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This Trained Singer Teaches Metal Bands How To Scream

posted by Jason Kottke   Mar 04, 2021

Melissa Cross is a voice coach who works with metal bands so their screaming singers don’t damage their vocal cords. Her work involves switching singers from using their voice in an emotional way to a more classical and durable approach:

What metal singers do wrong is use an emotional response that feels like anger, or anxiety, in order to make the sound. And that involves too much tension. I use my acting training to imitate it, and my know-how vocally to do it in a way that could be healthy.

As someone whose throat starts hurting after 2 minutes of singing along to a favorite song, I’m fascinated by voice training. I don’t aspire to ever sing, but if I even want to do a podcast or some such, maybe I should hire a vocal coach? (via open culture)

A Concerto Is a Conversation

posted by Jason Kottke   Mar 02, 2021

In this lovely short film, composer and pianist Kris Bowers talks to his grandfather, Horace Bowers, about his life in the Jim Crow South and how he found a new life in California as part of the Great Migration. Horace’s move across the country set in motion events that culminated in Kris premiering a concerto he wrote with the LA Philharmonic. You can read more about Horace in this 2019 profile.

Yet, in a sign of the times, Horace encountered discrimination while building his business. At the time, mainstream financial institutions rarely gave loans to Blacks and Bank of America had already denied him. His fortunes changed after he hired a White young man as a presser.

“I gave him a job and after two days, he asked me to tell the bank that he had been working for me for 30 days. He said that he needed a loan because he had just gotten divorced and was broke and wanted to borrow money to go back to Texas,” said Horace.

“Even though I was with Bank of America, they had turned me down for a loan and I did not think he could get one. But, a few days later, his loan was approved. I wondered why, but I immediately thought of the color of my skin.”

Armed with this knowledge, Horace devised another route. He visited a different branch, picked up the loan papers, completed the forms and mailed them in.

“A few days later, my loan was approved and from then on, nobody saw us. I did mostly everything by mail,” he said.

Spring Doorstop Musical Instrument. Booooiinnggg!

posted by Jason Kottke   Mar 01, 2021

I didn’t realize it at the time, but making a spring doorstop keyboard was probably one of my greatest desires as a young child obsessed with those boingy door stoppers. We didn’t even have any of them in my house — playing with them was a rare treat when visiting friends’ and relatives’ houses. Thank you Ali Spagnola for fulfilling a childhood dream. (Can’t remember where I found this, but since it’s music-related it was probably via Ted Gioia.)

Update: See also the Quantum Garden, “an interactive art installation that demonstrates key concepts of quantum physics, such as quantum superposition, interference, and the Schrödinger equation.” (via @kayelcio)

The Competitive Quartet

posted by Jason Kottke   Feb 25, 2021

Salut Salon is a German musical quartet that plays classical music with a “passionate virtuosity, instrumental acrobatics, charm and a great sense of fun”. For a little taste of their vibe, check out this video of the four of them playing Vivaldi’s Summer with a mock competitive spirit that escalates with increasingly outlandish & impressive performances. This article calls Salut Salon “the Harlem Globetrotters of piano quartets” and that’s pretty accurate. (via @M10MacTen)

Type in Motion - The SF Symphony’s Dynamic New Look

posted by Jason Kottke   Feb 25, 2021

SF Symphony new branding

Design studio Collins has created a new brand identity for the San Francisco Symphony that uses type in a playful, almost musical way. This brief video demonstration is worth 1000 words:

Even better, you can experiment with your own type and music with the Symphosizer web toy. I made this (to the beat of Daft Punk):

wear a mask

(via @dkhamsing)

Radiohead. Ballet. Together at Last.

posted by Jason Kottke   Feb 23, 2021

A pair of dancers from the Polish National Ballet perform a dance to Reckoner by Radiohead, choreographed by Robert Bondara. This is from a longer performance featuring a number of Radiohead songs. The whole performance briefly popped up online over the weekend but is gone now. The video above is the only clip I could find on YouTube — hopefully the whole thing will be available again at some point.

Finding All the Source Images for the Sgt. Pepper’s Album Cover

posted by Jason Kottke   Feb 22, 2021

The iconic album cover for The Beatles’ Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band is a collage of images of dozens of people — mostly famous, mostly men — arranged as though they’re standing in a group behind the band. A list of the people depicted on the cover (including Marilyn Monroe, Edgar Allan Poe, Karl Marx, Shirley Temple, and Fred Astaire) can be found on Wikipedia but Chris Shaw went a step further and tracked down the exact source images for each one of people & objects shown.

