The Love Songs of Thomas Pynchon

Gravity's Rainbow

So this is what I was originally planning for Valentine’s Day…only I planned for it around five months in advance and then forgot to do it. It’s a collection of love songs from Thomas Pynchon’s novels. I’m a huge Pynchon fan (DID YOU KNOW THAT??) and the little original ditties he embeds in his text are like charming, reliable life-rafts amid the glorious, chaotic sprawl. And I’ll be honest…every time I’ve picked up a new Pynchon book I’ve looked forward to the songs the most. They range from silly to clever to genius, and, in some way, I love them all.

When I used to run a different (much more personal) blog, I posted The Love Songs of Thomas Pynchon for Valentine’s Day, and it very surprisingly became the most popular post on my site. I have no idea why, but it was certainly a great feeling, and with that site long gone I thought I’d post it again. This time I’m including a few songs I left out of the first post — no real reason, I just wasn’t as big a fan of them — and I’m including the love songs from the two novels that have come out in the meantime. So this is much more complete.

Pynchon deliberately blurs lines between love, lust, friendship and fondness, so there are a few arguable love songs that were left out, and maybe a few that leaned in another direction that might have crept in instead. But here you go. In some cases Pynchon assigns his own song titles, but he usually does not. Any song titles that I’ve taken the liberty of assigning are in brackets, so blame me if you don’t think they’re appropriate. I’ve also left in a few textual moments if I felt they contributed to the “feel” or understanding of the song. Otherwise they were trimmed out for the sake of easier reading.

I hope you enjoy. Reading Pynchon is a blast, and his songs are a huge part of that. Some of them are silly, some of them are genuinely moving, and some of them are just absurdly fun. I threw in a gorgeous interpretation of “The Eyes of a New York Woman” at the end, just because it’s wonderful…and it’s always fun to get a glimpse into how these songs sound to somebody else. I can only ever hear my own versions, in my own head. And I hope you enjoy the ones you hear, too. Happy late Valentine’s Day.

“Serenade” The Crying of Lot 49, p27

As I lie and watch the moon
On the lonely sea,
Watch it tug the lonely tide
Like a comforter over me,
The still and faceless moon
Fills the beach tonight
With only a ghost of day,
All shadow gray, and moonbeam white.
And you lie alone tonight,
As alone as I;
Lonely girl in your lonely flat, well, that’s where it’s at,
So hush your lonely cry.
How can I come to you, put out the moon, send back the tide?
The night has gone so gray, I’d lose the way, and it’s dark inside.
No, I must lie alone,
Till it comes for me;
Till it takes the sky, the sand, the moon, and the lonely sea.
And the lonely sea…etc. [FADE OUT.]

[“Little Grass Skirt”] Vineland, p63

Whoa! Come ‘n’ let me roll that
Little grass skirt,
In the Zig Zag, of my em-
Brace!

Light on up, With th’
Flame of love, take
The frown right, off o’ your face!

Put it in a roach clip,
Pass it to and fro,
In between your lips and let th’
Good smoke flow, oh

It won’t cost much, and
It ain’t gonna hurt, just
C’mere with that uh little, grass skirt!

[“Esther’s Nose Job”] V., p111

Have I told you, fella
She’s got the sweetest columella
And a septum that’s swept ’em all on their ass;
Each casual chondrectomy
Meant only a big fat check to me
Till I sawed this osteoclastible lass:

[Refrain]:
Till you’ve cut into Esther
You’ve cut nothing at all;
She’s one of the best, Thir,
To her nose I’m in thrall.

She never acts nasty
But lies still as a rock;
She loves my rhinoplasty
But the others are schlock.

Esther is passive,
Her aplomb is massive,
How could any poor ass’ve
Ever passed her by?

And let me to you say
She puts Ireland to shame;
For her nose is retroussé
And Esther’s her name….

For the last eight bars she chanted “No” on one and three.

“The Englishman’s Very Shy (Fox-Trot)” Gravity’s Rainbow, p184

(Bloat):
The Englishman’s very shy,
He’s none of your Ca-sa-no-va,
At bowling ladies o-ver,
A-mericans lead the pack–

(Tantivy):
–You see, your Englishman tends to lack
That recklessness transatlantic,
That women find so romantic
Though frankly I can’t see why…

(Bloat):
The polygamous Yank with his girls galore
Give your Brit-ish rake or carouser fits,

(Tantivy):
Though he’s secretly held in re-ve-rent awe
As a sort of e-rot-ic Clausewitz….

(Together):
If only one could al-ly
A-merican bedroom know-how
With British good looks, then oh how
These lovelies would swoon and sigh,
Though you and I know the Englishman’s very shy.

[“For Susannah”] Mason & Dixon, p143

I was only sixteen, upon your wedding day,
I stood outside the churchyard, and cried.
And now I’m working for the man, who carried you away,
And ev’ry day I see you by his side.

Sometimes you’re smiling,– sometimes you ain’t,
Most times you never look my way,–
I’m still as a Mill-Pond, I’m as patient as a Saint,
Wond’ring if there’s things you’d like to say.

Oh, are you day-dreaming of me,
Do you tuck me in at Night,
When he’s fast asleep beside you,
Are those Fingers doing right?
How can Love conquer all,
When Love can be so blind? and you’ve got
Bradley on your Name,
And Mason on your Mind….

[“Cheap Romance”] Vineland, p281

Whoo! is this the start of a
Cheap ro-mance,
Nothin’ much to do with
High fi-nance,
Is it th’ start of,
Another cheap ro-mance?

(Here Scott Oof, as he had for thousands of identical renditions, filled with a phrase stolen from Mickey Baker on “Love Is Strage” [1956].)

This hot tomato’s lookin’
Mighty sweet,
Uh just th’ thing to git me,
Off my feet,
Oboy, the start of,
Another cheap ro-ho-mance!

Yep — looks like the start of
Another cheap ro-ho-
Ma-a-a-a-ance…
Gits ya thinkin’, is it
Me, or is it mah
Pa-a-a-a-hants?

Well cheap romance is my
Kind of thing,
Uh just in case you were
Wondering,
“Is it the start of,
Another cheap ro-wo-mance?”

[“Be My Hottentot Bondsman Tonight”] V., p252

Love’s a lash,
Kisses gall the tongue, harrow the heart;
Caresses tease
Cankered tissue apart.

Liebchen, come
Be my Hottenton bondsman tonight,
The sjambok’s kiss
Is unending delight.

Love, my little slave,
Is color-blind;
For white and black
Are only states of mind.

So at my feet
Nod and genuflect, whimper for me:
Though tears are dried
Their pain is yet to be.

