Morning Ed: Art & Entertainment {2018.02.21.W}

Will Truman

Will Truman is the Editor-in-Chief of Ordinary Times. He is also on Twitter.

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63 Responses

  1. Aaron David says:

    Ae5 – Arrggg, comment lost to the computer gods. Lets just say that fiction is every bit as important as non-fiction.

    (By the way, when I was a bookstore manager, my interview litmus test question was “what do you read?” If they answered magazines or biography, they were deep-sixed.)Report

  2. Oscar Gordon says:

    I wouldn’t mind if we changed IP law so that you had to be a steward of the IP if you wanted to keep it. The greatest offense of our IP law is that it allows an entity to own IP and then bury it.Report

    • fillyjonk in reply to Oscar Gordon says:

      I’m wondering how the (apparent, have only seen the ads and some angry reviews) abomination that the new “Peter Rabbit” movie is fits in with this. Did the characters pass out of copyright? Does whoever owns them now (Beatrix Potter’s estate?) really want to make a cheap buck by totally changing what Peter Rabbit is? I don’t know.

      I guess I’m saying: a person or a group can continue to “hold” a brand/franchise/character but be what many fans would regard as a bad steward of it.

      (The Beatrix Potter books were a big part of my childhood and Potter is also somewhat of a personal hero, and yes, I recognize I am being a crank about this but the movie looks so untrue to the spirit of the books and I shudder to think of many kids growing up to think that’s what they ARE)Report

      • PD Shaw in reply to fillyjonk says:

        Peter Rabbit passed out of copyright on January 1, 2014 (70 years from the author’s death for works published in her lifetime).

        I saw a preview of this before the most recent Star Wars movie. That it’s a movie that Star Wars fans should like says a lot.Report

  3. Marchmaine says:

    [AE8] Is probably true and false at the same time.

    On the one hand, I just checked Quicken and I’m paying $45/month for music services that include SiriusXM, Spotify and Pandora. On the other hand, there’s no chance I’d spend $45/month on acquiring new music at, say, $10-$15 per album, or even at the $0.99/song… I know because I didn’t.

    So there’s a whole new pot of money going in to “music” that includes content and delivery services that didn’t exist before. At one reckoning, I’m spending the equivalent of 4 albums or 45 songs a month, every month… and on artists that I’d never listen to if I had to buy their stuff in pre-packaged upsells.

    That said, I’m sure that the allocation of funds as far as whacks go, might be out of. I could certainly see some shifts to the paradigm… like paying $1-$5 to enable Taylor Swift’s latest album on Spotify or Pandora (if you want it)… maybe even some artists can/will charge $1 – $5 for access to back-catalogues… it depends on the artist; many might be surprised at how few people will pay for their songs compared to royalties when they are played (which may or may not be calibrated correctly).

    So, yeah, I can see some Oxen being gored, but the weird thing is that I’m paying more for music than I *ever* did in the past… including college.Report

    • North in reply to Marchmaine says:

      Yeah it’s the endless artist and studio bray. “in the 90’s people would shell out 30-50 bucks for a CD! We want those days back!” But, of course, no one will go back and they can’t make it go back. I feel a certain sympathy for the artists but what can you do? Some person with a full time job will produce something musically beautiful a couple of times a year and put it up for free on the internet just for the joy of creating and getting positive feedback. How do you create a living making music when that is your competition? Either get so good that people will pay handsomely for a not duplicable experience (live shows mainly) …and that’s about it. Hell, that’s art in the modern day; a slow regression towards the journeying troubadour; a return to the natural order in a strange sort of way. We forget that the mass media empire was the historical aberration not the other way around.Report

      • Marchmaine in reply to North says:

        Yeah, there’s definitely something going on with the diffusion of music that I expect is very difficult to account for. When I look at my most used playlists, there are some songs that have been played tens of millions of times and there’s one song that just says < 1,000. The fact that spotify even exists means that that unkown artist's song has been heard at all… and now by my daughter who played it for her friends in college. Maybe in a month or two it will show < 5,000.

        So maybe to restate what you're saying about a little differently, sometimes the radical effects of distributed justice are not always appreciated.Report

        • North in reply to Marchmaine says:

          For sure! Also there’s a fascinating symmetry to the way music rose from its distributed roots with media technology and then “fell” back to those distributed roots in a way when media tech crossed its second singularity*.

