Tag Archives | Can’t Stop the Muzak

There Where Things Are Hollow

I love Bowie’s series of I-can’t-believe-you’re-giving-me-this-bullshit expressions as MTV representative Mark Goodman tries to explain, in a 1983 interview, why they don’t play more black artists and also totally are playing them and also black artists are scary and introducing black artists has to be done glacially slowly and anyway radio stations are worse:

Crushing Italian Freedom Fighters and Getting Drunk in a Bat Costume

One of my longstanding New Year’s traditions is watching the annual New Year’s concert from the Vienna Musikverein (where I finally had a chance to attend a concert [though not the New Year’s concert] during my two-day trip to Vienna in 2010). Here in Alabammy my local PBS station doesn’t carry the concert; but that’s what the internet is for:

Clapping along to the Radetzky March (at 1:21:50) is a little less fun when you realise the piece is celebrating the defeat of Italian forces fighting for independence from the Austrian Empire (the bad one, not this blog). But then a lot of great art is devoted to the celebration of bad stuff. (I’m not sure the Radetzky March is great art, but it’s pleasant art.)

Another New Year’s tradition, one I celebrate somewhat more irregularly, is watching Die Fledermaus, an operetta I’ve loved ever since I was very young. I didn’t watch it this year (too busy writing up pieces I owe various publishers – with no daylight in sight as yet!), but I made sure to listen to the overture at least, as it features many of my favourite themes from the larger work:

My history with Die Fledermaus is a bit odd. When I was nine or so, I came across the book Merry Go Round in Oz, which was written by the grandmother of someone who would eventually become a good friend of mine in grad school. One of the characters in the book was a winged mouse (not a bat, he would insist) called a Flittermouse, which is why, in a San Diego used bookstore one day, a dusty libretto of Die Fledermaus caught my eye. I must be one of the few people to have become a fan of Die Fledermaus through the libretto first. But then a few years later I caught the operetta on tv and became, properly, a still greater fan of the music.

Sirens and Custodians

The circumstances that compelled Euripides’ Alkmaion to commit matricide appear laughable.
– Aristotle, Nicomachean Ethics III.1

The Arrowverse shows have always been varied in tone, with Arrow at the dark, gritty, angsty end of the spectrum and Legends of Tomorrow at the goofy and bonkers end. But the current season of Legends has been goofier and more bonkers than ever before – while simultaneously incorporating a far darker/gritter/angstier arc than usual with the character of John Constantine. It’s a combination that shouldn’t work, but kind of does.

The goofy/bonkers trend reached its height in the midseason finale, “Legends of To-Meow-Meow.” While the episode was filled with parodies of other shows, in one crucial respect it was specifically, though less obviously, a parody of one of its fellow Arrowverse shows, The Flash.

[SPOILERS for Legends of Tomorrow and The Flash:]

Two seasons ago on The Flash, the villain Savitar was revealed to be a time-displaced version of the hero, Barry Allen, who had turned evil through losing his support group (a loss actually engineered, time-loop-style, by his future alternative evil self):

The notion that losing his connection to his loved ones would be enough to turn the Barry we know evil was never remotely believable; indeed, the oddness of evil Barry was recently lampshaded in the Flash episode “What’s Past Is Prologue,” where Barry’s archnemesis Eobard Thawne (in a delightfully chilling return) comments on it:

(For those unfamiliar with The Flash: Barry’s daughter Nora is named after his mother, whom Thawne killed; that’s the context of Thawne’s creepy line “At least you still have one.”)

It’s the unlikelihood of the hero turning evil so easily that’s parodied in “Legends of To-Meow-Meow,” where first we learn that a version of the timeline in which Sara was killed has turned the Legends into an evil mashup of The A-Team and Rambo – and then an attempt to avoid that timeline leads to a new one in which the deaths of Ray, Nate, and Mick have turned the surviving members into an evil version of Charlie’s Angels. Out of nowhere, both evil teams get their own bonkers credit sequences (with the second one explicitly imitating the Charlie’s Angels theme music):

Now admittedly we’ve seen similar craziness before, in the Flash / Supergirl musical crossover:

But in that story (as in the Buffy episode that inspired it), there was a supernatural force causing the characters to act as though they were in a musical. In “Legends of To-Meow-Meow,” by contrast, there’s no supernatural force causing Sara, Ava, and Gideon to suddenly turn around in the hallway and form the classic Charlie’s Angels pose. It’s just one of the things they now do because … their teammates’ deaths have turned them evil. One could just take this as sillier-than-usual Legends silliness; but I do think it’s also intended as a comment on the implausibility of Barry’s transformation into Savitar.

Speaking of superhero characters suddenly forming the Charlie’s Angels pose and/or breaking into song, let’s not forget the episode of Batman: The Brave and the Bold in which Catwoman, Huntress, and Black Canary are caught infilitrating a gangster hideout and have to pretend to be a musical group:

(It’s striking how many sexual innuendoes these “Birds of Prey” manage to get away with, in what is ostensibly a children’s show.)

It may seem odd that I enjoy this sort of goofiness, given that of the various current and/or recent superhero shows, my absolute favourites are the mostly dark/grim/serious (and now mostly cancelled) Netflix Marvel ones. But hey, I am both gun and frock; I contain multitudes. (Though I confess I like the creepy Thawne scene above even better than I like the goofy Legends scenes.)

Song of the Variable Time-Unit, 12/8/18

Barbara, with an intense, savage cover of “Liberté” in 1959:

For any non-francophones out there, the song concerns martyrs who have died for liberty. The song can be seen as either a fierce celebration of liberty as a cause worth dying for, or else a bitter condemnation of liberty as a god that devours its worshippers – or, most probably, some of each. Like, you know, a love song.

Never Merry When I Hear Sweet Music

It used to be a common practice for soundtracks to play “funny” music in certain scenes to, I guess, let the audience know that something funny was happening.

Some examples: at 1:55-2:08 in this clip from To Have and Have Not (1944); at 1:58-2:22 and 7:01-7:17 of these clips from the original 1960s Star Trek; and at 3:41-3:56 and 4:46-5:17 of these clips, likewise from Star Trek.

This practice has always really annoyed me; for some reason I’ve found it much more distracting than a laugh track, which I’m generally able to tune out. I’m not sure at what point in screen history this stopped being common practice, but I’m very glad it did.

Disco Tech

Legends of Tomorrow has a 70s-themed episode coming up, so four of the stars decided to make a 70s-themed music video. And it does make me a bit nostalgic for the 70s.

Caity Lotz and (especially) Maisie Richardson-Sellers are really good in it.

Brandon Routh and Nick Zano are, um, also in it.

Lotz (who directed it) hasn’t quite mastered how aspect ratios work, though.

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