The Paltrow-Martin Split

 

I’ve been on a deep dive of coldplay material from the last 15 years recently (see previous blog post).

I think part of it was the recent news of Gwyneth Paltrow and Chris Martin’s choice to divorce. It wasn’t that I was surprised, because honestly I think people had been calling time on that relationship for the better part of a decade.  Emily Yoshida, writing for Grantland wrote an awesome piece on why the Pro and anti-Gwyneth crowd might be perplexed to say the least at her lifestyle. She also makes a great observation that if anything this seems to have created a fissure in the gleaming façade that was Paltrow’s image. Yoshida is refreshingly up front about the idiosyncrasy of spending time and words examining Paltrow.

Yoshida:

While it’s probably a waste of energy to personally mourn the life tragedies of celebrities we’ve never met and probably never will, so is exalting in them, and the overall sentiment of most of the reactions I’ve seen have been “Hah! That’s what she gets for thinking she could have a perfect life!” If you actually believed Paltrow’s life was perfect, that’s kind of on you for taking every blog post and flowery Vogue profile literally (and not reading the tabloids!)

Admittedly, I subscribe to goop and agree with what Graydon Carter wrote in Vanity Fair when he chose not run the magazine’s piece on Paltrow: there isn’t a lot there that you don’t find in other comparable women’s magazines at the grocer. Instead, it strikes me that immense amount of privilege that Paltrow approaches her life comes across totally different to even upper middle class persons. But I also agree with Yoshida, that I never get the feeling that she is consciously making a case for how her life was *better* than yours or mine. Simply that there is a scale to her life that is far grander than the one most people live in.

While I was on this rehash of old Coldplay records, article and interviews I stumbled upon the realization that while Coldplay had been my all-consuming pop culture obsession when I was a teen and early 20’s person, I had taken a sojourn in different directions away from their music. It was such a fun experience revisiting all these songs and stories behind the music and reminding myself why I fell in love with their music initially.

It would be kind of crass to try and read the tea leaves of albums liner notes looking for strains and triumphs in Martin and Paltrow’s marriage. At the heart of it, I really don’t want to believe all the awful things that have been said about Martin, and I don’t think Gwyneth earns the amount of vitriol that is thrown at her.

What’s continually amazing to me about the whole affair is the fact that neither person has really slung a lot of mud publically and has spent a lot of money shooting down rumors and innuendo. And whichever one of them decided that that was how it should end deserves lot of credit.

As Yoshida mentioned earlier, it’s probably a waste of energy to bemoan the end of a relationship between two people I will likely never meet, and whose problems are wildly different than mine. But at the end of the day they are still two people, who were once in love and aren’t anymore. And there’s nothing wrong with taking a moment to remark on the unfortunate nature of that.

 

Ranking the unofficial Coldplay Biographies

So back when I was probably 17-18 I started buying unauthorized biographies of the British band Coldplay.

Yes I am aware of how ridiculous that sounds. But as a young(er) man, I was fascinated by the four band mates from differing parts of the UK.

Absent interviewing them myself, I really wanted to try and understand where the songs came from, what the background of the music was etc etc.

Each of the three authors below approached their subjects from a different angle, and their own bias’ and prejudices shine through.

3.)        Coldplay: Look at the Stars by Gary Spivack

            This is the weakest of the three biographies. Written around the time of the A Rush of Blood to the Head tour, Spivack claims his thesis is to discover, “what has made Coldplay the world’s most vital, urgent, and pivotal rock band in this new century”. If only Spivack had answered his own question. Instead, readers are treated to an un-engaging narrative that is only saved by the number of colourful and rare photos of the band backstage and in the studio that real fans would adore.

2.)        Coldplay: Nobody Said It was Easy by Martin Roach

            A much better written, if manic, book is Martin Roach’s 2003 work that mainly deals with how he views Coldplay redefined the British musical landscape. At a time when bands like Radiohead had shunned fame and listeners were being tortured to Linkin Park, Coldplay’s emergence was an unexpected revelation. If the band were a gospel, Roach views them as the proverbial Matthew; more concerned about lineage and expectations of fulfilling the ‘law’ of British rock and roll than the subjects themselves. To Roach, it was more important about what Coldplay represented than what they actually were. Likely the most intellectual of the three, Roach’s wandering narrative about the state of popular music is a good read in general, but falls short of delivering any insight into the band that had not been published to death anywhere else.

1.)    Coldplay: Look at the Stars by Phil O’Brien

I love this book. Filled with little asides that provide great background into the history of songs on both Parachutes and A Rush of Blood to the Head, O’Brien gets to the heart about what makes Coldplay such an interesting band to follow. My personal favourite detail is how the band decided the brilliant track ‘Warning Sign’ should go on the album.

            During their creative brainstorming sessions the other band members declared their enthusiasm for recording ‘Warning Sign’. Chris didn’t approve of the way this song had turned out. As far as Chris was concerned, it was old news, inspired by his breakup with Lily Sobhani. The others argued against him and ultimately prevailed. (p. 104)

Little stories littered throughout a book that focuses more on text than any exclusive behind-the-scene photos, O’Brien found a way to come to terms with a group that from the start valued its musical integrity over everything else, and won out in the end.

 

Where I’ve been, where I’m going.

