This piece is deeply unsatisfying. I didn’t realize until too late (i.e., watching the notated video) that this Andante is unfinished, and it ends on such an unresolved chord that it’s tough to listen to.
It’s also very sad in the earlier parts, as well. There’s a lot of dissonance here, and a lot of weird repetition that I think comes too fast and without enough space.
The piece does start well, cheerfully, even, and I do like this part in the middle where the bass resolves the tension.
In fact, now that I’m listening to it a second time, this time without watching the notated video, I’m enjoying it more. It might’ve been the way the little index line moves between the trilled half-notes and the sixteenth notes that resolve out the trilling in the first bit.
Though this ending — the ending really leaves a lot to be desired. It ends on a chord where I know it’s about to go into a conflict area, but of course it would’ve been resolved by the end, in maybe … 20 more bars? But it’s just this dun. It’s not my favorite, definitely not better than last week’s.
I suspect the moon sees you too. Maybe even at the same time. Its gaze is wide, its face beams down on its creation proudly. You didn’t expect that, did you? You wouldn’t think the moon had made all this, but it did. It’s been busy all these years. It’s only resting now, kneading the sea that’s so far from your shores, but close to mine. Getting closer every day. Fargo, I don’t know you past the Coen brothers’ film, the Paul Bunyon statue — but that’s not even in Fargo, that’s in Brainerd. Is it even nearby? Or is it in a lot in Los Angeles, slowly sinking under its own weight into the ocean black as night? Who are you, Fargo? If I come, will you welcome me? Or will you stare me down like the bright moon, never turning your face, until I turn around and head back home?
There’s a spider’s web above the spigot underneath the house that membranes between the canopy and understory. She sits in court in the center of the web, a jewel in a crown, a goblet on a table, ready to be filled. I can’t help her, I can only duck beneath to reach the spigot, turn it on, fill the hose to water my tomatoes withering in their pots, dry as lamp-posts, aching to be filled. I am ready for the summer to be over, each of them says in their vines, I can hear them. The spigot’s hard to turn, my hand’s become detached from my wrist, it writhes, I can’t control it. My revolting hand fingers its way along the ground to the gutter, climbs inside it to the eave, and jumps down to the spider. They converse. I’m motionless, transfixed by the strange sight. They look at me, expecting something. I hold out my wrist, the spider hops on, she becomes my hand, her legs my fingers, her spinnerettes between index and middle. My exiled hand becomes the spider now, waiting in her lair for fly, small bird, or weightless ant to happen by and be consumed. I feel ready for the summer to be over, for my hand to come down, to reattach itself, although I can’t be sure I’ll be ready when it’s back.
You staked your claim out west to pan in the river for precious leavings from the ground. You stepped off to look at the clouds as they propelled themselves snail-like across the blue expanse. You watered your horse and let him eat grass by the river burbling under the blanket of sky, the canyon walls were posts of a rich plush bed. You found a tree (really a big bush) and sat in its shade and drank from your flask. You built a fire and caught some little fish in the river and cooked them and ate them as the stars made themselves known in the darkening.
You wanted to go to them, to feel them for yourself. But the earth held you back. She said, You, child, are not ready. You have not felt yourself fully. Eventually you fall asleep dissatisfied. You won’t understand until you’re ready, and when you’re ready, you’ll leave.
Network has been on my radar since that one screenwriting class I took in college, and afer watching it, I can see why it was referenced in the textbook. It’s an absolutely unflinching, and to my mind scarily prescient, look into how television, and the power that wields it, capitalism, flatten life and package it into easily-consumable packets of fluff, the only purpose of which is to create more value for the shareholders. Since this film was released in 1976, I’m not going to worry about spoilers, and I’m not going to review the film. That’s been done by literally everyone already. I just want to jot down this appreciation of the work to show you, dear reader, that I’ve seen it and that I got it, I suppose.
