Editorial License

Rob Hammerton, music educator etc.

Grand Pause

So, here’s the thing about the new Star Wars movie that comes out tomorrow …

For various reasons, I won’t end up seeing the thing until it’s been in theaters for about ten days.

Weep not for me.  I have a roof over my head, and food in the ol’ icebox.

But aside from my desperate attempts to avoid spoilers for a week and a half (and still somehow remain connected to my friends on social media) … and aside from my insane curiosity about things like, “who is this Daisy Ridley running-toward-exploding-spaceships character?  And who is this John Boyega heavily-perspiring-stormtrooper character?  And is there truth to the rumor that Han Solo and Princess Leia didn’t actually stay together, in this new Abrams-verse?  And does Luke Skywalker ever take off that hoodie?  And how in the world did they build that insanely fast rolling droid thingy?” … and all of those questions undoubtedly will transform into the dumbest questions imaginable, come January …

Aside from those mere trifles, the real suspense for me is … what it was when the last batch of prequel things came out, sixteen years ago:

What’s the score going to be like?

Even now, nearly forty years since Star Wars became A Thing, the same John Williams is at the helm of the Star Wars film music juggernaut as was in charge .  Give or take an animated series (i.e. “Star Wars: Clone Wars” spent its first three seasons unsure about whether to avoid the classic sound or embrace it; and the more recent “Star Wars Rebels” has done a very nice job of honoring the good ol’ movie scores, and in some cases gleefully ripping them right off) … the Williams sound has been the sound of the Star Wars franchise.

He and the other handful of composers who have tackled Star Wars projects over the last four decades … have largely been creating new arrangements of that great old material.

The prequel scores, I thought, had the great potential to “reverse-engineer” the original scores (just as the stories were reverse-engineering Darth Vader’s life story) – in addition to being opportunities for more fun treatments of the music that has become, for some of us, like the artistic version of family.

Let’s find out where all those leitmotifs and themes got their start!, I thought. … Ah well.

With the exception of a really clever melodic turn at the end of what was essentially a “kindergarten with ominous foreshadowing” theme for Episode I’s young Anakin Skywalker, the occasional “Force motif” quote, and a marvelous re-setting of the Imperial March as the clone troops inexorably head off to war at the end of Episode II … the music was mostly fresh and new and struck me as the end result of a head-on collision between Harry Potter and Hook, or at least those films’ incidental music.

Well, can you forgive a composer for having a compositional style that has evolved somewhat over forty years of work?

To my eye and ear, the musical scores sold Episodes I, II and III as nearly nothing else did.  And yes, there were blasts of identifiably “Star Wars-y” music.  But that Star Wars Main Title theme only appeared a handful of times in the prequel trilogy, and … I don’t know about anyone else, but (as chronicled in a previous post hereabouts) I thought the Episode IV music had a certain bombastic charm, and I kinda missed it.

It was as if the extended family had come to visit after being away for a long time, and they were sorta recognizable, but there were more than enough things different about them that we had to get reacquainted again.  And it didn’t feel quite the same.

Conceivably, Williams may just have been reacting compositionally to what he was seeing, in the final cuts of the prequels: [1] a story that inevitably will end badly, and darkly; and [2] an editing pace to these films that mirrors the accelerating pace of American entertainment in the years since Episode IV – i.e. there’s barely any time to linger on a visual, or bask in a great extended musical moment.  The goal of a film composer is to reflect and amplify what’s on the screen; and so Williams did.

So, since “The Force Awakens” has threatened to reference the Episode IV-V-VI story and characters so much more directly than the prequel trilogy …

… the London Symphony Orchestra’s performance in Episode VII has the potential to be the world’s most Wagnerian-scale cover band in recorded history.

Whatever it is, I’ll listen to, enjoy, and in all likelihood lay out bucks for, Johnny Williams’ latest hits.  He is arguably at least the greatest living American film composer.  Guy knows a little somethin’ about cinematic sound.

But I’m really hoping he goes back to his Star Wars roots, if you will, on this one.  I hope the family looks more like it used to.

We’ll see.

Can’t wait.

December 17, 2015 Posted by | arranging, entertainment, film, media, movies, music, science fiction, Uncategorized | | Leave a comment

That Guy

[Ed. Note: This week, I’m not the first one to post something like this, and I suspect I won’t be the last. That’s how incendiary current events have been. So, you’ve probably read tons of these already … and in spite of my policy about giving a certain public figure any more attention, I’m subverting my own directive.

[I just had to get this off my chest.]


Regular consumers of the Blogge will note that, well … I’ve been away.

My last post was a week before Thanksgiving, and here it is, moving into the second week of December. C’mon fella, get with it!

This pause has happened before – usually due to schedule craziness or a lack of writing prompts that I think think warrant a thousand words (or two). (I haven’t got that “short form” thing down, exactly.)

This time, yes, the holiday season has kicked in and life has accelerated predictably. But this time, no, no lack of topics – certainly for this news hound. Things are blowing up, and people are getting shot, and politicians are saying THE DUMBEST things imaginable, and you’d think that would provide some pretty good blog-cannon fodder.