The collage was designed by Peter Blake and his wife Jann Haworth, and the cut-outs were assembled in Michael Cooper’s London photographic studio. Michael and his team toiled hard to construct the ‘cast of extras’, using a mix of photos sourced from the BBC Hulton Picture Library, images from private collections, waxworks and personal artifacts, including a gnome owned by Ringo Starr.

detail of Sgt. Pepper's album cover

detail of Sgt. Pepper's album cover

detail of Sgt. Pepper's album cover

You so rarely get to see the raw materials used for design objects, so this is a real treat. (via waxy)

Daft Punk Have Broken Up

posted by Jason Kottke   Feb 22, 2021

Musical duo Daft Punk have called it quits after 28 years. They said goodbye with the video embedded above. This is so far from the worst thing that has happened in the past year but I am unexpectedly emotional about this. I still remember quite vividly hearing their music for the first time and I was hoping for more to come. So much of what they’ve created continues to resonate with me and, gosh, I can’t believe it’s over. Thank you, gentlemen.

The Otherworldly Sounds of the Long String Instrument

posted by Jason Kottke   Feb 22, 2021

Here are a pair of videos of Ellen Fullman playing the Long String Instrument, an musical instrument with up to 100-foot-long strings that Fullman has developed over the past 35+ years.

These ghostly, ethereal sounds are made by Fullman rubbing the strings with rosin-coated fingers; you can read more about her process in The Guardian:

Its sound recalls Indian raga, with harmonies sliding over one another. Fullman says playing it “can be an ecstatic feeling, a floating sensation. Music is bigger than me: there are pitch relationships, shapes of notes beautiful beyond the level of human expression. I like that feeling of being a conduit. I don’t like egotistical thrashing. I like trying to give a gift.”

The strings are connected to wooden resonators that act like the body of a guitar to amplify the sound. To bring it out further, Fullman rubs her fingers with rosin, the same substance used on bows. In effect, she turns herself into a human bow. The strings are 2cm apart and she can have up to 28 on each of the two sides of the instrument: “The number is only limited by the length of my arms: 60cm.”

Best little detail about Fullman from that piece: she was “born in Memphis and kissed by Elvis as a baby”.

Aside from the videos, you can find music she’s created with the Long String Instrument on Spotify and other streaming services. I would love to see her perform in person sometime, when such things are permitted again. (via @tedgioia)

String Quartet Performs Billie Eilish’s bad guy

posted by Jason Kottke   Feb 19, 2021

Over the past two decades, musical group Vitamin String Quartet has covered the songs of dozens of musical artists and groups, from Jimi Hendrix to PJ Harvey to Eminem. In the video embedded above, they cover bad guy by Billie Eilish, apparently one of several covers that appears in Bridgerton (haven’t seen it). The group’s music has also appeared in Westworld, most notably Radiohead’s Motion Picture Soundtrack. And, I just this second made this connection: VSQ also did the Strung Out on OK Computer album, a longtime staple of my music for working.

Arcade Fire’s Score for ‘Her’ Finally Released

posted by Jason Kottke   Feb 12, 2021

Her soundtrack album art

The original score for Spike Jonze’s 2013 movie Her, composed by Arcade Fire & Owen Pallett, will finally see a proper release next month. You can preorder on vinyl, cassette, or MP3. I’m assuming it will also be out on streaming services on its release date of March 19. I’ve been waiting years for this (even though it’s been available as a bootleg online this whole time).

Update: Here’s a list of several streaming/purchase options for the album.

Gasper Nali and His Homemade Bass Guitar

posted by Jason Kottke   Feb 08, 2021

I ran across some new music the other day that I’d like to share with you. Gasper Nali hails from Malawi and plays what he calls “wonderfully catchy & danceable tunes” with his homemade one-string bass guitar (which he plays using a beer bottle) and a cow skin kickdrum.

I particularly liked this video for a song called Satana Lero Wapezeka Ndiwe Edzi,1 with a bunch of kids dancing in the background.

If you’d like to hear more from Nali and support his work, you can purchase two of his albums on Bandcamp.

  1. The title translates as “Satan Today You Are Found in AIDS”. Malawi has one of the highest HIV prevalences in the world.

