by carl wilson

Pallettwatch: 'Gotta Dig Up Every Secret Seashell'

Final Fantasy at The Man Show at the Music Gallery earlier this month.
Photo again shoplifted from Suckingalemon.

Reading about taste, Henry James and Celine Dion over the weekend, with breaks to watch reruns of the cancelled Joan of Arcadia, which was almost quite a good series, put me very much in a Final Fantasy mood: Joan's theme of attempting to envision what divine intervention in mundane life would really be like is quite parallel to He Poos Clouds' use of Dungeons and Dragons as an axis of playful-serious exploration of magical thinking in real life, and out of that the instinct for faith and supernaturalism even in self-conscious moderns who've disavowed it. (The taste, Celine and James connections I leave you to draw for yourself.) I generally feel rather free of magical thinking; that is, until I consider my relationships to art, language and romantic love: On Joan, God says of the latter, "Some of my best work." Which is rather a sinister remark when you consider it. Too bad the series uses Joan Osborne's One of Us as its title theme, a song I've always despised; it lies on so many levels, from sanitizing away the supernaturalism of God to using religious sentimentality as a shortcut to compassion - divinity as a reason to love humanity is a half-assed cover for misanthropy and also a particularly slimy kind of bet-hedging. (Better be nice to that stranger - he might be a "slob," but what if it's God? Feh.) The series itself is more sophisticated, in the way it counterposes Joan's strange divine connection with her father's police work (which is very much figured as a struggle with evil and corruption) and most of all the unusual emphasis in nearly every episode on science as a kind of ongoing education in the miraculous. It's just too bad the scene-by-scene writing and acting aren't better - the God-incarnations are always verging on platitudes, and it hasn't got the depth of My So-Called Life or the wit of Buffy, so it's kind of limp as a high-school show, the core level needed to knit everything together.

But returning to Final Fantasy: There are a couple of nice new interviews with FF aka Owen Pallett that have appeared in recent days. There's also this mini-essay on He Poos Clouds and video-game-inspired art on The Ratio, which considers a dynamic of predestination and indeterminacy worth developing in relation to our earlier conversations about gaming and art.

| Posted by zoilus on Monday, April 17 at 1:08 PM | Linking Posts | Comments (7)



Thanks for the link, Carl -- hadn't seen your video game posts before, looks like a good discussion I completely missed out on. Looking forward to a more extended take from you on He Poos Clouds.

Posted by SR on April 20, 2006 10:27 AM



thanks for the final fantasy updates and links.

you're enabling my own obsession.

Posted by knitgirl on April 18, 2006 6:14 PM



Also, I admit that I've never delved into any other Osborne for just the reason you give, so I'm not complaining about her, just this song.

Posted by zoilus on April 18, 2006 1:19 PM



"Yeah, yeah, god is good, yeah yeah, god is great."

I don't miss the agnosticism of it, but I think distinguishing it as "satire" is giving the fact that it has a gawky sense of humour waaaay too much credit. The agnosticism is part of what I dislike actually: It feels like it is trying to make an argument with religion that disrespects the whole metaphysical basis of religion, while offering nothing strong in its place. It's a California-style sentimentalism raised to the status of religion, rather than a case for compassion. In fact the only point in its favour is that it's so impressively incoherent that it's somewhat entertaining. (Or, wait! Are you actually reading it *as* a satire on incoherent new age metaphysics? That's almost viable!) If I enjoyed the music more I could leave the lyrics alone, but the arrangement and production really push the lyrics at us, don't they?

Not a big deal, I realize - it just becomes one when you're watching the marathon of Joan of Arcadia that Showcase aired last week and you have to hear that song every hour on the hour.

Posted by zoilus on April 18, 2006 1:17 PM



I think you've missed the point of Joan Osborne's "One of Us". The last line of the song -- "...nobody calling on the phone, 'cept for the Pope maybe in Rome" -- clearly reveals its satiric intent. Religious sentimentality? Feh. These are wistful agnostic musings in the context of evangelical America.

Joan Osborne is yet another artist whose career was killed by the overexposure of a massive hit. Great songwriter, incredibly versatile voice, and her work as a producer for artists such as the Holmes Brothers is highly underrated. Her 2001 track "Running Out Of Time" is a brilliant pop song by any objective standard, but nobody got near it due to the fatigue created by "One Of Us".

Posted by shabba rich on April 18, 2006 1:07 PM



Thanks a lot for the link Carl!

Posted by Jonathan on April 17, 2006 3:26 PM



"Taste" is a food metaphor. The concept of "good taste" always feels so dessicated to me. Heavy class implications indicated. The "tacky" tchochkes adorning a blue collar living room.

I just got rubbed wrong by the whole "taste" metaphor-complex because as a jazz-mad classical-loving punk-rocking teen-ager I had friends who said they liked "good" jazz. Meaning, probably, "Kind of Blue" and "Time Out."

"Sensibility" is the 18th-century term for "aesthetic preference." I like the homophone of "sense-ability": the "ability" to "sense" the attractiveness of, for example, Celine Dion. Because, obvs., lots of people have that attraction. ("And," says the rocker, "most of them are tacky.")

In Rockerville, "suburban" = "tacky." Urban: cool! Rural: cool, for other people! Suburban: tacky! Tackiest of all: Blue Collar Suburbs! (In Cleveland, it's Parma; in Seattle, it's Renton. "Renton hair" = tacky "big" hair.)

Now -- the specific synaesthetic "tastes" of various musics -- I'm way into that. And not only that, but the mouthfeel & fat content too!

Posted by john on April 17, 2006 2:31 PM




Zoilus by Carl Wilson