On a ship–a LIVING ship…

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It’s no secret that I’m re-watching Farscape, far from it. Nor is it a secret that it is, bar none, my absolute favourite television show ever. There may be objectively superior ones, I often say (let’s say…The Wire…to pick out a random example, by which I mean “not random at all, and probably accurate”), but that’s not what I’m talking about.

I refuse to define favourites by ridiculous objective measures–that’s not how favourites work. I mean, I guess it might for some people, but the reason should still be that it’s the one you like the most. Maybe you like it the most because it does basically everything correctly, or whatever–but, still.

I’ve written a few times on why, often falling on deaf, uninterested, or rather clogged ears.

The people I know whose taste I respect as refined by personal evaluation (not refined by external cultural measures, a stupid and useless way to refine your own interests and understanding, at least, in an exclusive capacity) nod thoughtfully when I explain the reasons I readily rate it (even in those “objective” senses) over a lot of the similarly-appealing kinds of shows (you can read that as “Joss Whedon shows” and you won’t be wrong, really). It’s the only instance I know of where characters truly drive a fantastic (in the “fantasy” sense, rather than the quality superlative) kind of story and universe. Where artificial relationships aren’t shoehorned in, overly-predestined¹ fashion, forcing plots to force characters to force the goals of writers. No doubt the writers had goals, but it felt more like they were following the characters’ natural instincts, and finding the conflicts in those, rather than manifesting conflicts for them to respond to.

On re-watching, I’m just absolutely stricken with how much Aeryn Sun reminds me of someone I very much cared about in so many endless ways–the kind of attitude, philosophy, response to change, the way she responds, reacts, so much of it just jaw-droppingly familiar and, well, accurate. It’s only emphasizing my appreciation of the show itself, and of my reasons for that appreciation, which were centered on the way the characters are written and portrayed anyway. I admit, it’s the “closest” I’ve felt to a television show–less that kind of “Gosh, I feel bad about this situation and these characters I like,” and more “Oh, please, do not do this to her, I see how she can and will survive this but really should not have to suffer it.” Yeah, there’s all kinds of crossed circuits and confusion in that response, and it’s subjective in the extreme, but it doesn’t change the fact that all of those things have happened because of the nuance of that character.

In large part, I started writing this random-ass blog so that I could write somewhere that didn’t lead me to forbidding myself to address my personal connections in anything but vague ways, while also allowing me the freedom to talk about the things I find interesting in the world that can be shared–the point where these things blur, because, without the personal portion (and, indeed, it is very much “without” one would use to describe my life in its current and probable perpetual state²), the rest is what fills that role for me anyway. It’s the music, the sharing of music, the discussion, the conversation, the interaction, the exploration, the debate, the analysis (if a bit “soft”)–the same for movies, television, games, the emotionally dry but entertaining anecdotes and experiences, that seem to define the thing that I call “myself”.

So here I break that rule of all my “formal” blogging, while not utterly abandoning myself to “online diary” at the same time. Take from this what you want or will: I don’t find myself disheartened at the absence of readership, for this is something only present for the truly interested anyway, as no one else would have reason to bother.

¹I’ll concede John and Aeryn are a given from the pilot, but it’s not at all carried off as such, despite the hints. It’s like a “This person is attractive,” response, rather than “Oh…I think that may be the love of my life, but I am not sure yet.”

Couldn’t Be Without One

ImageI grew up with what I later learned was supposed to be a trick: many a VHS lined the walls of our home near the TV and VCR, and one of those tapes contained exactly two movies, one of which was of primary interest to me–that movie was the animated 1986 Transformers: the Movie. But, preceding it (these were not commercial tapes, let’s be honest…) was The Point. Both are animated, but I learned the choice to put The Point first was deliberate, and forced me to sit through it before the reward of the movie I always wanted to see (I’ve spent many years knowing Transformers: the Movie end-to-end by heart).

Well, it worked.

The Point became one of my go-to, favourite movies, its existence eventually leading me to an interesting relationship, a job, and, from that job, even the love of my life. No small feat for a movie that couldn’t even settle on a narrator. I mean, in each incarnation it could: first it was Dustin Hoffman, then Alan Thicke (apparently there was also Alan Barzman, possibly second, but I begin to question the multiple telecast claims’ order), and on home video it was Ringo Starr. It was an animated fable set around the story of Harry Nilsson’s 1971 album The Point! (no exclamation point as animation, apparently). It’s bizarre, strange, engaging, and unusual. And it’s all about Nilsson’s music, as it should be.

I’m writing this because you should hear the songs from the album, though they total a whopping 17 minutes overall (the rest of the original album was narration from Harry, accounting for the overall runtime of 32½ minutes). They were my introduction to Harry Nilsson’s music, and are wrapped up in the same kind of love that the Beatles tracks on Yellow Submarine‘s soundtrack are, as it was yet another animated movie that went from “Yeah, I like this” to an absolute favourite.

But I’m also writing this because I recently stumbled into this:

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It’s a collection of covers of the tracks from the original album, as well as “Down to the Valley”, which has been attached to the album’s CD re-releases a few times as a bonus track, or inexplicably inserted into the middle of the album. I picked it up largely over Andrew Bird’s name being attached to a cover of “Think About Your Troubles”. I started listening to it on my way home from work today, having finished my listen to Halo of Flies (via Music for Insect Minds). The opener is DeVotchKa’s cover of “Everything’s Got ‘Em” (from which the title of this post comes, despite the fact that folks seem to think the lyric is “wouldn’t” for some strange reason, which it quite audibly is not). It’s not impressive. Nilsson’s lyrics are rendered in a flat monotone over new and repetitive music. It’s confusing: they clearly don’t know what makes Nilsson’s songs good (there’s a reason his voice is discussed in any review I’ve read), especially as they are taken as pop, or occasionally even “an American Beatle”. There’s no melody left. Why would you do that?

Nada Surf turns “Me and My Arrow” quite reasonably into an indie rock song, and it works–they don’t abandon the melody, though their movement from the original is, of course, far less extreme. The Sex Mob and Catherine Russell turns “Poli High” rather soulful, a bit jam-y, but it largely works. And then we hit Bird’s cover of “Think About Your Troubles”, and dear god it’s terrible. It’s really, really bad. It sounds like he literally tried to make it one of his own songs, sounding much like them. But it isn’t one of his songs–there’s a forced, torturous nature to the changes in melody, turning up or down in contrast to the original, like a partial movement between keys. 

And so I felt inclined to say something: it’s actually impossible to define what a good cover should be (almost compeletely accurate can be boring; too adventurous can become off-putting). There’s no clear formula, it’s not as simple as “Faithful, but make it your own”. That’s a cop-out answer, which means little in the end, being as vague it is. The answer, however, is something more like: not this. I thought a bunch of light, airy indie voices would make sense, but I question how much appreciation they have for Nilsson’s work. And rejecting the original entirely often seems to work best only when you have few, if any, ties to the original, like Luna choosing to cover “Straight Up”, the Paula Abdul hit. Or maybe it’s just that Dean & co. know better how to construct a cover.

Hell, I don’t know. Just go listen to The Point! or watch it. It’s good stuff.

Skip this thing. Whatever good is minimal, and the bad is just…bad.