“Pavlovia (Beguine)” Gravity’s Rainbow, p232

It was spring in Pavlovia-a-a,
I was lost, in a maze…
Lysol breezes perfumed the air,
I’d been searching for days.
I found you, in a cul-de-sac,
As bewildered as I–
We touched noses, and suddenly
My heart learned how to fly!

So together, we found our way,
Shared a pellet, or two…
Like an evening in some café,
Wanting nothing, but you…

Autumn’s come, to Pavlovia-a-a,
Once again, I’m alone–
Finding sorrow by millivolts,
Back to neurons and bone.
And I think of our moments then,
Never knowing your name–
Nothing’s left in Pavlovia,
But the maze, and the game….

[“The Austo-Hungarian Blues”] Against the Day, p915

No need for feel-ing so down,
Just spend a night-on-the-town,
The-Dan-ube won’t, look-so blue–
not if you do, like I do–
Just get on out-to-the ucca,
Take a stroll up–the a-ve-nue,
You’ll find that ci-ty beat puts-a
–Synco-pation in-your shoe,
Find-one-of-those
Austro-Hun-gar-i-an ladies,
So super-ficially deep,
Down where the gi-golos creep,
Too full of rhyth-m to sleep,
All-you-need’s-a
Good-time girl from the K and K,
Who can’t tell you if it’s night or day,
And slip away on a cruise, from
Those Austro-Hungarian blues!

[“Love Never Goes Away”] Gravity’s Rainbow, p294

Love never goes away,
Never completely dies,
Always some souvenir
Takes us by sad surprise.

You went away from me,
One rose was left behind–
Pressed in my Book of Hours,
That is the rose I find….

Though it’s another year,
Though it’s another me,
Under the rose is a drying tear,
Under my linden tree….

Love never goes away,
Not if it’s really true,
It can return, by night, by day,
Tender and green and new
As the leaves from a linden tree, love,
that I left with you.

[“Cutie in a GTO”] Inherent Vice, p78

Thought I musta been hallu-cinating,
Waiting at the light she called to me, “Let’s go!”
How am I supposed to refuse an 18-
Year-old cutie in a GTO?

We took off north, from the light at Topanga,
Tires smokin in a long hot scream,
Under the hood of my Ford Mustang, a
427 cammer runnin just like a dream–
[Bridge]
Grille to grille, by the time we hit
Leo Carrillo [Horn section fill],
And it still, wasn’t over by Point Mugu–
Just a Ford Mustang and a sweet GTee-O,
In motion by the ocean,
Doin what the motorheads do.

Shoulda filled-up when I got-off, the San Diego, it’s
Been pinned on empty for the last ten miles,
Next thing I know she’s wavin hasta lu-ego, flashin
One of those big California smiles–

Bummed out on the shoulder, couldn’t feel bluer,
Here comes that familiar Ram Air blast,
What’s that on the front seat, right next to her,
It’s a shiny red can full of high-test gas–

So we grooved, back on down, past
Leo Carrillo [Same horn fill],
Grille to grille all the way down to Malibu,
Just a Ford Mustang and that sweet GTee-O,
In motion by the ocean
Doin what the motorheads do….

[“P’s and Q’s”] V., p307

It is something less than heaven
To be quoted Thesis 1.7
Every time I make an advance;
If the world is all that the case is
That’s a pretty discouraging basis
On which to pursue
Any sort of romance.
I’ve got a proposition for you;
Logical, positive and brief.
And at least it could serve as a kind of comic relief:

[Refrain]
Let P equal me,
With my heart in command;
Let Q equal you
With Tractatus in hand;
And R could stand for a lifetime of love,
Filled with music to fondle and purr to.
We’ll define love as anything lovely you’d care to infer to.
On the right, put that bright,
Hypothetical case;
On the left, our uncleft,
Parenthetical chase.
And that horseshoe there in the middle
Could be lucky; we’ve nothing to lose,
If in these parentheses
We just mind our little P’s
And Q’s.

If P [Mafia sang in reply] thinks of me
As a girl hard to make,
Then Q wishes you
Would go jump in the lake.
For R is a meaningless concept,
Having nothing to do with pleasure:
I prefer the hard and tangible things I can measure.
Man, you chase in the face
Of impossible odds;
I’m a lass in the class
Of unbossable broads.
If you’ll promise no more sticky phrases,
Half a mo while I kick off my shoes.
There are birds, there are bees,
And to hell with all your P’s
And Q’s.

[“On Yashmeen”] Against the Day, p598

Her idea of banter
Likely isn’t Cantor,
Nor is she apt to murmur low
Axioms of Zermelo,
She’s been kissed by geniuses,
Amateur Frobeniuses,
One by one in swank array,
Bright as any Poincaré,
And…though she
May not care for Cauchy,
Any more than Riemann,
We’ll just have to dream on…
Let
it occur in spots in
Whittaker and Watson–
Unforeseen converging,
Miracles emerging,
Epsilonic dances,
Small but finite chances,
For love…

“Julia (Fox-Trot)” Gravity’s Rainbow, p248

Ju-lia,
Would you think me pe-cul-iar,
If I should fool ya,
In-to givin’ me–just-a-little-kiss?

Jool-yaaahh,
No one else could love you tru-lier,
How I’d worship and bejewel ya,
If you’d on-ly give-me just-a-little-kiss!

Ahh Jool-yaaahhhh–
My poor heart grows un-ru-lier,
No one oolier or droolier,
Could I be longing for–
What’s more–

Ju-lia,
I would should hallelujah,
To have my Jool-yaaahh,
In-my-arms forevermore.

[“Constables in Love”] Against the Day, p679

You know, it’s…
Only copper propa-
gaaaan-da, that
Policemen never woo, woo, woo!
–You
Know I’d be just as cud-dly as a
Paaaan-da,
If only-I-knew,
You wan-ted-to-cud-dle-me too! E-
-ven in Ken-ya, Tangan-yi-ka and U-
gaaaan-da,
It’s not that unheard of…
Coz it’s a
Proper crop o’propa-
gaaaanda, that
A flat-tie can’t fall in love!

“Just Like a William Powell” Vineland, p162

Oh it’s like layin’ bricks, without a trowel,
Like havin’ a luau, with no fish ‘n’ poi,
When you’re just like, a William Powell,
Lookin’ for some, Myrna Loy!

Well, Lassie’s got Roddy McDowall,
Trigger’s got, Dale and Roy,
Asta’s got William Powell, goin’
“Where th’ heck’s that, Myrna Loy?”

