Musings @musicandmeaning.com

All I ask is a tall ship and a star to steer her by.
"He had a theory that musicians are incredibly complex, and know far less than other artists what they want and what they are; that they puzzle themselves as well as their friends; that their psychology is a modern development, and has not yet been understood." – E. M. Forster

Archive for April, 2004


Thursday, 29 April 2004

Last night’s West Wing

"What the he** was that??"

That was my very eloquent reaction to the episode, and largely based on the out-of-left-field conversation between Donna and C.J. I watched maybe the last two-thirds of the episode, so I had to guess what happened during the first couple of acts, but it didn’t seem strong, and rehashed an idea that was used previously.

But, seriously, what the heck was up with Donna and C.J.? I really don’t understand why they were sniping at each other. I mean, I understand why, in the context of the story given in the episode, but not why it had to be written at all, in the context of the series.

If you’re going to use a lockdown as a dramatic device, then you’re going to have to choose carefully the characters that get stuck with each other. From what I can tell, in this episode the chosen scenarios were:

  1. The President, Charlie, Debbie Fiderer and Ron Butterfield
  2. Abby and Leo
  3. Josh and a Secret Service agent? I’m not sure who that water-case-buying woman was
  4. Toby and Will
  5. Donna and C.J.

Now, based on the limited amount of story I saw, the only interesting conversations were that of Abby and Leo, and Donna and C.J. The rest, seriously, I have no idea what purpose they served except that scenario #1 demonstrated a little bit of who the characters were. One of the best lines was when Debbie said re: Charlie, something along the lines of, "He’s not gonna forgive himself." Josh and the agent: pretty useless material. Toby and Will: All this proved to me was that nobody has figured out how to write Josh Malina‘s character. It’s really too bad — what a waste of a character that was actually good when he first got the job at the White House.

But, Donna and C.J. was interesting because I had no idea what the heck it was about, and why it turned out to be the most pivotal conversation for the episode, and perhaps, the show (which it and of itself illustrates why the episode was weak). Why were Donna and C.J. sucker-punching each other? Was there something that preluded it in the first act?

The only rational thing I could think of was that maybe Janel Moloney wants to leave the show, and the writers need to write her out somehow. Or, maybe she doesn’t want to leave the show, and the writers need to write her out somehow because someone does want her to leave the show … if either of those theories are true, then the setup of her exit is an undeserved and heartless way to let her go. So I truly hope they’re false theories.

I’m all for drama based on characters and their flaws and strengths. But a few weeks ago, I watched the show (after I hadn’t seen it in a while), and I kept thinking, "Where are the characters I know and love? They’ve been replaced by dopplegangers who seem to act and think differently." Then I tune in last night, and, wow … welcome to Doppleganger C.J. and Doppleganger Donna.

Maybe I should just stop watching altogether, because since Sorkin left last season, I really haven’t enjoyed the few episodes I’ve seen — they just made me more puzzled and frustrated, thanks especially to how the characters were written. If you can recommend any West Wing episode, and I mean any episode this season that could hold a candle to season 1 — heck, I’ll even settle for season 2 or 3 — I’d love to know.

Posted at 2:53 am | Filed under Television | 2 replies »

Thursday, 22 April 2004

Music to keep me sane and healthy V

Wow. I can’t believe I haven’t done this since October ’03.

I’m going to take a different approach this time, though. Instead of writing a standard list of artists, I’m going to try to be more helpful and link the music to specific examples you can download free (and legally), so if you’ve never heard of the artist/song, you can experience first-hand what I’m talking about.

  • Jay FarrarTerroir Blues (2003). This may be the first time I’ve mentioned Jay Farrar by name here — he’s the songwriter/main guy of the band Son Volt, one of my favorites. There are three alternate takes from this album that are available as free MP3 downloads from his site. Do not miss "All of Your Might" and "No Rolling Back" — they probably are my two favorites songs from the album (and I think I prefer these alternate takes!). Mark Spencer plays beautiful lap steel accompaniment on these tracks. I know I’ve mentioned pedal steel guitarist Eric Heywood in my blog a number of times — you can hear his work on this album. And if you haven’t already, you might be interested in the other downloads on the page as well.
       » Go to the downloads from jayfarrar.net. (Which one to d/l if you’re pressed for bandwidth or time: "All of Your Might")
     
  • Rosie Thomas – This is the first time I’ve mentioned Ms. Thomas, and it’s because I didn’t know about her until a few months ago, when I heard her music on Weekend Becomes Eclectic. Her label Sub Pop offers a treasure trove of MP3s from its artists. One of these days I’ll download all of them, but for now I heartily recommend picking up "I Play Music" and "Two Dollar Shoes."
       » Go to the downloads from Sub Pop. (Which one to d/l if you’re pressed for bandwidth or time: both are really good, but "Two Dollar Shoes" is a shorter song/a smaller file.)
     
  • Iron & Wine – While we’re on the Sub Pop Records page, there are four MP3s by the solo artist also known as Samuel Beam. I prefer the earlier songs, which are ultra lo-fi tracks (he recorded them at home on a four-track): "Southern Anthem" and "Lion’s Mane" but take a listen to all of them if you can.
       » Go to the downloads from Sub Pop. (Which one to d/l if you’re pressed for bandwidth or time: "Lion’s Mane")
     
  • Hem – The band’s site offers a beautiful song called "Pacific Street" that didn’t make it onto the debut album — I actually listened to this download a year or two ago, and bought the CD solely based on how much I loved this song. Pick up "Beautiful Sea" as well.
       » Go to the downloads from rabbitsongs.com (click "MP3s" at the bottom of the band’s home page). (Which one to d/l if you’re pressed for bandwidth or time: "Pacific Street")
     
  • Alison Krauss & Union Station – Krauss and her backing band have a bunch of free MP3 downloads at Amazon. My favorite by far is one of the best they’ve ever done: "The Lucky One". For a change of pace, there’s also "New Favorite" (penned by Gillian Welch and David Rawlings).
       » Go to the downloads from Amazon. (Which one to d/l if you’re pressed for bandwidth or time: "The Lucky One")
     

Of course, please do Google the artists listed above to find out more about them, tour dates, etc. There’s a lot more music to recommend, but I’ll save them for a little later. If you’re hungry for more right now, check out more free downloads from Amazon and also the huge selection (lots of Elliott Smith and Pedro the Lion) from PasteMusic!

Lately I’ve been listening to a lot of the above, plus Wilco and (of course) Richard Buckner (particularly Bloomed). If you’ve never heard Buckner, the even-numbered tracks of The Hill is available as lo-fi Flash audio streams from his site richardbuckner.com. It’s definitely his darkest album, with his original music set to poems from The Spoon River Anthology by Edgar Lee Masters. If you’re not familiar with the poetry collection, each poem is a posthumous epitaph from the point of view of the deceased. The highlight of the album is "Julia Miller" (#6) — certainly a somber tune, but one of Buckner’s best and most beautiful songs.

You can also hear Wilco’s upcoming album, A Ghost is Born, online (streaming Quicktime) at the band’s site. I’ve only heard it once, and haven’t decided what to think yet…

Posted at 8:09 pm | Filed under Music to help keep me sane & healthy |