 

At risk of sounding uber-Minnesotan, this winter has crushed my soul in a broken little toy.  It seems like the feeling of non-artificial warmth on skin will never return and we have somehow awoken in a dystopia Minnesota of yore where everyone is angry and sad always.

That said, I did do some fun/interesting-to-me things in the past couple of months.

Here we go:

  1. I passed the 6 month mark at my new-ish job. I am currently a junior consumer compliance examiner for community banks. It feels as both that I have been here a lifetime and that I learn 100 new things every day.
  2. I got under the 200 lbs. mark in my weight management goal! In the doctor’s office (where the scale is legitimate and doesn’t lie to me like I tell myself mine is doing on an almost weekly  basis), that I came down to 198 from  243 9 months ago. I still have a ways to go, but running has helped, and generally not eating garbage constantly might have played a small part.
  3. I visited Montana! I went a mini-exam in western Montana a couple weeks ago. Standing in front of Mesa’s that have existed for millennia and the complete absence of anybody around was exhilarating and terrifying.
  4. I have about 5 books going right now. I have a goal to go to my dad’s house before he sells it and collect all the books I inherited/collected before he throws them away or decides they’re his.
  5. Special shout out to “An Appetite for Power” by John Ramsden, which is an absolutely brilliant recounting of the Tory party’s quest for ultimate domination from 1848 to 1996. Highly recommended.
  6.  Spending time with my family. It sounds incredibly kitsch, but the sadness of all the recent loss in my family has really firmed up my family’s sense of community. My sister and I are on better relations now than at any point since I was born. My mother’s strength at going through what she has and still continuing on with such grace is a sight to behold.

 

Whats new with you, internet?

New Look, Same Snark

Good morning, interwebs.

This morning I have loaded a new theme, called, “tonal”, to give the blog a more stripped down feel. From now on, posts will cascade down the middle column with no more gadgetry on the left and right.

Let’s hope this works out.

Through The Tough Part

We buried my maternal grandmother, the Matriarch, on Saturday in my hometown of Milwaukee.

There’s a certain peace that comes from the finality of a long life lived that slowly faded out.

But then of course, there comes the crashing agony of the absence of that person and you are reminded that the passage of time has moved onward and that you are somehow robbed of another person in your life.

I spent a lot of time on my bereavement leave writing. None of it very good, to be honest.

My mother’s grief blog covered her own thoughts on the profound sadness that comes at losing your last parent. It would be offensive to say that I could write of that experience in the same marked way.

Instead, I will say only that she saw the world in a happier way and lived mostly contented with the choices she made. If I envy any part of her life it would be that she made life choices and then owned them with an unapologetic smile.

How I Keep Happy

 Like probably every neurotic millenia/ Gen Y’r out there, I have days where I am manically excited at being alive, and then also Wednesdays, where the ennui of modernity is stultifying.

So what to do to drag yourserlf kicking and screaming back to your happy place? Mine are pretty simple, and pretty great.

  1. go for a run. Since i have gotten above the 6 mile mark, I have found that an hour spent running leaves me too tired and sapped to be unhappy about anything. Doing this typically 5 days a week helps maintain sanity.
  2. Listen to the Thermals/dance. When unable to go for a run, I put on some classic alt/punk from Portlandia’s heroes The Thermals and dance it out.
  3. do crossword. I am awful at the NY Time crossword and am convinced that Will Shortz is a time-travelling super hero.
  4. build my amazon prime wishlist out. Because America.
  5. clean. this is mostly my OCD speaking.
  6. drink coffee. Normally iced, never mixed with sweetners. With enough coffee I could do most anything.

Those are some of my personal tactics. What are yours, dear readers?

 

Ukraine Is Not the Vendee, and I Never Thought I’d Have to Explain That.

 It being “Thermals’ Thursday”, I open with this great live performance of Never Listen to Me.

David Bell, writing in TNR online published a companion piece illustrating the similarities between current tension in Ukraine and the Vendeen Revolt of 1793(ish) in Revolutionary France.

TNR:

If the Crimea does turn into the Ukrainian Vendée, however, one large departure from the original template is all too possible. In Vendée, although the rebels pleaded for British intervention, it never came. The British were not in a position, militarily, to land troops in western France. In the Crimea, however, if the province goes up in flames, it is not likely that Russia will just stand by.

The miltiary strength argument of Britain at this time feels like semantics. The British did not intervene in the Vendee because it was not practical to expend resources on a backwater area, and the French Republic teetered on disaster anyways, so a lare scale intervention was not neccesary. David Andress’ opus, “The Terror: The Merciless War for Freedom in Revolutionary France,” illustrates this beautifully. Britain’s inaction was partly pragmatism, partly confusion, but I doubt it had much to do with military neccesity.

In addition, The Vendee crisis was resolved by the butchery of the nobles who led the revolt and quasi acceptence of limited autonomy in religious practices. Lazar Hoche, the Republican military commander, enforced a law passed through the national convention that was somewhat tolerant of the Vendeen peoples practices that ended the mass violence.

So, Putin could of course order the Russian military into the Crimea, kill everybody, and then allow a pacified population to cower in the corner. That seems unlikely, but it’s possible. Wholly a foregone conclusion in my mind however, is that the UK will not intervene. Tories don’t like shedding blood normally. It’s expensive and time consuming. The unfortunate irony of history here is not the Vendee and the Crimea, but that we’re making these allusions and still stuck with the same Tory hostilitiy.