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JONES | Louis C.K. and the Art/Artist Problem

Over the summer, I had an ongoing debate with a friend at work about whether it is worthwhile, useful or even possible to try to “separate the art from the artist.” It covered the predictable bullet points this argument usually touches: whether art “ascends” to somewhere outside of the human sphere of its creators or whether it always bears the sign of the creator’s human hand; whether or not it is harmful to continue consuming art that was created by (generally) male artists with odious and/or criminal backstories; and whether it is ever useful or informative to apply an artist’s biography to their work. I was firmly in the camp that the art and artist are inextricable, and the Hollywood revelations of the past few weeks have only made me more sure of this. The relationship of biography to art was always impossible to ignore in Louis C.K.’s FX show Louie, and this was the way that C.K. intended it. The show’s main character was a reflection of its creator that never pretended to be much different than the man himself, but with his baggage and misbehavior exaggerated (it seemed). Louie was critically adored for seasons, and often praised as an incisive interrogation of masculinity and gender norms. There were some voices of criticism about the ways it depicted sexual assault and harassment — more than one episode features Louis C.K.’s character enduring some form of sexual assault by a female character, and there is a deeply disturbing scene in which he pushes and drags his “love” interest Pamela around his apartment trying to kiss her, an action which has absolutely no repercussions for their storyline.

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JONES | How Bad Can a Good Time Be? A Discussion of Three Versions of U2’s New Single

Have you been keeping up with U2? I hadn’t really checked in since the PR disaster of Songs of Innocence’s 2014 release, when the band attempted to regain relevance and reach a younger audience by forcing everybody with an iPhone to own their music. What they intended as a generous gift was instead received like the act of a tyrannical surveillance-state: many iPhone owners were outraged by the band’s disregard for the normal practices of ownership and consent in the digital world. But don’t count U2 out just yet! It turns out that in the years since Songs of Innocence’s stealth-deposit, U2 has been contemplating the naivete that led them to this colossal miscalculation.

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JONES | The It in Our Community

There’s a moment about halfway through Andrés Muschietti’s new film It, an adaptation of the Stephen King novel of the same name, where the band of kids (“The Losers”) are discussing the monster that’s been haunting them. The monster is a being that takes various shapes but prefers that of a demonic clown, and the kids realize as they listen to each other that it has been appearing in the form of whatever they fear the most. Mike, whose parents burned to death, sees their charred arms struggling to get past a door; Eddie is a hypochondriac due to his mother’s emotional manipulation, so he’s stalked by a leper; Beverley, who has a sexually abusive father and is afraid of how the arrival of her period will challenge her father’s insistence on her remaining “daddy’s little girl,” faces a sink erupting in a fountain of blood. Finally, Richie, the comic relief of the group, is asked what he is most afraid of. In response, he pushes his glasses up his nose, shivers and mutters, “Clowns.” Rough luck, Richie.

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JONES | Four Great Shows and One Nasty Joke

What do you do when your favorite genre becomes a meme? I grew up with indie rock, but I’ve been feeling pretty disinterested with what it has to offer lately. I’ve spent a lot of time listening to the justified criticism of self-indulgent, guitar-strumming sadboys by former Arts editor Jael Goldfine ‘17. I’m experiencing general indifference for the most popular indie acts of the moment (Car Seat Headrest: fine. Parquet Courts: whatever.

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JONES | A Love Letter to SPIN Magazine

In junior high school my uncle bought me a subscription to Rolling Stone for my birthday, and I read its bimonthly pages like they were the gospel of popular music. Rolling Stone was the end-all authority on music, the paper of record for music journalism: it didn’t seem to decide so much as know what was good. There’s a reason I felt this way at the time. Rolling Stone has lost most of its cultural significance, but it somehow remains a powerful brand. Even Pitchfork, which is much more influential among millennials, doesn’t hold the kind of brand-cache that Rolling Stone does.