I’ve been figuring that this month-long spasm of news events simply had to die down; then I’d collect a few quotes together, link up a few seemingly unrelated current events details, and voila! Blog post full of incisive commentary and large-arc storytelling.

But this spasm just hasn’t died down.

Most of the last month has featured a steady crescendo of bullets and bombs and boorishness.

I could have written about terror plots and terrified people. I could have written about gun-manufacturer lobbyists’ stranglehold on politicians – politicians who otherwise, freer of campaign money’s grip, might access a little common sense, try to deal with our uniquely American problem with lack of gun control, and become statesmen (and -women). I could have written about the struggles of a particular pro football team I follow. Heck, I could have written about the breathless countdown to the release of, oh, some little movie whose name escapes me at the moment.


I have to write about THAT GUY.

And I’m sorry if I lose you, after you read this essay. It’s possible I may say a thing or two that causes some folks to decide not to come back and read here again. I’m truly sorry if that happens. I don’t want to drive people away. I’m a blogger, for heaven’s sake! It’s not in my best interests to drive readership down.

But I gotta get this off my chest. It’s not the newest thought, but in the last 48 hours it has risen, like food that disagrees with me.

One reason I haven’t written in this space in a while is that every damn day, there’s another burst of stupidity, vulgarity, mean-ness, tin-ear-ness, or outright egomania from THAT GUY. The guy who has caused the Republican party establishment to fall on its fainting couch, wondering how ever their Presidential candidate nomination process could have been hijacked by this, this, this horrible man full of awful ideas and awful ways of expressing them.

[Never mind that this political party has advanced other candidates who say their own awful things in their own awful ways … and has been working up to this state of affairs slowly over the course of several decades. But that’s a topic for another time. In any case, I have friends who are conservatives who would want very little to do with the people who attend Republican debates and cheer boorishly and reflexively for some of the awful sentiments that the current crop of candidates advance. A few of those friends attend my very church, and I routinely have wonderful conversations with them, and lots of laughs besides. There’s a difference between “people with a conservative bent” and the current Republican party loyalist types. I’ve met that difference head-on … and I prefer the former, in a landslide.]

But I’m not writing about the other stupid, vulgar, mean, tin-ear-laden, egomaniacal people running for President from that party. Today, at least.

I’m writing about THAT GUY, who is all of those adjectives in one horrible package.

When I was a kid, any Presidential candidate who, while announcing their candidacy, had labeled a large segment of some other country’s population as rapists … would set a world indoor record for shortest political campaign.

Also, if they had labeled a sitting United States senator as being weak or “a loser” because during that Senator’s military career he’d been captured by the enemy, held for years and tortured outright … they would have been booed out of the room, and also asked serious hard questions by any journalists who had mouths. Not that they’d still be a candidate, but, well, supposing they were.

In addition, if they had whined about being asked “unfair” questions by a debate moderator, and then gone on to suggest that the moderator had treated them unfairly because it was that time of the month, there would have been hell to pay from the Cronkites and Rathers and Chancellors and Brinkleys of the media world.

As well, if while questioning the credibility of one of the reporters covering their campaign, they had physically and verbally mimicked the neurological disease that the reporter suffered from, they would have been disqualified from running for any office ever again. Their last name might have become the code word, the euphemistic verb for “said or did something toxically stupid.”

Throughout the Presidential campaign of THAT GUY, I have done my best to avoid giving THAT GUY any more attention or air time than I think he deserves. I’ve largely succeeded. So often I’ve kept from commenting because I thought he was merely a joke, a circus act … a sideshow that muscled his way out front. I thought he was a blowhard of a carnival barker whose inflated self-image rivaled the MetLife blimp and would, no doubt, at some point cause him to go up in flames not unlike a certain other blimp whose name ended in “-burg” and which came down in a New Jersey town not far from THAT GUY’s home.

But in spite of his frankly unbelievable string of frankly awful utterances, these past few months … he hasn’t gone up in flames. He’s gone up in the polls.

A couple of months ago, I wondered if there really was anything THAT GUY could say that would torpedo his campaign – as every time he said something that was more off-the-wall than the previous thing he’d said, it seemed not to end his political career (as it should have).

In even a semi-rational world, this, from the November 21, 2015 New York Times, would have been it:

Under assault from Democrats and Republicans alike, Donald J. Trump on Friday drew back from his call for a mandatory registry of Muslims in the United States, trying to quell one of the ugliest controversies yet in a presidential campaign like few others.

The daylong furor capped a week of one-upmanship among Republican presidential candidates as to who could sound toughest about preventing terrorism after the Nov. 13 attacks in Paris. Polls show the national mood has soured on accepting refugees from Syria amid concerns about potential terrorist attacks within the United States.

Mr. Trump’s talk of a national database of Muslims, first in an interview published on Thursday by Yahoo News and later in an exchange with an NBC News reporter, seemed the culmination of months of heated debate about illegal immigration as an urgent danger to Americans’ personal safety.

It came as Mr. Trump has regained some momentum in the Republican presidential race, with polls showing his support on the rise nationally since the Paris attacks, and Ben Carson’s on the decline.

