Posts from 2nd December 2005

2
Dec 05

The FT Top 100 Songs Of All Time No. 71

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Jay-Z – “The Takeover”

Joe M says:

The Jay-Z attack on Nas in ‘Takeover’ is a masterpiece because he acknowledges that Illmatic was a great album, and even that another unspecified Nas album was insert equivocal hand-wavering gesture here okay. Then he adds “That’s a one hot album every ten year average”. This is pretty much the accepted wisdom on Nas: that he made one of the best debuts in hip hop history and never achieved that level of quality again. Saying this, rather than saying “You are shit in every way” as some rappers are prone to do on diss records, made at least a large part of Jay’s attack on Nas very hard to refute.

Andrew F says:

(The Takeover is) a near-perfect diss record, through disrespect into dismissal. Where most rappers come up with a good insult or two and off to the studio, this is pleasingly thorough, covering the target’s past, sexuality, street cred, business sense and basic rapping ability (“Yeah I sampled your voice, you were using it wrong”). It’s magnimanious in victory – Jay-Z has no problem saying that Nas has released two great albums, as long as he has made more and greater. And still, better to be the target of all this than the multitude brushed aside in the last line.

THE FT TOP 13 ENDINGS: 12: The Cosy Comedy Coda

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Belov’d of seventies and eighties US cop shows, the Cosy Comedy Gag ending appears to have developed as a syndication buffer. What it actually consisted of was a back at base coda to the show. No matter how dramatic that weeks episode of The Streets Of San Francisco got, you could get back to the patrolroom where in about a minute all the regular characters can check-in, get a line, show that nothing really has changed from the start of the show and tell a nice, light gag. The gags were often terrible, and the coda absolutely pointless. But it was a useful way of ending the show because

a) In syndication it could be chopped out to make way for more ads.
b) It really did reset the show. If a character was injured, they would be seen to be recovering in the coda. Often one of the leads might get stung by a girl in love (she would always turn out to be the baddie). The coda was the way out of the heartache.
c) This meant that episodes could happily be shown out of order without annoying the audience.
d) The moral could be made crystal clear if there was one (HELLO HE-MAN)
e) Philosophically it stressed the idea that nothing in life is really serious or life-changing.

Fundamentally, it is an ending that is not an ending at all. Unlike a soap, which would trail endlessly to the next episode, the Cosy Comedy Coda basically obliterated the existence of the episode which preceded it. Nothing that happened in the show was meant to be remembered beyond the warm fuzzy of being entertained. Whilst containing the idea of ending, without adding any real closure, it is almost an anti-ending. Which is what makes it quite interesting.

Programs rarely do this any more (except maybe Monk). Which is a pity. Because the craft in wrapping up everything at the end of an episode of Quincy, and fitting in a gag was serious scriptcraft.

A Comedian With A Boring Name

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A recent pub argument ended up pitting the near worthless cinematic careers of Robin Williams and Steve Martin. I believe the jury found slightly in favour of Martin (though nice things were said about Popeye), though Martin’s win was largely laid at the feet of his “early, funny ones”. Luckily this is no Woody Allen argument, but it did force me to finally watch The Jerk.

Now my scales slightly tip towards Williams. I had imagined that The Jerk was a disjointed laugh-a-minute gagfest, a loose rambling attempt at stuffing Martin’s hyperactive stand-up in film form. Well it is all of that, with the exception of laugh-m-minute gagfest. There are comic ideas here, mostly ruined by Martin’s hopeless faux-naive playing of the lead as some sort of idiot rather than a jerk. There are some good physical gags, but if you have seen Martin do his funny dance once, you have seen it enough. Shoehorning Jackie Mason in does not really help either, there is no foil for his kind of verbal humour and he seems to smart for the flick. There is nothing wrong with dumb, and there are about eight half decent sketches in The Jerk. But I guess what annoys me most is that Martin’s character IS NOT A JERK.

I also caught Caddyshack the other day. Christ, what did a kid have to do to have a laugh at the end of the seventies?

(Possibly less than they had to when belated sequel The Jerk, Too came out.)

WARNING: Pub Amateur Month Has Begun

Pumpkin PublogPost a comment • 330 views

It is December, which can mean just one thing in the pubgoing world. PUB AMATEUR MONTH IS HERE. Yes, it is the time when Christmas cheer = poorly ordered beer, when Guinness is suddenly the last drink ordered and your waiting time will rocket. So here are a few tips from the seasoned pro – to other pub regulars.

