lizbee: (TV: Janet King)
A regular feature on the Galactic Suburbia podcast is "Culture Consumed", where they outline and discuss the things they've been watching, reading and listening to of late. I really like the format, so here's what I've been consuming lately.


I don't really do podcasts much, but I love Galactic Suburbia, which ranges widely from fandom to general Australian pop culture from a local feminist perspective that works hard at intersectionality. There is also cake.

I also don't really listen to albums per se, let alone Beyoncé albums -- I usually find her work very hit and miss, most of the misses being ballads. But Lemonade really is outstanding. For one thing, there's a coherent narrative, which I don't find in many albums, and it all comes together in "Formation" at the end.

Speaking of coherent narratives: Hamilton. I didn't much like it on a first listen -- I think I got as far as "You'll Be Back" -- but I gave it a second go because I was intrigued by all the discussion. Listening to it with the Genius annotations open was great -- but it took the entrance of George Washington to make me fall in love. Turns out I just quit one song too soon on my first attempt.

I have a lot of Issues with its portrayal of women, which I think is a lot less feminist than people give it credit for, but I sure do love it a lot.

Spinning off from there, I've also been listening to a lot of the '80s and '90s hip hop that inspired Hamilton, and from there I keep falling down a TLC/Salt 'n' Pepa spiral, which inevitably leads back to Destiny's Child, Beyoncé and Lemonade.


It's Hugo's season, and once again, the shortlists are a clusterfuck of right wing trolls. The novels aren't so bad this time, but I may nope out of Best Related Work all together, not only because I'm a bit disappointed that Companion Piece didn't make it, but I'm absolutely heartsick that we don't get to lose to Letters to Tiptree.

But once again, I'm going to read as many of the finalists as I can, review them on No Award, and vote according to merit. I just finished Seveneves, and I'm struggling to come up with a coherent way to talk about it on NA. I might just do the post in three acts: one's really slow, the other is quite interesting until everything suddenly happens offscreen and we hear about it later, and the third is a review of a completely different book all together.

My reward for finishing Seveneves is Star Wars: Bloodline by Claudia Gray. It's very good, but what I'm really interested in with regard to the post-OT timeline is Ben Organa Solo and his descent into darkness. Sorry, Tumblr, but I have a serious weakness for characters who grow up in the shadow of their family legacies and either deal with that or fail spectacularly, so the only way Kylo Ren could be more awesome in my eyes is if he was Han and Leia's daughter instead of their son.

Also read lately:
  • Vol 1 of Archie 2015, the "reboot" with art by Fiona Staples. I was pretty cynical when I heard this was happening, but it's really good -- I think because it takes the whole Riverdale format seriously, and isn't setting out to be a Dark and Gritty Version. It's still a comic you could give to your kids. And the art and writing are just good, to the point where I may actually have to get the Jughead title as well. (I realised that Mark Waid has written a bunch of stuff I've enjoyed over the years, so I should pay more attention to him.)
  • The Nameless City by Faith Erin Hicks -- another YA/Middle Grade graphic novel, set in a city that has been invaded and colonised so many times, it's original inhabitants no longer have a name for it. This wears its Avatar inspiration overtly -- not only does it have a blurb from Bryan Konietzco, but the cover uses the AtLA font -- but it's a worthy successor. For one thing, unlike a lot of AtLA-inspired works, it's not about white people.
  • The Murder of Mary Russell by Laurie R King -- I sort of fell out of love with this series after Locked Rooms pulled its punches and then God of the Hive looked at all the foreshadowing and set-up of the previous book and went, "Nah, actually I'll ignore all of that and be disappointing and racist instead." But this was outstanding, and I really wish it had come out ten years ago, when I had the fannish drive and energy to really do something with it, fic-wise. It's a massive retcon of not just the previous Russell novels, but also the Doyle canon, and nearly everything about it delighted me. Even the flashbacks to 19th century Australia were great, and I usually find gaping errors in that sort of thing.


