could/can surely write a tune or two.

Finished Veronica Mars Season 3 after a hiatus of two years between starting and finishing it. More variable than the other seasons but quite a lot to like in it, and – no spoilers – really liked the very ending. So now, the film from 2014 and the eight episode Season 4 to watch.

And still going through this book and finding it absolutely amazing as an outline of just how wretchedly bad Trump was on almost every single metric one could apply. Campaign management, lack of empathy, a court so rife with intrigue and frankly stupidity that it’s amazing they got anything done. The fact it is written by a Wall Street Journalist gives it perhaps a greater insight into the world of Trump than say ‘Lucky’ and other books on the election.

https://www.theguardian.com/books/2021/jul/09/frankly-we-did-win-this-election-review-donald-trump-hitler

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EWI - August 2, 2021

Finished Veronica Mars Season 3 after a hiatus of two years between starting and finishing it. More variable than the other seasons but quite a lot to like in it, and – no spoilers – really liked the very ending. So now, the film from 2014 and the eight episode Season 4 to watch.

I think I watched halfway into the first season once. Very interesting from a social awareness perspective, and the casting director for the extraordinary list of then-unknown guest stars must have had a crystal ball.

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2. EWI - August 2, 2021

It would not surprise me that, following the pattern observed over many years for such people, McRedmond would not feel the same way about Irish.

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WorldbyStorm - August 2, 2021

Great point!

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3. Liberius - August 2, 2021

The last couple of weeks have been fairly Olympics heavy, Norway’s women’s team as I write thrashing Japan in the handball (I’d be unsurprised if they take the gold), though earlier in the tournament Japan had a really good game against Montenegro (albeit they aren’t what they were a few years ago), their goalkeeper Kametani was particularly impressive that morning/night.

On the music front I watched this concert with saxophonist Kika Sprangers and strings ensemble Pynarello at the Bimhuis, really enjoyable. Did eventually get round to the Amelie Lens set at the Exit Festival in Serbia, definitely too many people.

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WorldbyStorm - August 2, 2021

Lovely selection of music. Re the Olympics, for some reason I’m not in the headspace for it or perhaps it is the time difference but just not catching it at all.

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Liberius - August 3, 2021

It is a bit surreal watching empty arenas in the dead of the night, more so I’d imagine if you didn’t have the habit of watching smaller sports, and the morning is not always the most convenient of times either. It does appear though that lower engagement is a wider phenomena.

In several major markets around the world, the TV audience has fallen since 2016, as viewing becomes more fragmented and athletes compete in Japan when audiences are mostly asleep in the United States and Europe.

Ratings data from the opening ceremony and first few nights of events indicate that the Tokyo Games are currently the least watched Olympics in recent history across Europe and in the United States. However, TV viewership is up in Australia and Japan.

https://www.reuters.com/lifestyle/sports/why-tv-audiences-are-tuning-out-tokyo-olympic-games-2021-07-30/

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WorldbyStorm - August 3, 2021

I was in London during the 2012 Olympics for the start (watched it on television though!). Now that was full to the brim. It does make a difference the time so.

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Liberius - August 6, 2021

Norway’s women’s team as I write thrashing Japan in the handball (I’d be unsurprised if they take the gold)

Beaten in a fantastic semi-final v the Russian Olympic Committee earlier today. Of course this means that the gold medal match will be a repeat of Rio, France v Russia; really looking forward to that.

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4. sonofstan - August 2, 2021

On a MUBI binge, with some time on my hands finally. Won’t bore with all of it, but watched ‘The Harder they Come’ today, a film I’ve managed never to see despite knowing all the songs for the best part of 50 years.
Much better movie than you’d expect, and no compromise with the accents or the introduction of a sympathetic character to soften the grit.

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WorldbyStorm - August 2, 2021

Amazing how film was the vehicle for propagating that music. Did you ever see Countryman which was a decade later and had a similarly significant soundtrack? Fifty years ago though. Sheesh. That’s… wild.

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5. WorldbyStorm - August 2, 2021

BTW meant to add in, Superstore on Netflix is amazing. Just arrived at Season 4 and it’sthoughtful, incredibly good about workers rights – interesting about class, though not as good. And very funny with it. I hope it holds up into this and the next season.

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Starkadder - August 3, 2021

Never seen Superstore, though I’ve heard good things.

Odd that America Ferrera plays the lead in such a DSA-friendly show. Ferrera infamously hates Bernie Sanders and his supporters, and once repeatedly a false claim that Sanders supporters had insulted Latina activist Dolores Huerta:

https://www.snopes.com/fact-check/sanders-english-only-huerta/

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WorldbyStorm - August 3, 2021

I don’t know, she may have stretched but tbh reading back on the 2016/2020 election and a number of sources it’s clear that there was a fairly toxic contingent of Sanders supporters. Not all by any means, but a cohort who were pretty dismal. And I say that as someone who was not a Clinton supporter either. So frankly if that’s the worst she did, I’d argue that her pro-union and worker activism way outweighs any other errors and efforts to paint her in a negative light over one transgression seem a bit over the top, to put it mildly.

