Thursday, March 30, 2023

Things A Little Bird Didn't Tell Me

Earlier this week I saw a couple of news stories that struck me as the kind of thing I might have tweeted about, if I had a Twitter account I actually used. Now that Twitter's fluttering like a sparrow with a broken wing, I'm finally starting to wonder if it mightn't have been worth joining in with the fun, back when there supposedly was some. Too late now, as Wet Leg would say.

And since I've mentioned Wet Leg, entirely uncoincidentally by the way, we may as well begin with them. I warn you, though, it's sad news. So sad, in fact, that I've already rejected several half-decent humorous quips and asides that popped into my mind unbidden. If you're the kind of person that needs to get a laugh out of someone else's tragedy you can jolly well make up your own jokes for once.

I'll quote the NME headline verbatim because it sums the situation up both respectfully and with admirable clarity: "Wet Leg's adopted donkeys have died after illness". I recommend reading the item in full. It's an exemplary piece of journalism. I won't attempt to precis it, other than to say that "late 30s" seems like a very good age for a donkey and even twenty-two isn't bad going. 

I know there's been some shade cast on the concept of donkey sanctuaries in the past, their very existence being framed as evidence of some kind of moral malaise, but I've always been in favor of them. Donkeys are gentle animals and many of them have a hard life. I don't see why they shouldn't have some comfort in their later years. If I had a nice place in the country with grounds I'd be happy to have a donkey or two wandering about the place. 

As regular readers no doubt know to their cost, I'd find it wholly possible, even acceptable, to spin a couple of thousand words out of that news item but I can't help thinking everyone would be better served with a couple of sentences and a link on Twitter. A tweet would also stand a much better chance of starting a cascade of debate on the nature of charitable giving, the relative status of grief and bereavement, the foibles of the rich and/or famous and any number of other potentially stimulatiing topics. Here on the blog the news will just lie down and die quietly, much like the donkeys who inspired it.

Then again, is that such a bad thing? Wasn't one of the reasons I never took to Twitter a nagging concern that a throwaway remark or an ill-considered witticism might spiral out of control? On a blog, about the worst you're likely to get is a snarky comment or two, not a torrent of death threats.

For example, take the next two items that surprised me this week. Firstly there was revelation that Frank Ocean is apparently a big fan of Garden Center. Not garden centers, you understand, though for all I know Frank may enjoy a stroll around the gnomes of a Sunday, as anyone might. No, this is Garden Center, the indie supergroup from Brighton.

I learned this from Stereogum, where it was reported that "Frank Ocean is a fan, and he’s played Garden Centre on his Blonded show a bunch of times." That was in a piece about the band's upcoming album, Searching For A Stream, which is confusingly both "coming out this fall" and "out 5/19" according to the article.

I wasn't much taken with latest song off the album but I do like the single they put out last month. Here they are doing it live. It sounds unnervingly like Genesis circa Nursery Crymes to me, which goes no way at all towards explaining why Frank Ocean might favor the band when programming his shows.

The second of the pair of items I mentioned was the news that Questlove is set to direct Disney's forthcoming live-action remake of The Aristocats. When I read that, on both NME and Pitchfork, I was initially more taken aback at the idea of live cats playing dixieland jazz than the attachment of Questlove to the project, although it did seem to be an off-center choice for Disney, not least because Questlove has heretofore only directed one (Albeit hugely acclaimed.) music documentary, Summer of Soul

Then again, there is a lot of jazz in the original movie, which is set in pre-First World War Paris, although until I looked it up just now I thought it was the 1920s. The Aristocats was, for a long time, my favorite Disney movie. It may well still be, although a cursory glance at the clips on YouTube suggest any number of problematic characters and themes. 

I don't honestly remember it that clearly. I saw it at the cinema, on release, when I was however old that would have made me... twelve, I think, which actually sounds a bit above the target age, now I come to think about it. I saw it a second time in the 1980s or '90s, in circumstances that now escape me. The high esteem in which I've always held it has more to do with it having a lot of cats in than any genuine artisitic merit, I now realise.

I was aware that Disney were in the process of remaking their entire animated catalog in live-action format but I hadn't been paying that much attention. I did hear quite a bit of chatter about whether the Lion King remake was too uncanny-valley, with the hyper-realistic fur and the lyp-synching not quite achieving gestalt, but I hadn't really thought long or hard about it.

Somehow, the idea of animals like the Aristocats, who already look and act like humans, wear clothes (Well, hats and neckerchiefs.), play musical instruments and the like, being represented in "live action" feels weirder and a bigger stretch than the more regular animals like the elephants in Dumbo or the cast of The Jungle Book. I was picturing actual cats as hep cats and it was concerning.