On the insistence of [personal profile] nonelvis and [personal profile] sorryforlaughing , I've been watching The Americans. They were right: it's very, very good. It's sort of my Mad Men, in that every episode features a style of clothing or hair that I've seen on pictures of my mother.

It turns out that America is suddenly doing really good historicals set in the last few decades. Well, not "suddenly", I suppose Mad Men proved it could be done, and then it was just a matter of time until it inspired some really good shows. Between seasons of The Americans, I've watched Show Me A Hero (set in the '80s and '90s, about the court-mandated desegregation of Yonkers) and The People v OJ Simpson, which I started expecting hilarity, and ended having actual feelings about the Kardashians?

Then my MacBook's logicboard exploded, so for about ten days, I was confined to what I could watch via streaming services. Which was fine, it was just in time to binge watch season 2 of Janet King via ABC iView. I quite liked season 2 -- I thought it was better plotted than season 1, and despite the Dead Lesbian Trope that drives it, it also gives us Marta Dusseldorp dealing with trauma by wearing a lot of tank tops, and also a plot about a woman seeking justice for her murdered wife.

I was less impressed that the final episode reveals that the murderer is spoilers ), which doesn't really affect the plot or motivations, it's just a means to a fake-out. That could have been done differently, guys.

Stuff I watch week to week:

Elementary's season 4 was a mixed bag, and I have some issues with the finale, but it left me shipping spoilers )

And Orphan Black's season 4 is great so far, pulling back from the labyrinthine conspiracies of season 3, but still dealing with repercussions from last year's plotlines.

More spoilers )
lizbee: (Music: 2ne1 (CL))
Things I love:
  • pop music
  • non-fiction about the pop industry
  • covers
  • demos
  • guide tracks
Accordingly, I am reading The Song Machine by John Seabrook, which looks at the evolution of song factories -- providing pre-fab pop songs to artists, constructed to a carefully calculated formula. This started in the '90s, and is obviously a Really Big Thing in pop right now. I have a Spotify playlist of songs written by Sia for other artists, so clearly the whole concept is relevant to my interests.

Being American, the book largely overlooks the UK pop scene, which I think is a mistake -- the Swedish song factories that made Britney Spears famous refined their art in the UK, and StarGate, for example, who are currently massive, started out with acts like S Club 7, Samantha Mamba and Billie Piper.

Overlooking the UK seems to me to be especially a mistake because there is a chapter on K-pop, which also embraced the Swedish machine. Don't laugh, there are pretty striking similarities in production between Billie's "Something Deep Inside" and Girls' Generation's "The Boys".

Anyway, I find it really interesting that many songs are written with no particular artist -- or even language -- in mind, and it might get shopped around to a variety of artists before it gets made. (Or, sometimes, it's written with one artist in mind, but they pass on it -- "...Baby One More Time" was written for TLC, who rejected it, so it went to Britney. Some years later, Britney turned down a little ditty called "Telephone", so its lyricist claimed it back or herself.)

A (sort of) more obscure example:

A quintet of Swedes wrote a track now known as "Genie", or, sometimes, "Tell Me Your Wish (Genie)", depending whether you're looking at the Korean or Japanese version. It was shopped around in various countries, and eventually purchased for Girls Generation. New lyrics were added. It was released in 2010 to considerable success.

But in 2009, Uzbek artist Dineyra had recorded it herself. Her producers didn't secure the rights, so there were legal kerfuffles when "Genie" came out. As usual when you go up against the Korean pop industry, she came off second-best.

And just before the Girls Generation version was released, a Dutch artist named Nathalie Makhoma released a version with the original English lyrics.

And finally, a UK hip hop artist named CJ Lewis released a track called "Genie" which heavily samples the track, and -- instead of the English lyrics -- translates the Korean back to English. And so we come full circle.