The Film Scores of Studio Ghibli Performed by a Live Orchestra

posted by Jason Kottke   Feb 08, 2021

In 2008, composer Joe Hisaishi conducted a 2-hour performance of music from the scores he created for Studio Ghibli’s animated films, accompanied by an orchestra, several choirs, a marching band, and scenes from the films themselves. Hisaishi and director Hayao Miyazaki have been collaborating on film scores since 1984’s Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind. In addition to Nausicaä, the performance includes songs from Princess Mononoke, Ponyo, Kiki’s Delivery Service, Howl’s Moving Castle, Spirited Away, My Neighbor Totoro, and a few others. (via open culture)

How Prince Won Super Bowl XLI

posted by Jason Kottke   Feb 06, 2021

The best Super Bowl halftime performance, by a comfortable margin, is Prince’s performance during Super Bowl XLI in 2007. Anil Dash has a great writeup that contextualizes the song choices and what it all meant to Prince.

Prince’s halftime show wasn’t just a fun diversion from a football game; it was a deeply personal statement on race, agency & artistry from an artist determined to cement his long-term legacy. And he did it on his own terms, as always.

Opening with the stomp-stomp-clap of Queen’s “We Will Rock You”, Prince went for crowd participation right from the start, with a nod to one of the biggest stadium anthems of all time — and notably, is one of the songs in the set that he never performed any time before or after. Indeed, though his 1992 song “3 Chains O’ Gold” was clearly a pastiche of the then-rejuvenated “Bohemian Rhapsody”, Prince had rarely, if ever, played any Queen covers at all in his thousands of live shows.

But with that arena-rock staple, Prince was signaling that he was going to win over a football crowd. He launched straight into “Let’s Go Crazy” at the top of the set. As one of the best album- and concert-opening songs of all time, this was a perfect choice. Different from any other Super Bowl performer before or since, Prince actually does a call-and-response section in the song, emphasizing that this is live, and connecting him explicitly to a timeless Black music tradition.

You can watch his entire performance here. But if you’ve seen it before and you’re strapped for time, check out the full-on mini-concert Prince performed at a Super Bowl press conference a few days before the game:

Incredible. I move that going forward all “this is more of a comment than a question” comments during conference Q&As are immediately cut off with blistering guitar riffs of Johnny B. Goode. Seconded?

My Recent Media Diet, the Still Isolated Edition

posted by Jason Kottke   Feb 05, 2021

Holy shit, do I miss going to the movies. Oh, and going everywhere else. Anyway, every few months for the past couple of years, I’ve shared the movies, books, music, TV, and podcasts I’ve enjoyed (or not) recently. Here’s everything I’ve “consumed” since the beginning of the year. (Don’t sweat the letter grades — they’re so subjective that I don’t even agree with them sometimes.)

Mank. Wanted to hate this, for secret reasons. Didn’t. (B+)

The Royal Tenenbaums. I have seen this movie a half dozen times and it’s still so fresh every time. (A+)

The Painter and the Thief. Best movie I’ve seen in months. (A+)

In & Of Itself. Everyone was raving about this and so I watched it and…I don’t know. It’s a magic show. I can see why people find it interesting, but watching it the night after The Painter and the Thief, it paled in comparison. (B+)

Ava. Jessica Chastain is good in this movie that is otherwise pretty bleh. (C+)

I’m Your Woman. Loved the 70s vibe of this one — not only the in-film setting but it had the feel of a movie made in the 70s as well. (B+)

Idiocracy. Fascinating documentary of the Trump presidency. (A-)

Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back. Sure, Star Wars was the biggest movie in the world but without such a strong sequel, maybe we’re not still talking about these movies more than 40 years later. (A)

Blood Simple. First Coen brothers movie and Frances McDormand’s debut. (A-)

L.L. Bean fleece-lined hoodie. The most comfortable piece of clothing I’ve ever owned. (A+)

Wonder Woman 1984. This wasn’t nearly as bad as everyone said it was, but they should have worked a little harder on making an entertaining movie and less on hitting the audience over the head with a moral lesson. (B+)

Song Exploder (season two). The Dua Lipa and Trent Reznor episodes were the standouts here. (B+)

Ammonite. Great individual performances by Ronan and Winslet. (B+)

The Mandalorian (season two). Enjoyed this way more than season one. The final scene in the last episode… (A-)

MacBook Air M1. A couple of years ago, I bought an iPad Pro intending to use it for work on the go. For folks whose work is mostly email and web browsing, the device seems to work fine but after a solid year of trying to make it work for me, I gave up. Last month, I bought a MacBook Air M1 to replace my 6-year-old iMac, my 9-year-old Air, and the iPad. It’s a remarkable machine — lightning fast with a long-lasting battery. I’ll be much happier traveling with this, whenever it is that we get to travel again. (A)