          *Recorded music, in itself, has been persuasively described to me as a singularity.Report

      • LeeEsq in reply to North says:

        Musicians were caught blind-sided by the entire download music off the Internet thin. In the documentary about Tower Records, there are interviews from the 1990s were Russel Solomon, Tower Records founder, stated that Internet downloads were years or maybe even decades away. Movie and television studios along with book publishers adapted to the realities of the Internet a lot quicker.Report

        • Marchmaine in reply to LeeEsq says:

          Yes, but what’s weird is that we’re kinda past that… most of us aren’t so much stealing music as renting it..forever… in fact, its harder for me to drop Spotify and go back to the music I own – much of which I pay to listen to on Spotify. Even switching from Spotify to Apple (blech) or Google or the next big thing, is harder for people to do because your virtual catalogue is destroyed and needs recreating from scratch. {unless there’s a hack for that, in which case, pm me}

          In a pure cost/benefit thing, if I just bought all the songs on my key playlists, I’d pay less money to Spotify than renting the service year after year.Report

        • North in reply to LeeEsq says:

          I think that publishers were the best adapted to the new world because book publishing has always had a kind of free standing competitor in amateur writing. Movies and film have the benefit of, currently, being capital intensive for the kinds of fare that most people want to view. Music is the perfect crux of access and availability. The only barrier music had to the masses was a distributive one. Eliminate that barrier and individuals could and would do it for free.Report

  4. Saul Degraw says:

    AE2: One thing I’ve noticed as a Late Generation Xer or really early Millennial or neither (depending on the article) is that Millennials like to curse. They like to curse a lot. More so than previous generations. I also don’t think publications aimed at the younger in earlier generations like Spin used quite as much slang. The language of Spin was more formal in my memory. Then again, one of the things people have always observed about me is that I use very little slang and don’t curse that much.

    AE5: This article is old but not as old as I thought it would be. I disagree with the essay. That being said I am also a snob when it comes to reading but people here should know that by now. Most people simply don’t read for pleasure and it occurs to me that a lot of reading that does happen is usually when it promises a direct benefit. Stuff like Management and Business books.Report

    • fillyjonk in reply to Saul Degraw says:

      I’m an early Gen-Xer (born 1969, and dang am I getting old) and I curse more now than I did when I was younger. I don’t know if it’s that I give fewer fish now, or that the world seems that much more of a hellscape to me than it once did. I am trying to cut back on it but it’s a hard habit to break. (Fortunately, I no longer lead a church youth group – was very aware of keeping my language clean in those days)

      That said: I remember a time when you couldn’t say “crap” or Son of a B**** on tv, and now they’re everywhere.

      Even though I swear more now than I think I should, I’m still kind of a prude, and am not looking forward to the new, f-bomb-enhanced future of tv. (I do think the argument that “take away the rules and people will do lazy stuff for the shock value” is probably true)Report

      • Michael Cain in reply to fillyjonk says:

        Having children pretty much finished off the remnants of my cursing. A two- or three-year old will repeat anything they have heard at an inopportune moment. Once I had stopped, it largely turned out to be habit and never came back. My now-grown kids have told me that they did learn to distinguish between the “OH, RATS!!” that meant I had hit my finger with a hammer, and the tone that meant I was unhappy with something a kid had done.Report

        • Oscar Gordon in reply to Michael Cain says:

          The other night, while spelling and sounding out words, Bug wrote down A-S-S and sounded it out. Then he asked my wife, “Mom, what is Ass?”

          Since we believe in being forthright, my wife told him, “Ass is another word for your butt.”, which immediately got a giggle out of Bug, because he’s such a boy…

          She then continued to explain that it’s a sassy word for your butt, and he shouldn’t use it at school because his teacher won’t appreciate it.

          Bug then proceeded to go downstairs by sitting on a step and descending on his butt. On every step, as his butt hit the step, he’d say, “Ass!”, and then giggle.

          After he got downstairs and sat down for dinner, he was, of course, still saying Ass over and over, and giggling. So my wife told him that that was enough and it was time to stop saying it. Bug responded:

          “But mom, ‘Ass’ means ‘I love you!” in ass language.”