This is all particularly interesting to read on the same day that Beyoncé releases a new song -- because, while she presumably uses the services of song factories, her process is much more opaque, and she is far more likely to make significant changes from the creators' versions. (Especially since she ran into problems when it turned out the writers of "Halo" had written a remarkably similar song for ... Kelly Clarkson? Someone of that ilk.)

Meanwhile, in the Anglosphere, the current fashion is for singer-songwriters, so there's a certain amount of controversy over the use of song factories -- especially because the factories mostly employ men, who literally put words in the mouths of female artists.  (Women in the business of songwriting tend to either have been successful performers themselves, eg Linda Perry, or go on to become successful performers, eg Jessie J, Lady Gaga.  Sia's an odd case, having been a successful alternative performer before becoming accidentally successful as a pop writer.  And Carole King was an unsuccessful performer who became a major songwriter, and then became a successful performer.)

IN SHORT -- because my dinner is getting cold -- there are a lot of interesting and meaty issues underlying the current state of pop music construction, but since the things I love include everything on the list above, this book speaks to me. 

lizbee: (Default)
So I started my vacation not quite how I intended to go on: waking up at 5am and reading copious amounts of Lin/Tenzin and Lin/Korra hurt/comfort on It was kind of like ids on parade, but it was exactly what I wanted to read, so I can't complain. Plus, I found some Lin/Tenzin where the worst grammatical error was that no one told the author a new speaker's dialogue should start with a capital letter. I can live with that! (Still no Lin/Raiko fic. May have to do it myself. I'M SORRY.)

Then we flatmates exchanged gifts, and Harvey donned a festive Santa hat. I think [profile] suburbannoir got the best picture.

He also ate some pancake, and turned out to be obsessed with maple syrup. He is clearly at heart a Canadian cat, albeit more Rob Ford than the Nice Canadian of Lovely Stereotype.

Anyway, [personal profile] philippos42 asked:

I was thinking of going wide open with "music," then realized I don't remember if you even like music, so I looked at your interests to see what in the music and dance areas you mentioned, and, "dancing like peter garrett," jumped out at me.


21st - Oils, or alternatively something from Aussie popular music in general

So I'm not a massive Oils fan, because as great as their music is, they kind of peaked around the time that commercial music was banned in my household. And then, when I was at an age to discover them independently, my Dad met Peter Garrett, and they discovered they had a lot in common politically, which troubled me. (Still does, actually.)

On the other hand, I know enough to be outraged when foreigners call them one hit wonders, or when "Beds Are Burning" is reappropriated to be about environmentalism instead of Indigenous land rights. (Yes, songs can be about many things at once. It's just this THING I have!)

Peter Garrett dancing, however, is just a joy.

Warning: gifs. )

Aaaaaaaaaaaand then Garrett went into Parliament, and politics is all about compromise, so it was pretty disappointing.

And there was some ugliness where his department presided over an insulation scheme which ended ... quite badly for several people, and Tony Abbott (*spit*) said he was responsible for people burning to death in their beds, which is kind of a terrible thing to say to a guy whose mother died that way, Garrett unsuccessfully attempting to save her. (See also: "Beds are Burning". It has lots of meanings!)


I've been listening to a lot of pop and hip hop over the last few years! Which makes my inner '90s indie/alternative music wanker self cringe, but that's okay, because that self is kind of a jerk.

Anyway, over at No Award, I have this big, fairly rambly post about Lorde (who is a Kiwi, but will no doubt be adopted by Australia as soon as we think New Zealand won't notice) and Iggy Azalea, whom I find equal parts entertaining and problematic.

Azalea raises a lot of questions, like, is it still Australian hip hop if you're rapping with an American accent? (The Australian country music scene is currently grappling with this very issue as well.) And why does Azalea get all this pre-album buzz -- helped massively by supporting Beyonce this year -- when Dizzy Doolan has but one single song on iTunes? (It's good, though! Kind of underproduced, like, it feels like a demo. But hey, people aren't exactly throwing money at unsigned Aboriginal rappers at all, let alone women.)