The one criticism I had of Network was that it got a little preachy, especially at the final conversation between Max and Diana. On further thought, I realized that my criticism falls into the same pattern that the viewers of the Howard Beale Show fell into when he started telling them the hard truths of global capital markets: did I chafe against the conversation Diana and Max had because it wasn’t real enough, or because it was so real in a metaphorical sense that it jarred me? I can’t be sure. The rest of the characterization, the motivations, the conversations, the acting, the pacing, and the cinematography were absolutely astounding, however.
It was strange to watch a movie that was so biting about television and about the generation that grew up watching it in 2019. The young people, the ones Diana’s age, are my parents, and TV has been a cultural force for over sixty years now. Much of the criticisms that Max had about kids these days could now be lobbed against the kids who’ve grown up with YouTube, Facebook, Spotify, and Instagram; in fact I’ve found myself thinking those criticisms. The economic situation is similar to the late seventies, too: we’re overworked and underpaid, we’re overextended, underrepresented, we have lost our collective voice in the public sphere and are told constantly only to buy our way to happiness (I’m thinking of Bush after 9/​11 here, specifically).
And now we have a Twitter President, and even though I personally am mad as hell, I don’t have any idea what I can do. I personally feel as though Network could be — in fact, should be, get Disney on this, they probably own the rights already in one of their acquisitions — remade for the modern era. The great irony here is that I hope it in some misguided optimistic hope that a new Network will wake people up and make some real change, but of course it won’t. It’s just entertainment! None of it means anything. I think that’s the main goal of TV anyway, right, to make all of life just a game that you can quit at any time just by switching the channel, or in our day, scrolling a little further. If one drug starts to bore you, here’s another.
And of course, here I am having just finished watching a seminal masterwork in twentieth-century film, widely regarded to be one of the best screenplays of the twentieth century, about the dangers of distraction and greed, and the first thing I do as the credits are rolling is pull out my phone and look at the Wikipedia page of the film, and then after writing this yawp of a blog post, I’m opening Reddit to kill some time before going to bed too late to wake up to do it all again.
Now I’m scrolling through Reddit, I’m reminded actually of an example of this TV-ification of life: it’s the 50th anniversary of the moon landing this week. I just saw a video of a projection on the Washington Monument of the Saturn V rocket lifting off, just as it did 50 years ago, to land on the moon. There’s something incredibly sad to me about that: we’re watching video of what many believe to be our greatest achievement instead of going out and doing something — anything — else.
I realize I run the risk of sounding like Howard Beale in this essay. It’s raw, not organized, conspiratorial in its thinking, and it has too many inductive leaps to make any sense, probably even to me in the morning. But I’m truly scared about the future of this country and of humankind. We’ve got a President who’s openly courting fascism, who’s running concentration camps on the border, and a full third of the country is completely behind him on it. We’ve got a planet that is rapidly heating, and though it’ll be fine, really it will in the long run, we and our children and their children and theirs are all going to have terribly difficult lives, for no real reason other than the profits those last few years generated for billionaires. Speaking of billionaires, we’ve got an economy that’s been rapidly funneling money from our pockets to theirs at an alarming rate that’s only getting faster, and I don’t even want to think about what’ll happen when automation really takes off.
In short, we’ve got a lot going against us (and by we I mean normal, every day people, and the normal, every day parts of the rich and the powerful) and very little going for us, or so it seems most of the time. Sure, we’re thrown a bone every now and then, a heartwarming story or a heartwrenching one; we make comments online about how nice or how terrible it is and we make each other very angry in the process; but nothing we do is changing much about the overall structure of power. Capitalism has truly eaten the world, it’s become the One True Organizational Scheme (I don’t have a script in front of me so I can’t quote Altman’s speech) of everything anyone does, and there’s nothing to do about it. Eventually it’ll fall apart, because it’s unstable, but it’ll be by accident and it’s going to be messy as hell.
I don’t know where to end this essay, so I’ll end it here. Network was an incredible piece of fiction, partly because it’s not really so much of a fiction, really. I’m not sure if it’s an American thing to want to tie things up nicely, make them easy to digest, or if it’s just a me thing, but I’m not going to do that with this essay. The film was bleak and its message was bleak and it didn’t really provide any answers. I won’t either.
