Musings @musicandmeaning.com

So I stood at the station with a plan and a pocket of poems.
"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

Sunday, 5 November 2006

Not-so-random tidbits

I know it’s been a while since I wrote something here that’s not about WordPress, so here are a few tidbits — some more random than others — covering the past few months.

Nov(el) in Nov(ember). One thing or another has kept me from writing more often. I’ve been busy with projects; also I recently sustained a finger sprain, but it’s healing and I’m thankful that it’s not as painful now. If you’ve visited this site in the past few days, you may have noticed the image in the sidebar; I’m participating in National Novel Writing Month a.k.a. NaNoWriMo, where individual writers aim to draft a novel, written from the first of November until the end of the 30th. Although I’ve known about the “event” for a while, this is my first year as a participant. And although the official goal to “win” is 50,000 words, I’ll be happy if I reach 35,000. I’m looking at this as a good opportunity (i.e. excuse) to sit down and just write as much as I can, and then use it as a basis to extend and revise.

I still think of it as WBE. For the first time in what seems like a very long time, I got to hear most of Weekend Becomes Eclectic The A Track live today (Anne Litt even played from Richard Buckner‘s new album again). A belated congrats to Anne Litt and Howard Franklin on the birth of their first child this summer. (I was going to mention it in the last post along with the “first WordPress baby” news, but decided to save it until now.) If you tuned in during in the summer, you know that Tricia Halloran filled in during Litt’s maternity leave. If you tuned in recently, you know that The A Track has been cut down from three to two hours (3 p.m. to 5 p.m. PT, still on Saturdays and Sundays), while New Ground and Cafe L.A. have been expanded to three hours (IIRC, Cafe L.A. used to be a three-hour show years ago). I wasn’t around to hear the on-air announcements of the slot change, so I’m not sure what (if any) reasons were given, but I’m going to guess it had something to do with her new duties as programming director for KCRWmusic.com (I searched for press releases but there are absolutely none listed now). In any case, I was very disappointed by the news of two fewer hours of her show on the weekends, but I’ll definitely take four hours as opposed to zero. Much success to Litt in her new endeavors.

New and improved, sort of. As for KCRW’s new site, I can’t say I see a whole lot of front-end design improvements. I certainly prefer the new menus, which make it easier to navigate compared to the older site. Finding the right page was sometimes a little difficult and it wasn’t until I really familiarized myself with the (older) site that I figured out where to go for certain things. However, the new color scheme is a bit confusing at first, especially the inconsistent link colors (maybe it’s just my eyes, but the green footer link color on the purpley background is very unexpected after reading elsewhere on the site, and has a rather negative contrast effect that forces my eyes to look away). The site is still in the proverbial construction stage, but it’s a little frustrating to look for information such as the latest press releases and not find anything. Anyway, I’ve always had qualms about KCRW’s site, whatever the version, over the years. A long time ago, I participated in a survey to provide feedback and opinions about the site (the version that was just replaced) and I had a lot to say. Obviously, I still have a lot to say (for another example, why are the playlists no longer searchable?), but since the new site is not quite “finished” yet, I’ll wait and see what happens.

Not so spudly. Television-wise, I haven’t seen a lot of new shows, but I did catch the first three or four episodes of Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip. Perhaps my standards for Aaron Sorkin are just too high, but I wasn’t that impressed. His other shows were just so good right out of the gate (excluding the laugh track on early Sports Night); this one seems to be weighed down by too much of a self-conscious, editorializing, in-joke atmosphere in dialogue and story, and so far, a lack of focus with all of the characters it has to handle. It may be a case of a slow start and bad marketing; the promos always bill the show as a sitcom by featuring one-liners and banter, and it is so not a comedy in the traditional TV sense (remind you of ABC’s trouble marketing the aforementioned Sports Night?). Being that it’s Sorkin and Schlamme, though, and because I like Sarah Paulson‘s character, I will probably watch again to see if the show warms up and if the writers actually give Brad Whitford something to do besides stand around wearing reading glasses.

