First, under the principle that if I post this here, it will get it out of my head, here’s a great song wonderfully performed by a singer—Regina Spektor—who I’m ashamed to say I didn’t know about.
But what you really need to know, if you don’t already, is that this song is the theme to one of the best series I’ve ever watched: Orange is the New Black. (It’s only on Netflix, as far as I know.)
It’s about an affluent young woman who goes to a minimum security federal prison for a 15-month sentence based on a 10-year-old drug charge (all of which is revealed right out of the box, so I’m not spoiling anything). The story then follows her travails in prison along with those of many of the other inmates.
My criterion for whether a movie or show like this is good is how much you think about and reflect on it later. By that measure, and I’d be surprised if you don’t have the same reaction I did, this show scores off the charts. I really feel quite disoriented now that I’ve watched the first season and I can’t check in on all these people I’ve come to find so interesting and moving.
And then there’s the theme of structural power—the power of the authorities over the inmates, often horrifically abused (decades ago I taught some classes in a minimum security prison—from what I saw, the show seems pretty realistic). Small anecdote on this: the day after I watched the first few episodes (I worked hard not to binge-watch it, which took great restraint), I got stopped for speeding (just got a warning—I was hardly speeding). But having just watched the show and feeling the wrenching dynamics of having your autonomy stripped away like that, and having this big cop outside my window, demanding my paper work in the way they do (it’s not: “Hey, could I please take a look at your license and stuff?”—it’s “License and registration” in an imperious tone), I experienced the traffic stop at a much deeper emotional level.
Which is a testament to the show. I’d love to discuss the fine points in comments but no spoilers. I’ll only say, “Pipes—I’m really worried about you!”
Second, and here’s an OTE first, the other day I’m crunching numbers, minding my own business, when I get an email from another wonderful singer by the name of Eve Zanni. Attached was this, a beautiful performance of a song written by yours truly about a zillion years ago called “The Man Who Plays the Upright Bass.”
A slight bit of background. At the time, I played the bass, studied economics, and lived in NYC with my then girlfriend at, Sue Maskaleris—who unlike me is a real composer, singer, pianist (check her stuff out—super creative, interesting, jazz-Brazilian-funk hybrid). What’s more, we were living—I kid you not—in George Gershwin’s old brownstone (103rd between West End and Riverside), so let’s just say there was jazz composition in the air.
Anyway, Eve Z beautifully captures the soul of this little tune, and while I of course like to see my economics work enter the echo chamber of the policy debate, hearing someone with her chops so thoroughly nail a song you wrote is even better.