The answer to that question is, of course, is that Azalea started out in the US, and why are Australians so obsessed with cracking the American market anyway? Like, Kylie couldn't do it. And the question of what does/doesn't count as Australian art is complex, and also not really where my head is at the moment.

A handful of Australian hip hop recs:

Yung Warriors - "Standing Strong" - what is that video? Aside from being an Awkward Lip Syncing Party? This was an iTunes free single of the week earlier this year, and I don't normally pay attention to those, but there was a lot of Twitter buzz, so I gave it a chance. Which led me to...

Dizzy Doolan - So her only presence on YouTube is her showreel, but that at least highlights her only solo release, "Indigenous Hip Hop".

Starting out with Indigenous hip hop is kind of disingenuous, because Australian hip hop is quite white, and there are problems with "helpful" white people going, "Oh, Aborigines are black! They should totally be rappers!" Yeah, nuh.

The problem with local hip hop is not just that the performers are pretty white, but also there is a lot of racism in the audiences. Apparently there's a fine line between "it's cool to have hip hop in our own accent" and "it's so great to get all the black people out of the genre they pioneered". This is quite weird to me, because most of the big names are vocally anti-racist. I remember reading an interview -- I think with one of the guys from The Herd -- where one performer talks about doing a song about how racist and shitty Australians are, and looking up to realise he had an audience full of white guys wearing "FUCK OFF, WE'RE FULL" T-shirts.

And, of course, the all-white crews are the ones that tend to achieve the most success. WAY TO BE, AUSTRALIA.

Having said that, I think The Herd are great. For example:

The Herd - "2020" - this, for once, has an amazing video as well. And they get many points for forecasting that Rudd would turn out to be as craven and amoral as Howard in the end. It also features a verse by Jane Tyrrell, who more recently collaborated with Herd member Urthboy...

Urthboy feat. Jane Tyrrell - "Glimpses" is on my iPod, but I never actually listen to it, because it always. makes. me. cry. IDEK, man.

Okay, so a crew who have never, as far as I'm aware, performed with The Herd:

Bliss n Eso (feat. Paris Wells) - "Field of Dreams" - one day I am going to make an Avengers vid to this, and everyone will laugh because it's Australian accents versus American video, but I will finally have the damn vid out of my head.


Paris Wells - "Let's Get It Started" - actually the song I would have featured here is "Various Small Fires", but apparently that's not to be had on the YouTubes. Anyway, most of the current female singer-songwriters (as opposed to pop singers) in Australia are talented but booooooooooooooooooooooooring. Or, in Sarah Blasko's case, vocally lazy. Wells breaks that trend by being unpredictable and fun.


Just as with Midnight Oil, it irks me when people call Gotye a one hit wonder. He's been around forever. So:

Gotye - Hearts A Mess - the punctuation of that song title offends me deeply. But it's kind of amazing, if only for the way it's the Sting song that never was.
lizbee: (Music: 2ne1 (CL))
So a K-pop band releases an album, and you buy that.

Then you find that they've released the same album plus some of their old songs in Japanese, and you hesitate, but it has a Madonna cover, so you set out to buy that. Then you fail at buying it, but get it anyway.

Then you find that they have an English album set for release in late 2012, and you set your watch for that, even though it's produced by, and you actually listened to Cheryl Cole's album and know what that portends.

In conclusion, aside from the many ways Korean entertainment companies exploit their artists, the apparent refusal to give them holidays EVER is really bad for your wallet.

