Today: I enter the Corner’s culture war, uninvited. But first, domestic tripe.

One of the sweet spots in life: your kid wants to talk to you, and they’re finally interesting. (As opposed to cute or adorable just because they’re talking.) Yesterday we pulled out of the garage. Light flakes. Great, I said. More snow.

“Snow snow go away,” Gnat said. “Come again some other season.”

Really? Tired of winter, hon?

“I’m tired of snow. I’m tired of grey skies. I’m tired of coats and long sleeves. I’m tired of hot chocolate. I’m tired of oatmeal. I want short sleeves and sandals and picnics and hot dogs and trips to the beach! I’m TIRED OF WINTER and I WANT TO GO TO ARIZONA!”

Yes, she’s a Minnesotan, all right.

Later in the grocery store we were looking at cakes. There were some sports-themed cakes, and she seemed disinterested. “You like to play sports,” I said. She shrugged.

“Did someone tell you that you weren’t good at it?”

She shrugged.

“Well, that’s not true,” I said. “You can kick a ball very well, and you can catch, and you’re great with a ball and a bat. Anyone tells you that you can’t, you tell me, and I’ll give them what for.”

“For what?”

Who’s on first. “I’ll tell them they’re wrong and they’ll have to argue with me.”

“I think you just want to be a coach.”

“What? Why?”

“Because of all that talking. You sound like a coach.”

This was not said with a great deal of admiration. More like I’m tired of your rah-rah-BS, Mr. Grown Up.

But that was yesterday. Today she announced “I’m good at sports.”

That you are.

“And if someone says I’m not say that thing you said you will say.”

I knew exactly what she meant. I repeated my blustery speech. Content, she went back to her workbooks. Since we’re on break, I’ve brought back Thinking Lessons – this week it’s math. Lots of work with pennies and fingers and workbooks. We’re also learning to tell time, with her new Care Bear watch. It’s digital, alas, but some of these genies cannot be stuffed back in the bottle.

Note: the other day on the radio I discussed with HH the WaPo ME remarks re: the PRC. A clarification of the remarks by the WaPoME has been posted here.

Note: somewhere right now there is a big controversy about something said on a blog about another blog about blogging. Whoopty whoop.

Additional note: There’s this debate at the Corner about High and Low art, with Brookheser and Goldberg going hammer-and-tongs about the depridations / glories the culture has suffered / enjoyed with the rise of the Lucas – Spielberg axis of non-bummer popcorn fun-ride cinema. I side with the pro-happy-movie people, because I grew up in the era of miserable dystopian sci-fi and crappy post Rosemary’s Baby devil movies, with cheap Disney dreck thrown in to keep the kiddies happy. The future was always a bummer in these movies – either there was plague-followed-by-zombies (Omega Man), ecological catastrophe with cannibalism and euthanasia (Soylent Green) or ecological catastrophe with Bruce Dern (Silent Running) or shiny collective societies based on Who lyrics (Logan’s Run, where you did die before you got old) or species extinction followed by rise of low-tech primates (Planet of the Apes) or societal breakdown followed by oversexed Elois spewing guns out of floating heads to ensure population control (Zardoz) or shite-fest nonsense like “Lord of the Rings” cartoons, or – well, you get the idea. And then there were the disaster movies, which underlined the general feeling of dread and malaise, and the fear that some day your life would depend on Shelley Winters. Then came Star Wars. A symphonic score – not the usual painful bleepy burbling musique concrete score or whacka-chicka porn score. Actual heroes. Actual good vs. evil! What’s the harm? Jaws took the old monster-movie idea and gave it polish and craft; what’s the harm?

As for the scores, Brookheser says:

In a restaurant long ago and far away, I was having dinner with Jeffrey Bell and Larry Uzzell. Jeff was running against Bill Bradley, and Larry was working for him. Jeff gave an enthusiastic lecture about how John Williams was reviving serious music via the medium of the movie score. Well, no.

My rule for movie music: the better it gets without becoming actually good, the worse it is.

Kubrick knew how to do movie music: steal from Richard Strauss.

<biting knuckle>

Well, he also dumped in some modern stuff that sounds like make-out music for Lovecraftian elder gods. The better it gets without becoming actually good, the worse it is. I don’t know what that means. Perhaps there’s a point where the pretentions of a modern film score reveal its inherent inadequacies, and prove to the world that it’s not Beethoven. This would be a good point if the world was full of Beethovens. Or even Bruchs or Steinhammers or Waltons. It’s like saying that because DaVinci was great we’re obligated to roll our eyes at Rockwell or Sundblom instead of enjoying the work. (In context, of course.) The point of having standards is to make distinctions, yes, but this doesn’t mean you are obligated to ignore everything but the most perfect examples of the genre. If that’s the case, no one should read a blog instead of Tolstoi.

At one of the Minnesota Youth Symphony concerts I MCd last year, they performed “Duel of the Fates” from a Star Wars movie, complete with a huge chorus. Two-hundred people on stage, sawing and belting with great gusto at Orchestra Hall. They enjoyed it. Because it was fun to perform. A guilty pleasure, but what counts more – the guilt or the pleasure? Look, I love Berlioz more than John Williams, because Symphonie Fantastique is an incomparable work, and the Tuba Miram never fails to part my hair. But if I had to choose between the two, I might take Williams. He’s produced 100X as much stuff, and listening to it does not feel as if I’m sitting in the Church of Classical Music in itchy church pants. I can skip around, whereas I always feel wrong if I FF through a Mahler adagio because I'm just not in the mood. It’s cheap popular program music, yes – but such large portions!

The new SW movie trailer looks incredible – if they’d showed this to fans in 1979, I think most of them would have spontaneously dissolved. I have no doubt the dialogue will be horrible – for that matter, any aspect of the movie Lucas originated, instead of farming out, will suck. I still think it was a mistake to go back to the start of the story instead of telling what happened next. I still think it’s all a mishy-mashy rip-off with an incoherent grasp of spirituality and politics. I don’t care. If it looks like the trailer, I know I will sit in a movie theater on a Friday afternoon and quite possibly feel 18 again. This is no great accomplishment; art, you could say, should raise you up, not lull you back to the sloshing amniotic sea of the womb. But it’s a movie with rockets and robots and ray guns, and I’m a guy who grew up loving rockets and robots and ray guns. Hence I like to see the same once in a while, done well, without Bruce Dern moping around in a Jesus robe weeping about pine trees. I like a stirring score even if it's ripped off from Korngold. Who stole from Strauss. Who pinched from his buddy Gus. Who wasn’t above putting klezmerized folk songs in his work.

Okay! OKAY! So William’s full version of “Princess Leia’s Theme” is a bald swipe of Greig’s “Dawn.” Would you rather he ripped off the Starland Vocal Band?

Back to work. No time to edit.

As if that wasn’t obvious.


The shuffle iPod provided the following score while I wrote: Ravel followed by Elvis Costello’s “Pump it Up.” followed by a Bruckner scherzo followed by "I See No Evil" by Television. Excellent.

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