The Crown (season four). The show has never reached the giddy heights of the first two seasons, but Gillian Anderson’s Margaret Thatcher was a fantastic addition to the show. As someone on Twitter said, Anderson played Thatcher perfectly: as a sociopath. (A-)

Sunshine. Rewatch. Afterwards, as one does, I looked the film up on Wikipedia and of course Alex Garland (Ex Machina, Devs) had written it. (A-)

Florida by Lauren Groff. Excellent and eclectic collection of short stories. (B+)

Phantom Thread. Undoubtably a masterpiece but also something that I personally find it hard to get fully into. (B+)

Emma.. Super-fun period piece starring Anya Taylor-Joy. (A-)

In Our Time, Eclipses. I love any opportunity to hear about eclipses. (A)

Hang Up and Listen: The Last Last Dance. This picks up where The Last Dance left off with the story of Michael Jordan’s second (and much less successful) comeback with the Washington Wizards. (B+)

Soul. A sequel of sorts to Inside Out. The underworld score by Trent Reznor & Atticus Ross is fantastic. (A)

Ready Player One. Almost in spite of myself, I like this movie. (B+)

The Hobbit film series. Not as good as the Lord of the Rings movies, but not as bad as commonly thought. (B)

Locked Down. This took a while to get going, but Hathaway and Ejiofor are both really good in this. I’ll tell you though, I really had to be in a certain mood to watch a movie about the first weeks of pandemic lockdown. It will be really interesting to see how much appetite people will have for pandemic-themed movies, TV, books, art, etc. (B+)

Young Frankenstein. Madeline Kahn is only in this movie for like 5 minutes but she so dominates the screen that it feels like much longer. (A-)

Batman Begins. I don’t know why Christopher Nolan wanted to direct a series of superhero movies, but I’m glad he did. (A-)

This American Life, The Empty Chair. There are so many more podcasts now than there were 10 years ago, but This American Life is still consistently among the best and they don’t get enough credit for that. (A-)

Criminal, The Editor. I will listen to anything about people who love encyclopedias. (B+)

The Midnight Sky. I feel like I’ve seen this movie — or a movie very much like it — several times before. (B)

Ocean’s 8. Good fun. And Awkwafina! (B+)

Past installments of my media diet are available here.

Delightful Acapella Versions of Familiar Jingles

posted by Jason Kottke   Feb 04, 2021

This is a fun discovery, via Laura Olin’s newsletter: a Korean acapella group called Maytree that does impressions of famous cultural jingles and sound effects. In this video, they perform a number of movie intro tunes (20th Century Fox, Paramount, etc.):

Watch until the end…the Netflix one is *kisses fingers*. Here they do the music from Super Mario Bros, including the overworld, underworld, and underwater themes:

Tetris (which gets unexpectedly dramatic):

And finally, a bunch of sounds and jingles from Microsoft Windows:

Newly Released Footage of a 2007 Daft Punk Concert

posted by Jason Kottke   Feb 02, 2021

As a post-Tr*mp gift to the world, YouTube user Johnny Airbag uploaded a “previously uncirculated” full-length video of a Daft Punk concert in Chicago in 2007. This was from the first night of Lollapalooza and was one of the stops on the duo’s Alive tour, which later resulted in their Alive 2007 album (recorded live in Paris a few weeks before the Chicago show). You can find bootleg recordings of several of their 2007 shows on Soundcloud.

Jamie xx’s Score from Tree of Codes

posted by Jason Kottke   Jan 28, 2021

Several years ago, I saw an NYC performance of Tree of Codes, a collaboration between choreographer Wayne McGregor, artist Olafur Eliasson, music producer Jamie xx, and dancers from the Paris Opera Ballet based on Jonathan Safran Foer’s book of the same name. The whole performance was dazzling but I was especially taken with Jamie xx’s score.

In the weeks after the performance, I looked online for the score, hoping against hope that a recording was out there. No dice. As time went on, whenever one of Jamie xx’s songs popped up in a mix I was listening to, I’d do a bit of searching for the score, always without success. Until the other day, when I discovered this bootleg version on Soundcloud:

So happy to hear this again — for as long as this link lasts. I’m still crossing my fingers for an official release at some point…

Max Richter’s Tiny Desk (Home) Concert

posted by Jason Kottke   Jan 22, 2021

Like many of you, I really enjoyed when NPR hosted Max Richter for a Tiny Desk Concert early in 2020, before the unpleasantness. Almost a year later, the composer is back with a Tiny Desk (Home) Concert. Recorded in spare black & white last summer, Richter plays six of his typically meditative pieces on a piano. Just set this going in the background and relax into your workday (or weekend, depending on your time zone). Enjoy.

