"Be Sharp: 'The Simpsons' and Music"

My book chapter, “Be Sharp: ‘The Simpsons’ and Music,” appears in: The Simpsons’ Beloved Springfield: Essays on the TV Series and Town That Are Part of Us All (McFarland, 2019)

Arrested Development – Season 4 Remix

The Season 4 Remix (2018) of Arrested Development stretches the fifteen original, overlapping, character-based episodes (2013) out to twenty-two. It’s so repetitive that it keeps repeating things repeatedly and repeats them all repetitively with no end of the repetition in sight. Given the multiple points of view already present in the originally-released Season 4, they could have just as easily edited it down to eleven episodes, instead of adding more repetition to come up with twenty-two. I get that 22-episode seasons is the industry standard for syndication, etc., but even the cast members are not happy about their work being extended in such a way. It also just seems like an ill-advised ploy to promote the show in advance of the upcoming Season 5 (2018). The whole thing feels like George Sr.’s Steamboat Willie-ing of the purported US-Mexican border wall.

Stephen Hawking, R.I.P.

In honour of Dr. Stephen W. Hawking’s remarkable work and (even less likely) long life, Albert Einstein’s birthday, Hawking’s status as Distinguished Visiting Research Chair at Waterloo, Ontario’s Perimeter Institute (PI), and Pi Day (3.14), please join me in a slice of pi/e (preferably at 1:59). You may also remember Hawking from his interest in Homer Simpson’s theory of a donut-shaped universe.

Book Chapter on Music in The Simpsons

I’m working on a chapter about music in The Simpsons for a book that the independent publisher McFarlane has requested. I presented six conference papers on the topic between 2006 and 2013 and also completed about half of a book on it, so it shouldn’t take take too long! The editor in 2010 co-authored a book for the same press, called: The Simpsons in the Classroom: Embiggening the Learning Experience with the Wisdom of Springfield. The new book is intended for undergraduate students and the general public, so it’s a good opportunity to get some more “public music history” out there.

Letting Academic Things Go

Kelly J. Baker just posted an article called “Goodbye to All That,” about abandoning her recently-contracted plan to write an academic book on the cultural history of zombies. I have very similar feelings about my work on music in The Simpsons, including my proposed academic book, related possible journal articles, and already-presented conference papers (e.g., 20062013). Without a tenure-track, professorial context, I have to let those types of academic things go and possibly reimagine them as public music history projects instead. I’ve already made that transition from my dissertation on the rock band Rush to Experiencing Rush: A Listener’s Companion (2014) and am currently working on Experiencing Peter Gabriel: A Listener’s Companion (2016). So, I don’t see why I should stop now. Maybe, I’ll be able to get to the point of making a living wage at it!

Meet Prof. Doe

A history professor (Jonathan Rees) recently referenced the 1941 Frank Capra movie Meet John Doe. In it, a fake, world-despairing “everyman” (played by Gary Cooper) ends up having value despite being imagined into existence by a newspaper columnist (played by Barbara Stanwyck) and then being appropriated by a power-hungry aspiring politician.

Rees’ idea is that something similar is going on with the providers of online university courses (MOOCs) apparently thinking about hiring celebrity actors to “teach” their courses. It’s not a great analogy, though. For example, in the contexts of adjunct instructors and other disenfranchised academics, the world-despairing is not actually being faked at all. Tens of thousands of post-secondary courses are now being taught by academics (including thousands of Ph.D.s) who do not have offices, benefits, or pensions. Actually, some people with Ph.D.s are worse off than that:  I know, because I’m one of them.

So, someone should write a screenplay called Meet Prof. Doe. The title character would be perfect for someone like Matt Damon, especially given his early success with 1997’s Good Will Hunting. (Ben Affleck may direct the movie, but he may NOT appear in it!)

Kiss Me, Deadly (1952) & Kiss Me Deadly (1955)

I finally read Mickey Spillane’s detective novel Kiss Me, Deadly (1952), in order to compare it to one of my favourite films noirs, the adaptation directed by Robert Aldrich and co-written by A. I. Bezzerides:  Kiss Me Deadly (1955).

The film keeps many of the book’s characters, situations, and gender dynamics (e.g., “hard-boiled” detective Mike Hammer and a collection of what might be called “femmes semi-fatales”) and transposes them from New York State and NYC to California and LA.  However, the film otherwise completely transforms the book’s cautionary tale about international drug smuggling into a vastly more bizarre and fascinating one ultimately involving a rich, eccentric, medical-doctor collector of “new art” (i.e., atomic materials) during the early Cold War—as well as his connections to the criminal world.

In a related matter, the film adds numerous relatively “highbrow” cultural references to the story, such as Christina Rossetti’s poems (especially “Remember”), symphonic music and opera, and even Mike Hammer and his “secretary” Velda abandoning their sleazy divorce PI existence for rather more “sophisticated” intrigue than the mob/drug context of the book.  The film also derives a more upper middle-class context, especially re Mike (including his expensive sports cars, his reel-to-reel answering machine, and his habit of screening his phone calls), but also re his policeman friend Pat (who, in the film, takes on much of the elevated-social-status character of the “feds”—who are far more prominent, and generally in “higher-level” contexts, in the book).  In addition, the film has more of a multicultural milieu than the book does (including Greek-, Italian-, and African-Americans), although the secondary, “hyphenated-American” characters are shown mainly in working class (mechanic, out-of-work singer) and service-type (bartender, barroom jazz singer) contexts.

It’s a great book, but a quite different great movie.  I feel the same way about Laurence Olivier’s film adaptations of Shakespeare and also about many of the films of Stanley Kubrick.  However, I do not feel that way about recent movies involving wizards and hobbits.