Fourteen lines, one hundred forty syllables, and then what? What’s supposed to happen? Do you solve a problem, resolve some gripe, work through an ache that throbs into your pen? Do you delve into the backwoods of your heart and find a thing you didn’t know you sought? Or do you throw something, Pollock-like, on the rind of paper that you call a page, and chew until you find — you don’t know what you’re look- ing for, and that’s the problem, right? You don’t have any clue what you can write about — some Truth, capital T, don’t give a fuck if it’s palatable, it’s there, you can’t take any back. You can’t inhale a shout.
Of course, the quickest way to get anywhere is a straight line. The only reason no one had tried it before was the cost, the danger, the molten heat of the living earth itself. And those were nothing, any more. Or they were apparently nothing, at least, because a straight line was cut through the bowels of the planet and connected, umbilically, the two great centers of commerce called Miami and Perth.
Everyone was pleased. No one was more pleased than the man who’d built it, Alan Sharp. He’d worked hard his whole life, believed everything he did was for the betterment of mankind, thought little of other people, and spelled Progress with a capital.
Of course he had a Bible-worn copy of Atlas Shrugged, where do you think he got any of his personality? But we digress: this story isn’t about him. It’s about the Line.
The biggest secret about the Line was that it wasn’t straight, not really. Nowhere in the U.S. could tunnel straight through to Australia, though Miami got you the closest. About two-thirds of the way through the earth, the Line dipped a little, swerved slightly eastward (from the surface point-of-view; eastward, or for that matter, northward, southward, or westward mean little in the middle) to meet up with the surface city of Perth. But hardly anyone noticed, and anyone that did was summarily told they were Wrong, and anyone that persisted was dealt with, equally summarily. The Line was straight, regardless of Euclidean geometry; the Line was platonic, even. It was the earth that was wrong.
The second-biggest secret about the Line was that it didn’t technically exist, at least not in the way it was advertised. When you bought a ticket on the Line in Miami, you were packed into a shipping container, the doors were shut, and you were flown, the long way, around the world to Perth. And when you bought a ticket in Perth, the same thing happened but backwards. (There’s a reason why both Line stations were near the airport, and it wasn’t what was stated on the brochure: The Line is conveniently situated near each terminus’s munic- ipal airport, so that when you disembark you can feel secure in your correct choice of superior travel method.) The Line did exist, there was a tunnel through the earth’s core between Miami and Perth, but it was used mostly for black-market shipping, telecommunications, storage, and Doomsday preparation. (The great irony of this last purpose is that Doomsday had already come, unbeknownst to anyone at all, and so there was nothing more to prepare for.) All the economic activity that took place on the Line served only to finance its Great (Capitalized) Lie, which was (to paraphrase Mr. Sharp) fucking expensive.
The third secret of the Line, which was not really a secret so much as a lie, was that there were only two secrets about the Line. The Three Secrets of the Line was a marketing gimmick thought up by a particularly savvy ad executive in the early days of the Line’s media presence, and had stuck for the twin reasons of it drove a massive conspiracy-theoretic network, and it drove roughly 78% of ticket sales. If Mr. Sharp were honest with himself, he’d think that these gimmicks with his Line were cheap at best, and reprehensible at worst, and want to get rid of the whole marketing aparatus, just let the Line speak (lie) for itself. But Mr. Sharp was never honest with himself. He knew that a good businessman never is.
This is a much longer piece than the ones I’ve written about so far — it’s a full three minutes and twenty-three seconds, so there’s a lot of time for it to develop themes and stuff. It was also apparently the first piece in the Nannerl Notenbuchinscribed by young Wolfgang, as Wikipedia so eloquently puts it.
The Allegro is eloquent too: it has a great sort of arpeggio bass line going that becomes a counterpoint to the melody a little further on, and they’re kind of like this conversation between people, echoing each other, interrupting, backtracking to earlier thoughts, like good friends. I think this is the first piece of Mozart’s that I really like. I’ve listened to it now about six times, and it has yet to get old.
There’s also some interesting bits of tension in here, though it’s not held for any length of time. At least at eight years of age, Mozart doesn’t seem to have been a fan of long periods of discomfort.