Sisters with Transistors: Electronic Music’s Unsung Heroines

posted by Jason Kottke   Jan 14, 2021

Sisters with Transistors (great title!) is a documentary film by Lisa Rovner about the overlooked female pioneers of electronic music.

The history of women has been a history of silence.

As one of the film’s subjects, Laurie Spiegel explains: “We women were especially drawn to electronic music when the possibility of a woman composing was in itself controversial. Electronics let us make music that could be heard by others without having to be taken seriously by the male dominated Establishment.”

The film’s subjects, which you can read about here, include Clara Rockmore, Daphne Oram, Bebe Barron, Pauline Oliveros, Delia Derbyshire, Maryanne Amacher, Eliane Radigue, Suzanne Ciani, and Laurie Spiegel. Oram, for example, was one of the founding members of BBC’s Radiophonic Workshop:

With many of her country’s men serving in the second World War, she began her career in radio broadcasting in the early ’40s. Galvanized by the ongoing developments in audio technology, she devoted much of her free time to exploring new ways to make sounds with electronics. One of the founding figures of the BBC’s Radiophonic Workshop, she was one of the earliest British composers to produce electronic sounds and compose from field recordings — Musique Concrete, the ancestry of today’s electronic music.

Sisters with Transistors has been playing at some online festivals but I couldn’t find any info about release dates or screenings in the US. Hopefully it will be out there soon? (via open culture)

Half-Century Mix: 50 Songs from the Last 50 Years

posted by Jason Kottke   Jan 04, 2021

DJ Earworm has made a chronological mix of songs, one from each year from 1970 to 2020.1 The Jackson 5 flows into Rod Stewart, Def Leppard into Milli Vanilli, Eric Clapton into Chumbawamba into The Verve, Shakira into Rihanna, and Ed Sheeran into Justin Bieber. Go on then, take a ride.

  1. Ok, the title says “50 Songs from the Last 50 Years” but 1970 to 2020 is really 51 years (and therefore 51 songs). This is a common counting challenge, source of many off-by-one errors in software engineering. The way I learned to deal with it in grade school math class (and how I still think about it) is: are you counting fence posts or the gaps between them? So, a person born in 1970 turned 50 years old in 2020 but a song from each year from 1970 to 2020 totals 51 songs.

    Anyway, I fudged the title to the nice round number of 50. I’m fun at parties!

A Sneak Preview of Peter Jackson’s Documentary About The Beatles

posted by Jason Kottke   Dec 21, 2020

The Beatles: Get Back, Peter Jackson’s documentary about the making of Let It Be, was delayed by the pandemic, so he and the studio have released a montage of about four minutes of the film as a sneak peek. The film, constructed from 55+ hours of largely unseen footage and 140 hours of audio recordings, seeks to portray the making of the band’s final studio album in a better light than previous accounts. The project has the support of Paul McCartney, Ringo Starr, Yoko Ono, and Olivia Harrison and will out in August 2021. (via ted gioia)

Today’s Work Music: Max Richter’s My Brilliant Friend Soundtracks

posted by Jason Kottke   Dec 18, 2020

That someone was able to turn Elena Ferrante’s Neapolitan novels into a compelling TV series is nothing short of miraculous. It could have gone so wrong.1 A key aspect of that success has to be Max Richter’s score for the show. I’ve been listening to the season one soundtrack for awhile now, but just stumbled across the season two soundtrack.

That’s today work music sorted, then.

P.S. For the first couple of months of the pandemic, I shared what I was listening to during my workday in this thread (continued here). Check it out if you need some wordless music to beaver away to.

  1. Same with Sally Rooney’s Normal People. The TV series could have been terrible but it very much was not.

Sometimes Choreography Involves Goalkeeping**

posted by Jason Kottke   Dec 15, 2020

I’ve featured the work of choreographer Yoann Bourgeois on kottke.org before — his work gets performers moving on rotating stages and dropping onto trampolines. A 2019 performance choreographed by Bourgeois based on an unfinished Mozart piece sort of combines his previous performances, with dancers dropping into a slippery ramp that slides them onto a rotating platform.

As you might expect, getting gravity and centripetal force to play well together requires some experimentation — Bourgeois recently shared a rehearsal blooper where he catches one of his performers before they go whizzing off the stage into the orchestra.