          I feel like I should apologize to the parents of his whole kindergarten class now…Report

        • Saul Degraw in reply to Michael Cain says:

          A friend of mine decided she needed to turn down her cursing when her son said “I fucking needed that” after finishing watching some cartoons.Report

          • CJColucci in reply to Saul Degraw says:

            My formerly adorable grand-niece Mia, now 17, was a curseword sponge. She could pick up the correct usage of curses at an early age. My in-laws always called my sister-in-law Erica a bitch in a non-serious way. One day, two-year-old Mia wanted something from Erica and didn’t get it. She clumped off muttering “bitch.” At her second birthday party, she was standing by herself — I was barely in earshot — with a large balloon that popped. “Shit,” she said calmly, glaring at the remnants of her balloon.
            But the best one was a year later, when her father drove out to pick her up and bring her home but forgot his wallet. The route home was infested with pizza parlors, and Mia was hungry. “Father,” she said, “let’s stop and get a pizza.” He put her off. She asked when they passed another pizzeria. No luck. When they got to the next one she was exasperated and said in a matter-of-fact tone: “Father, just get the fucking pizza.” To this day, whenever we order a pizza, I always ask, “what kind of pizza?”Report

        • Slade the Leveller in reply to Michael Cain says:

          You’re a better man than I. My wife coined the phrase “daddy’s driving words” to cope with the kids trying to repeat them.Report

          • Maribou in reply to Slade the Leveller says:

            @slade-the-leveller Our dear friends have a phrase “hockey words” for curses. At some point in the earliest days of their oldest’s childhood, the question, “Why do Mister Jaybird and Miss Maribou use so many hockey words?” did come up.

            (They are now on their third toddler and we have learned to curb ourselves somewhat :D.)Report

          • Oscar Gordon in reply to Slade the Leveller says:

            One of the things I love to tease my wife about is how, despite me being a sailor who can swear up a blue streak, she is the one who swears in front of Bug most often, especially when driving.

            I still smile when I think about the day when, after getting cut off in traffic, my son piped up from the back seat, “Mommy, what is a ‘bitch’?”.Report

            • My sister’s story is better than any of mine, and doesn’t even involve swearing. Her husband was driving, she was in the passenger seat, and their daughter was in the forward-facing child seat in the middle of the back, stopped at a traffic light. When the light changed, the daughter piped up loudly, “It’s green, dear.”Report

          • My strategy, especially with my ten-year old with aspirations to be a writer, is to discuss (1) appropriate social context (e.g. don’t use that word around Grandma–she has heard it before, but the kid doesn’t need to know that) and (2) range of expression in good versus lazy writing. This likely is a bit abstract for her age, but it seems to be a better foundation for later than more absolutist approaches.Report

    • pillsy in reply to Saul Degraw says:

      I’m a late Xer and I’ve always fucking cursed like a motherfucker.Report

    • Burt Likko in reply to Saul Degraw says:

      I can remember when they showed you a movie on the airplane if the ride was longer than X hours. And the movie would have been edited or dubbed for a “general” audience, which usually meant that the swear words were overdubbed badly and without much regard for lip synching. “Damn” became “darn” and “fuck” became “fudge” and “shit” became “stuff.”

      It was all delivered in the same tone of voice, as if they’d paid the actor to come in and read a list of seven words for exactly one take each. “Okay, now say ‘Darn.'” “Darn.” “Got it. Okay, now say ‘Fudge.'” “Fudge.” “Great, thanks, here’s your $250, we’ve got it from here.”

      It seemed ridiculously stupid to me even as a pre-teen when I knew I was not supposed to say those words.

      I did look forward to becoming an adult and gaining license to say them, until in my late pre-teen years, my friends just started using them — !!!!! — and I realized that I could, too, and it’s been Potty Mouth Theater basically ever since.Report

      • fillyjonk in reply to Burt Likko says:

        Yeah, but some “network edits” are so hilariously wrong. I can’t remember the one I loved so much as a 20-something, but there was one in particular that just made me howl every time I saw it.

        Confession: I have a headcanon that there’s an alternate universe out there where the swear words are things like “heck” and “darn” and “fudge” and those movies come from that universe. I actually find it kind of ….charming….that way.Report

  5. dragonfrog says:

    [AE5] “I have certain personal preferences and they are objectively superior to other personal preferences. Anyone who has different preferences is irresponsible.”


    Good fiction is good, good nonfiction is good. Twaddle fiction is twaddle, twaddle nonfiction is twaddle.