ALSO, switching country and medium, J-drama SPEC is apparently up for an American remake. [personal profile] piecesofalice is in China at the moment, so our side-eye is international. Reasons why this won't end well:

- SPEC seems to be part of the wider universe of Tsutsumi Yukihiko's eccentric brilliant woman with superpowers/repressed angsty man with a past universe, ie, Keizoku, Trick, Keizoku 2: SPEC.
- Oh yeah, it's also a sequel to Keizoku.
- Seriously, how can you replace that cast? Everyone is perfect.
- But the cast will inevitably be replaced mostly by white people.
- Even though Ryo Kase speaks better English than, well, me, and should totally reprise the role of Sebumi. Even though it would mean sacrificing his luxurious hipster locks. Again.
- I can't even imagine how it would work without the Japanese context.
- "Quirky" shows get cancelled really fast in America.
- It would probably wind up with Fringe's place in the schedule, and much as we like to joke that SPEC and Fringe exist in the same universe, that's kind of ... glib.
- The best case scenario is that the original series gets an official DVD release in the English-speaking world, with professional subtitles and stuff. (Though I have to say, the new subs are amazing in that suddenly it ALL MAKES SO MUCH MORE SENSE! I mean, aside from the stuff that isn't meant to make sense, like why do the angels of death have vuvezulas, and why are Sebumi's teeth numbered?)
- After a while I start to worry that I sound like Sherlock fandom freaking out because Lucy Liu is wearing a jumper, and Martin Freeman invented jumpers, and how dare people remake a classic story that has been in the public domain for years? But then I remember it's slightly different.

We, with [personal profile] selvage, started playing the fancasting game, but we got as far as Jasika Nicole for Toma Saya and Sonja Sohn for a genderswapped Tsuda, and then [personal profile] selvage and I got distracted casting AtLA from Asian dramas. Which mostly involved Ryunosuke Kamiki as the world's bishiest Zuko and Tsutomu Yamazaki as Iroh. Then we got stuck on Ozai, because I kind of like Cha Seung-won -- THAT MAN IS IN HIS FORTIES, BTW -- for Ozai, but I'm not sure if it's acceptable to cross nationalities for one family, and also [personal profile] piecesofalice might return from China and punch me if I spend too long staring at her future husband.

And then I went to bed, and my subconscious switched streams entirely:

The Hunger Game of Thrones: you win or you get mauled to death by direwolf muttations. Nobody suggest that to King Joffrey, because he would actually think it was a good idea.
lizbee: (Random: Statler and Waldorf)
Debating the Worst Christmas Song Ever seems to be a new annual event.  The main contender as usual is "Baby, It's Cold Outside", though I personally like it, and I get irrationally pouty when people say its outdated rom-com tropes are literal references to date rape. 

(Thank you for not further debating the point in the comments.) 

(The ironic thing is that I first fell in love with the song via the video for the Tom Jones/Cerys Matthews version, even though that actually is quite rapey, and also choreographed in such a way that puts one in mind of Tom Jones performing oral sex.  AND I DO APOLOGISE FOR THAT MENTAL IMAGE.  But I managed to repress all the gross bits until YouTube came along and brought them back.)

"Santa Baby" is another one that I secretly love, even though its gender politics are dodgy and it generally leaves me wanting to go, "Honey, Santa Claus is not your sugar daddy, and now there's a queue of REALLY CONFUSED CHILDREN outside the grotto."  (Also, the video for Kylie Minogue's version is also TERRIBLE, and I was going to excuse it on account of it being the '90s, but no, apparently that was made in 2010.  Dear God.)

(And frankly, I feel like both of them have been RUINED FOREVER by Community's tribute to the Sexy And Disturbing Christmas Song Genre.  Boopy doopy doop doop sex.)

The Spice Girls cover of "Sleigh Ride" is pretty bad, mostly because it was obviously recorded with the bare minimum of production magic, and frankly, those girls can't sing.  The various Doctor Who Christmas special songs are generally terrible. 