And just think of how Tarzan, would start to how-l,
If he only was hangin’ out, with Cheetah and Boy —
I feel like th’ alphabet, without a vowel,
Like Flatfoot Floogie, with only one Floy —

Guess I’ll just, throw in the towel,
Aw I’ll never find the, real McCoy,
Just another William Powell,
Lookin’ for that Myrna Loy….

“Too Soon to Know (Fox-Trot)” Gravity’s Rainbow, p198

It’s still too soon,
It’s not as if we’d kissed and kindled,
Or chased the moon
Through midnight’s hush, as dancing dwindled
Into quiet dawns,
Over secret lawns…

Too soon to know
If all that breathless conversation
A sigh ago
Was more than casual flirtation
Doomed to drift away
Into misty gray…

How can we tell,
What can we see?
Love works its spells in hiding,
Quite past our own deciding…

So who’s to say
If joyful love is just beginning,
Or if its day
Just turned to night, as Earth went spinning?
Darling, maybe so–
It’s TOO SOON TO KNOW.

[“A Deutschesüdwestafrikaner in Love”] V., p282

I know what you want,
Princess of coquettes:
Deviations, fantasies and secret amulets.

Only try to go
Further than you’ve gone
If you never want to live to see another dawn.

Seventeen is cruel,
Yet at forty-two,
Purgatory fires burn no livelier than you.

So, come away from him,
Take my hand instead,
Let the dead get to the task of burying their dead;
Through that hidden door again,
Bravo for ’04 again; I’m a
Deutschesüdwestafrikaner in love…

[“Mister Farenheit”] Mason & Dixon, p552

Say, Mister Farenheit,
She doesn’t treat me right,
Wish you could warm up that Lady of mine,–
Look at you, on the wall,
Don’t have a, care at all,–
Even tho’ our love has plung’d,
To minus nintey-nine,– now, Doctor
Celsius, and ev’ryone else, yes,
Say, you’ve plenty to spare,–
Don’t let us freeze, can’t you
Send some Degrees, from where-
-Ever you are, out there,–
Damme,
Mister Farenheit,–
Here comes another night,
I shall once again be shiv’ring through,
With no help from your Scale,
‘Tis all Ice and Hail, and
I’ll turn-into a Snow-man, too.

[“Dance it Away”] Gravity’s Rainbow, p558

And all the world’s busy, this twi-light!
Who knows what morning-streets, our shoes have known?
Who knows, how many friends, we’ve left, to cry alone?
We have a moment together,
We’ll hum this tune for a day…
Ev’ryone’s dancing, in twi-light,
Dancing the bad dream a-way….

[“Durango Dove”] Against the Day, p202

Out on the wind…
Durango dove,
Ride the sky,
Dare the storm….
We never once
Did speak of love,
Or I’d be free,
And a long time gone….
When the lamplight
Comes on in town,
Rings and rouge,
Satin gown…
Oh, but my
Lost…
Durango dove,
Do they believe it all,
The way I do?
Would they fall
Into your sky,
Even die,
Dove, for you….

[“A Girl in Cuxhaven”] Gravity’s Rainbow, p639

I dream that I have found us both again,
With spring so many strangers’ lives away,
And we, so free,
Out walking by the sea,
With someone else’s paper words to say….

They took us at the gates of green return,
Too lost by then to stop, and ask them why–
Do children meet again?
Does any trace remain,
Along the superhighways of July?

[“Teenage Romeo”] V., p387

Little teen-age goddess
Don’t tell me no,
Into the park tonight
We’re going to go,
Let me be
Your teen-age Romeo….

“Serge’s Song” The Crying of Lot 49, p120

What chance has a lonely surfer boy
For the love of a surfer chick,
With all these Humbert Humbert cats
Coming on so big and sick?
For me, my baby was a woman,
For him she’s just another nymphet;
Why did they run around, why did she put me down,
And get me so upset?
Well, as long as she’s gone away-yay,
I’ve had to find somebody new,
And the older generation
Has taught me what to do–
I had a date last night with an eight-year-old,
And she’s a swinger just like me,
So you can find us any night up on the football field,
In back of P.S. 33 (oh, yeah),
And it’s as groovy as it can be.

[“A Loser at the Game of Love”] Gravity’s Rainbow, p684

Just a fool-who-never-wins, at love,
Though-he-plays, most-ev’, ry night…
A loser-to-the-Ones, Above,
Who stack-the-cards, of wrong, and right….
Oh, the loser never bets-it-all, and-he never-plays, to win,
He knows if-once, you don’t-succeed, you can al-ways lose-again!
Just a loser at-the-game, of love…
Spending night after night a-lo-o-o-one!

[“Cape Girl”] Mason & Dixon, p80

Oh,
Cape Girrl,
In the Ocean Wind,
Fairer than the full Moon,
Secret as a Sin,–
You’re a,
Light Lass,
So the Lads all say,
Sitting on your Stoep, hop-
-Ing Love will pass today…
You keep your Slaves about,
As don’t we all,
Yet no one in love is brave,
And even a Slave may fall…
In love with,–
Cape Girl,
When South-Easters blow,
Thro’ my Dreams, I know,
To your Arms I’ll go,
Cape Girl, don’t say no.

[“My Singing Bird of Spitalfields”] Against the Day, p684

Oh, Sing-
-ing Bird,
Of Spital-fields–
How lonely i’-all-feels,
Wiv-out your mel-
o-dee! When shall my
Brick Lane bunt-ing
Chirp-again,
To my throbbing-brain,
Her dear refrain,
Soft-leee? Al-
though it’s spring
In Stepney, so-we’re-told,
Here in my
Heart-it’s-cold
As any-win-
try sea–until my
Singing Bird of
Spit-alfields,
Perched on her lit-tle heels,
Comes trip-ping back,
To meee!
–(My dar-ling),
[D.C.]

[“Es Posible“] Vineland, p343

Mention…[rattle of bongos] to me, [picking up slow tropical beat]
“Es posible,”
And I won’t need a replay,
My evening, is yours….

Yes that’s all, it takes,
Incre-íble,
Would it be so…ter-reeb-lay,
To dare hope for more?