By Friday, though, he appeared to pull back slightly from the idea. … Still, nowhere, even on Friday, did Mr. Trump, who has rarely acknowledged being at fault in a campaign predicated on his strength as a leader, clearly state that he was opposed to the idea of a registry of Muslims. …

In the Yahoo interview on Thursday, which came on the heels of his calls to close some mosques and carefully monitor others, Mr. Trump suggested, with few specifics, that he would impose new measures to deal with terrorism.

‘We’re going to have to do things that we never did before. And some people are going to be upset about it, but I think that now everybody is feeling that security is going to rule,’ he said. ‘And certain things will be done that we never thought would happen in this country in terms of information and learning about the enemy. And so we’re going to have to do certain things that were frankly unthinkable a year ago.’

Asked by the Yahoo reporter about the possibility of a database for Muslims or ‘a form of special identification that noted their religion,’ Mr. Trump did not reject either idea. Later that day, as Mr. Trump left a campaign event in Iowa, an NBC reporter followed up. Asked if he would set up a database to track Muslims, Mr. Trump replied, ‘I would certainly implement that. Absolutely.’ …

And when the NBC reporter approached Mr. Trump a second time and asked about the difference between registering Muslims and what happened to Jews in Nazi Germany, Mr. Trump grew impatient: ‘You tell me,’ he said.

Mr. Trump’s remarks took hours to circulate widely over social media. But his seemingly serious consideration for the idea of treating an entire religious group with suspicion created the risk of a new set of problems for a Republican Party already struggling to appeal beyond its largely white political base.”

THAT GUY is proposing government-sponsored discrimination.

(How he got there, in the time since the terrorist attacks in Paris last month: asked about counter-terrorism policies, first he proposed “shutting down the mosques”. Then … tracking (and registering) Muslims in the United States. Later … banning Muslims from entering the US. And most recently … banning Muslims – even those who are American citizens and live here – from re-entering the US if they should leave. I wonder … does that include Americans who happen to be Muslims and who are loyal members of our own military?)

Driving to work yesterday morning, I listened to the audio podcast of Rachel Maddow’s MSNBC news show. She interviewed veteran NBC foreign correspondent Richard Engel on the subject. Engel is a gentleman who knows a little something about the world. He’s done more on-air reports with background sounds of gunfire than I care to count.

He was nothing short of aghast.

RACHEL MADDOW (HOST): Joining us now is NBC News Chief Correspondent Richard Engel. Richard, it’s great to have you here.

RICHARD ENGEL (NBC NEWS CHIEF CORRESPONDENT): What has happened since I last spoke to you? I was in Paris.

MADDOW: You left the country. We broke everything.

ENGEL: I came back and things have gone totally mad. The country is in a panic. There is demagoguery. This is really not the country that I know.

MADDOW: You are somebody who I know because we’re friends, I know that you do not care very much about partisan politics. You’re not a like horse race kind of guy. And I know that you can, you box a lot of that stuff out when you think it’s kinda small ball. But this, this concerns you. This matters.

ENGEL: This is not small ball, actually. It would be interesting to say “oh, this is just fun. This is just more, you know, he’s trying to score a few points.” But the world watches this. The world sees the leading political candidate from one party making these kind of statements and still doing well and having these rallies. And those vox pops you showed where people are saying, “yes, we need to do them. Send them back home” … those are going around the world right now, and people realize: “this person is leading in the polls. That must be what Americans think.” I was today with an ambassador from the Middle East. Today! And we were talking exactly about this subject. And he said, “well, people in our country watch what is going on, and it makes us very concerned.” So from the world perspective, it is absolutely an image, an impression, a black spot on our collective foreign policy and our conscience. And it also just feeds into the ISIS narrative.

Engel was aghast … and I was faintly sick to my stomach. Happily, by the time I got to his interview, I was sitting in my parked car.

Never mind that Engel is right: the mere mention of THAT GUY’s proposed policies – without him even being elected to any office – would inflame the Middle East, would increase the likelihood of ISIS gaining more recruits, would honestly make the United States an embarrassment in the eyes of the rest of the world. There are fast sweeping plains of wrong on display here.

But here are the main reasons why I can’t possibly support THAT GUY … I can’t possibly even watch THAT GUY … during his bid for the Presidency:

THAT GUY is a walking, talking violation of just about every single Starred Thought I’ve ever heard.

[And this isn’t name-calling. This is journalism … the kind that the toothless Washington media will not carry out.]

Donald J. Trump is boorish.

Donald J. Trump is vulgar.

Donald J. Trump is petty.

Donald J. Trump is mean-spirited.

Donald J. Trump is self-absorbed.

Donald J. Trump is misogynistic.

Donald J. Trump is gleefully nasty.

Donald J. Trump is cruel.

Donald J. Trump is dangerous.


THAT GUY is obscene.

December 9, 2015 Posted by | celebrity, civil rights, current events, government, journalism, media, news, politics | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment


On this 35th anniversary of the death of John Lennon, may I offer a link to this previous Editorial License post – a story in which the most famous non-Beatles Lennon song came to some good use.

December 9, 2015 Posted by | music | , , , | Leave a comment