‘Stop, Drop, Shut’em Down, Open Up Shop’

The Good Wife has taken to teasing me about becoming a monarchist as a result of liking Netflix’s The Crown so much. If that was true, this remembrance would be about “Prince” Philip, not DMX who also died today at age 50 after suffering a heart attack two weeks ago.

Nice tribute from Otto Von Biz Markie @Passionweiss:

“RIP DMX. No one radiated more agony, pain, and atomic energy. The Cerberus from Yonkers, who suffered for all of our sins and his own. Maybe the rawest rapper of all-time, no pretense or frills, just pure adrenaline, lawless genius, and reckless abandon. The struggle incarnate.”

Nomadland Reconsidered

This Joshua Keating critique of Nomadland is excellent. He starts off praising it.

“The film Nomadland, which cemented its status as the front-runner for Best Picture with six Oscar nominations this week, includes unforgettable characters and images. It heralds the arrival of a major directing talent in Chloé Zhao, nominated for Best Director, and features yet another masterful turn from Frances McDormand, nominated for Best Actress. But for anyone who has read its source material, Jessica Bruder’s 2017 nonfiction book Nomadland: Surviving America in the Twenty-First Century, the film feels oddly incomplete. The filmmakers chose to jettison the book’s muckraking journalistic spirit and economic critique, ending up with a film that’s supposedly an examination of contemporary society, but feels politically inert.”

Lucid, critical, respectful, the phrases “oddly incomplete” and “politically inert” strike the perfect chord.

His main critique:

“These are people who are adamant that they are not victims, have chosen the lifestyle they lead of their own free will, and are grateful for the opportunities they get. This is admirable in some sense, but in the case of modern nomadism, it’s part of the problem. As Bruder’s reporting shows, one of the reasons companies like Amazon like to hire retirement-age “workampers” for physically demanding jobs that seem better suited for young bodies is that they “demand little in the way of benefits or protections. … Most expressed appreciation for whatever semblance of stability their short-term jobs offered.” The scrappy, no-complaints stoicism that makes these people appealing movie characters also makes them extremely exploitable.”

Keating convinces me that a very good film could’ve been even better.

Fake It, Til’ You Make It

I have a great appreciation for all types of music, but as my inability to comprehend entire swaths of this thorough and thoughtful obituary of former Met Opera maestro, James Levine illustrates, I have no feel for it. To be clear, I am about as non-musical as they come; well, except for my dad, for whom I have no memory of him ever listening to music.

Of Levine, Tommasini writes:

“His performances were clearheaded, rhythmically incisive without being hard-driven, and cogently structured, while still allowing melodic lines ample room to breathe.”

My thoughts exactly. No seriously, someone enlighten me, what on earth does that even mean? I may be clueless, but I know how to “borrow” from Tommasini to pretend to know way more than I actually do. Very shortly, when I return to the party circuit post-pan, I intend on asking this cogently structured question of other party goers, “Why, oh why do so many contemporary composers routinely suffocate melodic lines?” Of course, I’ll need you to throw me a life preserver as soon as any of my conversational partners reply.

With respect to this descriptive sentence, if I only was more familiar with Wagner (I deserve partial credit for at least knowing how to pronounce ‘Vaagnr’ correctly) and Mahler, meaning a little, I could follow Tommasini:

“Above all, Mr. Levine valued naturalness, with nothing sounding forced, whether a stormy outburst in a Wagner opera or a ruminative passage of a Mahler symphony.”

Here is faux-sophisticated music party line #2 I’m filing away. “I like how Levine valued naturalness, with nothing sounding forced, whether a stormy outburst in a Wagner opera or a ruminative passage of a Mahler symphony.”

I just hope my convo partners haven’t read, or don’t remember, Tommasini’s obit.

Nomadland

Frances McDormand is Fern, a widower struggling to let go of her past. She’s hard working and resilient. Her van makes for a precarious home. She befriends other “nomads” also living on the road, but only to a point, because she isn’t fully in the present.

Nomadland has the feel of a compelling documentary. A thoughtful window into a vulnerable, but resourceful community of non-conformists prioritizing personal freedom and nature over material comfort. If you enjoy films firmly based in reality, you may like it as much as I did.

Thursday Required Reading

1. Hiking Is an Ideal Structure for Friendship. Love stories like this.

“As soon as we complete one hike, we immediately establish when the next will be. We rotate the organization and planning duties, eeny-meeny-miny-moe style.

That person has complete authority and responsibility to organize the hike, select the location, provide the beer and other refreshments, and make any other side-trip plans. We’ve done breakfast, dinner. We sometimes hit various local watering holes, or we just plop down with a cooler in the woods somewhere. The organizer is responsible for setting up all the logistics, soup to nuts, and is not questioned on the decisions made.”

2. This game has surpassed League of Legends, Fortnite and Valorant as the most-watched gaming category.

3. 2021’s Best States to Retire. I know, I know, how can any state known for the blog ‘PressingPause’ be ranked 31st? Spurious methods.

4. Inside a Battle Over Race, Class and Power at Smith College. Don’t know where to start on this one.

5. Mean tweets may take down Biden nominee. If only Neera Tanden had shown the same tact and diplomacy as The Former Guy. Has nothing to do with “civility” and everything to do with political power. It’s a tad bit ironic that the R’s are channeling Malcolm X. “By whatever means necessary.” (credit: DDTM)

6. The most important Western artist of the second half of the twentieth century. (credit: Tyler Cowen)

Meet Kidd G

My morning reading included this New York Times profile of Kidd G., a 17-year-old from a small Georgia town who built an audience as a rapper on TikTok and SoundCloud before pivoting to country music.

Still processing these sentences:

“Before committing himself to making music, most of Kidd G’s attention was devoted to sports, particularly baseball and fishing. (He received two college scholarship offers for fishing.)” 

Wut?