¿Es posible?
Could you at last be, the one?
Increíble,
Out of so many mil-lyun,
What fun,

If you [bongo rattle, as above] would say,
“Es po-ho-seeb-lay,”
While that old Mar Carib’ lay
‘Neath the moonlight above,
Es posible,
Increíble,

It’s love…[fill phrase such as B-C-E-C-B flat]
It’s love…[etc., board-fading]

[“Skyful of Hearts”] Inherent Vice, p337

There’s a skyful of hearts,
Broken in two,
Some flyin full fare,
Some non-revenue,
All us bit actors
Me him and you,
Playin our parts,
In a skyful of hearts…

Up there in first class,
Ten-dollar wine,
Playing canasta,
Doin so fine,
Suddenly, uh-oh,
Here’s ‘at No Smokin sign
That’s how it starts,
In a skyful of hearts…

[Bridge]
To the roar of the fanjet…
You went on your way…
I’ll sure miss you, and yet…
There ain’t much to say…

Now I’m flyin alone
In economy class,
Drinkin the cheap stuff,
Till I’m flat on my ass,
Watchin my torch song
Fall off the charts,
But that’s how it goes
In a skyful of hearts…

[“The Eyes of a New York Woman”] V., p145

The eyes of a New York woman [he started to sing]
Are the twilit side of the moon,
Nobody knows what goes on back there
Where it’s always late afternoon.

Under the lights of Broadway,
Far from the lights of home,
With a smile as sweet as a candy cane
And a heart all plated with chrome.

Do they ever see the wandering bums
And the boys with no place to go,
And the drifter who cried for an ugly girl
That he left in Buffalo?

Dead as the leaves in Union Square,
Dead as the graveyard sea,
The eyes of a New York woman
Are never going to cry for me.
Are never going to cry for me.

Review: How Much Are You Willing to Forget?, Flicker (2013)

Flicker, How Much Are You Willing to Forget?FTC Disclosure: I received a copy of this CD in exchange for review. No money changed hands and all opinions presented here are my own.

Every so often I get the opportunity to review releases by smaller, independent or lesser known artists. This is something I’d love to do a lot more of on this blog, moving forward. To that end I was contacted early this year by the band Flicker, who wanted me to review their new album, How Much Are You Willing to Forget?

In the meantime I read and reviewed Scott Bishop’s A Soul’s Calling first. Not because I hadn’t listened to this…but because I was finding it genuinely difficult to stop listening to this long enough to write about it. Doing reviews of unknowns on this blog led me to fear that I’d be flooding my reading and listening time with…well, stuff I’d rather not flood that time with. Here, however, Flicker has fenced me into the opposite problem: enjoying something to the point that writing about it feels intimidating.

Nevertheless, I shall attempt it.

There’s a definite Pink Floyd vibe to this collection of 9 songs, but I feel as though carrying the comparison too far does this band a disservice. After all, part of the enduring appeal of Pink Floyd has to do with their overt challenging of musical preconceptions. (The same can of course be said of Frank Zappa.) It gives them a pretty timeless shelf-life, but it also means that it’s easy to find examples of that approach backfiring, where they overreach just enough that the weirdness and experimentalism starts to feel silly and reductive. When it comes naturally the listener feels as though he’s being granted access to an entirely new and exciting universe, bursting with possibility. When it doesn’t come naturally it feels completely artificial, and somehow even embarrassing.

Here the experimentalism comes naturally, and the stranger passages — of which there are many — feel like integral parts of the journey. This is a good thing, because the songs are relatively long (five of the nine songs break the six-minute mark, and one falls just short) and if the experiment doesn’t pay off, you’re stuck with it for the long haul.

Fortunately, the experiments pay off, and there’s not a disappointing moment on the disc. Flicker shifts from brash to spacey to heartfelt in the space of a single chord change and it feels right. In fact, for an album of only fifty minutes or so, it sure covers a lot of ground.

What it does lack, I would say, is a stronger sense of cohesion…a symptom of its own ambitiousness. It feels as though the band is more interested in crafting a series of strong singular experiences than one grander, album-spanning one. Not a problem in itself, of course, but it does make How Much Are You Willing to Forget? feel more like a collection of impressive splinters than like one single work of art.

It’s a small criticism at best, and honestly not much of one at all, especially when the individual tracks are this good.

My personal pick for standout track is “Counting Time,” a cathartic series of smaller build-ups and releases that swirl about in an atmosphere of uneasiness. It’s a rare song that uses well-chosen moments of silence to make itself feel massive and eternal, and it’s easily the one I’ve returned to most. There’s also a brilliant, improvised-sounding vocal outtro by an uncredited female that adds a lot of personality to an already excellent tune.

As far as accessibility goes, both “Go” and “Everywhere Face” sound tailor-made for the radio…and, not coincidentally I’m sure, are recorded to radio-friendly lengths. The former is an absolutely Floyd-inspired ramp-up promising big things that the album fortunately delivers, and the latter is a much darker, pounding dirge that nevertheless carries the sense of immediate familiarity every single needs.

Some great and rewarding experimentation rounds out the experience in other tracks, such as “My Empty Head” which fills more than half of its space with a lengthy, airy jam that works brilliantly here and promises so much more if the band is willing to play around with it in concert. It’s passages like this that tend to resonate with me most, and in the case of Flicker it’s the moment that absolutely had me hooked. It takes more than talent to record a piece of music like this…it takes heart. And judging by this track alone, Flicker has a lot of both.

“Is This Real Life?” closes the album with a long, plaintive piano-driven ebb into nothingness, and it’s exactly the kind of gorgeous simplicity that only a band with this much confidence in itself can pull off well. It’s an excellent way to punctuate a debut, bringing both closure to the listening experience and leaving a lot of room to anticipate an impressive followup. It’s also a welcome breath of simple reassurance after an album’s worth of restless complexity, and a great way to bring the experience back down to earth.

It’s always nice to discover a new band, especially one so versatile and restlessly impressive. I look forward to hearing a lot more from them, so be sure to check them out on iTunes or at their Bandcamp page. And no rush on the follow-up, guys…I’ll have this one in rotation for a long time.

FTC Disclosure: I received a copy of this CD in exchange for review. No money changed hands and all opinions presented here are my own.

Day 10: “Jazz Records,” Everybody Loves Raymond (2003)

On the tenth day of Christmas, Ryan gave to us…

"Jazz Records," Everybody Loves Raymond

Before I begin, I need to make it absolutely clear that I was hesitant in writing about this episode. Not because I didn’t have much to say, or because it didn’t affect me; quite the opposite in both of those regards, to be perfectly honest. It’s just that everything I’m going to reveal in this article is so pretentious and awful and disgusting that you’ll loathe me to the point of sheer hatred.

You’re going to doubt the authenticity of what I’m about to admit, either due to denial or the hope that I’m not legally insane. I would make fun of anybody else for writing this same deconstruction, so I’ll wearily admit to my hypocrisy now. This is your warning. I’m sorry to spoil the grace and holiday charm you were possibly expecting, but this is going to be the worst thing you have ever read.

