Irreal Life Top 10, 2 June 2023.
Attention conservation notice: It is what it is.
- Software, remastered ‘World’ compilations. The German synthdweeb duo SOFTWARE is, for me, the archetypal ‘Berlin School’ project: endless portentous minor-key analog synth arpeggios with goofy sfnal album/track titles (CHIP-MEDITATION PART II, ELECTRONIC-WORLD, DIGITAL-DANCE, etc.), working at the lab-tech end of the ‘New Age’ spectrum. Their later music goes further afield, as far as the dreaded saxophone and even monkish chanting — their 1995 Heaven-to-Hell sounds like an EECS major’s tribute to Vangelis’s 1975 Heaven and Hell — but the early stuff is perfect of its melodramatically austere kind. In 2017 group member Peter Wergener put out a batch of remastered Software compilations, each themed: Sacral World, Ocean World, Erotic World, etc. These reissues are commercially motivated and add little to nothing to the band’s story, even for new listeners; Software’s albums sound good already and each has its own immersive vibe. But the comps’ taxonomic quality fits the group’s overall sfnal aesthetic even where the music is better served by the original setup. Makes sense, of course — the idea of the Encyclopedia Galactica is thrilling, the actual text would be an indigestible info-slurry (cf. Robert Graves’s Greek Myths). So the remasters fit Software-as-multimedia-art-project just fine. And if you buy the band’s whole discography at Bandcamp you effectively get the comps for free — so go do that and may the digital-god continue, or more likely begin, to bless you.
- Kailh Copper. After perhaps six months in my office ZSA Moonlander, some of these otherwise lovely mechanical keyswitches (short travel, light touch, very noticeable tactile bump) are squeaking a little bit. This is the worst thing that can possibly happen to a human in America. Presumably they just need a touch of lubrication, like the rest of us.
- Marvel cinema. Sampling Joss Whedon’s two Avengers flicks, which rise well above their station, reminds me that the median/modal Marvel movie is expertly crafted trash — an astounding stable of actors putting their hearts into films devoid of poetry, accident, insight. One reason Hollywood is so eager to embrace AI ‘creativity’ is that the lack of any human soul has worked so well for Kevin Feige and his popcult strip miners.
- ‘Serving cunt.’ The best thing about being surrounded by 24yr-olds at work is that I’m picking up so many youthful phrases, applicable to a broad range of social situations.
- All night. Drowning in dreamlike memory and struggling to remember the name of a girl I knew briefly in college, I ended up combing through a digital archive of embarrassments, rereading emails from my junior-year ‘lost semester,’ (Here’s how old I am: they were Eudora .mbx files from 1999. But MacOS Mail opened them just fine in 2023.) Later I tried to explain to a Gen-Z work friend that In MY Day you’d flirt by sending long late-nite emails from the desktop PC in your bedroom: ‘…”online” was a specific state you could be in or not, so every time you read an email from someone, that was the one thing you were doing at that moment… There is a real hallucinatory intensity to pulling entirely away from normal interactions and into “online stuff.” You could take all night to think of something complex to say…’ And that was How We Got It On, before the Y2K bug ended the world. I did figure out her name, by the way; she was stone crazy but I was a depressed bore and we drifted off none too soon, Back Then.
- First class on United. Worth the extra money only because the alternative is the misery of Coach seating, but the only good thing about United is some adman’s decision to appropriate Gershwin for the soundtrack, 40 years ago — since soured by some other adman’s decision to run dipshit rearrangements of Gershwin under every piece of United audiovisualishness. What a shambolic fucking mess of an airline.
- Chicago cabs. Going from O’Hare to the burbs? How about we just slap a quick 1.5x multiplier on that meter of yours, because ‘guild’ is a handy term meaning ‘price-fixing cartel.’
- The Office (USA). We’re still watching, and it’s still bugging me. The natural tendency of the USA workplace sitcom is to descend into sentimentality and ideologically repellent ‘coworkers are family’ bullshit, and The Office got there after three seasons — tellingly, everyone interviewed for Brian Baumgartner’s enjoyably rose-tinted oral history sees this as a strength of the show. (It’s a strength of the commercial product — but of the art? Really?) This isn’t a problem for absurd or fantastical series, but The Office dangerously aspired to emotional realism; this is related to what Ken Hite calls the ‘dire Bochco-ization’ of 90s/00s serial TV, by which natural transformation and comedic-episodic restoration almost always end up in destructive tension. I’ll watch TV characters return daily to a torture chamber…as long as no one’s pretending it’s really a space of love and familial affection. Seasons 7-8 of The Office were a fucking mess, and the loss of the miracle-worker Steve Carrell was fatal to a show that was centrally about the complex tension between the boss, the salesman, the secretary, the toady, and the circumstance. But on rewatch it’s more solid than I remembered, at times really excellent, and though the relationships in later seasons are undercooked the ensemble remains versatile and memorable — with a handful of masterful performers, particularly Rainn Wilson and Ed Helms, to anchor the group. Still, it’s telling that while the greatest moment of the UK original is Gervais begging his boss not to fire him, the sublime peak of the USA adaptation is the smile on Jenna Fischer’s face after Krasinski finally asks her out. Carrell’s beautifully acted goodbye, four years later, is only metatextually affecting; the show should have ended on Pam’s ‘I’m sorry — what was the question?’ The hyperextension of this genuinely wonderful series is an ordinary sin against extraordinary art.
- Pat Benatar, ‘We Belong.’ Someone asked on Twitter what was the greatest ‘power ballad,’ and for people of strange distinction (i.e. me and you) only one song comes to mind, 3:40 of unbroken aesthetic misjudgment brought to unsettling kaleidoscopic climax with the words ‘I hear your voice inside me…I see your face everywhere…‘ Benatar might not be known for anything but this now, never mind 20 years from now, and the words aren’t hers anyway, but she carries this ecstatic derangement from ‘Don’t wanna leave you, really’ through ‘Have we become a habit?’ to ‘Clear your mind and do your best to try and wash the palette clean’ — as realistic a depiction of middle-aged love as we’ll get. ‘We Belong’ came out in 1984; Patricia Mae Andrzejewski was 31 and recording, as she still does, under the last name of her high school sweetheart Dennis Benatar, whom she’d divorced 15 years prior. I don’t know if that matters, or how it might, but ‘We Belong’ was the greatest, maddest ‘power ballad’ of all time even before the daft counterpoint vocals come in under (I mean miles above) the outro choruses.
- Analysis. Seen on Twitter: ‘republicans: fuck you eat shit & die … democrats: fuck you eat shit & die, performed by john legend & beyonce’