    Personally I read fiction almost exclusively, and a lot of twaddle at that. I’ll fight anyone who thinks that makes me a lesser being (and by “fight”, I mean “stick my tongue out at them when their back is turned” – because that’s as much effort as they deserve).Report

  6. LeeEsq says:

    AE2: Allowing more cursing will just lead to lazier writing.

    AE3: Sex writing seems universally bad. It doesn’t matter whether the author is trying to write about sensuous love making between an established couple or hardcore fishing in a one night stand. It just seems that sex scenes bring out too much of an author’s own beliefs, desires, fantasies, and hang-ups and that leads to bad writing because of the lack of dispassionate distance. Male writers tend to be particularly bad at sex scenes, especially in the more romantically emotional category.

    AE5: The author seems to assume that everybody will read the right serious non-fiction and come to the proper conclusions. After doing so, people will get serious about the real issues, come together to solve them, and we will live in utopia. I remain unconvinced. Even if people follow her advice, they will be inclined to read serious non-fiction that matches their priors. The free marketers will stick with free market economists and those inclined towards intervention will read their economists. Piketty is a great example. When he released his book, people who were already inclined to agree with him thought it was great and those disinclined found errors immediately.Report

    • Chip Daniels in reply to LeeEsq says:

      Yeah but Al Swearingen said the writers are just a bunch of c*cksucking hoopleheads anyway.Report

    • pillsy in reply to LeeEsq says:

      [AE2] I don’t know about lazy writing, but I know that a lot of times the prissiness of network and even basic cable TV around saying “fuck” actually throws me out the show. Back in the day, I was pretty enthralled by The Shield, which was a really cynical and bloody cop show. I’m not saying it was NCIS: King’s Landing, but I’m not saying it wasn’t, either.

      And through it all, these hard-bitten, crooked, vicious cops and criminals would go to comical lengths to avoid dropping the F bomb.

      It was ridiculous, and made the show discernibly worse IMO.Report

      • Saul Degraw in reply to pillsy says:

        Contrary to the above, I’m not a prude when it comes to cursing and I agree with your assertion that for the sake of realism, there are places where people would curse.

        That being said, I do think that excessive cursing in very day life is pretty boring. Here is the thing about not cursing frequently, people notice the few times that you do curse and it has meaning and power. What is the point of diluting the power and meaning of words? Make them count!!!Report

        • pillsy in reply to Saul Degraw says:

          I get around that by using euphemisms when I’m actually genuinely upset or surprised.Report

          • Saul Degraw in reply to pillsy says:

            That strikes me as weird. Pillsy said golly! He must be really upset!Report

            • pillsy in reply to Saul Degraw says:

              It kind of works. Who the fuck says, “Golly!” in this day and age?

              And if you really want to attract attention, I recommend, “Holy guacamole!”Report

              • Kazzy in reply to pillsy says:

                I sometimes say, “Holy crow!” totally unironically.Report

              • fillyjonk in reply to pillsy says:

                I have unironically used “golly day!!” in front of classes to express another G D phrase that I’d rather not express.

                I guess it used to be common: Calvin in “A Wrinkle in Time” used it, and my mother tells me one of the scientists she used to work for used it all the time.

                I have also used “Cripes!” and “Crimony!” and similar. I probably know more euphemisms than I know actual curse words.Report

        • fillyjonk in reply to Saul Degraw says:

          THIS THIS THIS. And that’s partly why I’m trying to dial it back (that said: I mostly only ever curse alone, no one hears me). When Foulmouth Colleague drops an f-bomb, it’s like “Oh, must be Tuesday.” When my colleague who never swears does, it’s like “Wow, this is really a big deal and something bad is going on”Report

      • LeeEsq in reply to pillsy says:

        I’d agree that the inability to put in the F-word or curses when it would be used in real life can strain credulity. People aren’t elegant though. If tv or movie dialog replicated real life conversation, there would be in addition to more cursing, more placeholders, requests for repetition, repetition, and really dumb miscommunication. Real life closing statements by lawyers are much less elegant than anything depicted in fiction.Report

    • Burt Likko in reply to LeeEsq says:

      AE3: My then-wife and I listened to a book on CD once on a long trip; she’d picked out a historical romance story. She’d been hoping for more “history” and not so much “romance” as it turns out.