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Bagatelle's Ungrunged Thermadors - August 3, 2021

Err, there was a stark differential in the profiles and elevation of the toxic Sanders supporters (every team’s got’em) and the toxic Clinton supporters. The former being supporters in the contribute-money-and-votes variety while the latter were the official campaign team.

5 years on and the bile from 2016 Clinton supporters to Sanders himself boils with the heat of a thousand suns. Throw an eye over any US Liberal blog and you will regularly find examples of it.

My amateur psychoanalysis would assert there’s a giant streak of NPD and Children of NPD running riot through US Liberal politics.

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6. NFB - August 3, 2021

Myself and the SO’s new binge is The Golden Girls, which is the epitome of warm and safe television (notwithstanding some unfortunate uses of pejorative terms for “loose” women that abound).

I spotted that Quantum Leap is on my TV subscription yesterday. That’s something that I loved as a kid for reasons I can’t even remember. We watched the first episode and she just could not get into it, she found it confusing (the premise is really badly explained in the first 40 minutes) and cheap looking (certainly right on that count). I still kind of loved it though, young Scott Bakula is charming enough and Dean Stockwell was a good foil for him. And that theme tune. Certainly the kind of show I wouldn’t be at all surprised to see re-booted in some form soon, especially as the original never really got a proper ending.

Love Superstore, just finished it. A very good show to marry workers issues with humour.

Onto Unity in my Assassins Creed re-playthrough, which was the last one I played. After years of sailing mini-games it’s a nice change of pace, but even just an hour in feels very forced in terms of “main character is present at historically enormous events”.

I’ve been watching the Olympics off and on. Really enjoyed the 3×3 basketball, and spent an hour or so watching the greco-roman wrestling yesterday. The gymnastics also is mesmerising, the way these people do crazy things with their bodies then get told what a disaster the routine was.

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yourcousin - August 3, 2021

Don’t be down on Sophia!

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7. gregtimo - August 3, 2021

One odd movie set in the Basque Country . Directed by British director Ben Sharrock, the characters speaking Basque throughout as far as I can make out (or some Basque/Spanish mix ?) . No national question politics, it’s all about the problems of a 20 something couple who cant move out of the parents house. Said to be full of involved jokes. The one I got was the train station name turned out to be Basque for ‘The Station’ . Partly shot around the Bilbao/Bilbo suburb of Loiu apparently
https://mubi.com/films/pikadero .

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sonofstan - August 3, 2021

Watched that in the above mentioned binge. Good fun.

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8. EWI - August 3, 2021
EWI - August 3, 2021

(Was hoping that might embed and preview)

If you ride the Boring Company’s Las Vegas tunnel, known as the Convention Center Loop, you might be tempted to ask your driver about the company’s founder Elon Musk. But don’t expect a straight answer. The company has a script for its drivers and TechCrunch got its hands on what employees are supposed to say. It’s every bit as ridiculous as you’d expect from a company run by the second wealthiest person on Earth.
When drivers are asked whether they enjoy working for Musk, they’re instructed to reply, “Yup, he’s a great leader! He motivates us to do great work,” according to a script obtained by TechCrunch through freedom of information laws in the state of Nevada.

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EWI - August 3, 2021

The script also covers responses to questions about Musk himself: “This category of questions is extremely common and extremely sensitive. Public fascination with our founder is inevitable and may dominate the conversation. Be as brief as possible, and do your best to shut down such conversation. If passengers continue to force the topic, politely say, ‘I’m sorry, but I really can’t comment’ and change the subject.”
Nevertheless, the script provides a number of replies to common Musk questions. Ask what Musk is like and you should expect the answer: “He’s awesome! Inspiring / motivating / etc.”

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9. Starkadder - August 3, 2021

This piece has been circulating on Left social media in the US for a few days to general positive reception. It’s by Bertrand Cooper, and it’s called “Who Actually Gets to Create Black Pop Culture?”

It focuses on the absence of the US Black working class from the current “conversation about race” in the US, and how the entertainment industry’s commitment to “diversity” favours Black creators from very privileged backgrounds:

https://www.currentaffairs.org/2021/07/who-actually-gets-to-create-black-pop-culture

I wonder how it would apply to other countries. How many Black British artists and entertainers are from working class communities? Lenny Henry famously came from a blue-collar family; but how many of his younger successors do?

