april’s fool – random gum of april 2018 soundtrack

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It comes just slightly early – the April random gum soundtrack. I also think I will be sending out a few copies on CD (along with the previous few months’ music) in postal form because there are a handful of people who need more candy.

April’s fool
Random gum – April 2018

Entire playlist on Spotify. Listen!

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01 Negative Gemini – You Never Knew …now you’re pretending that i’m someone you never knew…
For all the beautiful negative Geminis
02 Gianna Lauren – Mistakes …Mistakes, they are my own…
Thank you to Esteban
03 ABC – All of My Heart …What’s it like to have loved and to lose that much?…
Thanks to J
04 Vorderhaus – Tanz Tanz Tanz oder ich bin verloren
Thanks to ML & Inken 
05 The Jack Moves – Doublin’ Down
06 Mark Gaetani – Rwanda
With Rwanda on my mind
07 The Aislers Set – Cocksure Whistler …Showers icy but the streets are chalk/Like the cocksure whistler’s on a winter walk…
08 Fine Young Cannibals – She Drives Me Crazy
For SD and to memories of Terra and her insistence that she would like to stick her tongue between Roland Gift’s front teeth
09 Katie Von Schleicher – Baby Don’t Go
10 Kelley Stoltz – Kim Chee Taco Man …Let your grace go wild…
“You’re not alone… You know the smile is real/It’s something you can feel/The stars with twisted teeth/Not so out of reach!” For Martina: “The Kim Chee Taco Man/The real Mexican”
11 Lushes – Low Hanging Fruit
For Annette and our dislike for low-hanging fruit preachers with deer-in-the-headlights eyes
12 Mugison – Patrick Swayze …there’s a ghost living here in the scrapyard…
For SD, the Swayze gym and the way Scottish people talk, even over strange Icelandic soundtracks
13 Jane Weaver – I Wish …I wish you were cool/I wish you were something…
MP. “So you really did nothing/So you really did nothing of concern?/In the distance I’m humming/Are the whispers nothing?”
14 Olivia Newton-John – Hopelessly Devoted to You
Sing-song singalongs with SD
15 Negative Gemini – Don’t Worry Bout the Fuck I’m Doing
“I don’t care about your shit face, the street goes down two ways, Don’t worry bout the way I’m going”
16 Belle and Sebastian – Poor Boy
True words. “Poor boy, I could never live up to your imagination/Poor boy, I was a crush that killed”
17 Emma Lee Toyoda – Nünü
18 Indeep – Last Night a DJ Saved My Life
SD and locker-room recordings
19 Feu! Chatterton – L’oiseau
Merci, Laurent.
20 Karen Marks – Cold Café …on the esplanade/my coffee’s gone cold/I won’t forget the sounds/you left me…
Australia.
21 Robyn Hitchcock – Godnatt Oslo
22 Cat Power – Nude as the News
Memories of Seattle, Naomi and the Finn from Funland
23 Ösp Eldjárn – Ástarnetið
Thanks to and love for Eva
24 Maggie Björklund – The Road to Samarkand
Danmark
25 Veronika Boulytcheva, Natalia Ermilova – Зачем тебя я, милый мой, узнала …И сердце песню радости поет…
For J. This ‘relic’ from the college years pops into my head now and then. I had to dig through all my old CDs to find it.
26 Houndstooth – Bliss Boat …words are just a poor man’s pennies, dear…
Portlanders. I love the sound of this. “My aching heart/my wounded knee/you were the only air I breathe”
27 Kon Kan – I Beg Your Pardon (I Never Promised You a Rose Garden)
Thinking back to being 13 and the people populating that period
28 Clara Luciani – Comme toi
“J’ai le coeur qu s’égare en attendant que toi/Qui me ressemble tant, qui ne me comprend pas”
29 The Sundays – God Made Me
“We’d love to be good but we’d rather be bad/But how was I supposed to know that?”
30 Scott Fagan – In My Head
31 Martha Ffion – We Disappear …guess we never really knew how good we were…
Irish in Glasgow 🙂
32 Velly Joonas – Kaes On Aeg
Estonia
33 YACHT – I Thought the Future Would Be Cooler
“Got my broken heart—/I got it sold right back to me—/By an algorithmic social entity!”
34 Widowspeak – Dead Love (So Still) …Even if it wasn’t as good/If it didn’t hurt so bad to remember…
35 The True Loves – The Dirty
Seattle, you know…
36 Martin Courtney – Airport Bar …I can pass the time/But I can’t undo the changes once they’re made…
“Life in that dream was just what it seemed/If I knew then what I know now I would not have stayed”
37 Cate Le Bon – Aside from Growing Old
“What’s the hubbub, I’m losing my mind/I’m running from people/What’s the measure of a passing time/I’m, I’m running from people/Deep seated inconsequence/Still running from people”
38 Fleetwood Mac – The Chain …And if you don’t love me now/You will never love me again…
For Erin
39 Vendredi sur Mer – L’amour avec toi
40 Laura Marling – Gurdjieff’s Daughter …Darkness can’t do you harm/Fear will hurt you…
“Man is made in such a way that he is never so much attached to anything as he is to his suffering.” –Gurdjieff
41 The History of Apple Pie – Keep Wondering
I keep wondering about some never-tasted mysterious apple pie
42 Jane Weaver – Slow Motion …I want to feel the life we loved in the sun,/Slow motion…
“Let’s get together/We keep changing/Sometimes everything’s amazing/Then the silence/Reminds us we are lost/Stop listening/To other people/Whose agenda/Doesn’t seem good/Then exception is the only/Thing we’ve got.”
43 Dan Deacon – Feel the Lightning …I try not to worry/But I always worry…
44 Belle and Sebastian – Lazy Line Painter Jane …Being a rebel’s fine/But you go all the way/To being brutal…
Missing my Jane
45 Crybaby – When the Lights Go Out …There’s a beauty in this/A privilege in parting I know…
46 Meshell Ndegeocello – Waterfalls
A Meshell take on someone else’s song that somehow outshines the original. Love to Anne
47 Strawberry Runners – Dog Days
48 Jessica Lea Mayfield – Sorry is Gone …Leave me alone, but I want you with me every minute…
49 Damien Jurado, Richard Swift – Radioactivity
50 Veronika Boulytcheva, Natalia Ermilova – Вьюн над водой

