The Fall Instinct hit hard today: prepare the den for hibernation! All shorts and summery clothes: swapped out for sweaters. Ruthless triage on the T-shirts that weren’t worn once in the brief interval of warmth. Brought up the Fall-hued Fiestaware and took the pastels to the basement, realizing again that I can’t stand the color of the pastel plates, for the most part, except for the yellow ones. Why do we have these? When did I sign on board with the whole Fiestaware Lifestyle? They weigh slightly less than manhole covers and the fact that there’s variation in hues means I have to sort them by color or the OCD kicks in.
Well, no, that’s not exactly true; I don’t have OCD. But if you have a bunch of plates that have a range of hues you stack them to make a nice gradient, because at any moment a photographer could burst in and want to shoot your cupboards.
Anyway, everything’s 14% browner today. Night brought drizzle, and tomorrow brings rain - as well it should. October is dank gloom punctuated by glory and joy. We think of it mostly in terms of the latter. When the sun blares out you want to clang your sword on your shield and shout, even though the battle’s long lost.
In the mail today:
The heyday of the Corporate Musical. Short obvious cliche take: Rogers and Hammerstein meet “Mad Men.” It’s a genre only America could produce, and only at a certain time: big happy sell-sell-sell theatrical extravaganzas unleashed at conventions, engraved into vinyl for home consumption. I have a few examples. I was lucky to see some of the lost GM 50th Anniversary Special at Peg Lynch’s house - more of a variety show, but it had bare-shouldered women in huge crinkly dresses swooning around sheet metal, so it qualifies.
But don’t trust me on this book - it’s blurbed by David Letterman, Martin Short, and Harry Shearer. And also me, so do trust it. Here's the Amazon page.
Alone in a closed metal tube, 40,000 feet above land and miles from anyone you know. Surrounded by people who share your fate, but who do not acknowledge you. They, like you, sit facing forward in rows, focusing on their own discrete box of space. The cabin is dim and it hums; you look down at your folded hands in your lap, lit by a pool of light from above. There’s nothing to do: no email to check, no messages to send out, and minimal distraction. If you felt a gaping hollow open up inside, if you thought you were not going to make it, you would have no way to reach out to your loved ones.
Is it such a stretch to imagine a commercial plane as one of the loneliest places in the modern world? Why is seat 27F on the 6:35 from JFK to LAX the perfect place and time for a good cry?
The article goes on to describe an emotional landscape over which I have never glimpsed from the scratched and cloudy window of a plane. (Digression: is it possible some day planes will have much larger windows? Big broad panes through which you can see the world? I can’t think of anything more glorious.) I’ve never felt the need to weep on a plane, and I’ve also never looked down at my folded lands in my lap, because I’m either sleeping or reading or watching something. The article says there’s a certain emotional volatility that strikes on high, renders you open to all the howling existential gusts that rattle the soul when all else is pared away, and makes you cry at silly movies or other triggers.
Hmm. Well. I find the process of getting on a plane so fraught with stress, usually of my own making, that actually being on the plane and going somewhere is a tremendous relief, and a short vacation stretches in front of me. As for the whole idea that there’s “no email to check,” I’m not one of those people who’s stabbing the mobile constantly to check my inbox, and being away from Twitter makes you realize that compulsively checking the tweet-stream is like having a cat lick your shin: it’s interesting, gets your attention, becomes something you’re used to, and isn’t missed at all when it stops. A movie, a book, the exquisitely detailed attention you pay your meal.
The comments are interesting - Atlantic comments usually are; either they pare and curate well or the audience is just better - and when I read the piece there were a number of headscratching replies. One fellow took the author to task for leaving himself wide open with this paragraph:
Recently, I sat with a few friends around a table in an apartment in the Fort Greene neighborhood of Brooklyn. It was after dinner, and we were drinking rum I had brought back from a recent trip to Nicaragua. The conversation moved from travel to flying and then turned to tears.
