Changes

Tearing Down Ray Bradbury's Home

Ray Bradbury House, LA Times

Well, this is sad.

Author Ray Bradbury (he was more than just a "sci-fi" writer), lived in the same California home for fifty years before he passed away in 2012. Efforts to save and preserve his real legacy--his papers and whatnot--have been successful. Sometimes, you don't get a chance to save things like that, but Bradbury was prominent enough for this to happen.

His house, however, wasn't worth keeping:
The home, which was purchased in June for $1.765 million, is being demolished. A permit for demolition was issued Dec. 30, Curbed LAreports, and a fan who visited the house over the weekend found it in the process of being torn down.
A home built in 1937 isn't that old, especially if it has been remodeled or upgraded since then. The value of the lot was, apparently, more than that of the house. Whatever they put there will be a separate and distinct property. I don't fault the nostalgia for an old writer's house, but his printed works and accomplishments are worth more than the built-in bookshelves that held them.

How Could This Show Have Failed?


The only thing Americans want to see on television involves New York City, young people, and quirky relationships. You can take that to the bank. Except when shows like this tank and get cancelled, of course.

I don't care about super heroes and I don't care about people from New York. Is that the most awful thing ever? Absolutely.

Anthony Cumia Wanted to Get Fired


This really doesn't change anything because Anthony Cumia (and Opie & Anthony as a whole) thrives on the notoriety and shock of being fired from their gigs.  Someone somewhere is dying to hire him and pay him more money than he was making because people want to hear what he does. Apparently, the Sirius XM gig wasn't working out. Something else will.

On satellite radio, they're allowed to say whatever they want and that's okay. The culture has accepted what they do and they have been given a platform to do it. There's money in it, so someone is always going to give Cumia a job.

When the audience for this kind of thing dries up, then we'll have a news story.

Charles Taylor is Hilariously Wrong About Music


It's just too easy sometimes:
Music continues to be the prime cultural vehicle each generation uses to identify itself. It’s also the means each generation uses, no matter how hypocritically, to proclaim its superiority over succeeding generations. Nothing has ever summed up that attitude like the installment of Garry Trudeau’s Doonesbury that ran in Sunday papers on August 26, 1979, in which Mark, the radical DJ, is ordered by his station manager to play more disco. “Let’s start out with the Village People’s ‘YMCA’ and Donna Summer’s ‘Bad Girls,’” he says, “two exciting testaments to the social sensibilities of disco. One of them is about meeting adolescent homosexuals in a public gymnasium, and the other is a celebration of prostitution.” A strip to make William Bennett or Donald Wildmon smile. Trudeau is telling us that the drugs and sex he and his contemporaries engaged in was about changing the world. This new stuff? It’s just hookers and queers cruising the showers.
Music has lot a great deal of cultural importance over the last decade or so. And if you want to see where the culture is headed, look no further than the fact that I can find five Game Stops any day of the week but I can't find a single place to buy new music that isn't a severely over-priced retail outlet like Target or Wal-Mart that seems to actively shrink the size of their music department on a monthly basis.

Remember the days when Best Buy and Circuit City had a price war over CDs and that meant being able to find virtually every title available by damned near every good band for $11.99? Yeah, me neither.

I do think Taylor is honest about wanting to make the band Wussy relevant but there's no way to do that without coming across as being old and grizzled and out of touch. No matter how hard you try to get people to care, they just don't anymore. The last three albums of original songs by The Church, for example, were absolutely stunning works of art. If you stacked Untitled #23, Uninvited Like the Clouds, and Forget Yourself against everything out there and judged them fairly, you'd have to conclude that the Church are criminally ignored everywhere in the world, and have been so for over twenty years. People tuned them out and moved on, and nothing they do seems to catch on anymore, no matter how good the work and no matter how often they go on tour.

This is because music doesn't matter anymore. Entertainment has to be a video game or a television show to resonate with people. They have their throbbing beats in their ears but that's only to drown out other sounds and isolate them from weirdos on the street. How is it that Dr. Dre can get rich slapping his name on headphones with heavy bass built into them and virtually no one making the music played through those devices can ever count on a decent royalty check for providing the very thing that makes the headphones relevant in the first place? Device makers and streaming service providers are filthy rich--iPods, Spotify, Beat Sounds--you name it. If you are the maker of some product that can steal music from artists or change it in any way, you can count on making cash. But if you actually make that music, go fuck yourself for wanting to get paid. See Sean Parker on your way out the door for an explanation as to why you're stupid for thinking you should get paid for making him a billionaire douchebag.