      The male narrator reached a point where the romantic interest literally rips the heroine’s bodice off of her. I laughed lustily and my then-wife asked why that was so funny, and I learned that she’d never heard the phrase “bodice-ripper” to describe such fiction.Report

  7. Michael Cain says:

    AE1: The two things that jumped out at me were (a) the writers embracing it appear to have other sources of income and (b) the apparent claim that with simple restructuring mid-list authors can go from 35,000 sales per title to 100,000 sales per title. The latter reminds me of the joke about the economists and the $20 bill lying on the sidewalk. The former, though, reflects things I’ve read in other places. Namely, that we are headed for a time when novel-length fiction will be written by either a handful of authors who hit the jackpot early on with a book that sells millions of copies, or by people with other income sources.Report

    • Saul Degraw in reply to Michael Cain says:

      Writing, like all other arts, has the issue of who is trying to earn an actual living doing it and who can afford to be a writer because they are of independent means.

      This is an elephant in the room that no one wants to talk about.*

      *There were some articles about this a few years ago on various publications. As far as I can tell, arts follow a power law more than many other professions. You have people living as paupers and people who are so wealthy that the income from arts doesn’t matter or they are lucky enough to make loads of money. It is important to note that the number of sold books required to be a best-selling author is very small. Usually only 20-30K. The Harry Potters or All the Lights We Cannot See are very rare. A friend of mine tried to be honest about being from money on a theatre production and it causes him nothing but grief.Report

      • North in reply to Saul Degraw says:

        I’d argue that it’s not so much that no one wants to talk about it so much as that there is no therefore there. Inasmuch as it’s a problem it’s an unsolvable one.Report

        • LeeEsq in reply to North says:

          The European welfare state kind of solves the problem in that it makes living on a low income easier than it is in the United States since you have to worry about the basic necessities less. European states subsidize or patronize the arts more than the American government does. I have a friend who is a professional dancer/teacher from Germany. She likes how in Germany, the dance studios are generally structured as NPOs rather than as for profit businesses in the United States.Report

          • North in reply to LeeEsq says:

            Indeed and if the Europeans could shake all the kinks and borks out of such a system it might even be enviable but they have enormous problems with it that really need to be addressed before it can plausibly be pointed to, especially by people in an astronomically larger and more multicultural country.Report

        • Saul Degraw in reply to North says:

          I somewhat agree. I also think it is hard to talk about privilege without it sounding like a humble brag. But this goes to more than art, I am very lucky as to never had student loans. I know people in the same boat (or they received no interest loans from the bank of mom and dad). But plenty of people (including me) lied by omission by staying silent when friends bitch about their student loans.Report

    • Richard Hershberger in reply to Michael Cain says:

      What jumped out at me about AE1 was that they have reinvented the shared world, like Thieves World or Wild Cards back in the day, or for that matter Star Trek novels. The main difference seems to be a planned-out story arc, corresponding to a TV show’s season arc. My observation back in the day was that most of these books weren’t very good, even when by good authors. There are exceptions, of course, but good writers seem to work best in their own sandboxes.Report

      • pillsy in reply to Richard Hershberger says:

        There are a few writers I can think of who turn in a lot of good work in those “shared worlds”, especially judged by the appropriate standards, but I think it must a very different set of skills from working in your own sandbox.

        Ian Watson is, overall, a much more accomplished writer than Dan Abnett, but I’d much rather read one of Abnett’s Warhammer 40,000 books.

        And yes, I do read Warhammer 40,000 books on purpose.Report

  8. Maribou says:

    [AE1] I’ve been subscribed to some Serial Box stuff for a while – a couple of years I think? – and I don’t mind the price point – it works out to the same price or less as when they later release the book as a whole book, and some of my favorite authors are working on them. Plus I feel like I’m helping to expand the publishing model in my own tiny way. I especially appreciate the simultaneous audio-release, I can switch back and forth between modes (and they’re well-read with real narrators).

    I think they did a pretty good job (at least with their flagship titles, not as familiar with the others) of picking authors who already know each other, know the originators of the worlds they’re working in (who may or may not also be contributing to the series), and are collaboratively-minded toward each other in general. Which means they aren’t “guest-starring” in the series, but rather working together toward shared goals, for the most part.

    It’s a fun thing. Not sure how sustainable it is long term, but I’m glad to see them getting more press.Report