Floating Points, Pharoah Sanders & The London Symphony Orchestra - Promises: This composition, which has nine movements, feels like music for our pandemic times. It immediately reminded me of Prefab Sprout's I Trawl the Megahertz, another album made under difficult circumstances. Both feel like balms, and each is a response to a world that has been closed off. Yet as the movements of Promises progress, there is a world that opens up to you, one in which gentle waves of sound continually introduce new elements that draw on electronic, jazz, and classical but never settle in one bucket. You might call it minimalist, or ambient, but it continually effloresces and deliquesces. An aural bubble bath, if you will, only you never need climb out. Revelatory, lovely, and kind of spiritual, I suspect it will be my favorite album of the year.
John Swartzwelder interview, New Yorker: It was a real surprise that Swartzwelder, beloved former writer of The Simpsons, agreed to an interview with Mike Sacks, given how reclusive he is. It was not so surprising it was done via email. If you know anything about him or his work, it turned out to be as Swartzweldian (a perfectly cromulent word) as you might expect. And insightful. He got into comedy writing because he thought it would be the easiest job on the planet. He renegotiated his contract after the fourth season of The Simpsons so he could work from home, something I can relate to. And he had a diner booth installed in his home so he could write, as you do. His best bit of advice is to just write the first draft as quick as you can and use the rewrite to remove the crap. The second best bit of advice: "Write what makes you laugh. At least you'll get a laugh out of it." The third best bit of advice: "Nothing wrong with horse stalls, when you think about it. Horses like them." Speaking of horses...
Pistol Pete: There are several failed pilots that are legendary. Lookwell. Heat Vision and Jack. Pistol Pete is probably not quite at that level, but there are some big, big laughs in this western-themed comedy created by Swartzwelder. A trick-shooter whose life has been played up in pulp novels, Pistol Pete is summoned to Abilene to be sheriff, and it quickly becomes clear he is not suited for the job. Like most pilots, it really feels like a work in progress, but there are some huge laughs that make you wonder how it would have played out as a weekly series. Probably the best way to sum up its sense of humor is a line delivered just after the town's bank is robbed again: "I keep telling them not to put money in there, but nobody ever listens to me."
Watermelon Man: After rewatching Bamboozled last week, I noticed that this 1970 satire, in which a bigoted white salesman wakes up one morning to discover he is a Black man, is leaving The Criterion Channel at the end of the month, so I watched it. Like Bamboozled, it goes over the top and keeps going. The humor feels sitcom-ish at times, but it is fitfully funny, trenchant, even relevant, despite the fact it is tonally all over the map. Godfrey Cambridge is the salesman (in white makeup in the early scenes, long before Shawn and Marlon Wayans played White Chicks) and Estelle Parsons is his seemingly progressive wife. The screenwriter, Herman Raucher, intended it to be a send up of white liberals, but director Melvin Van Peebles, saw it as a Black power film. Although Van Peebles' vision essentially won out, the film never fully resolves the tension between their perspectives, but it is an interesting curio.
The Red Hot Chili Peppers sold their song catalog for $140m: What, you didn't think they'd just give it away, give it away, give it away now, did you?