For every ten listeners of music, is there one person who could engage something like Wussy? Good luck competing for that person's attention.

I get that people want to be in their forties and still get excited about bands and albums and vinyl and continue working retail jobs and not having kids, but when you actually grow up and pay attention to the world, stop condescending to anyone with a different path through life. The central conceit of the Baby Boomers was the supremacy of all of their cultural touchstones. On further review, none of their bullshit could stop wars, end poverty, end racism, or change the hearts of the record company execs who stood by and let Napster, et al, eat their business and shit it out before their eyes. Where there were once piles of cash and cocaine now sit pennies from Spotify. Suck on that and try to live.

The Demise of the E-book Market


Now that all of the book stores are gone, you mean to tell me no one wants e-books anymore?
Tim Waterstone, the founder of the Waterstone's book shop chain, has predicted that the "e-book revolution" will soon go into decline in the UK.
He told the Oxford Literary Festival printed books would remain popular for decades, the Daily Telegraph reported.
"E-books have developed a share of the market, of course they have," he said.
"But every indication - certainly from America - shows the share is already in decline. The indications are that it will do exactly the same in the UK."
For the first eight months of 2013, e-book sale were worth $800m in the US, down 5% on the same period the previous year, according to the Association of American Publishers.
The experience of reading a book on a device, no matter how expensive it is, still doesn't rival the actual experience of reading a printed book. The e-reader might be a permanent tool used by people who have to maintain and regularly use a lot of printed material, but the occasional reader still prefers a book. It's too bad we couldn't have saved more bookstores, however.

There may come a day when the only place to buy a book is online--from Amazon. Or in an airport. Maybe, someone will come up with a good hybrid for books and music and start a business model that will work as a retail outlet.

Jaime Fuller Shows Us How to Hate Lena Dunham


When this whole Lena Dunham thing exploded, I was living in Germany. I still don't get what it's about, other than that it fills a void in HBO's programming and gives hipsters something to fret about.

Jaime Fuller is the real star of this article--this is how to hate someone without actually giving us proof she hates Dunham. I suspect it is that intellectual envy that sets in when someone is given way more attention and money than they deserve. Elizabeth Wurtzel comes to mind.

In the arts, the worst thing you can do is become wildly successful at a very young age and enjoy your success. To the vast majority of people in this country, Dunham is a New York thing that they don't much care about. The entirety of that slice of the movie Frozen, where Idina Menzel--at the age of 42--sings Let it Go, is a thing. It is something that has resonated through the popular culture and will have a timelessness that will serve as a reference point for this generation of kids.

Your garden variety hipsters will never see a Disney film but what they are missing is the fact that Menzel--the consummate New York theater voice with Broadway chops and her own Tony--has crossed the hell over. There are a lot of other Menzels out there, but Dunham isn't one of them. That's because her thing is of precious value to a handful of people who write about their obsessions. She is the Captain Beefheart of modern popular culture. Everyone hip knows who she is, but the plebes and peasants ain't buying it.

The rejection of Dunham isn't about the fact that she is from New York. Good God, people are enthralled with New York because every single television show is about New York and stars interesting people from New York, right? What the hell were Seinfeld and Friends but an over-hyped pair of love letters to NYC mailed in each week from Southern California?

What will Dunham mean to kids who are now living in the American Midwest and will never see her show? Miss Fuller knows what the score is--Dunham isn't so much as a hit as she is a manufactured bit of old hat.

How Many People Stop Reading Entirely?


This is an interesting development for people who think there is still a market for the printed word.

In my opinion, the rise in the number of people who don't read books does not mean that people are not reading. I think it is more a case where what they read has evolved to the point where the book is an irrelevant item in the lives of many.

Have you ever walked into someone's house and noticed whether or not they have books? An absence of books means one of two things--either they don't read them or they have a robust E-reader or tablet and have no further use for books. I can sympathize with that--I have books that are in Rubbermaid containers precisely because there isn't room for them. Should I chuck them out or should I save them?

