My brother showed this to me today. It is a series of scenes from HBO’s Season 2 of True Detective. We laughed liked hyenas for the entire five minutes. Jet fucking black. I loved the fist season and this clip makes me want to see the second season like yesterday. It is an understatement to say there some really great lines. I’ve always liked Colin Farrell’s work, but he is entering a new land of sweetness here.
Vanity Fair recently put out a long form article on True Detective writer and creator Nic Pizzolatto. If you are interested in the show the article deals with his writing process and the background of how the show to be. I found it interesting that unlike a lot of TV series there is no writers room, that he doesn’t seem to like writing by consensus, and that he wrote the entire first season by himself. I was also happy to see that he is influenced by David Milch, whose series Deadwood, in my opinion, is the greatest TV series ever.
Last night I cut a baseline in a studio that I felt was really great. I almost thought about bragging about it, in fact I totally did to a couple close friends! However, I started thinking about how that bass line was the result of listening to lots of other bass players and that, whether it is good or not, I only had a little hand in its creation. Also, on top of that, I have had friends, teachers, mentors, and parents, that have in some way shaped how I played, whether directly or in allowing me to learn my craft. Not only that, but every musician on any record has a similar story of people that helped them to learn what they do. You get four, five, six, ten people on an album, plus those doing the technical work, and all of sudden you have links to hundreds if not thousands of other people. How many records did they listen to? Who taught them? Who paid for their first lesson? If they were writing lyrics did they read a lot of different writers, who in turn have their own groups of people?
In America we like to tell ourselves that we pull ourselves up by our own bootstraps. But doing something completely by yourself isn’t really possible. We love the individual, and certainly some people are more unique than others, but the individual never accomplishes anything completely on their own. The most you can hope to do is to combine things in a way that others have not done, and that is original enough for me, but to do something that has no ties to any other person is something that only exists in myth.
I also was thinking how we devalue music in our current cultural atmosphere. Some people scoff at paying for songs. But think about it, really think about it, and you will realize that it takes a staggering amount of hours and people to give birth to even the simplest of songs. The same can be true of any art form.
I also reflected again on the ending of Mad Men. (Spoiler alert) A friend talked to me about the end of Mad Men, where Don Draper’s whole journey led him to create a Coke commercial. His view was that one way to interpret it was that nothing created comes out of a vacuum. In another way, and I would be one that can see it this way, this is a sad ending as a man’s life long struggle ended up as nothing more than a piece of advertising. However, at the same time it is a great way to view anything that has been created. Nothing comes from out of nowhere.
People have been talking about Dylan playing on Letterman’s second to last show. This is an interesting article about Dylan’s first Letterman gig, when he was struggling in the 80’s, around the release of Infidels.
I’ve always loved Infidels. Dylan’s lyrics are amazing on that record. I also like the oddball combination of him with Sly and Robbie, the great reggae rhythm section. Another Dylan 80’s album I really like is Empire Burlesque. There are many that will bemoan the 80’s production, and I understand that urge, but the songs themselves are largely fantastic. Most Dylan fans will mention Dark Eyes, but Emotionally Yours, later made great by the O’Jays, is a fantastic ballad. Tight Connection to My Heart is also an excellent pop song with great lyrics. In some ways I feel like the 80’s production at times, if you can do away with your prejudice, makes lyrics like, “They’re beating the devil out of a guy who’s wearing a powder-blue whig”, even more insane and absurd, heightening the comedy.
The always brilliant John Oliver on Standardized Testing in America. Any teacher that I have ever talked to, and I know a lot, my Mom having been a teacher for her whole career, talks about what a waste of time this testing is. It eats away at things that could be more beneficial to students, while giving a skewered look as to what is really going on in our schools. There is huge difference between intelligence, learning, and just memorizing.
Major spoilers for Mad Men are involved in this post.
Mattew Weiner has done a discussion about the last season of Mad Men and the final images displayed. The whole article is worth reading if you are a fan of the show. He claims that the last image of the show was not meant in any kind of cynical way:
“My take is that, the next day, he wakes up in this beautiful place, and has this serene moment of understanding, and realizes who he is,” Mr. Hamm said. “And who he is, is an advertising man.”
Mr. Weiner didn’t touch on how the Coke ad did or did not fit within the show’s narrative. But he defended the ad, with its notably multicultural cast, against those who would now dismiss it as “corny.”
Now, I definitely interpreted it that way. However, Weiner is defending the ad in it’s place and time and not ours. He talks about how five years before the ad you couldn’t even have black and white people in the same ad.
In one way, if the creator of something says something is so and so, you could say I was wrong. However, I think it is a credit to Weiner that the end was interpretive enough, so well put together, that its interpretations are more varied than just what he was thinking when he put it together.
I remember one time I wrote a song and someone misheard the lyrics. What they heard was even more compelling than what I wrote. Often when writing or doing anything, one goes on intuition more than reason. David Lynch is a director that is really interesting to watch work, as he operates almost wholly on intuition. Some of the things I have written that I’m most proud of, I don’t even know what they are till later on. Also, there is the argument that once created, something is the audience’s as much as it is the creator’s.
A friend of mine said that the ending also hinted at the artistic process. That so much goes into one song, or scene, etc. Nothing is created in a vacuum. It took Draper his whole life to arrive at a place where he could create that commercial. I think this is another brilliant way to interpret the ending.
I remember reading another interview with Weiner where he talked about how there was positive and negative advertising. There was advertising that tried to make what was being sold look appealing. Then there was negative ads that tried to make people feel like they would be losers if they didn’t by the product. Think of all of the male deodorant commercials that basically say if you don’t buy this you will never get laid. Draper was someone that believed in creating positive ads.
Now I still stick with my original interpretation of the ending. Even though the show takes place in the past, the viewing takes place in the now. Advertising has consumed and co-opted so many things by this point that it is hard not to be cynical about ads. In my mind tying peace and love to a Coke diminishes peace and love. If you take my friend’s interpretation about art, art is at least trying to communicate something of value. It is trying to represent the real experience as best it can so that other people can understand it. It is trying to build communication. Meanwhile, commercials end goal are to get you to buy a product. In the case of the Coke ad, peace and love are being used to try to get you to buy something that causes tooth decay and childhood obesity. It is turning peace and love into nothing more than a marketable commodity.
There is so much more I could say about the brilliant, beautiful, and somewhat disturbing, to me at least, ending of this great show. But the whole thing about such a great ending is that you don’t have to decide. You don’t have to tell yourself that this ending represents one interpretation and that nothing else is correct. The ending raises more questions, connects with more ideas, than Weiner, my friend, or myself have about it. The ending is art and that is a beautiful thing. It is not a final destination, but a river than can lead you to so many different places. Cast off from shore and explore this world and others on your own.