View this post on Instagram

A post shared by @yoann_bourgeois

You can watch more behind-the-scenes footage of this performance in this video:

** Goalkeeping definitely involves choreography.

A Marvelous Marble Machine for Making Music

posted by Jason Kottke   Dec 11, 2020

For the past four years, Martin Molin of the “folktronica” band Wintergatan has been building a marble machine that the band can use to make music. He’s documenting the entire build on YouTube in a long series of videos (149 and counting). The most recent videos show Molin’s test of the machine with thousands of marbles and his tweaking to get things juuuust right. In the one above, he makes several adjustments from failures observed from his last test and then runs 30,000 marbles through the machine.

These videos are long, so you’d be forgiven for skipping to the end just to see the machine in action, but Molin is really enthusiastic — obsessed in the best way — and is great at showing his work. People really digging into things, especially tangible mechanical things, and bringing us along for the ride is always interesting. (thx, sippey)

A Detailed Analysis of the Doctor Who Theme Music

posted by Jason Kottke   Dec 08, 2020

Delia Derbyshire

Even if you’re not a total sucker for old episodes of Doctor Who like I am, The Definitive Guide to the Doctor Who Theme Music is worth checking out to see how a very early piece of electronic music was constructed.

Created in 1963, the Doctor Who theme was one of the first electronic signature tunes for television and after nearly five decades remains one of the most easily recognised. The original recording of the Doctor Who theme music is widely regarded as a significant and innovative piece of electronic music, recorded well before the availability of commercial synthesisers.

I found this via Boing Boing, where Clive Thompson writes of the site:

I wish I had an analysis like this for more and more pop songs. The specific, nuanced decisions of musicians, producers and sound engineers are incredibly interesting, but can be really hard to tease apart just by listening to the mixed song.

Pictured above is Delia Derbyshire who, along with Dick Mills, arranged the theme music based on Ron Grainer’s composition.

Dua Lipa’s Tiny Desk Concert

posted by Jason Kottke   Dec 06, 2020

Like almost everything else these days, NPR’s Tiny Desk Concerts have gone remote. Their most recent play-from-home guest was Dua Lipa, who was the artist I listened to more than any other in 2020 (according to Spotify). Before playing a stripped-down acoustic version of Love Again with her band, Lipa said of the song: “It’s really about manifesting good things into your life when things aren’t quite going your way.” That’s a sentiment that a lot of us can relate to nowadays.

NPR has been tracking the 25-year-old singer/songwriter for a while now; she was featured in an episode of their Noteworthy series in August 2016, several months before the release of her debut album.

Dua Lipa walking unrecognized around NYC…won’t ever see that again.

My Recent Media Diet, The Late 2020 Edition

posted by Jason Kottke   Dec 04, 2020

Forgive me reader, for I have been lazy. It’s been 7 months since I’ve shared a list of the movies, books, music, TV, and podcasts that I’ve been watching/reading/listening to, uh, recently. But I’ve been diligently keeping track1 and so here’s everything I’ve consumed since early May. Warning: soooo much TV and soooo many movies (and bad ones at that) and very few books. At the end of most days — after work, parenting, cooking yet another meal I’m not actually in the mood for, and constantly refreshing Instagram — I just don’t have enough left in the tank for books. (Oh, and as usual, don’t pay too much attention to the letter grades!)

Winds of Change. A fun ride but ultimately kind of empty? (B)

How to Be an Antiracist by Ibram X. Kendi. Perhaps not what you’d expect going in — thought-provoking on almost every page. (A)

The Ezra Klein Show — Madeline Miller. Super interesting, especially if you’ve read Song of Achilles or Circe. (A-)

Godzilla. This was sort of the tail end of my pandemic disaster movie film fest. (C+)

Fetch the Bolt Cutters. I love that this exists but it is not for me. (B-)

The Mirror & the Light by Hilary Mantel. I knew it was coming, Thomas Cromwell’s downfall; it’s historical fact after all. But somehow the actual moment shocked me, despite Mantel’s careful foreshadowing over hundreds of pages. (A)

Normal People. No way in hell was this going to be as good as the book, but they somehow did it. Stellar casting. (A-)

Fleabag Live. I wanted to love this like I loved the TV show but could not get into it. (C+)

Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker. Whatever else you might think about the third SW trilogy, the casting was fantastic. (B+)

Partysaurus Rex. One of my favorite Pixar shorts. (A-)