1) Think of it like anthropology, or even worse, some sort of David Attenborough zoology show. Away from the bar there is much fun in watching office letches come a-cropper and lightweights stumbling. Stay clear of their beer spill radius though.

2) Look out for people who only order a couple and then start going back and forth. There is nothing wrong with big rounds, but you need them upfront. The best people to aim for on the bar are the regular drinkers who are getting flyers in. Pubs should really have a “four beers or less” queue.

3) Avoid the middle of the bar. A truism anyway, at Christmas this area gets full of people who have realised they cannot get served and is the black hole of ordering.

4) Avoid new bar staff. Lots of pubs get extra bar staff for Christmas. Try to avoid as the combo of new bar staff and amateur punters is a half hour wait.

5) Go to rough looking pubs. Office party types avoid them.

6) This is not the time of year to try innovative new carrying methods for your beer. You will be jostled into and out of the bar area plenty of times.

7) Smack the punter who waves a tenner at the bar staff. Affect a “I know its hell” smile and maintain eye-contact and you will get served first.

8) And remember, you are the pub pro.

The Bad Facial Description Award

The Brown WedgePost a comment • 108 views

Yes, yes – the bad sex award. All very TITter-worthy and purient, and in many ways deserved : (Fustar takes pains to look at the Giles Coren bit). Nevertheless for all this jocularity, it does tend to ignore the fact that describing sex is actually quite HARD. You can go down the comparative line where your metaphors are like to crumble under the weight of their pretension. You can go crude and heavy on the slang, hello Irvine Welsh. You can get overtly biological: and treat the whole thing like a science experiment (use of word vagina nearly always signals this coldly clinical approach). Or just say “They fucked”.

There is something grand about hunting down the sex scenes in bonkbusters: Jackie Collins books are often bound to fall over at the pages where Lucky bites her lip til it bleeds to stop from moaning in ecstacy. But nevertheless the unwitting humour in these sequences (especially when taken out of context) is a little bit unfair. For all we know (and I am unlikely to read it) Giles Coren uses pop culture references for all of his characters actions in Winkler. Does ejaculating three thick stripes like Zorro really stand out if he also “chops carrots, his hands a blur. Like the Flash?” Or “He wore red underpants. Like Superman“. Or even “He suffered a mild anaphylactic reaction where parts of his body swelled uncontrollably whenever he ate spinach. Like Popeye.”

Sex is tricky to describe, and funny. But then lots of things are difficult to describe. A decent breathless action sequence in a book can, when broken down, make very little sense at all. Conversations in novels are not like they are in real life (why should sex be?) And have you ever sat down with a photofit when a character is being facially described?

Winterreise

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It’s been dark at 4 in the afternoon here, and I have been doing mostly admin work at home lately. I just came back from the hospital, I’ve been feeling sad,cold, ambiguous, lonely…Intensely lonely.

I don’t think its possible to write about how bad near arctic winters are. Edmonton is one of the most northerly cities in the world, and even with the lack of snow, and the relative mild weather, it’s isolating.

50 years ago, people close to hear would travel for card games and never come back (there is a Sinclair Ross story about this). infastructure came with industry and the military, but it still feels wild. It’s dangerous in a way that is more elemental then anything else–and its danger is in the stillness, the darkness.

There is no drama to the death from exposure.

Thinking about all of this, a month before Christmas, I put on Mathias Goene’s volume of Schubert’s Winterreise. Going through what seems proper for the cold—a sort of Winter Death Mix, you could have Dylan’s Visions of Johanna or Leonard Cohen’s Bird on a Wire or The Huron Carol or certain versions of certain hymns (the strange melancholy of Silent Night, the literalness of In The Bleak Midwinter) But nothing matches the melancholy of being alone in the cold like Schubert.

Goene is new, German, and his role has some controversy, because he’s much more somber then his predecessors, and much darker. He adds timber and complexity to an artist who is mostly known for basically sweet candy. I know this is supposed to be a pop music blog, and this is not pop (and I am not going to insult you by saying Lieder was the pop of the 19th century.) but its important, vital even, to have gravity when gravity is called for.

This is as dark as the grave, and cold as the ground (in the words of Blind Willie McTell)

(The text of the Lieder written by William Mueller is here , with translations)

Hyperion is selling Winterreise as part of their Schubert collection, for about 13 pounds.

END TIMES WATCH: part omega

Proven By SciencePost a comment • 1,002 views

“and the lion shall lie down with the lamb, and the lamb shall kick the lion’s butt