Posts Tagged ‘Veronica Mars’

Earlier this week, I planned to use this morning to write a grand essay about audience expectations, artistic inclinations and one of my favorite poems by Wallace Stevens, “The Man With the Blue Guitar,” which was partially inspired by Pablo Picasso’s “The Old Guitarist.”

It begins:

The man bent over his guitar,
A shearsman of sorts. The day was green.

They said, “You have a blue guitar,
You do not play things as they are.”

The man replied, “Things as they are
Are changed upon the blue guitar.”

And they said then, “But play, you must,
A tune beyond us, yet ourselves,

A tune upon the blue guitar
Of things exactly as they are.”

There’s more, of course, and – as with “The Idea of Order at Key West” – much of the poem is referential and deferential to the power and source of poetry (and art as a whole) – it’s a perfect subject for a thought piece, right?

But a funny thing happened between then and this afternoon:

A nor’easter blew through the Philly region (and the Northeastern U.S.) yesterday. Among its other misdeeds: heavy rain, strong winds and blinding snow. It was the first two that caused me to work from home; the snow was something of a surprise, as the last weather map I saw showed my hometown on the borderline between receiving none and two-or-so inches. (And if the latter, said the same report, accumulations would mainly be on the grass.) So imagine my surprise when I opened the front door at 12:30pm and saw what appeared like a white blanket draped across the neighborhood.

Still, that shock aside, it wasn’t much different than all of my workdays: busy, busy, busy. As 5 o’clock neared, I began calculating just how much longer I could vs. should work. Fridays are Fridays, after all, and tired eyes are tired eyes, but deadlines and commitments must be met. Before I could map out my end time, however, the lamp beside the desk flickered – and, just like that, we lost power. “Don’t worry,” I told Diane. “It’ll be back soon.”

But, as the minutes turned into an hour, and that hour into hours, it became obvious that it wasn’t to be soon.

To make a bad thing worse: the storm also killed cell coverage for us. I.e., no Internet. No Facebook. No Twitter. No YouTube, Netflix, Hulu or Amazon Video. No iCloud. Even making a phone call proved problematic: It took two hours before I was able to call our electric company to report the outage and learn what the ETA for power to return was. (The initial estimate: the 4th at 5pm.) The only good: my Morphie battery pack for my iPhone kept it at 100 percent for the next 20 hours; Diane’s iPads were more or less fully charged; and, though her iPhone wasn’t, my MacBook was – and we used that to bring her phone back to life. (Not that she could do anything with it beyond read.)

I have several portable hard drives filled with music, but we wanted to be transported into another world – a good movie or TV show. Without access to the Cloud, or my powered hard drives (where I store things I’ve downloaded through the years, options were severely limited – some episodes of Pretty Little Liars, which Diane never got into, and the pilots for Veronica Mars and Once Upon a Time, which were both free downloads at some point from iTunes. So we watched both on my MacBook while lying beneath a small stack of blankets in bed.

The Veronica Mars pilot remains a thing of genius. It took us away from a chilly, dreary night to sunny Neptune, Cal., where a seemingly hardened teen detective shows herself to be, in reality, a marshmallow. I still miss that series. Once Upon a Time was less genius and more fluff, but fun fluff. (It’s still on the air, actually, though we stopped watching ‘round about Season 4.)

This morning, cell reception was back though the electricity wasn’t – but it wasn’t a super-cold night, so in that sense we were blessed. The downstairs was 52 degrees (Fahrenheit), as the picture shows; it could have been much, much worse.

After a run to Dunkin’ Donuts, where the Girl Scouts-branded Coconut Caramel coffee truly hit the spot, we gathered our various gadgets and hightailed it to my mother’s to charge everything that needed charging. It was there, round about noon, that we learned from Facebook that our power had likely been restored, as a nearby business was back online. And, sure enough, when we swung home, it was – the upstairs TV was blaring like a banshee.

We headed out to celebrate at our favorite restaurant – only to discover that it was closed due to a power outage of its own. In the immortal word of the eminent philosopher Homer, “D’oh!”

And, with that, here’s today’s Top 5: Of Marshmallows, Music & Nor’easters.

1) Juliana Hatfield – “Physical.” The latest song from Juliana’s forthcoming ONJ tribute is an absolute stunner. In a Stereogum article, she says “Olivia Newton-John’s lusty ‘Physical’ is a groovy, bouncy song, but my take on it is darker, more aggro, because I don’t think of lust as fun or funny; I think it’s dangerous and disruptive and mostly unwelcome. So that is my interpretation of “Physical”: the human condition is a bummer, and desire a frustrating impediment to serenity.”

2) Maryanne Window & Mary Lou Lord – “Long May You Run.” So I just discovered this sweet rendition of the Neil Young classic, which is from early 2014, this past week. Maryanne Window is an Australian musician and producer, and collaborated with Mary Lou on her 2015 Backstreet Angels album (an overlooked treasure). Here, she takes the lead while Mary Lou sings backup.

3) The Staves – “Sadness Don’t Own Me.” I’ve been playing the Pine Hollow EP over and over (and over) on my commutes of late. It’s stress-reduction set to song. And this song… as Diane just said, “It’s just so beautiful.”

4) Lucy Rose – “All That Fear.” Hearing the Staves always leads me to Lucy Rose due to “Floral Dresses.” Earlier this week, she shared the video for this Something’s Changing out-take and said this about it on her Facebook page: “My husband Will and I filmed this on our first night in Australia. I was jet-lagged, unwashed hair and had nothing to hide. I wanted to show a side of me that for so long I wouldn’t have shown anyone and a side of me I’ve grown to love.”