The E-reader market has tanked in some ways because of the flood of mediocre material (people trying to cash in) and because the devices are unstable. When you think back about all of the people who are holding Nooks and Sony E-Readers (hey, that's me!), there's almost no solution that looks like an upside. How do you carry around a library full of books on a device that is rendered obsolete in mere months? How many people are going to create a fully digitized library that has to be stored in the cloud or ported around or copied and re-copied? People are more likely to do that with the music they care about. Books, like old albums or songs that are tiresome, fall away.

And, yes, I thought of this as well. Literacy isn't an issue:

The percentage of people who are not educated but can read? Is that increasing? I have no idea. I suspect that it is.

Complex, inaccessible, and pretentious literary offerings don't actually kill off readership--they simply turn people away from writers but not the medium itself. Stephen King is widely read because he delivers; being able to deliver isn't the same as being good or bad, but there's no way King could be considered a bad writer.

I don't know if people stop reading so much as they stop trying to engage written forms of entertainment. The human need remains. What fills those needs has evolved and changed with the technology.

The Gardner Gun


The British Library has dumped a massive trove of images into the Internet, and they don't have any copyright restrictions that I can see.

This one features an early form of the machine gun, which was used in the Sudan just long enough for the British to realize that sand could clog its mechanism and render it useless. The British lost, despite the presence of such a devastating weapon.

James Grant, of the 62nd regiment, is credited with the image. It comes from a book called Cassell's History of the War in the Soudan and was published in London in 1885.

Really?


I must have missed this, but the character that Evangeline Lilly will play in the next Hobbit film is, well...

Completely. Made. Up.

That's right.

Peter Jackson and whoever is helping him usher this project into existence just decided to add some characters and Tauriel (Lilly) is one of them.

If you had told me that this was what he was going to do, I wouldn't have been too surprised, but still. Just adding a character to such an established work takes guts.

No One Cared About Dexter


The cable series Dexter just ended and you would think people would have noticed. My impression is that no one gives a crap.

Breaking Bad is sucking up all of the TV oxygen right now. The next couple of days are going to be unbearable. The motif, the themes, the tie-ins, and all of that are overwhelming. There is nothing else happening in entertainment right now, literally.

Before Breaking Bad even started, Dexter was a hot show. It was dangerous, it made you think, and it took a startling look at ethics and ethical situations. It was groundbreaking.

Unfortunately, it also ran out of gas. If it had ended sooner, would that have mattered? And whose idea was it to end it right when Breaking Bad was happening the way that it is?

Someone did this show wrong, and Dexter will go down as a great also-ran in the history of television.

The Implosion of the Film Industry


Here's what you need to know about what happened this weekend. A big budget tent pole film bombed miserably, ruining Johnny Depp's attempt to remain relevant as a movie star. No one has slipped more than Depp as far as matching projects with what people are willing to go see. File The Lone Ranger away with a slew of insufferably bad films that Depp has brought to audiences.

The film industry is suffering a major breakdown. Massive amounts of money are being spent to produce films no one wants to see. There are always bombs; the industry thrives on them because they help form arguments about what to do and what NOT to do. The bombs that are going off now are ones that get people fired and leave the people making movies scratching their heads.

How does a sequel of a middlingly-successful animated film not produced by Pixar beat a first-run $250 million dollar action film? How do you plan for that?

You don't. And that's why the film industry is due for a reckoning.

The Cultural Impact of Festivals

This is a great article that exposes the cultural differences between a British music festival and a festival held anywhere else.

In America, we have made numerous attempts to match the British music festival. Lollapalooza and Bonnaroo are the ones that come to mind, and maybe Lilith Fair when it was happening (is it still happening?), but those events never brought people to a cohesive state of mind. Somehow, in Britain, those gaps have been bridged and people have been brought mostly together for shared experiences.

The fleeting attempts made in America haven't had the social impact that music festivals in Britain have had, and that extends to consumer goods and fashion choices. Above, you can see the decorated Wellington boots that people now buy and love. Would we have them if it hadn't been for the mud at Glastonbury?

Did Peter Jackson Ruin the Legacy of J.R.R. Tolkien?