But for my money, the very worst Christmas song of all is "Last Christmas".  I mean, here we have a song about a completely sociopathic nice guy moaning because his unsolicited gift of body parts was rejected.  "Last Christmas, I gave you my heart, and the very next day, you gave it away."  Was this a consensual exchange of bloody hearts in boxes?  Not to mention the ethical questions inherent in the recipient's regifting of said organs.  THESE ARE THOUGHTS THAT STAY WITH ME THROUGH THE ENTIRE YEAR.

(Obviously the actual worst Christmas song of all time is "Christmas Shoes".  Which I've never even heard, but someone showed me the lyrics once, and now I plan to continue Never Hearing It Ever so as to not sully my delicate and fragile soul.)
lizbee: (Music: 2ne1 (CL))
The whole reason the House o'Squid (minus [personal profile] selvage but plus [personal profile] selvage) trekked up (or down) to Sydney over the weekend was for the KPop Music Fest taking place on Saturday night. It's the first time any KPop artists have performed in Australia, and although it was officially to celebrate 50 years of friendship between Australia and South Korea, it seems likely it was also testing the waters for both the Korean-speaking market here and potential interest among English speakers. (A similar event was recently held in Madison Square Garden, and Girls' Generation have just released their new single in English as well as Korean.)

Most of my knowledge of KPop comes via [personal profile] piecesofalice, but I made an attempt beforehand to get to know every artist on the bill. And failed miserably, mostly because "Lucifer" is a really amazing song, but playing it over and over again doesn't exactly familiarise a person with, say, 2AM. But considering I knew only a third of the artists, and I don't speak Korean, the concert was amaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaazing.

Lots of recaps and embeds beyond the cut. )
lizbee: (Random: Statler and Waldorf)

Now, as I said the other day, this was my first experience seeing a professional musical theatre performance.  I've seen a whole bunch of amateur performances, but somehow I never felt the need to pay a large sum of money to see an actual professional-type production.

The fact that I chose to pay to see Love Never Dies, and that I was inspired by these posts, does not actually reflect that well on me.

Anyway, when I was a kid I was obsessed with Phantom.  My parents had a lot of Andrew Lloyd Webber musicals on vinyl, and the central album art for Phantom was Christine in the boat with the Phantom behind her.  And it probably says a lot about the sort of child that I was that I was mostly intrigued by the pretty lady in the dress surrounded by candles.  Oh, and there's music.  And some kind of love story.  BUT A PRETTY LADY IN A DRESS SURROUNDED BY CANDLES. 

Phantom was a brief obsession for me when I was 13 -- I wore out the soundtrack (we had now advanced to cassettes!), read the libretto, read the novel, and then watched every adaptation I could get my hands on.  Alas, my family had no money, so even if it had been playing, actually seeing Phantom on stage was out of the question.  And by the time I was an adult with disposable income, I was kind of embarrassed about my adolescent obsession with a camp 1980s rock opera.  I did see the movie, but the only bit that sticks in my memory was Gerard Butler's snot. 

So that was the context in which we saw Love Never Dies[personal profile] selvage was visiting from Brisbane, and she enjoyed the cracktastical review posts as much as I did, so we peer-pressured [personal profile] piecesofalice into coming with us.  Because we are good friends.  We put on our nice outfits, took ourselves into the city and presented ourselves at the Regent Theatre.

Firstly, a problem that Andrew Lloyd Webber is not responsible for:  toilet accessibility at the Regent kind of failed.  My ankle, remember, is still sprained.  The toilets are down a long, steep flight of stairs, and then there are more stairs to actually get to the stalls.  Eventually (in the intermission) I found the disabled toilets, but got kicked out of line by an old lady in a wheelchair (I was wearing heavy black tights that concealed my bandage, so I didn't bother arguing), and also noticed theatre staff standing guard over the accessible toilets to ensure they weren't being used by the ostensibly able-bodied.  So that was awkward. 

Then, having paid $6 for a bottle of mineral water, we went in.

So there's a guy in a mask, and some singing happens. )


lizbee: (Default)

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