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Lunchtable TV Talk: Nashville redux

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When a show I really love is cancelled, I mourn it a little bit (Terriers, for example). When a show I love is renewed and then the renewal is inexplicably withdrawn (The Brink), I am furious.

Nashville is not one of these shows. My reaction to its existence and eventual cancellation was as muffled as the run-of-the-mill, trope-filled show itself. I liked the show at first. This did not last.

What started out as an entertaining, if soapy, look at a bunch of fictional country music stars became a ludicrous, predictable mockery of storytelling. I, for one, was pleased to see that it was finally put out of its misery. Only then to be disappointed that CMT decided to revive the show as one of the network’s offerings in original programming, claiming, “We will treasure Nashville like no other network”. Every other network and online platform is doing it, so why not CMT?

The only possible bright spot and hope for redemption is that the show was self-aware enough to know it was circling the drain and needed immediate therapy. It had already begun to significantly retool itself, gearing up for a kind of reboot in its fifth season. Nashville’s previous network. ABC, brought in veteran showrunners, Marshall Herskovitz and Ed Zwick, to shake things up (they are both still on board with the CMT move). We’ll see if this makes a difference (and, despite low expectations, I will watch). After all, I love Connie Britton (was she not amazing in her small role as Faye Resnick in The People vs OJ Simpson?), actually want to see what happens with Hayden Panettiere’s difficult Juliette character and perhaps most crucially am interested in the way the character Will Lexington continues his coming-out journey. I have read that some of the neglected and/or mishandled characters and their stories will be gone (i.e., Layla Grant and her whiny, sniveling, overprivileged troublemaking – highly annoying because just when you wanted to root for her, she did something to ruin it; Luke Wheeler – after his engagement to Britton’s Rayna broke apart, he has just been hanging around for no apparent reason).

The thing about Nashville is that maybe it’s not safe to count it out, which is another reason I will watch again. After all, it started out well and pulled me in. It pulled a lot of people in. I just hope that it doesn’t go the way, say, a bad job does. I was reminded today as I started writing this about how sometimes you start a new job, and because it’s new and different, you get into it and really like it, but soon all the weaknesses show up and the structure starts creaking. Day by day (or in the case of Nashville, episode by episode), you grow more disillusioned and unhappy. You stick with it in the absence of something else but feel yourself growing numb. Then when you try to quit, someone in the organization convinces you to stay (or the network promises big changes, as ABC was working on for Nashville). You have your doubts but agree. And immediately regret it. It’s time to cancel. In the case of the job, I cancelled. But I will still give Nashville another shot, hoping that it follows a happier trajectory than an unhappy corporate job.

