Obviously quite behind on the newsletter front as we sprint towards the end of the year, so thought I’d send one on a Sunday afternoon to try to clear out some of the links I had saved to share. As there are many more to come in that department as I attempt to read an insane amount of articles that I have saved throughout the year…
Really enjoyed John Caramanica’s interview with Frank Ocean. With regard to how his latest album, Blonde, is performing:
Well, we doubled “Channel Orange” first week. I’m always gonna be like, “We could have done a little bit better.” I guess there’s a satisfaction that comes with looking at numbers like that, and I’m making, like, No Limit-type of equity, Master P-type of equity on my record.
This certainly feels like it will happen more in the future. Maybe artists use the labels to achieve some level of fame at first, then figure out a way out of their contracts to go it alone. The ability to work with Apple, Google, Amazon, etc directly sure seems to make this a lot more feasible than when Pearl Jam, Nine Inch Nails, and others tried to do this in years past…
On the notion of devoting less time to music:
“I believe that I’m one of the best in the world at what I do, and that’s all I’ve ever wanted to be,” he said. “It’s more interesting for me to figure out how to be superior in areas where I’m naïve, where I’m a novice.”
Speaking of Pearl Jam, I went to go see 4/5ths of Pearl Jam + Chris Cornell — aka Temple of the Dog — perform a few weeks back on the limited tour they’re doing to commemorate the 25th anniversary of their collaboration. Great show.
Mike Rubin on the hardships of trying to pull something like this off:
After a brief discussion, the musicians set down their instruments and huddled in front of the drummer Matt Cameron’s kit, listening over a smartphone to the song as it appeared on their million-selling 1991 album, “Temple of the Dog.” Memories refreshed, they returned to their stations, and resumed pushing “Pushin Forward Back” to its conclusion.
Not that the band members are unfamiliar with one another: Mr. Gossard, Mr. McCready and Mr. Cameron, along with the bassist Jeff Ament, are all longtime members of Pearl Jam, while the singer Chris Cornell is known primarily for his work leading Soundgarden. Rather, it was the material that was somewhat alien, Mr. Gossard said during a conversation in the theater’s dressing room, describing the challenge of “learning songs that we literally played maybe 10 times 25 years ago.”
Melissa Locker on Gimlet’s new podcast, Homecoming, which is using film and television actors such as Oscar Isaac, Catherine Keener, and David Schwimmer, to continue to expand the podcast medium — by playing to the past:
The so-called golden age of radio ran from the 1920s through the 1940s (basically until the advent of television) and was driven by the popularity of radio dramas. Early soap operas, comedy shows such as Fibber McGee & Molly and the work of Jack Benny, and adventure serials such as Captain Midnight (which you can still listen to thanks to online archives) ran side by side with radio presentations of Shakespeare and Sherlock Holmes, and comic-strip adaptations such as Little Orphan Annie and Dick Tracy. Orson Welles’s radio program, The Mercury Theatre on the Air, famously caused a scare with its retelling of The War of the Worlds, said to have sparked panic among many listeners who didn’t know the alien invasion was simply a story. Podcasts, of course, have great potential to reach listeners: Marc Maron’s WTF gets between 5 and 6 million downloads a month, while Serial has reached well over 80 million people since it debuted in 2014, and people are still listening. That reach has made the format popular with producers as well as A-list talent.
On A More Serious Note…
A few choice bits from Kim-Mai Cutler’s excellent interview with Stanford historian Fred Turner:
The irony is that with Donald Trump, we are seeing a medium and a set of tactics designed to confront fascism being used to produce a new authoritarianism.
One of the things we see with Trump and the Twitter-sphere is that when new technologies come on the scene, they don’t replace old technologies. They layer onto older technologies.
Twitter and its liberating potential is already mass mediated. It’s already commercial. When Donald tweets, he isn’t just tweeting to a general populace. He’s generating stories for CBS and NBC, and for that matter, Facebook. He’s generating stories that create an entire media sphere on their own. That is the source of his power. He is using the old fascist charisma, but he’s doing it in a media environment in which the social and the commercial, the individual and the mass, are already completely entwined.
“Fake news” is only part of the problem. The real problem is actually more of a structural problem. Media firms in lots of different subsets need to make money on advertising. When you are dependent on advertising, controversy is good. Truth ceases to matter. It doesn’t matter whether it’s true or not. What matters is that it gets a lot of attention.
If Donald Trump is a fascist, he’s a fascist for this time and this country, because the source of his power is his ability to manage and grab attention. He’s constantly seeking it. It’s a weird kind of charisma, and in that seeking, he draws us together, no matter how much we might disagree with his ideas.
A good framing of the situation.
I know I said I was done writing about politics. But this isn’t about politics. It’s about us. And Twitter.
(Originally published on Cold Takes, my newsletter.)