Before I get to the links, I want to thank everyone who commented on my drama llama post, both here and on Twitter. I was unsure whether to post it because it felt self-indulgent, but it struck a chord for people and generated a great discussion. TheHusband even read it and mostly talked about the high quality of the commenters’ contributions. As he should.
First up, if you’re a fan of jazz, Blue Note has come through for you once again. I still have dozens of Blue Note albums in a box somewhere; they were my companions from my teens onward. I learned almost as much about jazz from those compilations and classic albums as I did from going to concerts. And now they’ve teamed with Spotify to introduce a new app:
The app traces the label’s evolution from the early jazz of Sidney Bechet to the trailblazing bebop of Thelonious Monk, from Art Blakey’s quintessential hard bop thru Ornette Coleman’s avant-garde flights, from Jimmy Smith’s grinding organ soul jazz leading to Donald Byrd’s funky R&B fusion and on into today’s modern explorations such as Robert Glasper’s unique blend of jazz with hip hop, and beyond.
The Blue Note app’s design and functionality allow the listener to discover by performer, album, style, instrument or year, providing several easy entry points into the music for jazz novices, as well as the ability for jazz aficionados to dive deep into Blue Note’s unrivaled catalog. The app also incorporates Spotify’s trademark social features such as building playlists and sharing favorite tracks with friends.
I think Blue Note just lured me back to Spotify.
Next, there is a new movie being planned based on a portion of Nina Simone’s life. It’s not a standard biopic, so perhaps the departures from her life story can be excused somewhat. But the casting has a number of people up in arms:
While Zoe Saldana is undoubtedly a capable actress and has amassed an impressive list of acting credentials; people are understandably agitated and of course the ubiquitous online petition has started circulating via Change.org, and chief among the petition’s grievances…
Getting light complexioned actors to play the roles of dark complexioned historical figures is not only a sign of blatant disrespect to the persons they are portraying, but it is also disrespectful to their families, to history, to the people who look like the persons being whitewashed, and to the intelligence of the audience. For too long Hollywood has gotten away with this practice of revisionist history…
… And it’s a very valid gripe. Black actresses – particularly those with darker skin- often lament their experiences having to navigate the politics of an industry, that’s rarely willing to cast them in non-stereotypical roles, because [despite being attractive and immensely talented and right for the role] they don’t have the palatable “mainstream look” the Hollywood machine requires of some of its Black actresses; so they often lose plum roles to, what I call, the Halle Berry/Paula Patton appeal… and that destructive notion often places Black identified but racially ambiguous looking actresses on a pedestal as ideal representations of the Black female aesthetic.
It’s a difficult dilemma. Cross-racial and ethnic casting is important, but when you cast a light-skinned actress in the role of a woman whose identity and art was shaped so deeply by her sense of herself as a dark-skinned black woman, you raise a whole host of questions. Do read the entire article and follow the links, including this one to The Awl, where I first read about the controversy.
Next, a thought-provoking article at The Verge: “How Much Accountability Should Your Kickstarter Pledge Buy?” It’s a back-and-forth debate, and I’m definitely on the side of more accountability. But both contributors make strong arguments. This resonated for me:
The inability to otherwise launch a product without crowd-funded support is a common thread amongst the most successful Kickstarter projects, and arguably, one of the most compelling facets of the platform. But is that necessarily true? And, more importantly, is there anything to stop companies from falsely promoting their project as such? I’m not convinced.
More and more we’re seeing projects that could easily be funded by traditional means, but who want the publicity boost, as the other contributor acknowledges:
I think you hit on an important point. What is it that a project like Ouya really wants from Kickstarter? They are an experienced team capable of attracting the world’s top design talent and well connected to investors who might provide serious funds. What they are really looking for on Kickstarter is two things: exposure and early adopters.
The Verge‘s piece is about tech projects, but I think the points apply to all kinds of Kickstarter enterprises. As Kickstarter projects attract funding and publicity, the site attracts entrepreneurs and artists with a variety of motivations.
As long as the administrators don’t require accountability or detailed follow-up information, I think contributors are best off treating their donations as ends in themselves, whether as sources of entertainment (i.e., instead of buying a movie ticket, give $10 to an independent movie project) or a moral. social, or political statement (e.g., supporting funding for a local project or an awareness campaign).
Next, the tricky process of de-friending on the internet. Thanks to Facebook, Twitter, etc., we call all sorts of people friends. In a story about how to separate friends you want from friends you merely collect, the Guardian profiles a romance novelist from Illinois who decided that before decluttering her Facebook friends’ list, she would get to know them better. How? By paying them old-fashioned, face-to-face visits:
When Presser set out to meet her Facebook friends, one of the first things she discovered was that about two dozen of them had no intention of letting her visit, which certainly answered the question of what kind of friends they were. More revelations were in store. Some people proved overly demanding, such as the woman with whom she’d grown up and who had moved to a remote part of Turkey – she said Presser could visit so long as she brought her a Mac computer and a printer. When Presser offered to help her have the equipment shipped instead, she says, she found herself unfriended.
Overall, Presser says it was a positive experience. I couldn’t do it (and I don’t have to because I keep my friends lists very short), but it’s an intriguing thought. My Twitter friends (who are 90 percent of my social media contacts) are either people I’ve met, people I’d like to meet, or people I learn from and am glad to listen to.
Finally, a couple of book links from the Guardian. The marvelous Simon Callow reviews a book by former Prime Minister John Major. Don’t worry, it’s not about politics. Major has an unusual background, even by the standards of British politics. His parents were music hall performers, and and My Old Man is a warm and generous history of an era:
He never moralises, but always celebrates. The art of evoking dead performers is a very tricky one, and sometimes it eludes him. Nothing can bring the kilted Scot Harry Lauder, the most famous and (richest) of all music hall artists, back from the dead; and Major rather throws in the towel with Vesta Tilley (“she was, quite simply, supreme”). But elsewhere he sends in the clowns quite brilliantly, parading them before us in all their extraordinariness. Boys pretending to be girls, men pretending to be women, women pretending to be men, white men pretending to be black men – a sort of reverse universe: Little Tich, 4ft 6in tall, a curiosity from birth, having an extra finger on each hand, double-jointed, pigeon-toed, overweight, and who stopped growing at the age of 10, described by Lucien Guitry as the world’s greatest genius; the young Dan Leno, billed as “Little George, Infant Wonder Contortionist and Posturer” – no wonder Dickens loved him (he said of the Infant Phenomenon that he would “make headway”); Albert Chevalier, author of “My Old Dutch”, the prince of costers, christened Albert Onesime Britannicus Gwathveoyd Louis Chevalier, known as the Kipling of the Halls.
Amazon claims this book was released on September 13, but there are no order buttons (although resellers have copies). No matter, it’s on my wishlist and it’s going to make a great Christmas present. I may even buy some copies for other people.
And finally, I have a feeling that my usual source for mysteries, Keishon, has heard of all these books and read half of them, but I was thrilled to find Laura Wilson’s review roundup of crime fiction, in which most of the books and authors were new to me. Who can resist a new Val McDermid, a debut novel, a Canadian mystery with an untraditional ending that is set in Saskatchewan, and an Irish writer who recalls Chandler and Hammett:
Many writers of crime fiction are drawn to the streetwise narrator with the wisecracking voice – Raymond Chandler and Dashiell Hammett have a lot to answer for – but only a handful can make it credible and funny. Irish writer Burke is one who has succeeded spectacularly well, and Slaughter’s Hound is well up to his usual high standard.
In other news, that long-delayed Goodreads post is almost done and should be up in the next few days. Have a great week, everyone.