Reading the news more carefully, I see the plan is for a “live-action/hybrid reimagining”, which makes a lot more sense. With that out of the way, however, I was left with the uncomfortable realisation that, in reacting with any level of surprise to either Frank Ocean's or Questlove's involvement in these stories, I was possibly displaying inadvertent, conditioned racism.

It's uncomfortable to realise that it may be the notion of an African American celebrity choosing to enjoy something that seems, on the surface, very white indeed, be that twee/post-punk indie bands from British seaside towns or the unreconstructed white hegemony represented by classic Disney, that causes the disconnect. At some barely recognised level (Except, of course, I'm recognizing it now.) it feels like streams are being crossed. 

Which is fundementally a racist position, I guess. Anyone can like anything, can't they? I bloody well hope so, anyway. That'd be my position. But I'm aware of where those kind of broad, utopian strokes can lead. It's one thing to engage in some fairly abstract, gentle self-interrogation on a long-form blog, where, hopefully, nuance can be found; quite another to fire off a contextless tweet complete with astonished face emoji. (You can have emojis on Twitter, right? See, I don't even know that much for certain. I didn't even realise there was a button in Blogger to add them to a post until this moment 😲 😳)

I'd like to think I'd have been on safer ground with the last pair of stories that made me momentarily wish I was a twitterer. The first and less amusing of the two is the news that there could be a remake of the X-Files on the way. 

In theory, this could make a trio with the last two in that the director of this  - once again - very white show is reputed to be Ryan Coogler, but as it happens, I didn't even think of that until now because I didn't recognise his name, something which, I understand, has implications of its own. 

I was more concerned with the information that the revamp won't feature either Mulder or Scully, which on the face of it sounds a bit like staging Romeo and Juliet without the leads. I was a big X-Files fan back in the '90s, to the extent that I didn't just watch every single episode but recorded them all on VHS tapes - which I still have! 

Then again, I taped a lot of stuff back in the '90s. I was obsessed with building an archive, something that now feels both ironic and yet oddly prescient, in view of some of the things I was saying just a couple of days ago

I've never watched any of it back and by now I probably couldn't even if I wanted to. Shame I didn't pick a better storage medium. That's largely because a) tastes change and b) new stuff keeps coming. I lost interest in the X-Files to the extent that, until I read the article yesterday, I didn't even realise there'd already been one reboot that did feature the iconic duo. 

I guess if I didn't care about that I shouldn't care that they won't be in the next one. And I don't. But I bet someone will. Maybe it wouldn't have been safer ground for a tweet after all.

Finally, something I really can't imagine anyone getting het up over, something the very idea of which does just straight up make me laugh. Jarvis Cocker has a cameo in Wes Anderson's new movie, Asteroid City... as a cowboy.

Oh, come on! That's hilarious!

Cocker has also "contributed to the film’s soundtrack", which seems a litle more plausible. As it turns out, this is neither Pulp frontman's first collaboration with Anderson, nor his acting debut. He played Tip Top, a chanteur, performing a histrionic cover of the 1979 French-language hit "Aline" (original by Christophe) in a promotional video. 

In it, Jarvis was animated, by which I mean he was a cartoon. Okay, I'm not making this any clearer, am I? Jarvis is often animated and cartoonish. This time, though, he was hand-drawn. I'm not sure it counts as acting. Let's hope the cowboy Jarvis is live action. I'd pay to see that.

I would pay to see Asteroid City even without Jarvis in chaps. I wouldn't say I'm a Wes Anderson fan as such but I have seen a number of his movies and enjoyed them all. I can see why he annoys the hell  out of some people but I like the self-referential artificiality that's become his hallmark. The trailer for the new movie looks fantastic but trailers often outdo the main feature. We'll have to see.

If I do get around to watching it, I won't be tweeting my thoughts. They'll pop up here as always. Twitter is over as a cultural force, perhaps, or perhaps not. It's still too early to be sure. I can say, though, that its travails and troubles no longer feature in my daily news feeds the way they did a few months back. 

The last I heard was a report that the massive staff cuts have left Twitter's infrastructure hanging by a thread. Even if I wanted to get on board, which I still don't, it looks like the ship has sailed, even if it hasn't quite yet sunk.

I think I'll stick to blogging.


  1. "Indie" and "Brighton" are not words I'd expect to see in conjunction with "Supergroup", but thanks for the tip. I liked them!

    1. I just love their voice. It's indefinably joyous.


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