An episode of Everybody Loves Raymond changed my life.

Yeah.

The show in question revolves around Ray trying to make up for a disaster during one of his childhood Christmases – the accidental destruction of his father’s Jazz records. He purchases digital replicas of the music he ruined those many years ago, but the new technology scares his father and he’s insistent on having nothing to do with them.

This is where I used to listen to ’em. I’d come home from a hard day’s work, your mother would mix me a drink, I’d come down here, put on the hi-fi, and let Duke and Dizzy take me away. …From your mother.

Without going into too much detail, growing up I wasn’t what you’d refer to as a model student. We’re all aware of that humiliating rebellious stage most teenagers go through, and mine was just as embarrassing. I rarely showed up to class, soon found myself expelled, and spent the rest of my days doing nothing society would deem constructive. This should be the part of the story where I find God, or journey through a traumatic experience and rejuvenate as a stronger and changed person. In reality, I watched a mediocre television sitcom.

"Jazz Records," Everybody Loves Raymond

With Ray’s remastered albums failing Frank, Robert saves the day by giving him some of the original vinyl copies he lost long ago. The episode closes with Frank finally listening to his old records again, sitting relaxed in his chair, lost in the music, naught a whisper emerging from the other Barones (a rare occurrence, by the way). The only sound we can hear is “Bye Bye Blackbird,” played with the grain and warmth Frank had been looking for since his records were originally destroyed.

“Now that’s music,” he remarks. And I agreed. It was. I didn’t know why at the time, but it was different to any musical performance I had been exposed to before. During my entire life I had no interest in any “deeper” art forms (again, it’s hard to write this without sounding pretentious), but from that final scene things began to change. I was moved. I wanted to delve deeper into the jazz culture. I didn’t make the connection at the time, but I wanted to turn my life around. And then the studio audience laughed.

It’s weird, because it clearly wasn’t the first time I was exposed to jazz. The Simpsons, one of my favorite and most re-watched series ever, had produced numerous episodes on the genre, yet I never thought twice about the stuff. And yet here it was, touching my soul in a bloody episode of Raymond.

One hobby lead to another. From jazz I found myself interested in art, and then English, and soon I finally discovered the joy of learning – somewhat regretting all of the classes I skipped back in high school. I made up for them with university, and these days when I come home from work, I relax and listen to my jazz records, just like Frank. Not because he did it, mind you – this article doesn’t have to be that depressing. I find it’s the best way to begin the ending of my day, a chance to reflect, meditate, and enthrall myself in the music.

"Jazz Records," Everybody Loves Raymond

Okay, so I opened this article with some humor – I’m more than content with the fact that this show changed my life, since being largely influenced or affected by any type of media is a common occurrence. Even though I like to keep myself educated, these days I don’t wall myself off from anything I’d preconceive as a waste of time. My girlfriend wanted to take me to the ballet recently – I said no to that, but, like, if she suggested the opera or something, I would have said yes because who knows what such a performance might bring? It could change my life, or it could do nothing. Either way, I had the experience.

I was never a huge Everybody Loves Raymond fan, but had always thought Peter Boyle did a marvelous job, the actor also being the only cast member who I held an appreciation for outside of the series.

I think that’s why I was affected by the episode more than I should have been, as well. Frank is a cold, angry, emotionless character, and yet his jazz music would break down all of these traits and leave us with somebody completely different. I admit it — it was a beautiful thing to see.

Tomorrow: It’s that one where the character isn’t really a big fan of Christmas, and is kind of a jerk about it, but then learns to enjoy it. You’ve probably never heard of it.

20 Questions: Andrew Apanov

I’m honored to have the chance to speak here with Andrew Apanov, the brains behind the Dotted Music digital marketing agency. Andrew’s latest — and largest — project is a series of short, documentary-like videos called Stand Above the Noise. It’s this fascinating endeavor that we discuss mostly below, but we also find time to ponder alternate histories, desert island meal allowances, and, of course, the accordion.

1) What, in your opinion, separates Dotted Music from any other digital marketing agency?

I think there are two things to it. The first is how the agency came out and the second is how it is organised.

We didn’t start as a music business entity, or a business at all. And we didn’t create a blog to attract new clients as it usually happens. Instead, the blog has been the core of the brand. I launched Dotted Music with an aim to educate musicians around the world, not having a single idea what it would turn into three years later.

Then I just felt the need to participate in developing music careers on a deeper level, and so the agency and my consulting offers emerged, but education is still our highest priority.

The other thing is our “location independence.” We are all other the world: the company is registered in the States, I’m in Kaliningrad, Russia, just as our designers, my business partner is in Canada, our blog’s editor is between Scotland and Cyprus, marketing managers are in New York City, and so on. Yet, thanks to technology (and I know this sounds banal in 2012), it is possible to do a lot without a centralised physical office.

2) The big project for you right now seems to be your documentary, Stand Above the Noise. Roughly how much time have you invested in the film so far?

This is our biggest educational project by date, just as the most time-consuming one for sure! Well, we started filming it in Kaliningrad in June 2011, and have been conducting interviews in various cities across Europe since then (and continue to do so around each two months). Just to make it clear, it’s not a full-fledged documentary film, but a series of interviews run on our YouTube channel. And although this project is self-funded and we have been on a fairly tight budget, we’ve filmed a couple hundred gigabytes of Full HD footage by now and are not going to stop.

3) You certainly have a knack for great names, between Dotted Music and Stand Above the Noise. What is the story behind each of these names?

Damn, this question made my day. I have been waiting for a compliment on either of those for so long! Yet seriously, it will be difficult to remember how exactly the Dotted Music name came along. I was just looking for something original, and guess the inspiration came from dotted notes in sheet music (reminded me that years ago I actually knew that stuff). Then, I love minimal style pretty much in everything, and a dot& worked perfectly for a simplistic design of the logo and the website. And of course, going further, the music industry is in such a beautifully unstable form right now that naming a blog dedicated to this business “solid music” or something in the vein would be misleading.

Stand Above the Noise is a bit of an “in your face” type of title, but I wanted it to be the statement. Initially, due to my love for rather obscure names, the working title of the documentary was Ear-Pleasing Noise. My designer, who is behind the neat graphics used in the series by the way, told me that it didn’t seem to work that well, and so I started the brainstorming process again. I knew I wanted to keep the “noise” in the title, another friend of mind suggested that “above” or “beyond” could fit the title well and so here we are, with Stand Above The Noise.

4) What do you think was the most eye-opening interview you conducted for Stand Above the Noise?