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sonofstan - August 4, 2021

Black British music is substantially working- class – unlike much ‘white’ rock and pop these days. Notably, a very high proportion of recently successful black British artists come from African rather than Afro- Carribean backgrounds.

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sonofstan - August 4, 2021

Just noticed the original article specifies ‘outside music’.

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10. polly - August 4, 2021

Svetlana Alexievich, ‘Chernobyl Prayer’, bought it out of guilt and duty years ago, only reading it now. She definitely deserved her Nobel Prize. The book records all the human stupidity and lies, and even still manages to cheer you up with humans finding ways to struggle on and even be happy.

Some of the older survivors who were evacuated went back after a couple of years, on the basis that nothing worse could happen them and they would rather live in their own house in the forest, with their own vegetable garden, than in a cement apartment block.

(Don’t judge me) ‘Diary of a Tory MP’s Wife’, Sasha Swire, got panned in reviews, but she has the killer advantage, as a historian, that like Josephus, she was there.

(Don’t judge me) ‘Clouds of Sils Maria’, looked at through one prism this is about the difficulties of women working for and with women in a hierarchical industry, or looked at through another prism it is Juliette Binoche and Kristen Scott Thomas in lovely clothes in lovely hotels and lovely landscapes with lovely music.

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WorldbyStorm - August 4, 2021

🙂 They all sound great though Chernobyl Prayer does not look easy, didn’t Clouds of Sils Maria get great reviews. I think there’s a great poster for it too.

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sonofstan - August 4, 2021

I liked Sils Maria – really enjoyed Assayas’s slightly later one, Apres Mai/ Something in the Air, about the generation just slightly too young to be Soixante-Huitards

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crocodileshoes - August 4, 2021

Did you see ‘Alice and the Mayor’ on MUBI? I thought that had a few interesting things to say about modern politics, in an oblique way.
Watched it just before a full-on ‘political’ film, Ken Loach’s ‘I, Daniel Blake’ which had great performances, but had its mind completely made up about everything before it started. I’d prefer a ‘political’ film that asked me to think to one that just required me to agree.

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sonofstan - August 4, 2021

I watched about half of it, got interrupted and never went back – I must see if I can find it and finish it.

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sonofstan - August 4, 2021

I really liked Daniel Blake though, partisan as it was. Some scenes in it haunt me still, 3 (?) years after seeing it.

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11. 6to5against - August 6, 2021

Just home from seeing Summer of Soul in the Lighthouse in Dublin.
For those who haven’t heard of it, it’s compiled from a series of concert recordings in Harlem on 1969, intercut with modern interviews and TV reports to get the context of the time across.

Very enjoyable. Some great music, interesting interviews, and it shows one or two less obvious acts from that time in a political light, such as the 5th Dimensions. Or perhaps, it lets them look back at their heyday now and see themselves in a political light, which was interesting.

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WorldbyStorm - August 6, 2021

Sounds amazing 6to5. That’s an area that is under regarded in musical analysis.

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Dr Nightdub - August 6, 2021

There’s an absolutely brilliant trilogy of books by Stuart Cosgrove about soul music that ground it in the black social and political experience of the time: Detroit 67, Memphis 68 and Harlem 69. Well worth a prolonged immersion.

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WorldbyStorm - August 6, 2021

Amazing – never heard of them – right that’s next on my list

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12. Michael Carley - August 6, 2021

We’ve been enjoying Money Heist (poor translation of title) on Netflix: gang raids Spanish Mint to print squillions of euros. Clever and very good on the dynamic of hostage and gang, and Robin Hood type criminals.

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WorldbyStorm - August 6, 2021

I have wondered about that show. That’s great to hear.

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13. Liberius - August 7, 2021

Mentioned Alexei Sayle’s bicycle rides a few culture threads ago, Owen Hatherley has a piece about them in Tribune, good read. Still think Milton Keynes is utterly weird.

In the middle of one of his short ‘cyclogeography’ videos on YouTube, Alexei Sayle cites Gustave Flaubert’s advice for radical writers. ‘Be regular and ordinary in your life, like a bourgeois, so that you may be violent and original in your work.’ As his bike drifts past the canal paths, grassy verges, and suburban houses of Milton Keynes, he agrees: ‘this has to a degree been my own inclination. I’m a boring twat.’…

https://tribunemag.co.uk/2021/08/alexei-sayles-radical-cycling

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alanmyler - August 8, 2021

I watched a number of those cycling episodes and really enjoyed them. I like Sayke, he has an easy manner about him. And a sharp wit. The videos around London also prompted me to suggest similar outings to my son who moved to London earlier in the year and was living under relative lockdown boredom there at the time. That review you linked to there is a good overview, thanks for posting that.