Photo (c) 2010 Emily Carlin

Lunchtable TV Talk: Dead TV We Never Heard Of – The Divide

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The Divide only lasted for eight intense episodes. It never had a chance. I never even heard of it until it had already long been cancelled, finding it in a list of “shows you should binge watch now”. The Divide came well before the much-praised American Crime – but it tackles many of the same issues of race, injustice, capital punishment, small compromises that lead to bigger corruption, a broken justice system and handles these issues with similar deft subtlety. But no one ever heard of The Divide, while American Crime (not much watched but certainly a critical darling) at least enjoyed its share of media attention. Maybe it was the timing, maybe it was the network each show debuted on (The Divide played on WE TV – have you ever heard of it or watched anything on that channel? American Crime is on a major network – ABC.)

I enjoyed the cast of The Divide (a whole bunch of actors from The Wire), and the story, had the show known it was going to be cancelled, could have been wrapped up in its eight-episode run. Instead, I guess they held out hope that the show would continue and the last episode opened a whole bunch of new threads and left most of the existing ones unresolved… meaning that there was no satisfaction at all. The final episode, in fact, felt really “off” after a relatively tight seven episodes leading up to it. The episode introduced a bunch of seemingly nonsensical and out-of-character activities, particularly a scene where two guys (one a cop and one a guy helping his brother-in-law, the DA, investigate something surreptitiously) hatch an unclear plan to entrap someone – but the plan is not at all clear and the situation goes terribly awry. Maybe it could have been explained had a second season happened. Disappointingly, we’ll never know.

Lunchtable TV Talk – Cucumber: “It’s a gay TV!”

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After enduring the tiresome and boring Looking on HBO, I wondered if it were possible to find something funny, real, sad, multidimensional and human on television that was just a normal but engaging depiction of gay life. Not caricatures, not some empty, juvenile idea of what gay life is. Something that feels like a genuine slice of life in a gay/LGBTQ context. And Cucumber is it. At least partly. Nothing is ever quite the whole package.

Cucumber’s creator, Russell T. Davies, brought us groundbreaking TV content in the past, such as Queer as Folk (the original UK version of course, which featured the now well-known Charlie Hunnam of Sons of Anarchy and Aidan Gillen of The Wire and Game of Thrones. Davies delivers in Cucumber (and in the accompanying, more lighthearted, half-hour program, Banana, which focuses on younger, secondary characters) all the things viewers could have hoped for in Looking. (Incidentally, Davies praised Looking and explained his view that perhaps it just went over viewers’ heads and that those who did not get it are “dumb”. He thought it was brilliant, but I don’t see it and don’t think there was anything deep to understand. Cucumber and Banana together deeply explore the themes, both comedic and tragic, that Looking could have elucidated without being a whiny, self-serving drag. It’s kind of Davies, though, to give Looking so much credit. Looking broke some new ground in certain areas – story for another time – but was not remotely relatable. Maybe the fact that we are left to compare these very different shows to each other is the bigger issue – TV shows that depict gay life aren’t a dime a dozen. Maybe there is a whole new paradigm we should be exploring.)

I care about these characters (both those in Cucumber and in Banana). In Cucumber, they can be frustrating, infuriating, silly, charming, funny, heartbreaking, showing the full range of their lives, relationships, fears – whether it is fear of and anxiety about sex (“Sex is for sexy people and the rest of us can just give it up.”), fear of aging, fear of being alone, fear of feeling and so much more. (Not everyone agrees, of course, as there was some backlash about Cucumber when it originally aired in the UK, with viewers finding “the characters unsympathetic and unwatchable. For others, the drama was inconsistent and tonally weird”. I can see those complaints, but at the same time don’t think it’s possible to create anything to absolute perfection. Unlikable, tonally weird or not, and unclear on whether it’s “light” or “dark”, Cucumber does not always walk the tightrope delicately. Both Looking and Cucumber, as the aforementioned article from The Daily Beast notes, are “about gay discontent at a time when the prevailing social winds—marriage equality, growing acceptance—seem to blow in another direction”. In contemporary entertainment channels, Cucumber is still better than anything else of its kind, which, if nothing else, should inspire storytellers and networks to raise the bar.)