I can think of few. Last year, when I was working with an artist from France and had to dig into the French music business, I was impressed how fundamentally everything seemed to be organised to support musicians. When I talked to an indie guitarist Chris Martins in Paris though, it turned out that everything was not that shiny for a lot of music acts in the country. A conversation with Corinna Poeszus from Universal Publishing Production in Berlin was also extremely insightful. There I realised the growing potential of music licensing, or B2B approach of selling music as I would call it. And it’s booming right now. Of course there was a lot of other great interviews and I feel that the most insightful ones are yet to happen.

5) Name the one person, living or dead, that you wish you could have interviewed for Stand Above the Noise.

There is a myriad of awesome people in the industry who I would love to (and will! ha) chat with, but besides, it would be interesting to interview those mainstream stars who do fantastic job with engaging audiences of astronomic scales, like Rihanna or Lady Gaga.

6) Describe the evolution of the film. From what I understand, it started off as a much smaller project.

It started as a slightly different project. We wanted to create a documentary film, but the more we worked on it the more I realised it should be more than a film that not too many artists will watch anyway. People don’t have time to watch long videos on YouTube nowadays. Plus, I wanted it to be a long-time project, so a transformation into the interview series was a decision I never regretted about. By the way, we are also airing each new episode live, with my commentary and special invited guests — will see how well it’ll go!

7) You mentioned your wife Katya as being invaluable to the film. With her experience in broadcast journalism, that’s understandable. What do you feel she brought to the project?

She brought the project to life. Although it’s always me setting up and conducting interviews, she’s been directing, filming, and editing everything. Katya has also been helping me with doing the interviews professionally. Another thing is being filmed on camera. I suck at it. And I feel really sorry for my wife who needs to take dozen takes of a one-minute video of me. But I’m improving, promise!

8) Describe what a version of Stand Above the Noise would look like without her involvement.

I must say, this project would never see the light without her involvement.

9) You used to play the accordion. Where would your life be now if you had stuck with that as your primary mode of expression?

Oh my, I have no idea what career I could have as an accordionist, or what a regular accordionist career is at all. The last two times I saw an accordion player on MTV were that Gusttavo Lima live recording and a music video of a Finnish folk hip hop band — and I’m so grateful I am not involved in those anyhow! With all respect to the instrument, of course. I had sincerely enjoyed playing Bach (this is where my love for deep bass was born I guess).

10) What is the seminal accordion recording that should represent the instrument to all of mankind?

Some compositions written for organ sound excellent on accordion, but I won’t name anything specific.

11) You have experience managing acts, which is a far trickier business than many people might realize. What is one band or musician that you feel has been severely mismanaged? How would you have managed them differently?

I’m glad to have this experience, and am even more glad to be able to focus on marketing aspects of artists’ careers instead of managing them. Being an old-fashioned, full-fledged manager is a tough job.

This year we worked with a fantastic UK guitarist and singer-songwriter Dave Sharman, helping him with web presence and designing his new website. He’s been around for over 20 years, but I had never heard about him until early 2012. This is a good example of a very talented musician being mismanaged back in the days, though hopefully everything will be developing way better with the release of his new album.

12) What is your favorite Bob Dylan song?

I would rather name tracks where Bob Dylan’s songs were sampled, since unfortunately I don’t have any favorites among his own.

13) What documentaries — music or otherwise — have influenced your work on Stand Above the Noise?

Surprisingly, the idea of doing our own documentary hit us while watching Metal: A Headbanger’s Journey sometime in 2011. Speaking of more relevant films, PressPausePlay is such a perfectly made one.

14) You have the chance to go back in your life and change one thing. Absolutely anything, but only one thing. What would it be?

I would start my own venture much, much earlier.

15) Apart from yourself and your wife, who do you think had the largest impact on Stand Above the Noise as a finished product?

We are surrounded by a great team of supporters, but I want to highlight what our graphic designer has done, as well as Sam Agini, our blog’s editor who’s been helping with the copy. Artists who have contributed their music (Fanu, PLAYMA just to name a few) to the project deserve a separate mention. We are very grateful to everyone who’s been involved.

16) Do you feel that the increased interest in digital music has changed the focus of fans? Are they more likely to cherrypick individual songs than listen to complete albums, or experience a musician’s entire career as a more long-form journey?

This may sound paradoxical, but although music matters more than ever (you won’t stand above the noise with shitty music, fans will simply not eat it), music becomes just one of many assets defining your success. Albums, singles, streams, free downloads — you mix it all with other content and offerings and you build a strategy, a story behind yourself and your music, and a long-form journey just as you put it. People need way more than just the music these days, they want to be a part of a tribe. They want to hear from a leader of the tribe all the time, and they want to be entertained. Too bad many musicians don’t realise that success comes with a lot more than writing and performing.

17) In one sentence, identify what you feel is the biggest issue in the music industry today. Then, in one more sentence, propose a solution.

The global music industry is too selfish. It needs to better listen to an artist and to the one who rules the market now: a music fan.

18) You traveled to many places to obtain your footage and interviews for Stand Above the Noise. Was there any one moment you had that stands out as bizarre? Describe the strangest experience you had while preparing the film.

The strangest and the most confusing experience we’ve been having so far is microphones not working properly. We’ve tried five by now. In Paris, for example, 80% of interviews were massively corrupted due to the gear issues. You can guess how we felt listening to the recordings back at home.

19) You’re on an island. You have no chance of escape. Would you rather have enough food to fill your belly every day but no music, or just enough food to keep you from starving in addition to a source of music?

My answer will be rational: it depends on what music I would have to listen and for how long I would be doomed to stay on the freaking island. If the music is bad I would agree to starve with less food just to not listen to it, and if the “vacation” wouldn’t be too long — it is useful to let ears rest a bit and enjoy the sounds of the nature. Or maybe I would stick to more food anyway, rather inventing my own music instruments and organising raving events for the most biased audience ever (me).

20) What’s next for Dotted Music?

We’ve got a lot in the works for this and next year! Watch out for the Stand Above The Noise series, new affordable marketing products for musicians, new services, and of course lots of new free content. We will release a social media iPhone app soon…yes, you hear it first!

BONUS: Say anything to my readers that you haven’t gotten the chance to say above!

If you are an artist, stick to your art no matter what you read on the interwebs. There is only one way to become successful at what you do — and it’s never to stop or give up.

Thanks again to Andrew for taking the time. It’s been an honor and I look forward to the series!

Steve Zissou Saturdays #3: A Very Special Opportunity for All of Us

We are now introduced — though not immediately — to the other driving narrative here in The Life Aquatic. Up to this point, the film has been suggesting that our story will be one of revenge, with Steve seeking out and destroying the monster that ate his friend. And just in case we’ve forgotten this, Captain Zissou gets a big, dramatic moment in which he declares his intent to his crew…just before we see those intentions derailed by the arrival of probably-his-son, Ned.