Iron Man 3. The only MCU movie I hadn’t seen. It was…fine? (B)

Dunkirk. A masterpiece. (A)

Arrival. Another masterpiece. (A)

Kursk. This should have been better. (B)

Harry Potter at Home. My kids and I listened to this in the car and loved it. (A-)

Watchmen. After admitting I’d stopped watching after a few episodes, several of you urged me to keep going. I finished it but still was not as dazzled as everyone else seemed to be. Maybe if I’d read the graphic novel? (B+)

Against the Rules with Michael Lewis (season two). This season was all about coaching and may have been even better than the first season. (A-)

The General. A silent film masterpiece from Buster Keaton. The kids were a little bored at first but ultimately loved it. (A-)

The Endless. Solid sci-fi horror. (B)

13th. A powerful argument that slavery is still constitutionally legal and alive & well in the United States. (A)

Ida. Beautiful film. (B+)

The Last Dance. I grew up watching and rooting for Jordan and the Bulls, so this was the perfect nostalgic entertainment. Jordan comes off as both more and less of a dick than I remember. (A-)

Da 5 Bloods. This was a mess. (C+)

Undone. Inventive animated sci-fi with plenty of plot left for season two. (B+)

Celebrate Your Body (and Its Changes, Too!): The Ultimate Puberty Book for Girls by Sonya Renee Taylor. Borrowed this from my daughter to brush up on how to help her approach some changes coming down the pike. (A-)

Beyond Meat. I snuck some of their ground “beef” into a casserole to try it out and see if the kids would notice. They didn’t at first, but once I told them, the three of us agreed that it was not that tasty — and definitely didn’t taste like beef. Plus I had an upset stomach until noon the next day. (C-)

Knives Out. I enjoyed this much more the second time. (A-)

Honeyland. A maddening microcosm of modernity. (A)

The Conversation. Maybe this hit me on an off-night? (B+)

The Great. Super fun show from the screenwriter of The Favourite. (A-)

Hamilton. Obviously better in person (and 4 years ago), but the performances and music are so great it doesn’t matter. (A)

Slate Money — Modern Monetary Theory. Really interesting alternate way of thinking about the economy, federal debt, inflation, and taxes. They kinda jumped right into the middle of it though, leaving this interested MMT beginner a little baffled. (B)

12 Monkeys. So very 90s. Brad Pitt is great in this though. (B+)

Cloud Atlas. An underrated gem. (A)

The Old Guard. Engaging and built for a sequel. But what isn’t these days? (B+)

Cars 2. I’d only ever seen the first 2/3s of this because my then-4-year-old son was so upset that the onscreen baddies were going to kill Lightning McQueen that we had to leave the theater. (B-)

Nintendo Switch. Such a fun little console that doesn’t take itself too seriously. (A-)

Greyhound. Not Hanks’ best effort. (B)

Radioactive. An overly complicated movie about a complex woman. (B+)

Ratatouille. The scene where Ego takes his first bite of ratatouille still gives me goosebumps. (A)

The Speed Cubers. Heartwarming story. (B+)

Project Power. Incredible that they were able to turn the story of Henrietta Lacks into a superhero movie. (B+)

Pluto TV. Am I the last person on Earth to find out about this app? Dozens of channels of reruns that you can’t pause and are interrupted by ads, just like old school TV. I’ve been watching far too much old Doctor Who on here. (B+)

Folklore. I don’t really get Taylor Swift and that’s ok. (C)

This Land. Excellent and infuriating — this had me yelling at my car radio. (A)

13 Minutes to the Moon — Apollo 13. Not as good as season one about Apollo 11 or Saving Apollo 13, but still compelling. (B+)

Black Panther. Had to rewatch. Rest in peace, Chadwick Boseman. What a loss. (A-)

Conversations with Friends by Sally Rooney. Anything she writes, I will read. (A)

Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World. I had forgotten how slow this starts, but once it gets going it’s completely gripping, even the quiet parts. (A-)

Contact by Carl Sagan. First time I’d read this in many years. Did not resonate as much as it had in the past. (B+)

Contact. They should have sent a poet. (A-)

True Grit. Hailee Steinfeld is fantastic in this. (A)

Being John Malkovich. Terrific performance by Malkovich. This was a favorite movie of mine for years but its impact on me has lessened. (B+)

Reply All, Country of Liars. The origin story of QAnon. But let’s just say there are some unreliable narrators in this story. (B+)

Jurassic Park. A blockbuster masterpiece. (A)