Cucumber‘s most shocking episode, and the catalyst for where Henry (the main character) ends up, begins with Lance (Henry’s long-term partner until the show begins) wandering in the grocery store, where all of the episodes begin. It ends up revealing the timeline of his life and is actually so powerful and separate from the overall narrative in many ways that it could almost stand alone without the context of the rest of the show’s seven other episodes. You would not necessarily need to know the characters or the story that led to this point to feel his angst, his joy, his uncertainty, his humanity, his pain, his fear and his untimely end.

It reminded me, strangely (not in tone or theme but as a storytelling device) of a disjointed episode of Hell on Wheels that focused on the character Elam Ferguson (Common) after he had disappeared the previous season to go look for lead character, Cullen Bohannon. It also ushered in the surprise ending of a well-loved character. We suddenly see, near the end of the next season, that Ferguson, who had been mauled by a bear at the end of the previous season, survived the attack and is being nursed back to health by an Indian tribe. The entire episode is like a self-sustaining capsule that looks and feels nothing like the rest of the series. (Mr Firewall happened to be visiting when that episode aired, and it was the only episode he had ever seen, so he did not get an accurate impression of the show at all.) The idea of taking a character out of the normal run of things, away from the rest of the ensemble, and telling a tale that is uniquely his makes these episodes highly unusual.

Cucumber succeeded in creating a tense, terrifying and real hour of television while Hell on Wheels devised a very slow-moving tale of recovery that falsely led us to believe that Elam would even have a triumphant homecoming (we were misled/cheated. Elam does return in another episode and has gone so completely mad that he is gunned down like a rabid dog – so what was the long road to recovery episode even for?).

Cucumber‘s near-standalone episode six was heartbreaking. Lance was so desperate to please and to find someone he loved that he first spent nine ambiguous and somewhat unsatisfying years with lead character, Henry, who spewed hateful, vile stuff at Lance as they split up, ultimately told Lance that he had no spine and that Lance would wait for him to return. And when that relationship really ended, Lance pursued a conflicted, identity-crisis-ravaged, violent caveman who could not admit his own sexuality or accept even his own sexual curiosity. The Twittersphere came alive with a lot of “It’s 2015 – why do gay characters have to succumb to violence?” exchanges, but such statements ignore the realities that sexual minorities (or perhaps all kinds of minorities) face. Society has seemingly moved forward – legally and on a superficial level – but there will always be haters (whose hatred is really for themselves above all, even if it is unleashed on others). It’s a universal this sense of wanting something so much that ignoring danger makes sense. Hope springs eternal. Is the one night with a handsome man really worth it? Lance gets a warning – “go home, go to bed and sleep. You could walk away, right now… never look back. But he’s so damn handsome.” Devastating when you know what’s coming.

I’d say that though the show is focused on 46-year-old Henry, facing a midlife crisis and struggling with a stagnant relationship, Lance is its heart. Henry moves out of their common home into a warehouse apartment with two younger guys whose sexuality is a lot more open and fluid, which introduces the very different generational dynamics at play in the gay community. But Lance is what we care about and hope that maybe, just maybe, Henry will come to his senses and go back to Lance. When we lose Lance, we lose the sappy American idea of the “happy ending” reconciliation and see Henry grieve on all the different paths grief takes.

As stated, with a dearth of content on TV that focuses on the daily minutiae of LGBTQ life, comparisons between mostly dissimilar shows with only a similar theme in common are inevitable, e.g. Cucumber and Looking. The look that both take at discontent and dissatisfaction is telling in, as quoted above, a time when gay marriage is closer to becoming legally sanctioned in a majority of western countries and gay/LGBTQ relationships are becoming more openly accepted. Does this acceptance take away from or redefine the gay identity – usurp what many gay individuals need to feed their perceptions of themselves (e.g., young Dean, who features in both Cucumber and Banana, pretends to be alienated from his unaccepting, homophobic family, but we learn that he actually has a very accepting and loving family. He seems resentful of the fact that he cannot shock them with his being gay or “sexually subversive”). Does it change the foundation of what LGBTQ people thought their lives would be?

“Many of the arguments against marriage equality in the United States, an issue that may soon be settled nationally, have centered on the idea that admitting same-sex couples to the institution would irreparably alter it. But making marriage an option for those couples inevitably changes LGBT life too, if only by widening the scope of experiences available to lesbian, gay and bisexual people.” … “Advances towards equality still leave us, no matter who we are, with our own very human, very personal problems.”