This is a Wes Anderson film, however, so when a lost and confused son meets at last with his distant father, we know that that’s going to take narrative precedence over anything we might have seen already. Sure enough, it’s the relationship between Steve and Ned that drives the film, pulls us forward, and provides the characters with their real journey.

The scene opens with a small after-after-party aboard the Belafonte. As we’ve discussed previously, this is at last a chance for Steve to exercise some all-important control over his night, as he is in charge of the guest list and even has his staff shuttling guests to and from the ship in dinghies. It’s an isolated party for an isolated man, and he’s using the water as a buffer between himself and the world he does not care to understand. They say that no man is an island, but Steve Zissou seems to aim to be the first.

The after-after-party seems to run smoothly enough, and it gives us a lovely glimpse into the baseline operational structure of Team Zissou: Pelé performs music from the sidelines as Renzo the soundman records him, youthful Ogata and Anne-Marie socialize with guests, interns man the bar and serve appetizers, and Steve shuts himself — yet another level of isolation — in the cabin, away from anything that might be going on outside, even when it’s a party in his honor.

We’ll be discussing the individual members of Team Zissou more in the next section, but it’s enough to point out now that the serious electrical faults of the Belafonte are currently being repaired by Steve’s camera man and an intern whose name he doesn’t know.

Pelé’s song here serves as a sort of Rosetta Stone for the rest of his music in the film. By opening the scene on a long establishing shot of the Belafonte, Anderson gives us very little to focus on apart from what we’re hearing, which happens to be the instantly (and universally) recognizable intro to “Ziggy Stardust.”

The song itself isn’t particularly appropriate to the event or even the film itself — apart from some thematic science-fiction resonance that we may discuss later on — but it’s important that we hear this one first, simply because it’s recognizable. It’s a rare thing indeed to find an “obscure” Bowie song in Pelé’s repertoire, but the acoustic arrangements and Portuguese lyrics will render many of them unrecognizable (or at least less-easily recognizable) to anything other than the biggest fans of that androgynous icon.

So we get “Ziggy Stardust,” a song well known by anyone who’s ever turned on the radio, with one of the most distinctive opening riffs in rock history. The audience is now in the mind for Bowie, and it will make it that much easier to pick up on the vague, later echoes of “Rebel Rebel” or “Rock N Roll Suicide.”

Steve’s isolation is interrupted by Oseary, who delivers the ominous news that Larry Amin will have to consider the profitability of Steve’s next film before he decides to bankroll it. It says a lot that a benign and rational consideration of such a thing could be seen as ominous to Team Zissou, and Oseary confirms that it’s been nine years since Steve’s last “hit documentary.” One gets the feeling that by the lowered standards and ambitions of Zissou and his crew that “hit” is a relative term indeed, and might as well be replaced with the word “profitable.”

Here we also see a bit more of life aboard the ship. Klaus’s nephew Werner is the only one at all still enraptured by the magic of what these explorer / documentarians do, and he toys excitedly with some unseen creature that’s kept in an aquarium. Everybody else simply waits for the night to be over, whiling away the evening so that they can return to their almost perversely mundane “adventures.”

Klaus and Wolodarsky play backgammon, and Eleanor, quite tellingly, engages herself in a game of solitaire. Nobody offers to show the child around the ship, and it’s his responsibility to occupy himself blandly, as the adults are doing. If the actual film Steve premiered tonight didn’t sap any excitement that Werner might have had at meeting Steve, seeing his team hiding from their own prior glories and shruggingly postponing an electrical catastrophe certainly will.

Speaking of which, the potential of a ship-wide electrical failure when they could be anywhere at sea, under any circumstances, says a lot about the danger this crew is in, operating under a disinterested captain like Steve. The blackouts are played as a sort of rolling punctuation to important moments in the film we’re watching, but they’re also a harbinger of danger to come. See too Steve resuscitating a nearly-drowned Ned. What’s played for laughs up front can result in real and irreversible loss down the line.

Steve pushes Oseary to push Amin, and when he does not get what he wants he declares again his intentions to avenge Esteban, and storms out of the cabin. This is where he meets Ned.

Firstly, and interestingly, Ned addresses Steve as “Captain Zissou.” There’s no much we can say about this now, but it’s worth keeping in mind that to everybody else, including his own crew, he’s just “Steve.” This is a term of respect Steve has likely not heard for a long time.

Ned introduces himself, and Steve is immediately — and visibly — thrown off guard. He recognizes the name of Ned’s mother, and freezes. How much Steve actually knew about Ned prior to this moment is a subject of much contradiction over the course of the film, and even, in fact, in this very exchange. Steve’s “I’ve heard of you” suggests a belief on his part that Ned may actually be his son, but his “She never contacted me” seems to leave him — at least in terms of his own conscience — clear of responsibility. It’s his selfish, yet personally justifiable, way of having maintained a distance for this boy’s entire life. The responsibility for contact was Catherine’s, not Steve’s, and since there was no contact, Ned wasn’t Steve’s problem.

But his “I’ve heard of you” tells a different kind of story. One of unconscious drift, perhaps. One of a man who drinks and smokes and pops pills to force things out of his mind, but can never quite forget them. He doesn’t recognize Ned when he first meets him not because he’s never thought about him (as evidenced by the fact that he kept young Ned’s letter), but because the reality does not overlap with whatever phantom child Steve might have imagined to himself. It’s safe to say that whatever Steve pictured, it wasn’t a 30-year-old co-pilot.

Reality intrudes. Esteban was eaten. Steve’s films no longer make money. Reality intrudes.

Owen Wilson’s accent here rings somewhat false, and yet his earnest gentleness keeps it from veering into Foghorn Leghorn territory. It’s no more real than the sea creatures we’ve discussed…exaggerations and caricatures of the world we know. We need them to be exaggerated so that we — no matter who we are — can stand apart from them. The sea creatures can’t be familiar to any oceanographers in the audience, and Ned can’t be familiar to any native Kentuckians. This is a world Anderson created, and we are all observers. We are all at a distance. We’re not allowed to get too close.

Ned’s mother’s death is a sustainment of an echo that runs through many of Anderson’s films: Max Fischer’s mother, Royal Tenenbaum’s mother, Ari and Uzi Tenenbaum’s mother, the Whitman patriarch, Sam Shakusky’s parents…even the comparatively light Fantastic Mr. Fox toys with the idea of losing a parent. In the case of Max, he also lost his mother to cancer, and cancer is what Royal pretends to be killing him. Another character in that film, Henry Sherman, lost his own wife to cancer. Cancer, being both an unforeseeable intrusion of reality and something that kills quietly from within, fits perfectly into Anderson’s narrative wheelhouse.