50 First Dates. One of the very few Sandler comedies I really like. (B+)

I’m Thinking of Ending Things. Really did not vibe with this one. (C+)

Pride & Prejudice. I am a huge sucker for this film. (A)

MASS MoCA. Took a day trip down here back in October. My first museum since Feb. Sol LeWitt, James Turrell, Jenny Holzer, great building, virtually no one here on a weekday — very much worth the 6-hour RT car ride. (A+)

Palm Springs. Groundhog Day + 50 First Dates. (A-)

Kona Honzo. After getting a taste of mountain biking on a borrowed bike, I upgraded to this hardtail. Had some really great rides on it but also stupidly crashed, landed on my face, had to go to the ER, and got 9 stitches on my chin. Would not recommend crashing (stupidly or otherwise, but especially stupidly), but I liked mountain biking enough to get back on the bike a couple of weeks later. (A-)

My Octopus Teacher. As I said previously: “It’s such a simple movie but it packs a surprising emotional wallop and is philosophically rich. Even (or perhaps especially) the bits that seem problematic are thought-provoking.” (A)

His Dark Materials. I like the show but the main character is so irritating that I don’t know if I can keep watching… (B+)

You’re Wrong About — Princess Diana. I never fully understood the appeal of Princess Diana but now I do. Excellent 5-part series. (A)

Human Nature. Documentary on Netflix about the discovery and potential of Crispr. (B+)

The Booksellers. Was ultimately not that interested in this. (B)

Ted Lasso. Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood + Major League. Who knew you could make radical empathy funny? (A+)

The Queen’s Gambit. So well done in almost every way. (A)

Haywire. Solid Soderbergh thriller. (B+)

Enola Holmes. I will watch almost any Sherlock Holmes adaptation, riff, or spin-off. (B+)

The Trial of the Chicago 7. I loved this. Classic Sorkin and great ensemble cast performance. (A)

Zama. Maybe surrealist film is not my cup of tea. (B)

AlphaGo. I’d read a lot about the events in this film, but seeing it play out was still gripping and surprising. This and My Octopus Teacher would make a great double feature about the shifting definition of what makes humans human. (A)

The Way I See It. Pete Souza reflects on his proximity to power. (B+)

The Queen. Had to watch this after the Princess Di You’re Wrong About series. (B+)

Lego Star Wars Holiday Special. Is this canon now? If so, I have some questions. (C)

Carol. Holy shit, wonderful! I think I held my breath for the last two minutes of the movie. (A+)

Song Exploder. TV version of the OG podcast. The REM episode was great. (B+)

Rogue One. I wouldn’t call this the best Star Wars movie, but it isn’t not the best Star Wars movie either. (A-)

Little Women. Rewatched. I love this movie. (A)

Tenet. Primer + James Bond. Maybe the pandemic has made me dumber, but this totally confused me. In a bad way — it could/should have been simpler. (B)

Caste by Isabel Wilkerson. A masterful examination of the skin color-based caste system of the United States, compared and contrasted with the caste systems of India and Nazi Germany. (A)

Past installments of my media diet are available here.

  1. People have asked so here’s the extensive system I use to keep track of everything: the Notes app on my phone.

Blade Runner Soundtrack Remastered into a Feature-Length Soundscape

posted by Jason Kottke   Nov 19, 2020

I don’t think it’s much of a stretch to argue that much of the enduring success of Blade Runner comes down to how well the potent combination of the film’s score, created by electronic composer Vangelis, and the visuals instantly evoke, even in 2020, the future. Ok, a dystopian neo-noir future, but the future nonetheless. A YouTuber has reworked that score, along with ambient sounds and dialogue from the film, into a feature-length soundscape that, as Colin Marshall put it at Open Culture, “feels a great deal like watching Blade Runner without actually watching Blade Runner”. I think I’ll be listening to this as I work today. (via open culture)

Former Ballerina with Alzheimer’s Recreates Her Swan Lake Choreography

posted by Jason Kottke   Nov 09, 2020

As a ballerina in NYC during the 60s, Marta C. González undoubtably performed Tchaikovsky’s Swan Lake hundreds or even thousands of times. González passed away recently — perhaps from complications due to her Alzheimer’s, which can affect a person’s memory and movements in profound ways — but she had one last chance to revisit her ballet days before she died. In the video above, you can see how, as she starts to listen to Swan Lake in a pair of headphones, she reanimates and begins performing the dance choreography in her wheelchair. Clips from what I’m assuming is her past Swan Lake performance are interspersed throughout the video. What a lovely moment.