It would seem fitting to revisit the idea that director Peter Jackson made unconscionable changes to the material used in the original Lord of the Rings triology. What with The Hobbit now out and people grumbling about it, there's a good reason to delve into the subject at hand.

Christopher Tolkien has worked on properly organizing his late father's literary estate. This article talks about that effort. But, I think we need to remember that it was New Line cinema that should have been credited with being as evil as any other entity:
The lawyers for the Tolkien Estate, those of the Tolkien Trust, and Tolkien's publisher HarperCollins demanded $150 million in damages, as well as observers' rights on the next adaptations of Tolkien's work. A lawsuit was necessary before an agreement was reached in 2009. The producers paid 7.5% of their profits to the Tolkien Estate, but the lawyer, who refuses to give a number, adds that "it is too early to say how much that will be in the future." 
However, the Tolkien Estate cannot do anything about the way New Line adapts the books. In the new Hobbit movie, for example, the audience will discover characters Tolkien never put in, especially women. The same is true for the merchandise, which ranges from tea towels to boxes of nuggets, with an infinite variety of toys, stationery, t-shirts, games, etc. Not only the titles of the books themselves, but also the names of their characters have been copyrighted. 
"We are in the back seat," Cathleen Blackburn comments. In other words, the Estate can do little but watch the scenery, except in extreme cases-- for example, preventing the use of the name Lord of the Rings on Las Vegas slot machines, or for amusement parks. "We were able to prove that nothing in the original contract dealt with that sort of exploitation."
Hollywood's penchant for creative accounting screwed the Tolkien estate for years after the successful release of the original trilogy and now we're going to face yet another series of lawsuits and negotiations over the profits from The Hobbit? Ugh.

What surprises me is that there is no discernible backlash against Jackson, his producers and financiers, and the studio that will release the films. There is no significant threat to the commercial success of these endeavors, save the overall displeasure with the films that seems to have taken hold, and there is nothing in the way of a credible backlash. At the very least, you'd think that, if the son of the man who wrote the books has called it all an evisceration, then there should be some sort of serious effort to thwart the films from being wildly successful.

That backlash will never arrive. What is different now is that the people who built the Tolkien legacy--the young and the old and the literary and the linguistic--during the 1960s have largely surrendered to the crass commercialism of the age and are irrelevant to the discussion. They can bleat on about how it was all ruined, but until someone can agree upon who the rightful culprit really is, the films will go on and the books will gradually diminish in importance.

What a shame.

Can It Create Inspired Mistakes From Scratch?


They've invented a computer program or a complex piece of software that can compose music, and, somehow, this is supposed to revolutionize the way music is now composed. And that's fine--someone has to justify all of that time being wasted on things no one wants to hear.

In reality, though, the idea of making complex musical pieces has been with us for a long time. Composers in this modern era have been making dense, complex music for decades and decades and there is an audience for this art. It doesn't really contribute to the consciousness of the world, however, because it is of limited and esoteric value.

My favorite pieces of music are inspired trips through mistakes and false starts. The beauty of a Replacements album or a Slowdive track or a Radiohead throwaway freebie album isn't found in the obvious choices made by the composer. What makes them great is that they are slowed down trips through instruments that aren't operating properly or played in a conventional fashion.

When a computer can make something like shoegazer music, then I think there will be something to this.

HyperCard Remembered


HyperCard was a program for the Macintosh computers that I used in the 1990s. I was not a huge fan of the application, but I created my stacks and did what I could with it. My use of HyperCard was for storytelling, if I recall correctly.

Matthew Lasar has a more in-depth review of what HyperCard was and how it was used graphically. I never used it for graphic tasks, although I did do a fair amount of work with MacDraw back in the day.

So, if this were 1995 and if I was using my Macintosh Classic II or if this was 1998 and I was using my Mac Color (mine were a bit behind the times), then I would have HyperCard open and I would be making character notes and using the application to create stacks. One stack for the chapters, as an outline, and one stack for the characters. If I were using this system for the Easter Wolf story, I'd have all of that stuff prepared and set aside.

By the time 1999 rolled around, I left my Macs and went with PCs. It was not until 2009 that we acquired a new Mac Powerbook and returned, as it were, to the fold.