Which either strikes you as "what a fascinating life!" or "Congrats, Mr. Snowflake." In comes Mr. Buzzkill in the comments, speaking for many:
Nobody cares that you've been to Nicaragua. Nobody cares that you chill in Brooklyn. Establishing yourself as a cliche doesn't make the article more interesting. MGD, my friend. You get just as drunk, your friends tell the same silly stories with lots of enthusiasm, and you don't have to go to third-world countries to buy it.
I actually googled MGD to see if it was some internetty acronym I didn’t know. Most Garish Declaration? Meaningless Gaudy Detail? Nope: Miller Genuine Draft, which is what I first thought it meant.
I’ve never seen anyone cry on a plane. When I walk back to the head it’s either people on their laptops or inert folk with their mouths open sound asleep.
One comment notes:
I think you could run up and down the aisle naked and probably no one would bat an eye, as most people are safely wrapped up in their electronics bubble--iPods, iPads, Kindles, etc...
Would anyone say that people are wrapped up in their paper cocoons - books, magazines, newspapers, etc...? No; those are Noble, somehow, and the devices that glow and beep are trivial distractions, inauthentic for being electronic. It’s ridiculous. The iPad is a marvel. Well, I have two hours to kill. I’ll read a little, then write a little, then watch some drama, then listen to music while I drift off. One device does all that. I suppose it would be better if someone on a plane had a book, a typewriter, a small hand-held 8mm projector and a turntable, because Hemingway used a typewriter and Dali used a projector and Bernstein’s records came out on vinyl. Okay.
Now, the Cues! Do I have to explain? Fine. As I say every week: if you're just joining the Listen project, it includes a selection of music cues gleaned from old radio shows In this case, "The Couple Next Door," the wonderful 1958-1960 radio show written by, and starring, Peg Lynch. It's library music the producers dropped in to get them in and out of scenes. It's the background soundtrack for mid-century life.
More of the inexhaustible cues, a few dupes, and a batch from a different show. Let's begin:
CND Cue #208.
I wonder if this was something the composer was working on for himself, perhaps part of a larger, Serious work, and he tossed it in to see if any producer found it useful.
CND Cue #209. Basic charming segue.
CND Cue #210. Three-Stooges horns gently nudge the rueful amusement to a happy ending.
CND Cue #211. Another segment of the syncopated segues, this time in stinger form!
CND Cue #212. This one's new. For some reason it has horseshoe-clops in the background.
CND Cue #213. Pardon me. This is a repeat. I'm too lazy to take it out and renumber the uploaded files and upload them again.
CND Cue #214. Same goes for this one. I mean, you can listen, if you want.
CND Cue #215. One of the repeating themes, except here it's slowed down by half.
CND Cue #216. Possibly related to #210, with a harp glissando in case the plot uses dreams or flashbacks.
CND Cue #217. Let's end here - happily!
But we’re not done. To show how good most of the CND cues were in comparison to the rest of the shows of the era, here are some cues from “The FBI in Peace and War,” one of those shows you can listen to while you do something else. And I suspect people did.
FBI #1. This sounds like the cue for a Gerry Anderson sci-fi show. I use it to show why most of this music isn’t notable; even with all that drama, there’s nothing there.
FBI #2. I think this would be good music for a dramatic scene on an assembly line staffed by worried chickens.
FBI #3. See what I mean about drama without interest?
FBI #4. When the FBI goes to a midwest State Fair, it’s time to bring out the bumpkin cuts! Proto-Green Acres music, really.
FBI #5. Behold the rote ending to a show people listened to without ever doubting the outcome!
FBI #6. Your Special Agent is here, and apparently he drained a pint bottle before knocking.
More of those to come; these guys drew from every possible source. A few episodes use Bruckner Adagios, for heaven's sake.
Galen Drake was a long-time NYC area broadcaster, an early talk-show host, and a household name - at least in Gotham. I like the way he reads this.
That's it for this week! Column up here; scroll down to the COLUMNS pane.