5) Laura Marling – “A Hard Rain’s a-Gonna Fall.” The British folksinger recorded this spellbinding cover of the Bob Dylan classic for the Peaky Blinders finale.

And one bonus…

Courtney Marie Andrews – “Kindness of Strangers.” I shared this last week, and the audio before that. It’s another song I can’t get enough of. (Her forthcoming album, May Your Kindness Remain, is going to be grand.)

Years ago, when I worked at TV Guide, a preview cassette of the pilot for a new UPN series titled Veronica Mars arrived on my desk. The premise, about a teen detective, seemed a tad hokey. But I was paid to watch TV, as I sometimes joked, so I confiscated one of the office’s many portable TV-VCRs from another writer, popped in the tape and was smitten. The pilot was noir-ish in style if not substance, smart and sassy, and aimed at all viewers, not just teens. The main character, played by Kristen Bell, wasn’t a one-dimensional Nancy Drew-like sleuth, but fully formed and deeply layered. She was cast out from her school’s cool clique not long after her best friend Lily’s murder, and in the time since had grown cynical – while, at her core, remaining idealistic. As her new pal Wallace said, “underneath that angry young woman shell, there’s a slightly less angry young woman… You’re a marshmallow, Veronica Mars. A Twinkie!”

I brought the tape home and watched it again with Diane. She loved it, too, and for the next three years we enjoyed the series’ season-long mysteries and intrigues d’jour. But we were two of few fans; like many a good series, the show never attracted the audience needed to stay on the air. Some blamed the complex storylines, opining that viewers feared they’d be lost if they missed an episode or two. The truth, I’m afraid, is far more mundane. There are certain rules about TV. To paraphrase Col. Blake from M*A*S*H, rule number one is that, sometimes, good shows are cancelled; and rule number two is that no one, aside from a network president, can change rule number one.

Veronica has been on my mind for a simple reason: Diane and I have just finished re-watching the series. We hadn’t intended to get sucked in. I stumbled upon it on Amazon Prime one night and clicked on the pilot; Diane came in halfway through and now, a month and a half later, we’ve concluded with the final season’s bittersweet end. Tomorrow, we’ll watch the movie (which we helped fund via Kickstarter) again, then I’ll re-listen to the Thousand Dollar Tan Line audiobook (voiced by Kristen Bell) and, finally, read the latest VM novel, Mr. Kiss and Tell.

A good series is like a good book. You don’t want it to end; and, when it does, you want to watch it again to pick up on anything you may have missed the first time through – or, simply, to enjoy it once more.

And that, believe it or not, is a rather roundabout introduction to this, my review of the latest album by Rumer, Into Colour, which is due out in the U.S. on Feb. 10th. While it’s neither noir-ish nor teen-driven, it is retro and, when it’s over, you’ll likely want to listen to it again and again. At least, that’s been true for me. It arrived in my mailbox not long after its November 2014 release in the U.K. and quickly became one of my favorite albums of the year.

As with the first two albums from the British pop chanteuse, Seasons of My Soul and Boys Don’t Cry, the songs conjure an era when “adult contemporary” was in vogue – i.e., from the late 1960s through the ‘70s. It was, as its name makes clear, music aimed at adults. Not old folks, I hasten to add, but people who’d grown beyond the simple concerns that make up much, though certainly not all, of pop and rock music.

The adult contemporary of yore was also, in its own idiosyncratic way, very inclusive, liberally integrating elements from pop, rock, disco, country, singer-songwriter and soul into a melodic whole. The Carpenters are probably the best example, but others who mined the terrain include the 5th Dimension, Stephen Bishop, Art Garfunkel, Carole King, Gladys Knight, Olivia Newton-John, Diana Ross, Carly Simon, the Spinners, James Taylor and Dionne Warwick. The Stevie Nicks & Lindsey Buckingham-era Fleetwood Mac, Paul McCartney circa Tug of War and post-1977 Crosby, Stills & Nash are other examples. Seductive melodies, delectable vocals and wondrous harmonies accented the songs, which primarily focused on matters of the heart and soul.

Such is the case with Rumer’s Into Colour. “Dangerous” blends disco (by way of TSOP) with lyrics about re-committing to the idea of love, let alone love itself. She’s been wounded before and fears she’ll be wounded again; but what else can she do but, however begrudgingly, give in?

The stellar “Reach Out” may well be the finest song written about depression –

And “Butterfly” is a beautiful, moving song about loss. There’s really no more that can be said about it than that. It’s magical.

There is a certain sadness etched into the album’s grooves, but also some whimsy. “Better Place,” a celebration of everyday people, is one example. Another is “Pizza and Pinball,” in which she sings of setting aside technology, going outside to play…and winds up watching Saturday morning cartoons. It’s wistful yet light-hearted, and somewhat reminiscent of “Back Seat of My Car” from Paul and Linda McCartney’s classic Ram. The melody pushes and pulls the listener along while the lyrics conjure the things of childhoods long past. The wordplay and “clickety-clack, clickety-clack” refrain are a delight.

I could drone on about each and every track but, really, there’s no need. Head over to Rumer’s SoundCloud page and listen for yourself. That said, for me, Into Colour is an involving, emotional and magical journey, and one I heartily recommend taking. It resonates with the soul.