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JONES | Chopped and Screwed: The Music of Moonlight

In general, I try not to learn too much about new movies before I see them; I like to protect the unpredictability and promise one feels in the dark theater just before the movie begins. The only thing I knew about Barry Jenkins’ film Moonlight coming in, besides that it had been widely acclaimed, was that it had a chopped and screwed version of Jidenna’s 2015 club hit “Classic Man” in it, which had been showcased in a trailer I hadn’t actually seen but had heard about. This song provided a barometer of the age and perspective of the people I saw the movie with. I saw Moonlight first with my parents, and tried to talk to them about why the inclusion of an altered version of the song was an interesting choice; they didn’t know the original song and didn’t have much interest in why a remix of it was in the movie. When I saw the film again a few weeks later with two high school friends, about three seconds into the scene in which the song comes blaring out of the car speakers, my friend leaned over and whispered, “Ayyy, chopped and screwed!”

The “chopped and screwed” style of remixing hip-hop originated in Houston in the ‘90s, although it’s found a second life in online file-sharing sites like DatPiff, where amateur DJs can upload their own mixes of hit songs and albums. The sound comes from two processes: “chopping” — cutting up sections of the song or vocals and making them repeat as if a DJ scratch – and “screwing,” slowing the tempo down so that the pitch of the instruments and vocals falls as well (the name for this comes from DJ Screw, who is credited with the creation of the style).

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JONES | SNL and the Normalization of Donald Trump

I hardly ever watch Saturday Night Live, or even single skits from it. From what I’ve seen, its sense of humor isn’t really my style: too broad and too topical without offering real criticism. Nonetheless, I watched the post-election episode, and thought that the show was exhibiting a new side. Kate McKinnon’s opening performance of “Hallelujah,” in character as Hillary Clinton, paid simultaneous tribute to the deaths of Leonard Cohen and Clinton’s presidential prospects (and the hopes of millions). This double-sided swan song was surprisingly powerful, especially when McKinnon ended by turning to the camera and saying sincerely, “I’m not giving up, and neither should you.”

Following just after, Dave Chappelle’s opening monologue was a reminder of his talent, a rumination on Trump and America’s progress that was by turns cutting, glum and hopeful.

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JONES | The Decline of Western Civilization… But, Like, Actually Maybe.

Last night I saw The Decline of Western Civilization at Cornell Cinema (everybody, go support your campus movie theater). Decline is a documentary directed by Penelope Spheeris (weirdly also the director of Wayne’s World) about the Los Angeles punk scene, and was filmed between 1979 and 1980, just as thrash-hungry scuzzballs were beginning to coalesce into a “scene” of sorts. I went to see the film because I’m taking a class about punk culture (ENGL 2906) this semester, which I highly recommend to anyone interested in the music or punk’s almost unfathomable effect on American/western/global culture. For me, this class has largely meant returning to artists that were heroes and obsessions of mine in junior high, and finding that today I’m pretty much repulsed by a whole lot about them. Decline, which is fascinating in the way that watching a dog eat its own vomit is fascinating, really brought my new and possibly curmudgeonly distaste for punk and particularly for its audiences to a head.

Columnist Jack Jones '18 and his father, who once confiscated his iPod in 8th grade, circa 2010.

JONES | Music and Ownership; or the Time my Parents Confiscated my iPod in 8th Grade

In the summer of 2010, my dad and I took a road trip from my hometown of Petaluma, California to Bend, Oregon. I was fresh off of a harrowing 8th-grade breakup, and was at the peak of my addiction to the acquisition of music. I simply had to have a constant inflow of new music or I started to crave a fix. A few weeks before our trip, my parents had confiscated my 160GB iPod Classic after they caught me downloading music illegally, which explained the rash of viruses the family computer had been experiencing. Sans iPod on this trip (a living nightmare for me at this developmental stage), I sat in the shotgun seat of the car with a duffel bag under my legs stuffed to bursting with the family CD collection.

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JONES | Venison and Numerology: The Stories of Bon Iver

Sometimes, the story behind an album eats up the album itself. The legend is that 25-year-old Justin Vernon, graduate of the University of Wisconsin — Eau Claire with a degree in religious studies, had hit a rough patch. Tortured by the unfulfilled yearning of his hungry, wild heart, he retreated to a cabin in Wisconsin to commune with the gods of young white male pain. Alone in the snow, he crafted out of the forge of his soul a collection of songs of such tender, fragile beauty that they didn’t even need discernible lyrics to make you cry. The resulting album, For Emma, Forever Ago, quickly helped define a growing scene of bearded, flannel-wearing, woodsy/folksy/strumming singer-songwriter hipsters, a movement that vaguely championed a return to nature and natural instruments.