Leaving nothing to chance at this point in his life — and this evening — Steve outright asks Ned, “You’re supposed to be my son, right?” He’s ensuring that they’re on the same page, and Ned’s answer is that he isn’t sure…but he did want to meet Steve. Just in case.

It’s a brilliant dance of emotional distancing. Ned is meeting both his father and his hero for the first time, and Steve is uniquely equipped to disappoint in both capacities. Neither takes the initiative to close the gap — though we do have to give Ned credit for coming all this way “just in case,” which is something Klaus calls him on later — and Steve’s just-out-of-frame handshake is a masterstroke of social desperation. Steve is meeting his son for the first time, and like Gabriel Conroy offering money to the maid he’s offended, knows not what to do but knows he must do something.

Steve excuses himself and we see the first of two long, emotionally-charged strolls he takes in the film to the accompaniment of a David Bowie song. This is Bowie’s original version of “Life on Mars?” here, though Pelé will also sing it later.

Taking both performances of “Life on Mars?” in tandem, and considering their contexts, they reveal a subtle and somewhat crude joke. Both times we hear “Life on Mars?” it is during a conversation between two characters about whether or not Steve could have fathered Ned. The first time it’s between Steve and Ned themselves, and the next time it’s between Eleanor and Jane. When Bowie asks about life on Mars, he’s wondering about the possibility of finding living organisms in a lifeless sphere. When Steve’s paternity is in question, they wonder about the possibility of finding sperm in his lifeless testicles. It’s a crude grounding of scientific wonder, but it’s hardly devoid of magic or majesty.

Steve returns and apologizes for his behavior — frame that moment, because it isn’t likely to happen again — and is approached by a much happier, and presumably drunker, Oseary. He has good news for Steve, as he spoke with Si Pearlman (whose surname is another passive reference to the undersea world), the editor of Oceanographic Explorer magazine.

Later we will see — in one of this film’s rare static insert shots — that Captain Hennessey has already been featured on the cover of this magazine, and this is Steve’s chance to regain, however briefly, the same level of exposure. A moment ago, in the cabin, Steve would have had something to say to this. Now, having encountered Ned, he ignores it — along with Oseary’s request to be nice to the magazine’s reporter — in order to introduce “probably [his] son.” Oseary, through untold years of experience working with Steve, has probably taken to handling all of his unexpected and inexplicable meetings with a bright, and hollow, “How delightful!” as he does here.

It’s the first of two back-to-back introductory embarrassments for Ned.

The next is a very brief scene when his backstory is explained to Eleanor by Steve, while Eleanor has no idea that he’s standing right beside her. It’s a brilliantly comic moment and it makes glorious use of Anderson’s signature blocking, as the entire joke is there in the frame but isn’t revealed until Steve’s final line. Eleanor also has a fantastic internal moment when she juggles disgust for Steve’s behavior here with a polite greeting to Ned.

As with Oseary, we get the feeling Eleanor has been through something similar many times before, and is used to being forced into conflicting emotions by her husband. In public, she must handle them both. In private, her options expand a bit, and we’ll see the result of that before the Belafonte officially sets sail.

In the background Pelé performs “Oh! You Pretty Things” which is barely audible and arguably unrecognizable without the complete soundtrack version. He also played a song during Steve and Ned’s meeting that I still can’t make out, which suggests that Anderson chartered a little too much material from Seu Jorge, and then was unable to find a natural home for every track. Rather than leave much of it on the cutting room floor (though some tracks certainly were), we hear Pelé tunes in strange places like this, wedged between grander moments, and relegated to an almost inaudible background. It’s sloppy soundtracking, but a natural extension of the stylistic musical collision we discussed in the first post of this series.*

We end with a short exchange between Ned and Steve standing above the action on the Belafonte. I’m not sure what this part of the ship is called, but it’s the same part that a ghostly figure of Ned is standing upon at the end of the film…which we’ll likely discuss more then, of course. (In the meantime please let me know what this is called, so I don’t have to sound so danged stupid all the time.)

Steve offers marijuana to Ned, who refuses, and lights a pipe instead. Similar, and yet different. We’ll see more of this distanced similarity between the two as the film progresses.

Ned reveals that he’s been a member of the Zissou Society since he was 11, and Steve feigns surprise. As we’ll see later, Steve already knows this (confirmed by the letter of Ned’s that he kept), and Ned already knows that he knows (confirmed by Catherine Plimpton before she died). Here they are feeling each other out…each gauging what the other knows, what the other will admit to knowing, and how far the other might go to conceal what he knows.

The fact that Ned was once a young fan of Steve’s (from his glory days, as according to Oseary Steve’s films became unprofitable around the time Ned was 21, meaning Ned had a full decade of enjoying Team Zissou output in its prime) sets him up as a reassuring whisper from Steve’s past…a past that grows more distant by the day. We’ll talk about this more when we meet Jane, who functions as an unwelcome reflection of Steve’s present. (Both of which, and more, feed into last time‘s discussion of The Life Aquatic as A Christmas Carol. More on that to come, surely.)

Ned reveals also that he’s currently a pilot (well, co-pilot) for Air Kentucky, which gives Steve another — and always welcome — chance to posture when he dismissed Kentucky as “landlocked.”

It’s the chance for Steve to play a part…a caricature of oceanographic explorers that you might encounter on Saturday mornings, perhaps one paying a visit to Pee-Wee’s Playhouse.

It’s not real…it’s an act. It’s a purposeful embodiment of what people expect to see and hear, so that they won’t feel inclined to dig any deeper. This will resurface again in his first interview with Jane. Favorite color, blue. Favorite food, sardines. Kentucky, landlocked.

But Jane digs deeper. And in her presence, so does Ned.

Steve talks Eleanor into letting Ned come along because it will be a very special opportunity for all of them. What he doesn’t know is that the opportunity is deep inside himself, and not deep within the sea that surrounds them.

Next: Let Steve tell you about his boat.

—–
* Oh, and on the subject of music, the version of “Life on Mars?” that plays here has an extended piano introduction, and it’s genuinely an improvement on an already gorgeous song. Does anybody know where this comes from? Was the intro recorded and appended by somebody working on the film, or does it come from Bowie’s own rarities or outtakes somewhere? In case you can’t tell I’m asking because I WANT IT.

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...