LGBTQ on TV: Let’s not get it on

Maybe this is partly the point. Gay sex, gay identity, gay openness is not shocking enough to the average person any longer. I don’t want to diminish the reality of homophobia (the aforementioned “Lance” episode of Cucumber illustrates tragically that homophobia in all its forms is alive and well). While having sex probably does not define any individual or group, many people have long tried to insist that the LGBTQ experience is only about sex. When we reach a point at which it no longer shocks a wide swath of the population, and characters like Cucumber’s Henry are somewhat sex-averse (he has never tried penetrative sex, which is an unusual plot point, in that it flies in the face of what most non-gay audiences would imagine about gay men, and gets to a question recently addressed in an article on Salon), it is no longer just a story about people having sex.

The Salon article asserts that TV’s gay characters are a fairly sexless bunch, and that gay sexual lives on TV are too tame. It’s tempting to overreact to this article – to claim that shows like Banana and Cucumber, and for example, HBO’s Six Feet Under, have not shied away from gay sexual encounters at all (any more than any show in America at least – real, non-commoditized sexuality and nudity are still something of a taboo on American TV).

The article argues that the sexlessness is attributable to America’s squeamishness about seeing gay sex (or overt suggestions of it) on mainstream TV. Is this true? Does mainstream America at “family time/prime time” (i.e. before 22:00 in the evening) want to see overt sexuality from anyone? Plenty of innuendo but nothing explicit, so it is hard to say. Similarly the argument rests on the idea that Cam and Mitchell, Modern Family’s married gay couple, are so innocuous and sexless and appear to barely like each other. They are popular and easy to cheer for as gay characters because they pose no threat. While this might be true (because other characters are sexualized to some degree in the same show), it is still a primetime show, so nothing is overly sexual in its time slot. If you move a little later in the evening, you get the openly bisexual Nolan Ross on Revenge or Cyrus Beene on Scandal. And even ABC Family’s The Fosters, while presumably less “alarming” to middle America than gay men, focuses on a mixed-race, married female couple who are not only affectionate with each other but openly discuss their struggles to make time for sex with the demands of their careers and large, and always growing, family.

It is true that a lot of the best, most realistic, LGBTQ characters and couples don’t appear on mainstream, network TV – certainly not the most sexually active and adventurous characters. But cable channels (particularly paid channels, like HBO and Showtime) have always led the way with groundbreaking content, and in this sense, this is not an exception. Showtime’s Shameless gave us a truly fresh perspective on the subject with its improbable young couple, Ian and Mickey. HBO’s True Blood gave us a glimpse at very different kinds of sexuality in general, not just the out and proud sexuality of Lafayette. But various characters are changing the face of TV in subtle ways: Captain Ray Holt in Brooklyn Nine-Nine is a black police captain who faced both racism and homophobia in his work and who enjoys a loving, long-term interracial relationship with his partner; Omar Little the Robin Hood-like criminal in The Wire; David and Keith in Six Feet Under – another interracial relationship that came to be only after the uptight David could accept his own sexuality; Kevin and Scotty in Brothers & Sisters (and eventually Kevin’s Uncle Saul, who comes out quite late in life); Callie Torres and Arizona Robbins in Grey’s Anatomy; John Cooper in Southland; numerous characters who live unhappy, closeted lives because of the times they live in (Thomas Barrow in Downton Abbey, Sal Romero in Mad Men along with many other subtle and ambiguous characters who have come along throughout the seven season run of Mad Men, Nurse Mount in Call the Midwife). I did not always buy everything these characters did, and sometimes the stories involved them could feel a bit “placed” and token in nature. But it is encouraging that, slowly, this array of LGBTQ characters has become the new norm.

We have come a long way from the Jodie Dallas character in Soap, who started as a gay character who offered to have a sex-reassignment operation to be with his ultra-masculine football player boyfriend. Advertisers threatened to pull their support for the show, and for a while the show stood its ground. But eventually Jodie had relationships/flings with women and fathered a child. While he as a character maintained all along that he was gay, his character was a lightning rod in that he did not satisfy gay rights groups (justifiably concerned that the character would appear stereotypical or at the very least not representative of the gay community) and he did not make conservative groups happy simply because the character existed. But the character was a kind of pioneer – and we can at least see that the variety and depth of representation has changed a lot since the late 1970s when Soap was on the air.

With everything else that has changed in how the LGBTQ population is seen and accepted and has changed in how entertainment is produced and consumed, we should be able to think more creatively about how to produce and present things outside of the standard template.