As far as the rest of TV, there aren’t any shows that have really hooked me. I saw NBC’s other behind-the-scenes-of-a-comedy, 30 Rock (which really is a comedy show); it looked promising, but I haven’t made it a point to watch. I didn’t really get into the first couple of Heroes, I stopped watching Gilmore Girls sometime last season (or was it the one before that), there’s no more West Wing, I never really got into Lost or Veronica Mars after their first years, and I stopped watching Law & Order sometime after the last-last ADA change. I don’t really enjoy any of the other cop/procedural shows: none of the other Law & Order brands or any of the CSI incarnations (I used to watch CSI original, but that was a long time ago), and sometimes I’ve seen Without a Trace or Cold Case, but very rarely. Is there some show that I’m missing but shouldn’t be? Should I give Grey’s Anatomy another try? I’ve seen maybe two or three episodes of that, but didn’t get invested. And before someone suggests Battlestar Galactica: I don’t have cable. I watch cable shows once a lot of their seasons are out on DVD.

Now, Voyager. Instead of current shows, I’ve been watching favorite series of years past: recently I watched/rewatched a bunch of old Star Trek: Voyager episodes. Voyager is the second of Star Trek’s stepchild series (i.e. not created by Gene Roddenberry); it was less sci-fi/Trek than the uniforms made you believe, and had its share of forgettable and/or recycled writing, lack of character development (Tuvok and Chakotay really got short shrift), and way too many time travel resets (count me as one of the many people disappointed by the direction of the final season and the series finale. Grrr, Berman and Braga). However, (surprisingly?) I still find myself rather fond of the show overall. I suppose it’s because I don’t think of it as Roddenberry Trek, but as a spin-off that happens to use Trek as a vehicle. My favorite character is the Doctor, who, of all the characters, had the best writing to support him over the course of the series. And I may be in the minority, but I think Seven, Naomi Wildman and Icheb brought an interesting sensibility to the show (although I could have done without “Collective,” and the writers featured Seven too often when they didn’t know how to write for the other characters). With that in mind, it won’t be a surprise to learn that I’m prone to enjoy Voyager‘s better character-driven stories, whether they are thoughtful, fun, or amusing (or unintentionally amusing). Give me those over the Q episodes or the pointless Borg fights, any day.

And what can I say, I love Jerry Goldsmith‘s theme for Voyager. I remember when I first saw the series premiere back in 1995 (hard to believe it was over a decade ago!), I felt lukewarm toward the actual episode but was captivated and moved by the theme music. The magic lies in the wonderful arrangement and strong performances — it’s engaging all the way through. I particularly enjoy hearing the splendid trumpet solos, the timpani, and the lovely accompaniment to the melody, including the the lower strings in the B theme. I’ve heard the music I-don’t-know-how-many times, and I have not tired of it yet. Sometimes I fast-forward through the opening title sequence, but more often than not, I listen to, if not watch, the whole thing; and I always listen to the version of the theme over the end credits. (I’m not sure what orchestra Goldsmith conducted for the sync recordings; I’ll have to pick up the appropriate CD and find out, because the performances are really quite good, especially the brass. I recently heard a rendition by a different orchestra; the tempo was slower and most dishearteningly, there were no cymbals! Completely unacceptable. There’s also an “extended” version of the theme on one of the soundtrack CDs; unfortunately, I think the additional measures interrupt rather than enhance the original theme.)

Well, this update should tide you over until the next one, which may be after NaNoWriMo is over. Until then, stay well. If you’re in the U.S., don’t forget to vote on Tuesday. I mailed in my ballot early, and I’m hoping for big changes from the midterms; on another note, I’m also looking forward to the cease of campaign calls. Don’t people know that calling about some candidate or measure during dinner hours doesn’t make a good impression?

Posted at 9:28 pm | Filed under Anne Litt/Weekend Becomes Eclectic/The A-Track, Music, Musings & everything else, Radio, NPR, etc., Television

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