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14. Alibaba - August 8, 2021

This week I thoroughly enjoyed watching Limbo – an outstanding film concerning a Syrian migrant and other asylum seekers who reside forlornly on a Scottish island. It was my first visit to the cinema in 18 months and although attendees in IFI were meant to keep their masks on when viewing, some people slipped the mask off, including shame on me.

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15. sonofstan - August 9, 2021

Grant Gee’s Joy Division documentary is available now on MUBI and well worth a watch. In particular, Bernard Sumner comes across as a quietly perceptive and empathetic witness to events that must have been nearly impossible for such young men to process.

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WorldbyStorm - August 9, 2021

It’s a great documentary, and I think (FWIW!) a companion piece is not the Control film which is a bit half-baked to my mind and far too in love with the mythos, but rather 24 hour Party People which while flawed is a bit more crack.

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sonofstan - August 9, 2021

I haven’t seen Control and a bit put off by reviews, even good ones – 24-Hour Party People is great fun and it kind of redeems Wilson that he allowed himself to be portrayed as a slightly comic figure without demur.

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WorldbyStorm - August 9, 2021

Yeah I liked that too. He was no slouch at the myth building either so it was a step back. I didn’t like Control. It was too studied. Too reverential. I guess I’d put it this way, rather than painting JD as ordinary guys who had some tragic things happen to them it went the other way presenting them as tragic/heroic figures from the off, almost otherworldly, well, Curtis for sure. Morris’s book is very good on how towards the end there’d been not a rift but a distinction inside the group where Curtis was sort of becoming a bit semidetached from the rest and how in a sense he began to buy into his own mythos. And I think Control leans into that and then a whole lot more.

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sonofstan - August 9, 2021

Yeah, the one line in the doc from Corbijn where he talks about the strangeness of the north of England for him sort of feeds into that – how could these oiks make this music? he has to make it strange. Thing is they did, and it shouldn’t be a wonder that ordinary blokes (and not blokes) from ordinary places can make art that endures.

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WorldbyStorm - August 9, 2021

+1 Ordinary people can make extraordinary art and do so all the time. Thing is people just don’t look.

Oddly, on a tangent, was I saying how I read the John Cooper Clark autobiography. Strangely I came away liking him, though not his poetry, kind of a bit less than I had. I’m not sure if it’s an aversion to the whole heroin stuff which consumes a fair bit of the text.

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sonofstan - August 9, 2021

Does that make it a good autobiography? As in one where the subject/ author doesn’t try too hard to make you like them and doesn’t leave out the shit stuff?

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WorldbyStorm - August 9, 2021

Hmmm… that’s a question. On one level yes, he’s a complete bollox and apologetic about it. On the other hand there’s a sense that he begins to brush over all that came after say 1988 to present- I don’t have the book to hand but it must take up two or three chapters at most. It just flies through And yet that’s thirty odd years in which he married IIRC, had a child, became a treasured national icon etc. I don’t know, perhaps he is pitching it to his audience and think that it’s that 1976 to 1988 period that is gold to them. Yet he goes into considerable and very interesting detail about growing up in Manchester – what’s also striking is that he’s a different generation to all of us – very determinedly post-war in a way that say Morris isn’t quite.

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16. crocodileshoes - August 10, 2021

Agree re the JCC book, WbyS. I had the curious feeling, half way through, that it was the writer losing interest, as much as the reader. It was the quality of the writing, as much as the content. The jokes and anecdotes about the early years are well-rehearsed; about later decades there’s not much to say. It’s as if, say, Bruce Forsyth or Des O’Connor had taken up smack instead of golf and that was the focus of their later careers. That’s the second half of the book.
It makes you think about the half-life of fame. I can’t name anything JCC has written since 1980, but the ‘national treasure’ thing persists. Pity he has nothing to say about it in the book. Or about poetry. Or about family, as you say.

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WorldbyStorm - August 10, 2021

Interesting, that’s kind of it – he did seem to lose interest. The half-life of fame. Very true. It’s not even as if he’s not famous in ways – but for example, what about other poets he knows, what about… I don’t know, anything. He’s a cautious guy and his politics is good and bad so that’s interesting too (did you see his thoughts on musicians involved in politics. I agree with him up to a point but think he protests too much).

“It’s as if, say, Bruce Forsyth or Des O’Connor had taken up smack instead of golf and that was the focus of their later careers. That’s the second half of the book.”

+100

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sonofstan - August 10, 2021

The other side of it is, and to bring this back to where it started, is that New Order have had a near 30 year career and everyone still wants to talk about the not quite 4 years of JD!

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WorldbyStorm - August 10, 2021

And it’s been a very interesting career – their shift to electronics and dance was as ahead of the curve as their shift from punk to post punk

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17. sonofstan - August 16, 2021

Re the above: 24 Hour Party People now available on MUBI ,

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